Department of Information Technology,
Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology,
Government of India
District Informatics Officer
Room No. 107, First Floor
Nagapattinam 611 003
DIGITAL INDIA PROGRAMME
a technology inclusion initiative
An essential requirement for envisioning India's future in the coming decade is to recognise that the parameters, which determine national development have changed in recent years and will change further in future. I strongly believe that this would require one to constantly keep changing systems, processes and procedures intact. This will open up greater possibilities than ever before. A powerful set of forces is accelerating the speed of social change throughout the world. These include a rapid rise in the levels of education, high rates of technological innovation and application - ever faster and cheaper communication that dissolves physical and social barriers, both within countries and internationally, an easier access to information and the further opening up of global markets. It is here that IT plays a pivotal role. We have to take Digital India as a business transformation and proactively identify opportunities in advance and invest in it before demand actually arises. Digital transformation is nothing but change management as it impacts all levels of functioning - be it any task, activity or process.
These trends are representative of a relative shift in the engines that drive development from manufacturing to the services sector - and from capital resources to human and knowledge resources. Technology, organisation, information, education and productive skills will, therefore, play a critically decisive role in governing the future course of development.
In his maiden Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi captivated the youth by talking of his dream of a Digital India by 2019. Whether its e-Governance, broadband for all, IT-enabled education or telemedicine - the Digital India plan is meant to cover it all. The optimism is palpable with the government's promising intent to promote economic growth through technology and digital avenues, as well as a significant shift in the mindset of users.
On examination, one finds that Digital India is a plan that indeed has the potential to transform India in many real ways. If the three vision areas for Digital India programme - infrastructure as a utility to every citizen, governance and services on demand driving government efficiency and digital empowerment of citizens are any indication, this is a plan that can revolutionise the lives of citizens. Information and services would be accessed with no delays - and this would empower the citizens and propel the economy forward.
One of the defining attributes of the current government thus far has been its unrelenting focus on increasing its efficiency and effectiveness. The results of this focus on bureaucratic efficiency and government execution is already very visible in the progress made in various projects during the last year and a half or so. Already technology is being used - be it in attendance monitoring or other areas. Amongst the budget's many structural reforms is the focus on technology based targeting of subsidies. This effort is probably the best thought through effort during the last six decades to tackle the scourge of leakage and corruption in subsidies.
Creating a technological platform for administrative and decision-making processes moves governments towards a new form of responsiveness and transparency. Transparency in turn should cause for less corruption and providing no ground for crony capitalism. Responsiveness should translate into less red-tape and more efficient environment and life for citizens. It is no secret that technology bears a direct relationship with bringing in a more efficient, transparent and accountable government.
A host of other allied benefits would be accrued include reducing expenditure, enabling real-time data analysis - and ensuring a faster movement of information and intelligence to key players in the bureaucracy. Each of these will in turn result in swifter, informed and more accurate decisions and policy making being taken by the government machinery.
The new government's innovative 'Make in India' campaign further signals its commitment to transforming India into the manufacturing hub of the world. The importance of manufacturing stems from the fact that the sector can serve as a source of employment for the bulk of unskilled and semi-skilled workers currently engaged in the agricultural sector. And the success of this initiative depends on the degree to which the government can provide an enabling environment by improving the 'ease of doing business' in India. In other words, the government is signalling its intent to do just that.
Another budget promise is the transformation of our economy into a cashless economy. A good example of a well-executed technologically enabled governance service of the government is the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana [PMJDY]. The National Payment Corporation of India [NPCI] has built a platform that, reportedly, connects all banks and telecom operators in the country. In 2014, 26 Public Sector Banks [PSBs] and three private banks joined this platform that enables customers of any bank access their accounts, check balance, perform money transfers, among others through even basic feature phones. This is one of the many measures undertaken by the NPCI to make India, a cashless economy - and once well entrenched, this will transform the way Indians bank, make significant savings for the exchequer while improving end line service delivery. The priorities mentioned by the Prime Minister in his electoral manifesto spoke of a "people oriented system to be put in place" and "stress on addressing people's problems". Nothing would serve that cause better than technology for service delivery and grievance redressal. It cuts down on bureaucratic procedures and provides citizens access to information, along with expectations of a meaningful response.
