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Digital India: How the Modi govt took massive strides in turning India into a digitally empowered economy

The Digital India campaign has laid the foundation for substantial and powerful digital infrastructure.

A push towards a Digitally empowered economy by PM Narendra Modi is giving rise to many products based on the 3 building blocks of Digital India. Initiatives such as National Optics Fibre Network project and Computer Emergency Response Team in Kerala and, e-Pragati in Andhra Pradesh have given a boost to the initiative. But to truly become a Digital leader in the World, the Digital India initiative requires the active support of the entire nation.

Introduction

The world has transformed from knowledge-centric to technology-centric. All information which any person can think of is available in a single click. It has become necessary for a good governing body to have a good communication platform to communicate with the stakeholders directly and efficiently. The most efficient way to communicate with the citizens of the World’s largest democracy with a population of 1.2 billion is only possible by communicating with everyone on a digital platform.

The Digital India drive is a dream project of the Indian Government to remodel India into a knowledgeable economy and digitally empowered society, with good governance for citizens by bringing synchronization and coordination in public accountability.

‘Digital India’ is a step by the Modi government to inspire and connect Indian Economy to such a knowledge savvy world to techno knowledge savvy world. The program was launched on 1st July 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make Government services available to people digitally and enjoy the benefit of the newest information and technological innovations.

The vision of Digital India

Digital India has 3 major aims:

  1. To create a digital infrastructure as a utility to every Indian citizen

This includes providing high-speed internet, mobile phone and bank account enabling participation in digital & financial space, shareable private space on a public cloud, and creating safe and secure cyberspace. The government is planning to provide high-speed internet connectivity to 2,50,000 gram panchayats, which will be a core utility for digital inclusion.

  1. Digital empowerment of citizens

This program aims to empower citizens through digital literacy and universal access to digital resources e.g. Mygov website for crowdsourcing ideas and will focus on finding ways to encourage people to opt for cashless financial transactions.

  1. Governance and services on demand

The initiative also aims at seamless integration across government departments/jurisdictions and ensuring availability of services in real time from online and mobile platforms. It will also result in real-time service delivery from an online platform.

Building blocks of Digital India

The following table emphasizes the importance of Infrastructure, Demand-based products and empowerment of citizens as the building blocks of Digital India. In order to move towards the goal of Digital India; high-speed internet, mobile banking, cloud storage infrastructure is required that will facilitate secure payments, ease of doing business, and real-time access to data. These steps are essential in enhancing digital literacy and motivating the public to adopt Digital and cloud-based platforms.

 

Nine Pillars of Digital India

The 3 building blocks of infrastructure, demand-based products and empowerment of public, form the foundation on which the 9 pillars of Digital India can be built upon. The 9 pillars are listed as below:

1. Broadband highways

The government with the vision of digital India has allocated 5 billion to build high-speed broadband highways connecting all the villages, government department, university etc. For faster implementation and growth of this project, the participation of private players is very important to cover all the geographical area of this country.

2. E-governance

The national e-governance plan has been formulated by the department of electronic and information technology, and department of administrative reforms and public grievances. This project works in both centralized and decentralized way. There are many different initiatives from central Government as well as state government under this project to ensure government services are available to citizen’s electronics.

3. E-Kranti

The government has allocated 5 billion for the e-Kranti project with an objective of providing electronic delivery of services to the citizens which include: e-health, e-education and technology for farmers, technology for planning, technology for security, technology for financial inclusion and technology for justice.

4. Universal Mobile Access

Government is specially preparing to connect unconnected areas and speedy use of technologies like network technologies like 3G, 4G and 5G etc. The general public will access the online government services with the help of handheld devices so that the nation will be well connected, efficient and more productive.

5. Public Internet access

Superior technologies that support cost containment, collaboration, and security, social connect and in-built intelligence that deliver remote access to any information or service available across the domain.

6. Information for all

Everything is connected through virtual networks for which fast workflow and no delays will be there due to waiting in queues. Websites and mobile apps will convey data and practical participation and even through social media at large.

