Prime Minister Narendra Modi is launching the ‘Digital India Week’ in the national capital this evening with a view to empower the people of the country through the Digital India programme. But while you’ve certainly heard a lot of the hullabaloo about the program, what does it all really mean for the public?
Firstly, the main vision of the Digital India Programme is inclusive growth in areas of electronic services, products, manufacturing and job opportunities etc. As the website reads, “ The vision is to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.” So how exactly does one do that? Here’s the plan:
Digital infrastructure as a core utility to every citizen
The first step is to provide high speed internet to all citizens of the country, be it high speed broadband, mobile connectivity infrastructure, or public WiFi hotspots. The estimated impact of Digital India by 2019 is expected to be cross cutting, ranging from broadband connectivity in all Panchayats, Wi-fi in schools and universities and Public Wi-Fi hotspots. The core philosophy is to give all citizens of the country access to the internet as a way to interact with their government and avail of public services.
Cradle to grave digital identity that is unique, lifelong, online and authenticable to every citizen
One very important point is that every citizen will be encouraged to avail of a unique online identification number, to allow to access benefits owed to them. This could mean no more years of waiting for something as simple as a government pension. The ID will also tie up with a mobile phone and bank account to enable citizen participation in the digital financial space and space on a public cloud server. It bears awful resemblance to various dystopian Sci-Fi “numbers not humans” movie plots, but it might be a little early to judge that.
Governance and services on demand
Giving citizens access to benefits online would be useless without upgrading the corresponding e-governance services. The Government of India therefore seeks to integrate services across departments and jurisdictions, providing access to people in real time, from both online and mobile platforms. This includes making all government-related financial transactions electronic and cashless. In short, you can (hopefully) pay your telephone bill, file for a death certificate, or register yourself for a driver’s licence, all without having to drag yourself to government office or submitting a single hard copy document. this would require the government to not only build certain government processes online, but also revamp existing ones to fit in with the programme, as well as connect them with cloud and mobile connectivity options.
Digital empowerment of citizens
But what good is giving everyone internet access when only the people familiar with the technology are likely to make use of it? That’s where universal digital literacy comes in. The GoI is planning to provide all these services in regional languages as well as collaborating with the general public online for something it calls “participative governance”.
Employment options and partnerships
The programme is also expected to generate a huge number of IT, and Telecom and Electronics jobs, both directly and indirectly. In line with this, the GoI has also stated that, wherever possible, Public-Private Partnerships will be set up , in order to reduce government spending while still maintaining service standards. On the flip side, this could introduce us to some very bad corporate evils like “Miscellaneous taxation” and “Service Fees”, but only time will tell if the government has a strong policy in place to prevent that.
Now let’s talk specifics. here are some of the services the Digital india programme will offer
Digital Locker – It’s a dedicated cloud-based personal storage space, linked to each resident’s Aadhaar number. DigiLocker can be used to store e-documents as well as URLs of e-documents issued by various departments. It also has an e-Sign facility to digitally sign e-documents.
Mobile Seva – Mobile Seva provides access to government services for all citizens via SMS or smartphone apps.
BBNL National Optical Fiber Network – Bharat Broadband Network Ltd is attempting to connect a total of around 2,50,000 Gram Panchayats via an optical fibre network, to provide them with high-speed broadband. The project is expected to take two years and cost about Rs 20,000 Crore.
CCTNS – Crime and Criminal Tracking Network Systems (CCTNS) is a plan to improve our policing system by automating police stations and providing its services through an online forum.
E-courts – The government also has a plan to automate court proceedings to provide transparency, as well as make them more affordable and cost effective.
Passport Seva – This service enables simple, efficient and transparent processes for issuing Passports nationwide, by having the police verification process as well as document submissions conducted online, with India Post delivery the ready Passports.
Common Services Centers (CSCs) – These will be service delivery points at the village level for the agriculture, health, education and utilities sectors.
Jeevan Pramaan – This is the biometric ID that government pensioners can invoke to ensure they receive the money due to them.
Mygov.in – Lasty, mygov.in is an onlline forum where citizens can participate in their local governance, by suggesting solutions to civil problems, tracking the activity of their representatives, and reviewing government decisions.
Digital India aims to provide employment to 1.7 crores directly and 8.5 crores indirectly. The aim is to make India a global leader of services in health, education and banking. If executed Digital India can truly become a game-changer for this aspiring superpower.