May 18, 2020
Putting the Cart before the Horse? A response to the NODE white paper
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) put out a white paper introducing the concept of a National Open Digital Ecosystems (NODEs). The system is envisaged to be an 'open and secure delivery platforms, anchored by transparent governance mechanisms, which will enable a community of partners to unlock innovative solutions, to transform societal outcomes’. This concept has arisen as a response to the need to rethink current public service delivery systems, in order to shift to more open and shared digital platforms.
However, while the envisaged national open digital ecosystems (NODEs) is a claim toward enabling citizen-centric governance and fuelling innovation, we identify the need for several prerequisites prior to its deployment. Our response highlights concerns that include varying levels of digitalisation, underdeveloped institutions for data governance, weak privacy and security infrastructure, and the absence of public deliberation around the purpose and governance of NODEs. Without addressing these issues, NODEs could amount to a case of putting the cart before the horse, with significant risks in terms of privacy, security, discrimination, and the unequal distribution of technology gains.