7. Electronics manufacturing

The empowerment of manufacturing through the internet of things will enable intelligent workshops that demonstrate data-driven operational excellence and decentralised production control systems within and beyond the physical factory walls.

8. IT for jobs

The government is preparing to provide training and teaching skills to the youth for employment opportunities in the IT sector. BPO industries will be established for the fastest growing segment of the IT-enabled services industry which offers e-services 24/7 in every field and gives more jobs potentials.

9. Early Harvest programmes

This program will generate short timeline projects where every manual service is altered by e-service. E-services like educational books to e-books, public Wi-Fi, sports to access online game.

Projects and Products of Digital India

The three building block and nine pillars have contributed to many pilot projects and products for Digital India, such as:

  • A Digital locker system to minimize usage of physical documents and enable their e-sharing via registered repositories.
  • in as an online platform to engage citizens in governance through a “Discuss, Do and Disseminate” approach.
  • Swachh Bharat Mission Mobile app to achieve the goals set by this mission.
  • E-Sign framework to allow citizens to digitally sign documents online using Aadhaar.
  • E-Hospital system for important healthcare services such as online registration, fee payment, fixing doctors’ appointments, online diagnostics and checking blood availability online.
  • National Scholarship Portal for beneficiaries from submission of an application to verification, sanction and disbursal.
  • Digitize India Platform for large-scale digitization of records in the country to facilitate efficient delivery of services to the citizens.
  • Bharat Net programme as a high-speed digital highway to connect all 250,000-gram panchayats of the country — the world’s largest rural broadband project using optical fibre.
  • BSNL’s Next Generation Network to replace 30-year old telephone exchanges to manage all types of services like voice, data, multimedia and other types of communication services.
  • BSNL’s large scale deployment of wi-fi hotspots throughout the country.
  • ‘Broadband Highways’ as one of the pillars of Digital India to address the connectivity issue while enabling and providing technologies to facilitate delivery of services to citizens.
  • Outsourcing Policy to create such centres in different north-eastern states and in smaller towns across the country.
  • National Centre for Flexible Electronics to promote research and innovation in the emerging area of flexible electronics.
  • Centre of Excellence on Internet on Things (IoT) as a joint initiative of the government agencies and private institutions such as Nasscom.
    • To make Post Offices multi-service centres.
    • To connect all schools with broadband and free wi-fi.

Impact of Digital India

A nationwide scheme such as Digital India has the potential to impact various sectors of society. Following are some key impacts where Digital India can provide a sustained benefit.

Impact on Technology

The Digital India project provides a huge opportunity to use the latest technology to redefine India the paradigms of the service industry. A digitally connected India can help in improving the social and economic condition of people living in a different geographical area.

Impact on the Economy

It can play a key role in macro-economic factors such as GDP growth, employment generation, labour productivity, growth in a number of businesses and revenue leakages for the government.

Impact on Social sector

Social sectors such as education, healthcare, and banking are unable to reach out to the citizens due to obstructions and limitations such as middleman, illiteracy, poverty, lack of funds, living locality and investments. Modern ICT makes it easier for people to obtain access to services and resources. The penetration of mobile devices may be highly useful as a complementary channel to public service delivery apart from the creation of entirely new services.

Impact on the Environment

The major changes in the technology space have not only brought changes to the economic system but are contributing to the environment changes. The next generation technologies are helping in lowering the carbon footprint by reducing fuel consumption, waste management, greener management, greener workplaces and thus leading to a greener ecosystem.

Impact on Agricultural Sector

The governance will shift from e-governance to m governance i.e. is mobile governance. Farmers can access all kind of information through their mobile phones as when required which will boost this sector also.

Impending Challenges

The Digital India initiative is the most ambitious project of the NDA Government. There are many challenges that could come in the way of successful completion of the project. These are as follows:-

·     High cost of implementation

The dream project Digital India requires new infrastructure for successful implementation which involves high cost as some are ongoing projects and some are yet to start.

