The power of computing and ease of connectivity is making the government go digital. There’s a growing belief among the industry CIOs that unless they go digital now, they will cease to exist in the next five years. Projects in the future will have a short time span. Those that ran for years will be a relic of the past. The government too will have to imbibe this spirit in their regular day-to-day operations to stay relevant.
THE DIGITAL INDIA DREAM
Envisioned by Narendra Modi, Digital India is an ambitious program to prepare India for the knowledge-based transformation and delivering good governance to citizens by synchronized and co-ordinated engagement with both the central government and state government. The Digital India program is centered on three key areas—digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen, governance and services on demand, and digital empowerment of citizens.
Digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen will focus on providing high-speed secure Internet for enabling participation in the digital and financial space. Governance and services on demand will stress on integrating services across departments and jurisdictions and making services available in real time for both online and mobile platforms. Digital empowerment of citizens will pay emphasis on universal digital literacy and the availability of digital resources/ services in Indian languages.
A NEW WAVE IN CITIZEN PROGRAMS
The seven pillars of Digital India program include: Broadband Highways, Universal Access, Public Internet Access, eGovernance, e-Kranti, Information for All, Electronics Manufacturing, and Early Harvest Program.
Broadband Highways: Laying of National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) in all 2.5 lakh gram panchayats in the country need to happen in a phased manner. The NOFN will be completed in FY 2016-17 with a total estimated cost of `20,100 crore. NOFN infrastructure connectivity is planned to be supplemented by government user network (GUN) as an overlay on NOFN.
Universal Access: Ensuring mobile access in around 44,000 uncovered villages in the country should be the next step for the government to ensure that all villages are covered through mobile connectivity by 2018.
Public Internet Access: There is also an urgent need to expand the coverage of common services center (CSC) from 1.35 lakh to 1.5 lakh, i.e., one in every panchayat.Government has the right plan to connect 1.5 lakh post offices to multi-service centers in two years.
eGovernance: Business process re-engineering should be undertaken to improve processes and service delivery. Services will need to be integrated with UIDAI, payment gateway, and mobile platform. Even public grievance redressal will have to be automated endto-end. If all these services are well-integrated, the implementation of eGovernance projects will give true meaning to its digital India initiative.
e-Kranti: This initiative will focus on electronic delivery of services whether it is education, health, agriculture, justice, and financial inclusion. In education, the focus is on digital literacy program and MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) and installing free Wi-Fi in 250,000 schools. In healthcare, the government needs to stress upon online consultation, medical records, medicine supply, and pan-India exchange for patient information.
Electronics Manufacturing: To make India a manufacturing hub, focus should be on set top boxes, VSAT, mobile, consumer electronics, medical electronics, smart energy meters, smart cards, and micro ATMs manufacturing. For this the government is coordinating on many fronts be it taxation, incentives, economies of scale, and providing cost advantages to local manufacturers.
Aadhar Card: Aadhaar has many links with technology and is expected to play a bigger role in the government’s plan of Digital India. Locking 317.8 mn online real-time biometric authentications through 170 user agencies for a project that has been mired in uncertainty since its inception is no mean feat. But despite the handsome numbers and the generous praise by those who have deployed Aadhaar-based authentications, its use is restricted to a handful of states such as Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand. Government welfare programs like pensions and job guarantee schemes have been linked to it, but only in small patches of the country.
There are other significant pillars of change that this government is looking to implement:
Digital Healthcare: With close to a billion wireless subscribers and over 200 mn Internet users, the digital revolution in India promises to leapfrog the challenges of healthcare delivery. This is a key area of investment for healthcare providers, with a focus on both public and private healthcare systems.
Smart Cities: Smart cities are not just about smart systems and technologies; they are a combination of digital, business, and civic innovation. It is the new data platforms, business models, and engagement models that are creating city-wide digital ecosystems. Experts believe that investment in digital infrastructure including the creation of a ‘smart’ policy framework, public-private partnership, and business models can help this area grow. Mission Mode Project (MMP): This is an individual project within the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) focusing on one aspect of electronic governance, such as banking, land records or commercial taxes etc. The complete implementation will help in bringing the change in the smooth and transparent sate and central eGovernance projects.
There is a need for the right investment in digital infrastructure to ensure such robust growth. The long-term success of digital infrastructure in a country like India will depend upon how well infrastructure operations work along with technological challenges. Experts also believe that there is a need to spread digital literacy along with focusing on the digital infrastructure building, since the key to this development is people having the knowledge of how to use it.