India is on the brink of a colossal digital revolution. In many ways, the revolution has already started, but we’re yet to realize its full potential.
It was not long ago that we achieved our independence. Around a hundred years were spent in that quest, but we did succeed in the end. And thus emerged the largest democracy in the world.
The first few years were tough on the populace, especially as far as food was concerned. Thankfully, the Green Revolution brought much needed respite to all the Indian citizens. The industrial revolution happened simultaneously, ushering India into the modern era.
The economic liberalization of the ’90s propelled us to be one of the fastest growing nations in the world. And we haven’t looked back since then. India is one of the formidable developing countries in the world today.
Now, the main question we’ve to ask ourselves is “how do we move forward?“.
How to make sure that all Indians are able to take advantage of the growth? Presently, the benefits have only been able to reach a few percentage of the billion plus population.
The main issue plaguing our country is reliable governance.
Lengthy paperwork, unreliable work timings, transportation difficulties, and unparalleled corruption are just a few hurdles an average citizen has to battle to get anything done in this country.
Keeping that in mind, our previous government initiated the National e-Governance Plan in 2006. The goal was simple: “to make all government services available to the citizens of India via electronic media.”
While the plan didn’t take off as brilliantly as one would’ve imagined, it still brought a lot of government services online. Today, I can apply for a PAN card right from my home. The same applies for passports and ration cards too. Similarly, a lot of other government services were made accessible online.
e-Governance is a boon for all the citizens.
An electronic device with access to the Internet is all that you need to get things done.
Some of the key areas where you can benefit from e-Governance are:
- Law & Order
- Public grievances
- Emergency services
- Other citizen services, and much more!
Still, a lot of Indians are cut off from these benefits. The reasons?
- Ease of use
Most Indians don’t even know there exists such a thing called the Internet. Even those who do have a unique perspective of what it’s really used for, don’t know about all its capabilities.
For the tech savvy, Internet is a way to access anything online. We send emails, write and read blogs, use social media, read news, do online shopping, online banking, book tickets, pay our utility bills, watch movies and TV shows, and much more.
But for others, it might just be a way to send photos to their loved ones with their smartphones. Or just a means to access social networking sites, so that they could be in touch with their distant partner or relatives.
We have to drive it into people’s minds that it is also a tool for efficient governance. This requires digital education on a massive scale.
The present government understands these concerns. Hence, they launched the Digital India campaign soon after they came into power last year.
It’s a remarkable and ambitious plan that aims to deliver electronic government services to every citizen of India.
Let’s explore how Digital India plans to overcome various obstacles in enabling e-Governance throughout the country.
Wealth distribution is really skewed in our country. The same applies for access to infrastructure and other basic facilities.
Digital infrastructure should be made available to everyone at an affordable price. Even better if it’s free. It should be treated on par with any other utility such as water and electricity.
Some of things that come under digital infrastructure are:
- High speed broadband
- Unique digital identity for all citizens
- Mobile support
- Integration with personal bank accounts
- Cloud data storage facility
- Free and easy access to all services
- Safe and secure by default
The government has already started on setting up the digital infrastructure. Many private companies have also come forward to help the government in realizing this dream.
Intel has already partnered with Bharat Broadband Network Ltd. (BBNL) to support the government’s Digital India vision. Likewise, other private and public companies are expected to join the race in this digital revolution.
As discussed earlier, accessibility is the key to make Digital India a reality. All the e-Governance services should be available in real time, on demand. They should be accessible from both online and mobile platforms. No matter how underprivileged the user is, he/she should be able to access these facilities.
Some of the key steps in ensuring better accessibility are:
- Seamless integration across various government departments
- Easy access to all documents / certificates on the cloud
- Cashless and electronic financial transactions
- Digital literacy
- Local language support
- Universal access to all digital resources
Digital literacy is one of the main talking points from the above list. Realizing this, Intel has planned to train the first 1,000 panchayats under the National Optic Fiber Network roll-out plan in India. They call it the “Digital Skills for India” program.
Around 100,000 villages will have access to high-speed broadband by the end of 2015. Combining all the above steps taken, most of India should have access to e-Governance facilities by the end of 2016. The plan is to realize the Digital India vision completely by 2019.
Ease of use
If you make a machine or a piece of technology that can be used by only a few, how many can really benefit from that? Not many. That’s why Google is the most popular search engine and Facebook is the most popular social network. Because they’re easy to use, no matter who they are or where they’re from.
The government can learn a thing or two from some of the best software companies in the world.
The information and services should be available for all citizens, regardless of where they are. And it should be easy enough to navigate through to get what you need.
You shouldn’t require a graduation certificate in computer science to know how to apply for a passport or a driving license. You can make fun of IIN all you like, but the Internet has really leveled the playing field to some extent. It’s time to enable the same in governance.
Some of the things the government can do to enable ease of access are:
- Online hosting of all information and documents
- Two-way communication between government and the citizens
- Real-time communication with users after every action
- Train people in smaller villages and towns for IT sector jobs
- Enable service providers (e.g. telecom companies) to train rural workforce
- Free Wi-Fi in all universities and major city centers (public Wi-Fi hotspots)
- Distribution of free education material to schools and colleges
- Secure and standardized email communication
- SMS-based alerts
- National portal for emergency services (like Lost & Found cases)
Getting all these things done in a timely manner is a herculean task. But revolutions don’t just happen like that. We’ve to strive hard and make it happen. And this is, after all, a digital revolution.