India has made a good start with its national e-Governance plan, but it can take additional steps to capture the full potential of technology over the next decade. Re-engineering core government processes to simplify them and integrate multiple services on technology platforms are important further steps. Government can also help new businesses and business models prosper through its open-data initiatives. In addition, it can help accelerate the build-out of fibre-optic backbones, which will be critical for spreading the mobile Internet - and for the foundation of many applications in other sectors of the economy.
Transforming the Lives of Citizens
The spread of digital technologies, as well as advances in energy and genomics, can raise the productivity of business and agriculture - redefine how services such as healthcare and education are delivered and contribute to higher living standards for millions of Indians by raising education levels and improving healthcare outcomes.
While the focus is on transforming the government-to-citizen, government-to-business or government-to-government dynamics - there is a need for this programme to go beyond directional statements and accelerate the vision for a virtually integrated India, which is already home to 850 million mobile users and 220 million Internet users.
Currently, to assess crop damage, agents and officials have to harvest damaged crop at six different fields, take note of the last seven-year yield for the same crop and then calculate the damage. The process for awarding compensation is also protracted as the amount is first sent to the insurance company, which in turn sends it to the deputy commissioner who then remits it to the beneficiary.
The use of simple, affordable and easily accessible technologies can transform a painful process for a citizen that would otherwise take up to six months, into a real time process. This is the real opportunity and potential of Digital India - the benefits it brings to the end line service user - and the government is committed to do all that it takes to harness it.
The Digital India programme is aimed at connecting all Gram Panchayats by broadband and Internet - and promote e-Governance to transform India into a connected knowledge economy. The digital penetration in the Indian hinterland is growing silently but rapidly. Several initiatives taken by the government, NGOs, private social groups are now using technology for efficient delivery of a variety of services that is showing remarkable results.
They have taken the initiative to utilise the large pool of Village Health Workers [VHW] that provides a wide variety of healthcare support to the last mile areas of rural India. Creating a mobile platform to collect, streamline, analyse, offer medical advice and the next course of possible action to the VHW. The results are well documented. In a field trial conducted with the National Rural Health Mission, Tamil Nadu saw 95 per cent pregnancies were registered and monitored, 20 per cent reduction in outpatient costs including drugs, 75 per cent VHWs registering an increase in diagnostic efficiency and ease of operation. In the next three years, the target market penetration is going to significantly increase with its impact on both healthcare and rural incomes.
Google has launched an initiative to introduce women to the Internet especially those in the rural areas. They have launched a website 'Helping Women Get Online'. They have partnered with leading companies. The website offers a step-by-step guide to computer basics, Internet skills, chat & email and watching videos online. Each topic has different topics ranging from how to start and shut down your computer, how to create an email account. In addition, the site also offers information on a variety of topics such as cooking recipes, childcare, financial, healthcare, maternity, relationship and style & beauty. They also offer a Toll-free helpline.
Meanwhile, with an urban population of 31 per cent, India is at a point of transition where the pace of urbanisation will speed up in the times to come. It is for this reason that we need to plan our urban areas well and should not wait any longer to do so. The relatively low base allows us to plan our urbanisation strategy in the right direction by taking advantage of the latest developments in technology. The Prime Minister has a vision of developing one hundred 'Smart Cities', as satellite towns of larger cities and by modernising the existing mid-sized cities. Moreover, it also offers us an opportunity to create conducive environment for creation of many times more employment opportunities and economic activities while improving the quality of life substantially. It also allows an opportunity to learn from good practices and mistakes made elsewhere within the country as well as outside the country.
Developing countries, like India, are grappling with a challenge of liberating education for underprivileged. Unfortunately, education in developing countries still remains a basic requirement for the upliftment of downtrodden in a society and hence is of paramount importance. The cost of developing the education system can be really high, but with digital tools, the cost of high-quality education can be brought down significantly. Also, it is a fact that human capital is the single-biggest asset for a developing country like India. As the future is all about technology, it is important for today's generation to be well equipped with critical technology skills to be successful and future-ready. Even organisations are promoting digital workplaces, where work largely depends on the usage of various technologies.
For the youth, who are not so technologically advanced it is of utmost importance that they are given the requisite infrastructure and ample opportunities to gain technology skills. And, with the wide-spread proliferation of digital devices and platforms - the more our population, especially the under-served are equipped with digital skills, the more it would manifest itself as progress for the nation as a whole.
