G20 Countries to Develop ‘Digital Public Infrastructure,’ Raising Privacy Concerns

Originally published September 15, 2023 2:00 pm PDT

Digital ID systems may threaten individual freedoms.

  • G20 countries are looking into digital public infrastructure (DPI), a concept relating to digital identification, payments, and data.
  • Countries involved with G20 include the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey.
  • The international group recently convened in New Delhi to discuss the digital developments.
  • At the event, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen referenced the “COVID-19 digital certificate,” explaining that the system may serve as a model for future digital IDs.
  • “The EU developed it for itself. The model was so functional and so trusted that 51 countries on four continents adopted it for free,” von der Leyen added.
  • India currently has a digital public infrastructure known as ‘India Stack,’ which combines “digital ID, interoperable payments, a digital credentials ledger, and account aggregation, explained Queen Maxima of the Netherlands.
  • While the G20 leaders believe digital advancements lead to convenience, they fail to account for risks to individual freedom.
  • Critics of digital systems have expressed concerns that with the technology, agencies may be able to manipulate users’ choices and force them to comply with the government’s desires.
  • A report titled “G20 Policy Recommendations for Advancing Financial Inclusion and Productivity Gains Through Digitial Public Infrastructure” describes what it refers to as a “promising approach to fostering inclusive economies and empowering vulnerable individuals for a better future.”
  • “What constitutes a DPI could vary by country context, but, in general, includes digital ID, digital payments, and data exchange in the financial sector,” the report explains. “Digital IDs could further financial inclusion, especially in low- and middle-income countries, where insufficient documentation is often a barrier to account ownership.”
  • Several policy recommendations for developing and implementing digital public infrastructure are also described.
  • One recommendation includes public authorities leading “by example through fostering use of DPIs in public programs, such as benefit transfers, social protection programs, and development finance programs, as well as in their internal operations and processes, including in interactions between individuals and businesses and the government.”
  • Recommendations for DPI development include so-called “good practices,” including interoperability, minimalism, adaptability, diverse innovation, security, and resilience.
  • The report suggests that digital “equity” is a primary goal of DPI, in an apparent nod to the neo-Marxist notion of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).
  • In November 2022, G20 leaders signed an agreement to support “efforts to strengthen prevention and response to future pandemics.”
  • The agreement involved a “framework” to “facilitate seamless international travel, interoperability, and recognizing digital solutions and non-digital solutions, including proof of vaccinations.”
  • “The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the transformation of the digital ecosystem and digital economy,” the declaration reads. “We recognize the importance of digital transformation in reaching the SDGs. We acknowledge that affordable and high-quality digital connectivity is essential for digital inclusion and digital transformation, while a resilient, safe and secure online environment is necessary to enhance confidence and trust in the digital economy.”