Digital Asia

Data and Innovations: Through the Lenses of Health and Finance in India

Karthik Nachiappan, Natalie Pang and Kwang Lin Wong

This report focuses on two policy areas in India where innovation has occurred in the absence of a comprehensive data protection law that could affect how governments, firms, organisations and individuals interact for personal and commercial purposes. Through the key cases covered in this report – in the finance and health domains – we also consider and unpack how different actors operate and innovate in a policy vacuum.


Data fuels digital change. The ability to collect, process, and make available ever-increasing amounts of data is a key to innovation and growth. This report is one of the series surveying seven different Asian territories to deepen understandings of innovation and data policies, and contribute to debates about data governance and data protection.


This report shows the range of efforts that the Indian government has invested in and contributed to in the FinTech and e-health spaces to spur innovation.


Here are some key findings:
1. India is the top market for FinTech investment in Asia and has the highest adoption rate of FinTech in the world. India’s FinTech trajectory has been shaped by regulatory and technological developments, coupled with business opportunities and gaps for domestic and foreign financial institutions and tech firms. Rising internet and mobile penetration since the late 1990s has boosted FinTech development, adoption and use.


2. FinTech innovation has been catalysed by the indigenous technologies produced by the Indian state under the IndiaStack framework, which has resulted in the emergence and use of interoperable public digital platforms through which Indian citizens transact. The Stack’s backbone is Aadhaar, the biometric database that provides unique, verifiable identities to Indian citizens. These identities are used by FinTech fi rms to provide services to citizens following verification.


3. The FinTech transformation is designed to advance domestic development priorities including, most importantly, financial inclusion and access.


4. Regulation and governance of FinTech is fragmented, broken across agencies that regulate different aspects of digital finance, including finance, banks, IT, etc. Multiple rules and jurisdictions exist vis-à-vis data, which could stifl e future FinTech innovation. Innovation requires a clear, transparent data governance architecture.


5. India’s digital health landscape is diverse and broad, involving services, platforms, applications and softwares that seek to provide a digital analogue to existing health services.


6. Digitalisation in health is accelerated by the Indian government’s plans to transform its domestic public health system in order to expand cover age and lower costs. India’s health ministry already uses several digital platforms through which it provides various services.

7. Digitising health information and data is a key component of transitioning to a more digital healthcare system. Plans are afoot to establish a new digital health authority that will govern digital health and be responsible for instituting new digital health standards and rules.


8. The establishment of new digital health initiatives and mechanisms are occurring in the absence of a broad data protection framework that could affect the processing, storage and sharing of sensitive health data.