General Assembly General Assembly

ECOSOC Development Cooperation Forum 2023


Panel session IV: Strengthening Capacities to overcome the digital divide

[Wednesday, 15 March 2023, 1500-1800 hrs]


Statement by Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj

Permanent Representative of India to the

United Nations



Thank you, Madam Chair


Excellencies, Colleagues,


We all agree that Digital technologies are transforming the conventional notion of addressing pressing global issues such as poverty, health, illiteracy, market access, economic inequality, etc. The recent COVID pandemic effectively showcased the potential of digital infrastructure, exposing as well, we have to admit, the vulnerabilities fuelled by the digital divide, which previous speakers have also referenced.


The road to bridging the digital divide necessarily means that every nation should have the opportunity to develop adequate digital infrastructure, build on requisite skills, and have access to necessary investments. Development cooperation, therefore, must target these specific elements, and partnerships must respond to country-specific needs.


Let me turn to my country, India.

I am proud to say that Government has been consistently emphasizing that technology should be a tool for inclusion and not for exclusion. We have used digital tools to advance governance, better service delivery and promote inclusion of all sections of society.


And, we have had some outstanding successes in the recent past. Let me make three quick points, in this regard as I also endeavour to answer the guiding questions that have been posed to me


Firstly, development partnerships must focus on scaling up investment in deploying digital infrastructure. These will support e-learning, e-governance, e-commerce and similar platforms for service delivery. Many developing countries have limited links to global supply chains due to structural issues, and digital infrastructure can fast-track the linkages. The focus should also be on deploying existing platforms and South-led innovations.


India’s presence-less, paperless, and cashless service delivery model has transformed citizen service delivery. The biometrics based unique identification number “Aadhaar” for every citizen has helped fast track financial inclusion by enabling people at the last mile to open and operate a bank account through a hand held device. This led to e-KYC, e-Sign, DigiLocker (cloud-based platforms for storing, sharing, and verifying documents and certificates), and cashless payments through the mobile Unified Payments Interface (UPI).


India’s Unified Payments Interface and Singapore’s PayNow were recently linked to enable real-time digital payment systems. Digital banking service M-Pesa is slowly expanding in parts of Africa. Such initiatives would allow instantaneous and low-cost transfer of money. Partnerships that expand such models can cut down costs and help in integrating markets.


During the Covid Pandemic, my Government came up with CoWIN – an open source, multilingual application that allowed administrators to manage and update vaccine status along with inventory databases. CoWIN connected stakeholders across the health care value chain, becoming a single valuable source for dealing with the pandemic. Importantly, India has been able to share this COWIN platform with several countries.


Second, human resources are the key link in bridging the digital divide. There is no alternative to investing in scaling up education, training, and skilling. The Secretary General’s recent report on Development Cooperation underlines that South-South cooperation and Triangular Cooperation could play an important role in technology transfer and skills training. The Secretary-General’s Tech Envoy has been emphasizing the need to invest in a workforce geared for bridging the digital divide.


India’s Development Cooperation emphasis on human resource and skilling is well known and well regarded. Under the flagship Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, we offer training courses across premier Indian institutions to around 160 countries. Over 98000 scholarships have been offered in the last decade, many in science and technology, including cyber security, e-governance, data science, quantum computing and cyber psychology. Of these, over 30,000 of these training slots have been utilized by LDCs alone. India also has several success stories in online education and we have been imparting tele-education in many countries in Africa.


Thirdly, besides digital infrastructure and skills training, the Secretary General’s report underlines the need to support data collection, and data systems to help developing countries in advancing evidence-based policies. Over the past decade, the volume, level of detail, and speed at which data is available in societies is unprecedented. If well harnessed, this data can support development. There exist, however, wide gaps in capacity to use data for development amongst countries at different levels of development. Bridging this gap is essential to ensure that countries across the world are able to operationalize the use of data for development and accelerate the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals. To this end, India is pushing for more work on Data for Development and enhancing capacities in countries of the Global South.


A key imperative for Development Cooperation, therefore, will be to use partnerships, including South-South & Triangular, to harness financial resources from all sources to enable effective progress in bridging the digital divide. As I have illustrated, cost-effective models to be deployed are available.


Within the G20, India has proposed Digital Public Infrastructure and Digital Skilling as key priority areas to realize the potential and harness the opportunities of the digital economy. We are also working towards a mechanism to mobilize financing to help low and middle-income countries (LMIC) design, build and secure Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI); and to create a platform to host the details of all existing and future DPIs along with best practices.


I will conclude, Chair, by stating that India stands ready to share experiences and successful solutions on digital public goods, financial inclusion, and in leveraging technology for sustainable development. It is indeed a matter of pride for every Indian that our country today stands tall as one of the world’s leading digital economies. We also stand pledged to work for digital inclusion over the next decade, as part of the overall theme of our Presidency of the G-20, ‘One Earth One Family One Future.


I thank you.