Today, we had a brief panel discussion on the Digital India in RS TV, which is the platform from Parliament. Certain points were discussed, and although I had little time to discuss all the points, thought of sharing my perspective on Digital India. My take on this is as an academic who works in the domain of digital transformation and public policy. Points are brief, and lot more can be covered if the opportunity is presented.

Happy to be part of this panel.

  1. Technology as an enabler and India’s strengths in harnessing it
    • India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below 35.
    • The Indian telecom sector has 1.2 billion subscribers. India also has the world’s second-largest internet subscriber base with 340 million internet subscribers.
    • 36% of mobile users are smartphone users, which should grow to 50% of the population by 2020.
    • Indian telecom sector provides employment to 4 million people directly or indirectly, and accounts for 6.5% of the Indian GDP.
    • Population can understand English.
  2. India as the hot-spot of digital innovation and impetus to entrepreneurial innovation
    • About 1.5 million technical students graduate in India. On one hand, the industry doesn’t have enough jobs to address this need. On the other hand, the quality of many graduates is a concern.
    • However with the new supportive schemes of GoI, like Start Up India, STEP and Make In India, there is support not to become job seekers but job creators.
    • Under such programmes, a ‘Fund of Funds’ has been created to help startups gain access to funding. At the core of the initiative is the effort to build an ecosystem in which startups can innovate and excel without any barriers, through such mechanisms as online recognition of startups, Easy Compliance Norms, Relaxed Procurement Norms, incubator support, innovation focused programmes for students, funding support, tax benefits and addressing of regulatory chalenges.
    • There is a need for support for IPRs which may be created in the space. More handshake may be needed between the stake-holders who may often work in silos. Probably Facilitated Patent filing may support in meeting this objective.
  3. How is digital infrastructure keeping pace?
    • Planning and implementation of initiatives like Digital India and Smart Cities are the domains which are going to bring about a transformation in the digital economy. This will also shift the focus of population pressure from the metro cities and create opportunities through urbanization across India.
    • Adhaar plays a massive role in this digitization initiative whereby records and linkages to individuals uniquely is possible. As of now, it is difficult to uniquely identify individuals and map entities and assets to them. This is a major problem that Adhaar integration is likely to solve.
    • Telecom policy of India, planned in 2018, would play a major role. There are plans to target rural tele-density of 100%, provide high speed data connectivity, achieve 900 million broadband connections, develop 10 million public Wi-Fi hotspots, attain average speed of 20 Mbps for wireless, and 50 Mbps for wireline internet connectivity, enable access for connecting to 10 billion IoT/ M2M sensors/ devices and attract an investment of 100 billion USD in the telecom space.
  4. What improvements have been made in digital delivery of services
    • A lot of the services are now digitally accessible. More than access, the stage at which applications are currently lying in the workflow of the system, is often visible. This has led to transparency and accountability.
    • Platforms like MyGov are soliciting inputs from citizens for inclusive governance. Focus has been on citizen participation in such programmes.
    • How the cloud infrastructure of NIC is being used across government departments is also facilitating a massive possible integration of the entire nation in the years to come.
  5. How do we change public behaviour and processes
    • Positive vs Negative Intervention (Type X vs Type Y).
    • Demonstration of implementation of best practices. Case studies can be motivational.
    • Training
  6. What efforts need to be made to bring digital literacy to each household
    • National Digital Literacy Mission provided training to 52.5 lakh citizens from households across India.
    • Focus of such training is to empower the poor / digital illiterate and reduce the digital divide.
    • Impact assessment of such programmes reveal that over 75% of the participants feel that they have benefited from such programmes.
    • Similarly, there have been other programmes like Investor Awareness Programmes and Legal Literacy Programmes, which aim to provide support towards sustainable and inclusive development.
  7. Challenges in adapting to disruptive technologies
    • Emergence of IoT, 5G and Mobile Applications may be a huge disruption.
    • Blockchain may also play a critical role in this journey by managing the public information assets.
    • Organizations which may need to use these are however not very tech savvy. The genetic constitution of such organization may become a barrier towards adoption.
    • Factors for adoption include Ease of Use, Utility, Social pressure, Effect on Outcome, Quality of Outcome, Service quality, trust, satisfaction, empowerment, tech maturity, service support.
    • Where do we stand on skilling citizens? A lot has been done. But still a long way to go.

By Kar

Dr. Kar works in the interface of digital transformation and data science. Professionally a professor in one of the top B-Schools of Asia and an alumni of XLRI, he has extensive experience in teaching, training, consultancy and research in reputed institutes. He is a regular contributor of Business Fundas and a frequent author in research platforms. He is widely cited as a researcher. Note: The articles authored in this blog are his personal views and does not reflect that of his affiliations.