With 2019 election results on the cards, here’s what went right and wrong under the government’s flagship initiative Digital India
Among all the initiatives launched by the NDA government targeting national development, a large share of attention was dedicated to Digital India. Arguably, the most prominent government program, its idea was to adopt a transformative approach led by digitization across the country. And although Digital India received a fair amount of appreciation for its vision and missions, it possibly set the stage for a larger scope of change and development through tech utility – hauling in local players, investments, and ventures, as well as making inroads into India’s hinterlands. That said, with election results inbound, here’s an analysis about the hits, misses, and scope of the government’s flagship initiative.
Statistically, India’s Digital Index rose by a whopping 56 per cent during 2014-2017. As a result, McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) placed India second in terms of growth among 17 emerging Digital economies. But, what were the factors behind this paradigm shift?
The primary reason can be attributed to the data push through Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio. Introduction of 4G internet plans offering high speed at affordable prices certainly accelerated the digital quotient in urban areas – but, more so in the rural areas, where data suddenly became affordable. The data wave can be considered to have support from affordable smartphones who actually sold the idea and the concept of owning a smartphone to small towns and rural areas in India.
Leading mobile players such as Rahul Sharma-Rajesh Agarwal’s Micromax, Hari Om Rai’s Lava, and Pradeep Jain’s Karbonn, perhaps were the first brands to understand the requirements of people belonging to the rural regions and gave a substantial boost to the tech revolution. Low-cost smartphones packed with necessary features helped them successfully penetrate the Indian market – making the country’s consumer tech potential noticed and relevant. Combine that with affordable data from Jio, sighting a rickshaw puller or cobbler with, say, a Micromax or Karbonn phone and conversing over WhatsApp call has now become a common sight. This, was potentially the biggest success of Digital India.
This combination of smartphone and data, both from Indian companies, has perhaps laid the foundation for development in the coming decades. E-governance services, internet use for better agricultural practices, improved national awareness, free education sources for children, increase in cashless transactions with digital wallets such as PayTM and MobiKwik – the possibilities are endless.
What did not work?
While the process of bridging the gap between the rural areas and technology is successfully underway, there have been a few setbacks in scaling the full potential of Digital India. Firstly, the center and state governments need to work in unison for mutual reforms. The basic structure of fields such as education, infrastructure, health, tax, etc, needs to be revamped with technology in the nucleus. This will simultaneously improve the program’s impact in urban regions and begin the process of shifting the focus on rural areas.
Apart from this, at-par security with increasing digitization has been a constant sign of worry. Data leaks and misuse concern over online Aadhar details managed to gather the attention of leading security organizations in the country. With the absence of a solution-centric framework, this could be the biggest hurdle in the progress of Digital India.
Looking back at the four years of Digital India, it will not be an understatement to say that as much as the program’s success has paved the way for digitalization, the hurdles signify that there is still a long way to go. However, provided that efforts from local Indian companies continue and the new government is able to tackle the challenges, Digital India could possibly be the biggest contributor in national development.