Ravi Shankar Prasad writes: The Digital India transformation

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a telling observation about his idea of ​​India: “… every Indian must have a smartphone in his hand and every field must be covered by a drone”. This was a reaffirmation of his commitment that ordinary Indians must be empowered with technology. Digital India is a transformative program to deliver that objective. He was equally clear that digital technology must be low-cost, developmental, inclusive, and substantially home-grown and it should bridge the digital divide and usher in digital inclusion.

After eight years of digital governance, there is concrete evidence to showcase this digital transformation. India today is home to more than 75 crore smartphones, 133 crore Aadhaar cards, more than 80 crore internet users, has 4G and is now accelerating towards 5G. Above all, it has among the lowest data tariffs in the world. India’s march is the result of PM Modi’s vision, which he shared at the launch of Digital India on July 1, 2015. He had said: “In this digital age, we have an opportunity to transform the lives of people in ways that were hard to imagine just a couple of decades ago. I see technology as a means to empowerment and as a tool that bridges the distance between hope and opportunity.”

Digital India solved some of the most difficult problems the country had been facing for decades. Ensuring delivery of government schemes to its beneficiaries without leakage or misuse remained a herculean task. The Jan-Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM) trinity has ensured that the poorest receive every penny of their entitled benefits. Financial benefits worth nearly Rs 23 lakh crore have been transferred using DBT technology in the last eight years. This has led to savings of Rs 2.22 lakh crore of public money.

The digital ecosystem was also useful in tackling the challenge of the pandemic. From bulk messages to people in quarantine areas giving useful information and using digital technology for vaccination to digital education for students when schools were closed, there have been shining examples of empowerment, inclusion and opportunity.

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Leveraging the power of drones and GIS technologies, SVAMITVA Yojana is providing digital land records to the rightful owners. This will not only reduce disputes but also facilitate monetization of land for availing bank loans and enable scientific village level planning. Nearly 2.14 crore land parcels have been digitized so far.

The inclusive character of Digital India not only makes it a unique initiative but also reflects our core philosophy of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vishwas”. Providing access to high-speed internet to the farthest hamlet, ensuring access to assisted digital services for those who cannot use digital technologies and providing digital literacy have been key to making digital growth inclusive. To provide high-speed broadband to all the villages, optical fiber has been laid in 1.83 lakh gram panchayats under Bharat Net. There were only 80,000 Common Service Centers (CSCs) in 2014, which is an entity under the Ministry of Electronics and IT headed by Secretary IT, for providing assisted delivery of digital services to common citizens offering only a few services. Today, there are nearly four lakh CSCs. These CSCs are offering banking, insurance, state and central government services, passport and PAN card services, digital literacy, rural eCommerce services and pre-litigation advice etc.

India has emerged as the fastest-growing ecosystem for fintech innovations. India’s digital payments revolution is being appreciated globally. This was made possible due to innovative digital payment products like UPI and Aadhaar-Enabled Payment Systems (AEPS). When banks and ATMs were shut during covid-19AEPS-based micro-ATM at CSCs and post offices provided doorstep delivery of cash.

India has more than 61,400 startups as of March 2022, making it the third-largest startup ecosystem after the US and China. With nearly 14,000 startups getting recognized during 2021-22, 555 districts of India had at least one new startup as per the Economic Survey 2022. It is very refreshing to note that many of these startups are coming from mofussil towns or rural areas. Nearly 44 startups achieved unicorn status in 2021 and in the first four months of 2022, 14 startups have become unicorns.

India is rapidly becoming atmanirbhar in electronics manufacturing. The value of electronics manufacturing in India has touched $75 billion in 2020-21 from $29 billion in 2014. There were only two mobile phone manufacturing units in 2014. With initiatives like Modified Special Incentive Scheme (MSIPS), Electronics Manufacturing Cluster, National Policy on Electronics 2019, Electronics Development Fund, Production Linked Incentive (PLI) and Scheme for Promotion of Electronics Components and Semiconductors (SPECS), India is moving towards self-reliance in the field of electronics manufacturing. Today, there are more than 250 mobile phones, components and accessories manufacturing units. Indian companies have developed their own 4G and 5G technologies. The Modi government’s commitment to making India self-reliant in semiconductor chip manufacturing has also attracted many big investors.

The story of India’s digital transformation is a story of the visionary leadership of PM Modi and his commitment to bringing about inclusive growth and transformation using technology. Digital India’s motto – “Power to Empower” — is truly living up to its goals and expectations. In the last eight years, the success of Digital India only confirms that it has a robust future in India’s development.

The writer is an MP and former Union Minister for Electronics and IT, Communications, Law and Justice

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