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Accepted Paper:

Reconstructing the “Indian model” of Networked Digitality: The Political Economy of Digital Public Infrastructures, 2009-present  
Mila Samdub (Yale Law School)

Short abstract:

This paper tracks the genesis of Digital Public Infrastructures in India since 2009. Reading tech industry sources, it shows that DPIs have been protectionist platforms that enable domestic tech capital to engage in "predatory inclusion" while augmenting the power of an authoritarian state.

Long abstract:

At the 2023 G20 meeting in New Delhi, global leaders committed to Digital Public Infrastructures (DPIs), a class of public-private software infrastructures touted as a panacea for development in the global South. This major soft(ware) power project of the Indian government under Narendra Modi forms the archetype of an “Indian model” of networked digitality.

Bridging political economy and STS, this paper tracks how between 2009 and 2018 the Aadhaar biometric identity project was rearticulated – both discursively and materially – as the basis of this all-encompassing market infrastructure to solve social and economic problems. While the conventional wisdom around DPIs centres the state, a close reading of tech industry sources reveals that this was a move designed to incubate a domestic software products industry in a tech sector that had been dominated by enterprise services exports. DPIs were a way for domestic tech capital beset by economic, technological and moral crises to create new sites for extraction shielded from global competition.

Over the last decade, DPIs have enabled new articulations between state, capital and society. In creating a shared platform for domestic tech capital and the state, DPIs have shaped the current alignment between Indian tech and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Far from being an intervention that has resulted in development fuelled by free market innovation, in India DPIs have been protectionist tools that have enabled domestic tech capital to engage in a form of "predatory inclusion" while augmenting the power of an authoritarian state.

Traditional Open Panel P032
Digital Public Goods and the future of the state: new constellations of (digital) statehood between entrepreneurship and state-led innovation
  Session 2 Thursday 18 July, 2024, -