Transforming the Economy
A new McKinsey Global Institute [MGI] report identifies a dozen technologies, ranging from the mobile Internet to cloud computing to advanced genomics, which could have a combined economic impact of $550 billion to $1 trillion a year in 2025. Often, these technologies are used in combination, providing a greater impact than any one of them alone. For example, 'Internet of Things' sensors in medical devices can be used together with the mobile Internet and intelligent systems [the automation of knowledge work] hosted on the cloud to monitor patients with chronic diseases remotely and to alert medical workers automatically when the system detects a potentially dangerous situation.
The applications could have an economic value of $32 billion to $140 billion a year by 2025. That value arises from improved productivity and higher incomes for citizens using financial services and from lower costs and reduced leakage in government transfers and payments. As many as 300 million Indians could gain access to banking services and raise their incomes by 5 to 30 per cent thanks to better access to credit and the ability to save and make remittances.
Education & Skills:
It is estimated that remote learning, massive open online courses [MOOCs] and other digital systems could have an economic impact of $60 billion to $90 billion a year by 2025, thanks to higher productivity among a larger number of skilled workers. India could have about 24 million more high school and college educated workers and 18 million to 33 million more vocationally trained workers by 2025 as a result of digitisation in the education sector.
Disruptive technologies could transform the delivery of public health by 2025 through remote health services and digitally enabled healthcare workers, who can tap expert systems to conduct basic protocols via smart phones and the mobile Internet. By 2025, the total economic impact could be $25 billion to $65 billion a year, including $15 billion that could be saved through systems to reduce the problem of counterfeit drugs. Some 400 million of India's poor could get access to better care through technologies that bring medical expertise to modestly skilled health workers in remote areas.
Agriculture & Food:
Technology applications could create $45 billion to $80 billion a year in additional value in the sector. More than half of that would come from hybrid and genetically modified crops, precision farming [using sensors and GIS-based soil, weather and water data to guide farming decisions], mobile Internet-based farm-extension and market-information services. Electronic payments and other digital systems, for example, could reduce leakage in the public food-distribution system and the use of real-time market data and other information tools would cut postharvest food losses. These improvements could raise the incomes of as many as 100 million farmers and bring better nutrition to 300 million to 400 million consumers.
Collectively, the technology applications in energy could have an economic value of $50 billion to $95 billion a year by 2025, including the impact of the carbon emissions avoided. The largest benefit would come from smart metering, which could save $15 billion to $20 billion a year by 2025 in reduced transmission losses. Unconventional-oil and -gas development might generate value of $10 billion a year by 2025.
India has a widely acknowledged infrastructure deficit that successive governments have attempted to address. Smart highway systems and electronic tolling can reduce road-travel times by 10 to 15 per cent. Radio Frequency Identification [RFID] tags and other tracking technologies can raise the efficiency of ports and warehouses by 50 per cent. Sensors could help reduce water-system leakage by 15 to 20 per cent. In construction, modern methods such as the use of pre-cast parts and project-management systems could help save $12 billion to $18 billion a year in costs by 2025 and help India build ten million affordable homes. Together, infrastructure technologies can contribute $30 billion to $45 billion a year in value by 2025.
A study by Zinnov found that increased access to enabling infrastructure such as increased use of smart phones and easy access to Internet will result in greater adoption of technology by small businesses. Accordingly, the Digital India project will be an exponential driver for massive growth in IT adoption. The estimated budget of Digital India is going to be $19 billion between 2014-2018.
Another study by Accenture says that digital technologies can add $101 billion to India's GDP by 2020. The study is based on the Accenture Digital Density Index, a tool that helps companies make better strategic investments based on granular measures of digital performance.
At its broadest level, the Index reveals that a ten point improvement in digital density [on a 100-point scale] over five years would lift GDP growth rates in advanced economies by 0.25 percentage points and by 0.5 percentage point in emerging economies. Emerging economies, such as Brazil, India and China could see rises of between $97 billion and $418 billion. The report predicts that usage of digital technologies will help in adding as much as US $1.36 trillion to the GDP of the world's top ten economies by 2020. Overall China leads the race with digital technologies projected to raise China's GDP by $418 billion; while the US is expected to add $365 billion, followed by Japan at $114 bilion. Globally, India is ranked fourth.
