Digital India : Bridging the Digital Divide
Imagine standing in a queue of 150 people, waiting for your turn to pay your water bill of Rs. 29. Or your elderly mother wrestling her voice through on a Railways Reservation Enquiry counter to find out availability in one of the 13 Patna-Mumbai trains. A not so uncommon sight till the dusk of 20th century. ‘File’, that any piece of work was often maintained through, was the most dreaded thing for a common Indian.
Life has changed in the 21st century. You don’t have to bribe to know the status of your file that often. And especially not when it is available online. Advent of 21st century saw emergence of India as an IT powerhouse. But that was more at corporate level. The same zest was not visible in Governance. Government, though trying, was lagging behind in reaping the fruits of digitisation.
In the digital technology, ‘e’ stands for electronic but the Prime Minister of India has given it a new connotation with ‘Economical’ and ‘Easy’ Governance. He was speaking while kicking-off the ambitious Digital India programme, with week-long special initiatives, started on July 1, 2015. While elaborating his dream of future India to the august gathering of intellectuals, corporate, policy makers, diplomats and technological experts, Prime Minister said, “I dream of a digital India where we have high speed digital highways, governance is transparent, government accountability is incorruptible, quality education and quality health is accessible to all.” He also ensured that a collective Rs. 4.5 lakh crore will be invested in this programme through which 18 lakh jobs will be created. He also envisaged India to be a leader in cyber security in coming days.
(July 12, 2015, Page 16)
A brain-child of PM Narendra Modi ‘Digital India’ is the first programme to address the holistic development of e-governance system. It is an initiative to build a digital interface between the government departments and the people of India. A two-way platform will be created where both the service providers and the consumers stand to benefit. This is a unique and ambitious project at a huge scale, which has never before been attempted in India. Its an inter-ministerial initiative where all ministries such as Healthcare, Education, Judicial Services, etc shall offer their services to the public. Prime Minister envisions transforming our nation and creating opportunities for all citizens by harnessing digital technologies. His vision is to empower every citizen with access to digital services, knowledge and information.
Digital India not only caters to consumers as a service. It is a pilot programme which will also open a galaxy of employment opportunities. It will provide an edge to Indian digital industry as a viable career option. No initiative of such magnitude can be without challenges. Considering India's demographic, economic, political and cultural diversity, it is bound to face challenges. It is just a beginning, and government is doing it's bit to identify the challenges and their resolution. Here are few challenges to begin with :
Programme of this scale has never been conceived
For making it a success government has aligned ownership of different pillars of programme to respective ministries. Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) spearheads the programme in supervisory capacity.
Infrastructure setup till the last man in last village
This programme can only be a success if we are able to establish infrastructure in every nook and corner of India. In the present scenario, where individual digital infra is a distant target, government is banking on institutions like Common Service Centre and Shareable Private Space on a public cloud. This will provide a community based service to the last man. Ofcourse, integration of mobile phone to this scheme is the black horse for the government.
Human Resource Issues
National Information Centre (NIC) needs to be restructured for the task. DeitY—which is coordinating the programme— needs to be upgraded with more manpower to carry out its role. Need a structure of Chief Information Officer dedicatedly for Digital India from each participating Ministry.
Financial Resource Issues
Currently, the programme is mostly structured around ongoing programmes. It needs better financial focus and budgetary restructuring. A few new programmes may also be needed, particularly in electronics manufacturing and skill development. A dedicated budget allocation is required for such areas. This is a programme of entire government, of entire country. This has to be seen as a to tool unify India, one thing, that can connect the entire country. This initiative of PM Narendra Modi needs to be lauded—if nothing else—for a pan India connect.
Rachit Kaushik (The writer is IT professional and social media activist)
(July 12, 2015, Page-15-16)