Air Date

July 21, 2020

Featured Guest

Nirmala Sitharaman
Honorable Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs, Government of India


In recent years, technology has become a staple of modern life, enabling widespread remote and digital access to daily functions like work, school, shopping and banking. When the pandemic hit, it gave countries the opportunity to assess their technological infrastructure and more importantly, who has access to it.

As the world works toward containing COVID-19, innovative technology will play a key role in helping to end the pandemic and kickstart economic recovery. Nirmala Sitharaman, Honorable Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs for the Government of India, has been working with her country to make these solutions accessible.

Through her work over the past year, Sitharaman has been leveraging technology to reduce the spread of the virus, protect people’s lives and help boost the economy. The work she and India have been doing set an example for how technology will lead the nation forward in the coming months and years.

Technology Research and Development Drives Innovation

Between 2014 and 2019 there was a great drive in India placed on financial inclusion to aid its poorest citizens. The result from this research was an asset that was able to help serve the poor.

“There is a need globally to spend more time and money in understanding technology in investing in [research and development] and making sure all funds are made available for those who actually bring in that innovation,” Sitharaman said. “Nearly 40% of the Indian population, which is at the bottom…who did not have even a bank account, [were] provided bank accounts. And those accounts were consigned with their identity, which was given through what is called the Aadhaar identity, which was a digital item to tick.”

Because of the country’s emphasis on high-speed internet access, these cards would be able to provide widespread benefits during the pandemic.

“Telemedicine was possible because of the way in which optical fiber has reached far-flung areas of India, bank accounts were given. And as a result, cash was transferred. And because there were other linked public distribution identity cards, free food could reach them.”

India Leveraged Identity-Based Technology to Provide National Access to Resources

“When the pandemic struck us…three full grants were distributed and 81 million people were given free food [and] are being given free food … ‘til November [2020],” Sitharaman said. “The poorest of the poor will [be] covered under every safety net that we have. And how was this possible? Because all of the ... digitized, identity-based bank accounts. We are recognizing their level of poverty and [how the] identity-based … public distribution system would reach them.”