In August 2014, the Government of India approved Digital India, an ambitious national program aimed at transforming India into a knowledge economy and making government services more efficient and available to all citizens electronically. Over the next three years, the program envisions a national optical fiber network will connect thousands of India’s most distant gram panchayats — village-level governments — with a total population of more than 800 million.
This infrastructure will support government reform and change the way services are delivered. It is also expected that the program will help create thousands of new IT jobs, give a boost to the domestic manufacturing of electronics and, as a spin-off effect, lead to emergence of new services and flourishing e-commerce.
India’s Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) is the agency that help develop and now is driving the implementation of this transformative agenda. We asked Dr. Rajendra Kumar, Joint Secretary for e-Government, to tell us more about Digital India, the challenges this program is meant to address and the solutions that are envisaged. Read Dr. Kumar’s selected responses below, and click here to download the full version of the interview.
Digital India, the ambitious initiative of the Indian Government, aims to bridge digital divide and bring high-speed Internet and government services to the rural and underprivileged parts of the country by 2019. What are the key development challenges that Digital India is addressing and why was investment in ICTs chosen as the main solution?
India is sitting on the cusp of a big information technology (IT) revolution. We have to leverage our massive Indian talent and information and communication technologies (ICTs) as growth engines for a better India tomorrow. This is embodied in the following statement: IT (Indian Talent) + IT (Information Technology) = IT (India Tomorrow).
In order to transform the entire ecosystem of public services through the use of information technology, the Government of India has approved the Digital India program with the vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. In order to achieve its objective, the Digital India program is centered on three key areas, namely, Digital Infrastructure as a Utility to Every Citizen, Governance and Services on Demand, and Digital Empowerment of Citizens.
Digital India will build holistic capabilities across ICT infrastructure, electronics manufacturing, software services and delivery platforms, IT skill sets and job creation, which in turn will lead to the creation of a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. The focus is on providing easy access to services to the citizens anytime from anywhere. A few key development aspects of Digital India include the following:
- Promoting investments through improving ease of doing business
- Creation of IT jobs and capacity building
- Encouraging entrepreneurship across the country by leveraging information technology
- Strengthening financial inclusion by using mobile banking, micro ATMs and through public outlets
- Promoting literacy through easy accessibility to e-books and other digital content
- Faster services and dissemination of information to promote growth in all sectors, e.g. growth in agriculture by providing real time information to farmers, growth in healthcare through online consultation, etc.
- Use of information technology to bring more women’s participation in the professional, economic and social arena
Given the scale of this endeavor, what will be the key stepping stones and building blocks on the way to achieving this goal?
The key components under each of the aforementioned three vision areas of Digital India are as follows:
Vision Area 1, Digital Infrastructure as a Utility to Every Citizen, includes:
- Availability of high-speed internet as a core utility for delivery of services to citizens
- Cradle to grave digital identity that is unique, lifelong, online and authenticable to every citizen
- Mobile phone and bank account s that enable citizen participation in digital and financial spaces
- Easy access to a Common Service Centre
- Shareable private space on a public cloud
- Safe and secure cyber-space
Vision Area 2, Governance and Services on Demand, includes:
- Seamlessly integrated services across departments or jurisdictions
- Availability of services in real time from online and mobile platforms
- All citizen entitlements to be portable and available on the cloud
- Digitally transformed services for improving ease of doing business
- Making financial transactions electronic and cashless
- Leveraging Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for decision support systems and development
Vision Area 3, Digital Empowerment of Citizens, includes:
- Universal digital literacy
- Universally accessible digital resources
- Availability of digital resources / services in Indian languages
- Collaborative digital platforms for participative governance
- Citizens not required to physically submit government documents / certificates
Digital India aims to provide the much needed thrust to the nine pillars of growth areas, namely Broadband Highways, Universal Access to Mobile Connectivity, Public Internet Access Program, e-Governance – Reforming Government through Technology, e-Kranti – Electronic Delivery of Services, Information for All, Electronic Manufacturing, IT for jobs, and Early Harvest Programs.
This post first appeared on The World Bank’s Information and Communications for Development. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Dr. Rajendra Kumar is a senior officer in the Indian Administrative Service (I.A.S.) and is currently working as the Joint Secretary (e-Gov) in the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Government of India.