By Sidharth Malik, Managing Director and Vice-President, Akamai Technologies
As a country, we recently celebrated our 69th year of Independence. However, it was only in the early 1990’s that India awoke to the world of economic reforms and undertook structural modifications that opened the doors for foreign investments, unlocked entrepreneurial aptitude and led to the emergence of a neo middle class. While the seeds for economic progress were sowed almost 25 years ago, India still has a long way to go in terms of gaining economic stability and growth. To this end, the Narendra Modi led government has come up with the ‘Digital India’ plan to empower each and every citizen of the country.
India is growing not only at the scale of knowledge, wealth and skills, it’s also undergoing a huge reformation concept, that is the concept of Change in the Connected Economy by going Digital in the grass root level beyond the boundaries of metros. In the past, the railways played a major role in connecting the nation. Similarly, IT is the modern age railway which will digitally connect the nation. The good news is that we are not only strategizing and putting this down on paper but also ensuring the effective translation of these policies into reality. The US$ 120 million initiative is projected to churn large investments in electronic manufacturing and will create millions of jobs thereby empowering every Indian.
If we deep dive and take a look at our strength areas there is a great potential of digital growth contribution through a younger population. Statistically speaking, India is home to 66% of youth who are below the age of 35 years and 50% of the current population is below 25 years. Unlike developed economies in the West, where the youngsters are digitally active, India has had its limitation due to infrastructural hurdles and appropriate governance to facilitate the need adoption. A country’s progress depends on its people but majority of the Indian people live in a state of Digital darkness and hence it is of prime importance to bridge this gap in order to reap the benefits of a digitally enabled economy. Digital growth shall empower people in various ways of education, employment and opportunities of business ultimately fulfilling economic needs that will prevent unprecedented migration to urban areas for job related purposes.
The Bumps along the road
In order to achieve complete digitalization, we will need to overcome a number of obstacles. One of the major challenges faced in this ambitious plan would be that of infrastructure. For a project of this massive scale, the country will need world-class infrastructure in terms of data centers to back up the data. As a result, large investment slabs will need to be made to set up these data centers. Secondly when it comes to IT, data security will be a prime area of concern. There is always a possibility of data being sabotaged and data theft is a major worry. Another major concern is the issue of creating a trained workforce who will be able to deal with the pros and cons of a digitalized workplace. According to the Q4 State of Internet Security Report, India was one of the top target countries for Web Application Attacks in Q3 2015. To tackle this issue, measures will need to be undertaken to build a strong secure network infrastructure that can scale against the ever-growing attacks. Citizen requirements needs to be given prime importance while designing a secure framework with Internet infrastructure providers. A uniform national cyber security platform should be implemented to create a secure and reliable digital experience.
Progressive measures underway
To achieve this, IT inevitably will be the key contributor and support for the “Digital India” mission and the primary catalyst for this is the push of mobile phone adoption. From banking to e-commerce to healthcare, every business has an app property which compliments in multiple ways towards the realization and need on being digitally active. With this boom in apps comes a need to facilitate software and solutions for every application.
By 2019, the proposed year for achieving this dream, the government aims to empower every Indian by giving them a mobile phone and it is through the mobile that people across the nation can access government services, health and education benefits. To this end, the government announced the ambitious ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana’, a financial inclusion plan. The need is to bring access to banking facilities at remote locations of the country, through the power of mobile. A click of a button can financially empower the villager. Today, Mobiles and tablets have gone beyond being devices of communication and have multiple usage in sectors like Healthcare, where we can also enable people to access mHealth facilities. This will allow people across areas to participate in the healthcare value system, something which wasn’t possible in the past but IT is breaking down the barriers and allowing people to access these facilities.
In addition to the above schemes, the Digital India initiative has also proposed to adopt optical fibre technology to build a network across the nation. Through this initiative, 2,50,000 village panchayats will enjoy high speed broadband connectivity. The availability of apps related to governance, communication, healthcare, banking, employment etc. onto cloud-based platforms will enable faster and efficient public service.
While the initiative is on the right track, the onus lies on the policy makers, IT decision bearers and senior government officials to not work in silos but work together as a group. Such a massive project cannot be completed in one go and it is important that the government phases it out to ensure its completion and reach the proposed deadline that has been set. We all know that the 19th century was a century of empires. The 20th century was a century of nation states. However the 21st century will be a century of cities which will be inter connected due to technology which will lead to the development of smart cities.
While the government has set the ball rolling in the right direction, it is imperative that India becomes a nation of change strategically marrying technology and governance to create better e-governance which will lead to not only a Swach Bharat but also a Shresht Bharat.