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Digital India Essay: In 2015, the Government of India took a massive step towards the digital growth of India by launching the massive “Digital India” campaign. The campaign aimed to make the necessary government services accessible in various parts of the country. The Government also took initiatives to improve Internet connectivity and its accessibility to India’s remote and rural regions and improve digital literacy in the country.
Digital India was launched by the current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on 1st July 2015 in top industrialists like Tata group chairman Cyrus Mistry, Wipro chairman Azim Premji, RIL chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani, etc. at the Indra Gandhi Indoor Stadium, Delhi. Worth of more than one lakh crore, the program includes various schemes such as digital locker, national scholarship portal, e-health, e-education e-sign, etc.
Immediately with the introduction of this campaign, many organizations came forward to lend their hands for making India a digitally well-equipped country. The project is run by Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL), a Government entity. The motive was to make the government services more efficient by reducing the paperwork and strengthening the electronic mode of Government services (E-services).
To make Digital India a ground reality, the Government of India is complying with the ‘Navaratnas’ (Nine Pillars) of the Digital India movement. They are as follows:
▪ Broadband Highways – The Government aims to provide network and cloud infrastructure to provide high-speed connectivity and cloud platform to various government departments. It also plans to cover 2.5 lakh village Panchayats under the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN).
▪ Universal Access to Mobile Connectivity – Wireless network connectivity is essential for the Digital India mission. There are about 55 thousand villages in the country that still do not have mobile coverage. As part of the comprehensive development plan, providing mobile coverage to uncovered communities has been initiated.
▪ Public Internet Access Programme – Digital India movement aims to provide internet service access to more than 2.5 lakh villages comprising one in every Panchayat and 1.5 lakh Post Offices. They are proposed to be converted into multi-service centers.
▪ Electronics Manufacturing – This pillar focuses on promoting electronics goods manufacturing in the country and reduce the number of imports. Thus, it tries to earn faith and trust from the global community on Indian products. Therefore, the Government is echoing Digital India and aims to put up smart energy meters, micro-ATMs, Smart cards, VSATs, mobiles, consumers, and medical electronics.
▪ Early Harvest Programmes – This program consists of projects that are to be implemented within a short timeline. The Government has plans to set up Wi-Fi facilities in all cities, railways, and universities across the country by planting public Wi-Fi hotspots. The biometric attendance system is being deployed in all government institutions of state and central government offices in Delhi, to begin with. More such initiatives fall under this program such as ‘National portal for lost and found children,’ ‘SMS based weather information and disaster updates’ etc.
▪ e-Governance – Reforming Government through Technology – Government of India aims to improve processes and delivery of services through e-governance with Mobile Seva platform, sharing of data through open Application Programming Interfaces (API) and middleware such as National and State Service Delivery Gateways (NSDG/SSDG) Kranti – Electronic delivery of services. To enable hassle-free services online, digital India aims to provide certificates, educational degrees, identity documents, etc. through online repositories.
▪ Information for All – Digital India seeks to host data online in an open format by the ministries/departments for use, reuse, and redistribution. It also aims to use cloud hosting for data so that it is easily accessible for the citizens.
▪ IT for Jobs – Providing training to the youth in the skills required for availing employment opportunities in the IT/ITES sector is the prime focus of this pillar. This component aims to train about one crore students from smaller villages and towns for IT jobs for over five years. It also aims to train 3 lakh service delivery agents to run viable businesses delivering IT services, training the rural workforce on Telecom and Telecom related services, and setting up BPOs across every state of the north-eastern part of India to facilitate ICT enabled growth.
Outcome of Digital India Initiative
Since its announcement, the program has been highly favored by various countries such as USA, Japan, South Korea, the UK, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
At the launch ceremony of Digital India Week, top CEOs from all over globe committed to investing 4.5 lakh crore towards this initiative. Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman of Reliance Industries, was joined by senior industry leaders such as Sunil Bharti Mittal (founder and chairperson of Bharti Enterprises), Kumar Mangalam Birla (Chairman of the Aditya Birla Group), and Anil Agarwal (founder and Chairman of Vedanta Resources Limited) with significant investment announcements of which more than half of the promised investments were announced by Mukesh Ambani alone. Anil Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Group, also announced to invest in Rs 10,000 crore to expand businesses across digital, cloud, and telecom space. Aditya Birla group also committed to investing US $7 billion over the next five years in network rollout, broadband, and Wi-Fi deployment.
The CEOs said the investments would be utilized to make more made in India products and provide better telecommunication services to the citizen at an affordable price and help generate jobs that will slash the trade deficit from the countries.
Leaders from Silicon Valley, California, expressed their support for Digital India. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, showed his support to Digital India and promised to work on Wi-Fi Hotspots in the rural area of India. Google agreed to provide broadband connectivity on 500 railway stations in India. Microsoft committed to provide broadband connectivity to 5 lakh villages in India and make India its cloud hub through Indian data centers. Qualcomm announced an investment of US$150 million for Indian start-ups. Oracle plans to invest in 20 states and will work on payments along with Smart city initiatives. Digital India has also been influential in promoting the interests of the Indian Railways as well.
Digital India: Challenges
Since the Digital India mission has been announced, it faces several challenges in successful implementation due to its national implementation plans. High digital illiteracy, lack of awareness among common masses, challenging to implement Optical Fibre network, delayed infrastructure development, etc. For the most part, the Digital India movement has benefited the already privileged sectors of Indians. It is also difficult to scale up initiatives to affect all Indians, and fundamental attitudinal and institutional change is still a significant issue. While much ICT research has been conducted in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat, weaker states such as Bihar and Odisha have rarely been mentioned.
Digital India: Positive Impacts
But there have been several positive impacts as well. India now generates approximately 10 million daily active internet users a month, which is the highest rate of addition to the internet community anywhere in the world.
India’s economy has witnessed significant growth in the recent past by growing 7.9 percent in 2015 against 7.4 percent in 2014. The Digital India project will supposedly create around 17 million employment opportunities for people directly or indirectly. The telecommunication industry’s future growth in terms of a number of subscribers is expected to come from rural areas.
Digital India has continued to empower more and more young entrepreneurs to implement innovative solutions and start their ventures for both the Indian and global markets. Digitization of the economy has also made it significantly easier to start a company utilizing the benefits like self-certifications and online registration. This has further lowered the cost in terms of time. The program also comes with the vision of building start-up support hubs in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs). Setting up incubation centers, free professional guidance, encouragement, and other added benefits are raising the spirits of the budding entrepreneurs of the nation, giving life to their dreams. It is helping the Indian start-up ecosystem to grow at a much faster pace.
Modern ICT makes it easier for people to access services and resources as mobile devices are convenient in such situations. Mobile and internet banking have made things much simpler and efficient for consumers. Students in India’s rural and remote areas benefit from E-Education services and platforms like open online courses (MOOCs). Farmers can also benefit from digital platforms by getting the right guidance of crop choice, seed variety, weather, plant protection, cultivation best practices, etc. and get the latest market information such as market price, demand, and logistics.
The vision and potential of Digital India are grand. It is a massive step towards building a truly empowered country if implemented successfully. The projects are promising and have already shown signs of success. However, the goal is still far-fetched as the implementation of the ‘Nine pillars’ is facing some severe challenges. But with proper planning and actual implementation, these issues can be resolved and make this grand vision a reality.
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