Thougths

Digital India – few challenges as we move on…

It has been since the Modi government came to power, I have been hearing of this one of the most innovative policy on the introduction of technology at the ground level called the “Digital India”.

Talking about what this policy of Digital India is that :
Digital India is an initiative by the Government of India to ensure that government services are made available to citizens electronically by improving online infrastructure and by increasing Internet connectivity.
It was launched on July 1, 2015, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The initiative includes plans to connect rural areas with high-speed internet networks.
Digital India has three core objectives. These includes:
1) The creation of digital infrastructure
2) Delivering services digitally
3) Digital literacy

Here is a zest of what the project of Digital India is all about (source: Wikipedia):
“Broadband in 2 lakhs villages, universal phone connectivity, net-zero imports by 2020, 400,000 public internet access points, Wi-fi in 2.5 lakhs schools, all universities; Public wi-fi hotspots for citizens, digital inclusion: 1.7 cr trained for IT, Telecom and Electronics jobs creation: Direct 1.7 Cr. and indirect at least 8.5 cr. e-Governance & e-Services: across government. India to be the leader in IT use in services – health, education, banking digitally empowered citizens – public cloud, internet access. The Government of India entity Bharat Broadband Network Limited which executes the National Optical Fiber Network project will be the custodian of Digital India (DI) project. BBNL had ordered United Telecoms limited to connect 250,000 villages through GPON to ensure FTTH based broadband. This will provide the first basic setup to achieve towards Digital India and is expected to be completed by 2017.”

All these things look very fascinating in the first place. Of course, it is but we need to think it more deeply looking into different aspects of the project. To be very practical, there are several unanswered questions that are needed to be answered, several challenges that are needed to be dealt with, several preparatory steps that are needed to be worked upon to harness maximum out of it.

The first obvious question that comes to my mind is that with about 30% illiteracy in the rural areas how can the people make use of the hi-speed internet connectivity. I know one would easily answer that 30% is not a big number, still 70% people are there to make the project successful but the reality is that the actual illiteracy rate w.r.t to the knowledge of using the internet in more than 30% because the ability to read and write can not ensure the knowledge of using the internet services. Most often it is seen that the knowledge of using a computer requires more than a basic education. So, the pre-requisite is to improve the quality of education in the village and to extend the definition of literacy to digital literacy then may be it might also help in tuning the literacy rate to a greater value.
The next challenges that stand in front of the authorities are that the use of computer, wi-fi and broadband services would need a constant and substantial supply of electricity in the rural areas for sure otherwise the concept of digitalizing India would not fulfill it’s objective. So, can the Indian government guarantee the required MW of electricity or has the government a guaranteed plan of harnessing that amount of electricity in future? Moreover, can they ensure the reduction in power outage and fluctuations which would undoubtedly crucial in making this project a success?
One another aspect that is worth worrying is that the budget of the project of
Digital India” is about US$ 67billion which is about 4.5 lakh crore rupees which
comprises one-fourth of india’s budget in the financial year 2015-16. Such an enormous part of budget is likely to be contemplated. The question is that- Is the government compromising with other needs of the country with a blind support to the project of “Digital India”? Or is that the reason of price hike of goods and services in the country? Or will that innovative aim of digitalizing India end up in huge amounts of bank loans in the name of the nation? Will all these factors shake the economy of the country in coming years? Are the villages of India, the country which is ranked 55/76 countries in hunger list with crippling conditions of hunger and health still prevailing, ready to accept this change? I mean can this project of digitalizing the Indian village cope with the existing situation because of the fact that India has a huge digital gap and to overcome that gap is really a challenging job. The idea of digitalization is really captivating but is it that internet and broadband should be prioritized over the agricultural modernization with more than 50% people still depending on the overburdened agriculture sector?
Apart from that lack of effective implementation is a basic issue as is very obvious from the fact that the national optical fiber network is way behind the schedule and there is no sign of accelerated implementation.
Moreover absence of ‘privacy law’ expose the users of these programmes the risk of ‘identity theft’, misuse of database and cyber abuse.
E-governance programme without process re-engineering is just adding another
layer without being efficiency.

I hope putting such questions is relevent, it’s not being about having negative possession or interfering in the political agenda or something like that. As a well-wisher India, I welcome such innovations in the country but all I wish is that it should be implemented with full groundwork to exploit the objective of this dream project. I know we are late in our basic project of meeting the fundamental requirements to every Indians as we have already crossed more than 60 years of independence but the time has come to use technology for our campaign of making India free from poverty and illiteracy and providing them basic medical facilities, for an accelerated pace and an all-round development.

To be honest, I was too fascinated about the concept of digitalizing India when I first got to know what it’s objective is and how it targets the nine pillars that was told about. Only thing that prompted me to research and know more about it was the anxiety to know if there are something that can question the practicality of this project. Yes, there are some challenges that would come along the journey of digitalizing India but that are expected to be dealt. In case, we couldn’t that wound be a big loss.

The reasons why the project has to be spellbind are many. The foremost reason being that it would bring transparency in the system and reduce the hands through which funds has to pass and therefore drastically bring down corruption across the nation at various levels and as a result ensure an effective implementation of the program launched by the government. Other reasons being that it will decrease crime if applied as a whole, it will help in getting things done easily, it will help in decreasing documentation, it will ensure digital empowerment of citizens i.e government and services will be available just in few clicks and it will ensure awareness among those who once used to be unaware and deprived of the opportunity. People can be in a closer contact with the administration at even the higher level and interact with them. It will by default set a special status of India in the league of nations. And in a similar manner the advantages of digital India is beyond that we could list. It’s huge. It’s big. In fact both the advantages as well as challenges are valid. If that is so why shouldn’t we should take up the responsibility by contributing in whatsoever way we can and make our motherland really Digital and colorful.                                                                                                                                                

   ‘/ Status not is not whether you are awake or alive,

         it is now whether you are Online or Offline /’

                                     – P.M. Narendra Modi

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