Prime Minister Modi’s digitising India vision can transform India from a predominantly rural agrarian society to a digitally empowered economy.
Governments world over are expected to be responsible for policy formulation, and efficient execution of those policies apart from the daily humdrum of governance. When a committed government applies its collective mind and formulates long term policies which are well thought through, and efficiently implemented, the impact on the citizenry and national economy can be exponential and long lasting.
Some examples of successful policy decisions of Bharatiya Janata Party’s government which have worked out very well are introduction of Provident Fund Scheme in 1978, enabling domestic manufacturing in IT in 1977, and the very successful Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) scheme launched in 1999. All these schemes are examples of successful long term policy measure.
The current NDA government has introduced a slew of policy decisions in its last 4 months tenure, most of which have been appreciated by people and industry at large. One of the most significant policy announcements has been the one related to “Digital India” programme.
Digital India is conceived as an ambitious programme to transform India into digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. The vision of a Digital India is centered on three key areas – Digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen, governance and services on Demand, and Digital Empowerment of Citizens. This programme brings together nine different Information technology (IT) initiatives of Government under Department of Electronics & Information Technology ( DeitY), some ongoing and some new. The overall investments provisioned over the next 5 years are ambitious 113000 Crores for this. The 9 initiatives are – Broadband Highways, Universal Mobile Access,Public Internet Access Programme, E-Governance, E-Kranti (Electronic Service Delivery), Information for All, Electronics Manufacturing, IT for Jobs and Early Harvest Programmes.
The targets defined for this programme over a 5 year period are ambitious and laudable. 2.5 Lakh villages are expected to be connected via broadband with Wi-Fi in 2.5 Lakh Schools. More than 10 crores of direct and indirect jobs are expected to be created while 1.7 crore youth are targeted for training in jobs in IT/BPO/Telecom and Electronics. 400000 Public Internet Access points will be set up across the country with Wi-Fi hot spots set up in all cities with more than 10 Lakh populations. A most desirable target is net zero imports in electronics by 2020 (The current electronics imports are $100 billion and could grow to $400 billion by 2020 in case of status quo).
The target figures as envisaged by Government, while ambitious, are not impossible to achieve. What seems to have gone unnoticed is the downstream impact this programme will have in other aspects of Economy. The primary achievement of this programme will be to ensure last mile connectivity which allows every citizen to be connected to the economy through an access device which could be a simple mobile handset. Once an average citizen starts leveraging the mobile device to operate bank accounts, transact with banks, and get access to the information, the impact on the commerce will be manifold. This last mile connectivity will ensure increase in average income levels; and through the average business transacted through banks, the overall GDP growth over the long term.
Access to information on fingertips will lead to unprecedented transparency, and speed of communication will strengthen the cause of democracy in India. This will drive further the grassroots participation in democracy and help India harness the “demographic dividend” which Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi so often talks about. The recent radio address by the PM on every Sunday at 11am can reach every common man who has a mobile handset. It is believed this communication between government and people will make the concept of “inclusive governance” eminently possible and practical.
The challenges are manifold, but if we cross these hurdles, Digital India programme will become the gateway to “Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat” (One India, Supreme India).
–Anirudh Joshi (The writer is a freelancer and writes on technology related issues)