Connecting India Virtually
India is already home to the 3rd largest number of Internet users globally with nearly 350 million users as of September 2015. We are on track to become the 2nd largest user market by 2015 and a 500 million-user market by 2016. Yet, there are more than a billion people who will need to be brought online for India to realise the vision of a digitally connected, knowledge economy. Government's Digital India programme will play a transformational role in achieving this.
Social media is already changing the way governments work, communicate and socialise, by creating opportunities to reach out to citizens via its inexpensive and readily accessible platforms. It provides an interactive and real-time two-way communication mechanism through which the government can not only inform citizens about its services and policies but also gather their feedback. Moreover, social media platforms can be used by governments to reach out to the citizens to make announcements about new policies, initiatives, deadlines, new regulations and communicate emergencies. Social Media Record Management is quite different from the conventional records management, because of the dynamic and collaborative nature of content being managed. Globally, governments have taken the initiative to archive data that exists on Social Media and document it for legal [e-Discovery] as well as regulatory purposes. Similar policies are also needed to leverage the most out of social media records within the boundaries of well-defined regulatory guidelines.
For such a countrywide initiative, it is critical to take inputs from the citizens, the ultimate beneficiaries and leverage their collective feedback to improve planning and implementation. With this view, a group on Digital India was created on MyGov Portal to take inputs from users on critical topics. By end of September 2015, MyGov had over 12 lakh users from India and abroad, actively participating in discussions and tasks on policy matters put by 18 Government Ministries and Departments, as well as participating in contests. MyGov receives on average about 10,000 posts per week, which are analysed and the key findings are shared with the concerned departments for further analysis and incorporation in their action agenda.
While physically integrating the country is expensive [because of costs of airports, rail links etc.] and is time consuming and is a work in progress - Digital India can integrate far-flung parts of the nation with the rest of the country. The Northeast, Jammu & Kashmir can be integrated far more efficiently, economically and in all other ways on a digital network. The possibilities of creating entrepreneurs on the back of these are immense thus also possibly transforming local economies. In a sense, the ultimate objective of Digital India is to integrate the country and the economy. By facilitating an efficient, enabling technological platform, citizens from the remotest parts of the country shall be able to partake in and contribute to the country's economy.
The North-Eastern states for instance, hold tremendous potential for IT-led growth and development. With a very high literacy rate [over 70 per cent] and large number of people fluent in English, the region holds strong potential for growth of information technology enabled services - which is precisely what the eighth pillar of Digital India - 'IT for Jobs' is about. Envisaging a country that successfully navigated the transformation of the telecom sector and created over one crore jobs over a five year period through Business Process Outsourcing [BPOs].
Digital transformation is all about leveraging a convergent set of technologies that operate in the digital space and enable faster responses, easy adaptability and work optimisation across a multitude of operations. The adoption of mobile technology, social media, cloud computing, analytics and big data can empower governments at multiple levels to roll out initiatives, which are fast, better and at the same time cost effective. Creating an intelligent mix of these technological advancements, governments can ensure greater citizen satisfaction.
The challenge for Digital India is to provide last mile connectivity to Phase- III &IV areas, which are India's smallest towns and villages. Digitising these inhabitations require massive investments. It is clear that while government has a role in making investments, bulk of this investment and innovation must come from a Public-Private partnership that brings in the strong technological and entrepreneurial eco system of India fully into this. It is clear that the success of Digital India depends on the innovative policy and enabling framework that government creates - and it is equally important that apart from being an investor, the government assigns to itself a role of being an innovation and investment enabler and plays that role well.
The key task that now lies before this government is, therefore, to create an enabling policy and execution ecosystem for technological transformation of the country. This will require a legislative environment where all stakeholders are allowed to function and fulfil their roles - and an investment backed, detailed execution plan.
The programme weaves together a multitude of ideas and thoughts into a single comprehensive vision. The whole idea is to launch schemes in a synchronised manner with minimum cost. The project is slated for completion by 2019. A two-way platform will be created where both the service providers and the consumers stand to benefit. The scheme will be monitored and controlled by the Digital India Advisory group, which will be chaired by the Ministry of Communication & IT. Digital India is expected to transform India and democracy through a more effective citizen-government engagement, usher transparency in governance and take the government to the remotest villages and citizens