At a core level, the driving vision of India Stack is of open networks. The idea behind open networks is to establish a level playing field for members of a digital ecosystem. In this kind of playing field, innovation and creativity are given free reign, so application developers can focus on building the best consumer experiences and products instead of having to worry about infrastructure, permissioning, and access.
To illustrate, consider OCEN - India’s Open Credit Enablement Network. Under this construct, the flow of credit between borrowers, lenders, and credit distributors is codified under a common set of standards.
Using these standards, various participants in the credit ecosystem can seamlessly connect with one another without needing to build bespoke APIs and infrastructure. Imagine a consumer goods marketplace with millions of customers and thousands of suppliers. For such a company, offering order-financing for end consumers and working-capital financing for suppliers seems like a no brainer - it deepens the value add of their offering to consumers, allows more commerce to flow through its system as a result of better-funded suppliers, and results in direct revenue for the company through loan origination fees.
Everything about this idea makes sense, but issues can arise when the company decides to actually build out the rails required to make this idea a reality. Should the company partner with only one lender? Should it partner with multiple lenders? If it decides to partner with multiple lenders, would it need to build custom APIs and infrastructure with each partner? Even if the company built one self-serve platform for all credit partners, would those partners themselves need to build and maintain different systems each time they connected with a new company?
OCEN helps ameliorate these problems by introducing a common set of standards for all players in the ecosystem. By supporting this shared interface, companies can easily integrate with every other participant in the ecosystem that is using the same rails.
In addition to removing friction and duplication of effort in the developer experience, this model also has the added benefit of democratizing the ecosystem. Small companies can become participants and contributors to the ecosystem just like their larger counterparts.
As more and more data is captured about businesses and consumers, it is imperative that this data is allowed to flow with user content to the applications where it can add the most value. It is also important to protect this data for users so that the value doesn’t accrue to rent-seeking platforms that seek to corner the consumer. This is the principle behind open networks.
Currently, there are two implementations of open networks in India Stack. The first is OCEN, and the second is the National Digital Health Mission. The former supports the easy transmission of credit to consumers and businesses, and the second is an open network for consumers to securely share their health data with an ecosystem of healthcare apps and providers. You can find out more about these systems at the links below: