“When you change the way you see the world, you change the world you see,” said global tech giant Microsoft’s India-born chief executive officer (CEO) Satya Nadella who was in India for a day on Monday at Microsoft’s ‘Tech For Good, Ideas for India’ event.
Modi has always rooted for a digitally empowered economy, and it is this vision that saw the launch of Digital India, one of the central government’s marquee initiatives. The launch of the Digital India week also saw the announcement of new projects as part of the campaign. Digital Locker system, MyGov.in and Swachh Bharat Mission mobile app were some of the projects revealed to the public.
“If you innovate in India for India, you are going to be able to innovate for the world, India can, then, become the entrepreneurial engine for the next six billion people on the planet just like the US is the entrepreneurial engine for the top one billion people. That’s the opportunity we have, and that is India's economic future,” said Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha, who was also present at the event where Nadella was delivering his keynote adddress, said technology is a platform of growth for India.
Private sector supports Digital India
While the government has been all out to promote this initiative, the private sector has also done its part. Top industrialists including Reliance Industries’ chairman Mukesh Ambani and Vedanta chairman Anil Agarwal pledged investments amounting to Rs 4.5 lakh crore for the PM’s Digital India programme. While Ambani announced investments of Rs 2,50,000 crore, a part of which will go into a retail network of 1.5 lakh stores, and rest help set up a start-up fund, Vedanta’s investments will include set up of a LCD panel fab unit, which he expects will employ 50,000 people and reduce India’s electronic imports by 20 per cent.
By the end of 2015, the government had launched 22 new schemes under the digital India programme. The vision of the programme is centred on three key areas: digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen - digital identity, mobile phone and bank account, safe and secure cyber space; governance and services on demand - services available in real time on online and mobile platform, making financial transactions electronic and cashless, and digital empowerment of citizens - all documents, certificates available on cloud.
Digital India envisages connecting 2.5 lakh villages by broadband and phones, reduce import of telecom imports to zero, wi-fi in 2.5 lakh schools, all universities, public wi-fi hotspots for citizens and creating 1.7 crore direct and 8.5 crore indirect jobs. Other impact points include training 1.7 crore citizens for IT, telecom and electronics jobs, and delivering e-governance and e-services.
Digital India gains momentum
In a recent interview to a mainstream business newspaper, Ravi Shankar Prasad, union minister for communication and information technology informed that the digital delivery is right on track. Around 19 lakh citizens are interacting on MyGov.in, 15 lakh pensioners are on Jeevan Pramaan (a biometric-enabled digital service), 37 lakh are using e-Hospital@NIC for their bookings and around 74-lakh are on National Scholarship Portal.
But e-TAAL (Electronic Transaction Aggregation And Analysis Layer), which records any movement for digital delivery of services anywhere in the country, witnessed the maximum rise with 58 crore compared to 25 crore last year. Under the digital literacy programme, 55 lakh people have been trained and around Rs 6 crore have been sanctioned in this Budget.
The union minister further added that they are looking to create some digital platforms for the country. First is BharatNet. This scheme, as National Optical Fibre Network, started in 2011 and had optical fibre of 358 km and OFC pipes of 2,292 km. As of May 2, 2016, the OFC pipe laid is 1,39,582 km, optical fibre laid is 1,11,726 km. OFC is laid in around 61,000 gram panchayats (GPs) and optical fibre in 50,500 GPs.
Furthermore, the guidelines for Mobile Virtual Mobile Network are in the process of being finalised, which is expected to revolutionise India in terms of services in the hinterland, small villages and semi-urban areas.
With all of these achievements and government initiatives, India was showcased on the world stage as a rising power in the digital space. The efforts did not go unnoticed as the Prime Minister attracted a long list of people from the digital world. Mark Zuckerberg organized a Facebook town hall with the prime minister and said “The last time that a Prime Minister of India visited California was in 1982. And a lot has changed since then. Today India is a global leader, Indian businesses and culture are transforming people’s lives around the world, and for India to keep making progress, India needs to be a leader online.” Responding to a question on Digital India, Modi said, “In the 21st century, i-ways are as important as highways. There are around 60,000 villages in India and around 2.5 lakh panchayats, I will make an attempt to connect these villages through an optical fibre network. In the days to come, cities will be built in the presence of the optical fibre network”
At the launch of the Digital India week Modi, said “Through Digital India we plan to boost the manufacturing of electronic goods in the country. This initiative will help the youth aware of innovations to come up and accept the challenges faced”
Foreign companies come calling
The voice of Modi may have reached not only the Indian youth but also among people globally. Top CEOs from India and overseas committed to the initiative by pledging an investment of $67 billion to make smartphones and internet devices at an affordable price. Companies like Oracle and Microsoft also chose to be a part of the Digital India campaign.
According to media reports, Microsoft CEO Nadella’s meeting with Modi involved engagement of Microsoft for linking Skype and Aadhaar and enhanced cooperation for cloud services in the government sector. Nadella also spoke to the PM looking at ways to enhance partnership for the Digital India initiative.
Earlier this month, Apple CEO Tim Cook visited India and announced to set up a start-up accelerator facility in Bangalore, which would help iOS developers create innovative apps for the company's customers globally.
In February, Oracle CEO Safra Catz met with Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi and announced three major investments that support the country’s global digital leadership. Catz unveiled a massive, state-of-the-art campus centered in Bengaluru, nine incubation centers throughout India, and an initiative to train more than half a million students each year to develop computer science skills. “Oracle has been in India for over 25 years and during that time we’ve grown our investments tremendously,” said Catz.
As Narendra Modi completes two years in office, he seems to be taking steps forward to make Digital India more than just a dream and working towards stamping India’s presence on the global digital map.