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Leveraging DPI for Climate Action – Nandan Nilekani

Anjali Hans

We are in the middle of the climate crisis. Just in the last few months, we have experienced heatwaves, floods, drought, dramatic loss of sea ice and even a billion-dollar climate disaster in 2023 in the US. Yet, I have hope. We are taking steps, small and big, towards a greener future – from wind and solar power projected to produce 33% of global power by 2030 to a neighbourhood-turned-clinic for hummingbirds! We are reimagining our role in the climate narrative – from recipients to participants, readers to storytellers, doomsayers to believers.

In this spirit, the UN General Assembly calls us to renew and strengthen our commitment to achieving the SDGs by 2030. Underpinning all the SDGs is climate action – to ensure not only the survival of the planet but also a safe and sustainable future for all of us. How do we take action to outpace a problem as large and mutating as climate change? 

One way of moving towards this future comes from Nandan Nilekani. He suggests an exponential solution to this exponential problem – the Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) approach. 

Like a Lego block, DPI is simple, agile and can lay the foundation for all kinds of innovation and design. Nandan says a DPI is “a basic digital unit that’s open, inclusive, and does one thing superbly well at a massive scale.” Building these blocks in a way that is open, interoperable and accessible galvanises the ecosystem to use and add various capabilities, design contextual solutions and even compete – all with robust governance. Take for instance, Aadhaar, India’s digital ID system. It has empowered 1.3 billion citizens to prove they are who they say they are and, at the same time, led to the financial inclusion of 80% Indians – what would have taken 5 decades achieved in just one. This is the transformative power of DPI – it can trigger a change that inspires more and rapid change, at scale. 

Nandan Nilekani believes the DPI approach can “simplify complexity, rally people and accelerate green transitions”. His ideas fill me with hope that we can gauge and tackle emerging uncertainties. The DPI approach can unlock the power of community and with it, exponential climate action. 

According to Nandan, here are 5 ideas in which the DPI approach can enable exponential change.

Read more about these exponential green transitions.