The 2019 Digital Identity Conference (DIRI) of ISB, an annual feature since 2017, attracted an audience from diverse backgrounds. Faculty from business schools, representatives of the government, industry and start-up leaders and scholars engaged in vibrant discussions around digital identity systems with a special focus on Aadhaar. These conversations provided deeper insights into the existing challenges and reforms undertaken by the government of India in utilising Aadhaar for governance, economic development, social justice and environmental sustainability.
Featuring seven sessions, fireside chats and dynamic presentations spread over two days, the DIRI conference focussed around data privacy, drone technology, fintech, digital finance, digital identity, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology. Each session was followed by research presentations and interactive sessions with the audience.
Digital technologies pervade all aspects of our lives. As technology improves dynamically, it is necessary that governments and industry carefully devise policies that will allow coalescence of life and technology in society. Digitisation is not a new phenomenon, but it is increasingly affecting every facet of our society. Therefore, in today’s digital-centric world, consumers and practitioners must learn to adapt and adjust while staying true to their values and ethics. It is in this backdrop that the DIRI conference was held.
In the first session of Day 1 of the conference, deliberations revolved around Data Privacy and Aadhaar. In his welcome address, Dean Rajendra Srivastava termed data as the new oil. Another presentation of Aadhaar Pulse revealed the benefits of predictive analysis and Artificial Intelligence (AI) used to assist various government welfare departments in their social welfare schemes. These tools help in prediction, improving forecasting and assessing equipment failure, among other things.
The theme of the second session was Drones, Data and Decisions with the topic being ‘Emerging Landscape of Drones: Policies, Incentives and Technology.’ The speakers and the audience deliberated on the applications of drones and the regulatory aspects that need to be adopted by business and government entities for drone-based services to grow in India.
Our general perception about fintech is that it deals with the application of technologies in the banking and financial sector. However, the panel in the third interactive session emphasised that fintech start-ups in India are performing a more comprehensive, strategic and focussed role in bringing about change in the society. The broader objective of most fintech startups in India is to serve the underserved segments that do not come under the ‘affluent section’. Hence, reaching the last mile has a significant impact.
The day ended with a fireside chat between Professor Bhagwan Chowdhry and Raghava Rao (Amazon India) on Amazon’s foray into Digital Finance, acquisitions in fintech and other related areas.
The second day saw wide-ranging discussions from digital identity for skill development to AI and blockchain technology. Artificial intelligence and blockchain hold considerable potential for making the public and private machinery smarter, i.e., more efficient, agile, user-friendly and trustworthy. For instance, AI can be used to implement services at the right time and at the right place thereby enabling significant citizen-centric interfaces through its design. It can enhance the quality of administrative procedures through digitisation of tasks, paving the way for a paperless future. It can also enable greater predictive abilities for better decision making and policy outcomes using blockchain technologies.
Key areas of consensus across the sessions and presentations were that industry and academia need to find ways to minimise disruptions, integrate digital technology and maximise benefits. Going forward, some of the traditional ways of measuring prosperity through GDP could evolve into a process that bases its metrics on the quality of life. The conclusion was that emerging technologies should play a significant role in establishing those metrics and solving the larger problems of society.
About the Digital Identity Research Initiative
DIRI is a targeted and multidisciplinary research initiative at the Indian School of Business which explores key questions around digital identity systems, with a focus on Aadhaar.