By Shantanu Gharpure
- Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in his latest visit to Silicon Valley charmed the digital stalwarts of California, as the chants of “Modi, Modi” reverberated at SAP Centre. He shared his futuristic vision on government’s Digital India initiative which plans to take technology to every corner of India.Ten years from today, India dreams of a village in remote areas of Arunachal Pradesh or jungles of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra well connected with the rest of the world through Internet. To see every child learning in a virtual classroom, where teachers would be teaching from a city through a projector is also an aspiration. Students reading and learning on tablets, as they will get connected to the world. Farmers being up to date with weather forecasts and food grain prices in the market. A computer centre in every village where the villagers can access internet and do all kind of document work without going to any town. Internet and telecommunications helping the villages in India become more aware of the current happenings in the nation and the world; increasing the participation of everybody in democracy.
As Gandhiji rightly felt that ‘India resides in its villages,’ technology will help the villages to grow and prosper. Digital libraries, online magazines, e-books can be made available for free which will further help in knowledge sharing. A prospering Smart India will be an amalgamation of its smart villages and smart cities. PM Modi rightly said in his speech in San Jose, “I see technology as a means to empower and as a tool that bridges the distance between hope and opportunity. Social media is reducing social barriers. It connects people on the strength of human values, not identities.” Technology is a bridge indeed, a bridge that connects the hope that India’s villages will be educated and aware to the opportunity of internet and access to information from across the world.
‘Digital India’ is not just an initiative but a need for this country, where majority of population still does not have access to the world of internet. A need if fulfilled will revolutionize the country, a farmer in a small village can aspire to connect with farmers across the world, a student travelling long distances in Delhi Metro can study on his tablet connected to free Wi- Fi, women in tribal areas can know more about hygiene and well-beingby regularly being updated on the
net. PM Modi sharing his vision on digital transformation of this country said in his speech, “Digital India is an enterprise for India’s transformation on a scale that is, perhaps, unmatched in human history. Not just to touch the lives of the weakest, farthest and the poorest citizen of India, but change the way our nation will live and work.”
Bringing in technology will not just get us connected with the world but also help us in saving the nature by reducing paper work and in turn saving trees. Bureaucratic dependence on paper has been a hurdle on many fronts, technology has accelerated the process and will do that further which will also lead to better and efficient governance. PM echoed the same saying, “We will transform governance, making it more transparent, accountable, accessible and participative. I spoke of E- Governance as a foundation of better governance – efficient, economical and effective.”
India’s IT capital is something which the entire nation is proud of and the world looks up to. The IT movement that started in last decade of the millennium is only growing and will surely continue in future. Tata Consultancy Services, today is one of the largest Indian companies by market capitalization and one the ‘Big Four’ IT Services company in the world. Indian IT companies have stamped their authority in the world representing India’s IT and knowledge capital. This capital will help Digital India initiative to get implemented efficiently. Top Silicon Valley companies like Google, Adobe, and Microsoft now have Indians at the helm. Indian brains are driving the growth in Silicon Valley since decades now. The time is ripe for India to recognize its intellectual potential and drive the growth of its digital economy. Google has decided to set up free Wi-Fi at 500 railway stations across the nation. California Governor Jerry Brown has agreed to help the Indian government in tackling air pollution after his meeting with the Prime Minister in San Jose. PM Modi nicely sums up the importance of India – US partnership and California saying,“Today, we speak of India-U.S.partnership as a defining partnership of this century. It hinges on two major reasons. Both converge here in California. It is one of the last places in the world to see the sun set. But, it is here that new ideas see the first light of the day.”
Mark Zuckerberg, changed his Facebook profile picture to support the Digital India as did thousands of Indians with him, signalling a new era of digital growth in this country. Qualcomm Incorporated chief, Paul Jacobs established a USD 150 Million India-specific Venture Fund to fuel innovation and start-ups. PM Modi also launched Bharat Fund which will provide seed funding to Indian start ups. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook was invited to set up a manufacturing plant in India which will bolster the local economy and in turn Foxconn, Apple’s largest manufacturer has decided to set up a manufacturing plant in India. Microsoft promised to provide low cost broadband services to 5 lakh villages across India.
