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The government-backed Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) has moved a step closer to full commercial operation. On Saturday, the platform, which brings together existing online platforms for consumers to place orders or book services all in one place, began a beta test run in Bengaluru. The idea of a mega-gateway to various e-commerce deals, be it shopping or asking for food delivery, is to level the playing field and protect people from the dominance of one or two apps in every space by consolidating the entry point and some other aspects of India’s online market. If it succeeds, ONDC could find itself among global case studies of a digital-age public good. However, whether it will work out as conceived will depend on numerous aspects of the project clicking. Base-level assurances may need to match those made by, say, Amazon and Flipkart, whose power ONDC is expected to hold in check. More competition is always welcome, but for this positive effect to last, the state-sponsored platform must resist pressure to promote special interest groups and also see that it doesn’t lag private portals on points of quality like data security, fraud prevention, etc., all of which are costly.

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