·     Time overrun

Some projects will take more time to harvest and the delayed project may lead to delay in other dependent projects and meeting the budget limit will be difficult.

·     Poor private participation

Private participation in government projects in India is poor because of long and complex regulatory processes.

·     Lack of coordination among departments

In order to implement any new project, support and coordination from top to bottom is highly essential. It involves the participation of several departments and demanding commitment and efforts. Hence, strong leadership and timely support of all the involved entities will play a critical role.

·     Uniform and fast adoption of internet

Despite the lowest data tariffs in the world, adoption of the internet in India will be difficult due to illiteracy, affordability and availability of mobile devices.

Success stories of Digital India

Kerala – India’s first digital state

In February 2016, former President Pranab Mukherjee declared Kerala as the first digital state of India owing to its achievement of high e-literacy and mobile penetration. It was also the first state to complete the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN)project, granting high-speed Internet access to all its gram panchayats. This achievement is significant especially in the area of rural development. Kerala has been setting benchmarks in terms of achievement of digitization targets.

Some of the marquee initiatives of Kerala are:

Aadhaar Enabled Citizen Services (AECS)by Kerala State IT Mission and the e-district project deliver all district-level services for citizens in a state-owned portal or through Common Service Centres (CSCs).

The Accelerating Change and Transformation in Organisation and Networking (ACTION)initiative has been developed to track high-priority projects, their status and areas needing the attention of senior authorities.

Computer Emergency Response Team-Kerala (CERT-K)is another important initiative which deals with cybersecurity threats and issues warnings to concerned departments as and when necessary. It works in coordination with the CERT-In application. The Kerala Spatial Data Infrastructure project has created a centralised infrastructure and a repository of geospatial data across the state.

Andhra Pradesh: Setting up centres of excellence

To meet all objectives of Digital India, the Andhra Pradesh government is working on the fibre grid initiative. Also, with the e-Pragatiinitiative, Andhra Pradesh has embarked on a journey to become the first to have a statewide enterprise architecture.

Gujarat: The working model of India’s first digital village

India’s first digital village, Akodara, is located in Gujarat. The Government of Gujarat partnered with ICICI Bank, which adopted the village and converted it into a working model for Digital India. From setting up bank accounts and going cashless to installing CCTV cameras, the village is a perfect example of what a digital village would look like.

Conclusion

The Digital India campaign has laid the foundation for substantial and powerful digital infrastructure. This campaign will not only provide internet connectivity to people but also create jobs, eServices, eGovernance, Digital identity, e-education and e-health while strengthening India’s position as a pioneer in IT solutions. More employment prospects for the youth will, in turn, boost the nation’s economy.

The success of a digital transformation of the nation rests on some of the aforementioned projects which are under various stages of implementation. These projects may require some transformational process reengineering, refinements and adjustment for successful implementation to achieve the desired objectives.

The Modi Government has taken into account the recommendation of the Council on Digital Government strategies as entrusted in the OECD 2013 at this stage of implementation of Digital India program. This program has fostered inter-ministerial co-operation and collaboration towards the outlined priorities to make this initiative, state of the art. A digitally empowered India has the potential to mend social and economic condition through the development of non-agricultural economic activities while also providing access to education, health and financial services. How far the strategy would yield results would largely depend on factors which are outside the realm of technologies and tools for digitization. These might be rooted in the organization maturity and commitment of the systems within the government but are heavily dependent on public support.

The success of this dream project lies not only in the hands of government but in the hands of citizens and other stakeholders of the nation. A big scale project such as Digital India which has a great potential to enhance the lives of every citizen is not without its share of challenges. Any great initiative needs full public support to succeed, and this initiative is no different. We as Indian citizens must work together to carve a niche for India in the knowledge economy. Let us join hands for the successful implementation of this project for the brighter and prosperous India.

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Dhairya Roy
Head - Project Management Office (Projects, Corporate Relations and Media), for Minister of Finance & Planning, Forests - Government of Maharashtra.

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