Digital India initiative will work through nine pillars which comprehensively hope to take the initiative to all sectors of the economy and every corner of the country.
Nine Pillars of Digital India
- Broadband Highways
With an estimated capex of INR 476.9 billion, this pillar seeks to address the objectives of broadband for all rural and urban areas in the country, as well as create a National Information Infrastructure by March 2017. Rural broadband access includes coverage of 250,000 gram panchayats ( G P ) by December 2016 in a phased manner. For urban broadband access, it seeks to facilitate virtual network operators and mandate communication infrastructure in new urban development for smart buildings in cities.
- Universal Access to Phones
With an estimated capex of INR160 billion, this pillar seeks to increase network penetration and cover current gaps in mobile connectivity. It aims to cover remaining 42,300 villages by FY18.
- Public Internet Access
This program seeks to cater to the objectives of National Rural Internet Mission and have common service centres in 250,000 villages by March 2017. It also aims to develop 150,000 post offices as multi-service centres in the country.
- E-Governance– Reforming
Government through Technology
With this initiative, the government seeks to undergo a business process re-engineering using IT to improve its transactions. It aims to simplify forms, create online repositories for school certificates and IDs, integrate services and platforms (such as Aadhaar and payment gateway) and automate government workflow and public grievance redressal processes.
- eKranti – Electronic
delivery of services
This pillar aims to involve technology for delivery of services in multiple facets such as for e- education using broadband, free Wi-Fi, online courses; e-healthcare through online consultation, records, medicine supply; for online banking, cash, loans and real time price information for farmers; financial inclusion; e-courts, e- police, e-prosecution; cyber security and much more.
- Information for All
This includes online hosting of information and documents, use of social media by the government to proactively engage with the citizens and online messaging on special occasions or programs.
- Electronics Manufacturing –Target NET ZERO Imports
This initiative seeks to fine-tune multiple ongoing programs to develop the electronics manufacturing ecosystem in the country. It has a specific focus on semiconductor fabrication plants, fab-less design, set-top boxes, VSATs, mobiles, consumer and medical electronics, smart energy meters, smart cards and micro- ATMs.
- IT for Jobs
This initiative seeks to train 10 million people in towns and villages for IT sector jobs in five years. It also aims to train 0.3 million agents to run viable businesses delivering IT services. Additionally, the project involves training of 0.5 million rural IT workforce in five years and setting up of BPOs in each North- eastern state.
- Early Harvest Programmes
The Digital India program houses several early harvest programs, which are under various phases of implementation. These include initiatives such as on use of IT platform for mass messaging and e- greetings from government, biometric attendance, standardized government e-mail designs, e- books for schools and national portal for lost and found children. It also includes programs to cover cities with more than 1 million population and tourist centres with public Wi-Fihotspots, an INR7.9 billion project to provide Wi-Fi in all universities and an INR980 million project to have secure e-mail for use within government systems.
Every pillar getting strong will lead to the success of Digital India. With PM Modi striving hard to promote Digital India initiative and people of India eager to see the technological
change, the initiative will surely be a huge success. Digital India is a rising tide that will lift people of India to new levels and that can only happen if all collaborate together and take the initiative forward.
1- Speeding ahead on the telecom and digital economy highway, EY Report
4- 10 key takeaways from Prime Minister Modi’s US trip – Yahoo News India
6- Crowd chants ‘Modi, Modi’ as India PM winds up Silicon Valley tour | Reuters
(The author is a Young India Fellow (YIF) (2015-16) at Ashoka University & doing his (Experiential Learning Module) ELM at SPMRF – Think@SPMRF and also writes and research on various topics of contemporary interest)