Digital India is an opportunity for Indian cities to build state-of-the-art digital infrastructure and an environment where municipal services can be improved upon, and operated and managed effectively at par with international standards. The initiative can also pave the way for better informed and digitally literate citizens who will be able to utilise the civic services efficiently; especially ever expanding e-governance and mobile governance services being launched by all the three tiers of governments
The key vision of the government under Digital India program is inclusive growth in areas of electronic services, job opportunities, product manufacturing, etc. The vision of Digital India is centred on three areas that include digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen, governance & services on demand and digital empowerment of citizens. It is an opportunity for city leaders to improve civic amenities for citizens by using big data, cloud computing, Internet of Things ( IoT ) aided services, mobile apps and web based services. These services will not only improve the operational efficiency of service delivery mechanism of municipal bodies but also put a check on the gaps.
Improved service delivery
The initiative brings forward a variety of services that engage citizens in governance and provide them facilities to talk to the system. For example, Mygov. in is the citizen-centric platform which empowers people to connect with the government and contribute towards good governance. The system follows “Discuss”, “Do” and “Disseminate” approach. The mobile App for MyGov brings these features to users on a mobile phone. Similarly, Digital Locker system aims to minimize the usage of physical documents and enable sharing of e-documents across agencies. The sharing of the e-documents will be done through registered repositories thereby ensuring the authenticity of the documents online. Swachh Bharat App enables citizens to complain regarding cleanliness and sanitation related issues with GPS location tagging feature.
e-Kranti is another programme under the umbrella of the Digital India initiative. Considering the critical need of e-Governance and mobile governance, the approach and key components of e-Kranti have been approved by the Union Cabinet with the vision of “Transforming e-Governance for Transforming Governance”.
As per the guidelines of the programme, all the new and on- going e-Governance projects will follow the key principles of e-Kranti namely ‘Transformation and not Translation’, ‘Integrated Services and not Individual Services’, ‘Government Process Reengineering (GPR) to be mandatory in every MMP’, ‘ICT Infrastructure on Demand’, ‘Cloud by Default’, ‘Mobile First’, ‘Fast Tracking Approvals’, ‘Mandating Standards and Protocols’, ‘Language Localization’, ‘National GIS (Geo-Spatial Information System)’, and ‘Security and Electronic Data Preservation’.
Open Data platform is another essential component of the initiative. The government run http://opendata. gov.in to facilitate proactive release of datasets in an open format by the ministries/departments for use, reuse and redistribution. Online hosting of information and documents is providing open and easy access to information for citizens.
To deliver citizen services electronically and improve the way citizens and authorities transact with each other, it is imperative to have ubiquitous connectivity. The program also focuses on improving quality Internet connectivity in the country. The government has realised this need and it is reflected in its action plan. ‘Broadband Highways’ is one of the main pillars of Digital India. While connectivity is one criterion, enabling and providing technologies to facilitate delivery of services to citizens forms the other.
It is expected that the success of Digital India initiative will make India digitally empowered and the leader in usage of IT in delivery of services related to various domains such as health, education, agriculture, banking, etc.
Nine pillars of Digital India
The nine pillars of Digital India programme have been designed with a vision to make people connected with Internet and improve digital literacy rate in the country. These are: Broadband Highways, Universal Access to Mobile Connectivity, Public Internet Access Programme, e-Governance: Reforming Government through Technology, e-Kranti – Electronic Delivery of Services, Information for All, Electronics Manufacturing, IT for Jobs and Early Harvest Programmes.
Digital India will be implemented by the multiple government departments and agencies while the overall coordination will be done by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY).
On the launch of Digital India week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that Government’s resolve was to not allow the Digital Divide to become a barrier between people. He outlined his vision of e-governance and mobile governance, where all important government services are available on the mobile phone.
“I dream of a digital India where High-speed Digital Highways unite the Nation; 1.2 billion connected Indians drive innovation; technology ensures the citizen-government interface is incorruptible,” PM said.
Digital India Week that was launched on July 1 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a huge success. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Communication and IT informed that more than 250 services were launched in areas of health information, utility services, land record services, mobile app for civic amenities, social welfare and pension services, electoral services, online court services, and employment exchange services in almost 170 events organised by state governments and others during the week.
The reality check
Digital India initiative has created hopes for better internet connectivity, well-trained municipal staff and better informed citizens who will ultimately utilise the services rendered under different projects and programs of the government. Municipal bodies in India can draw benefits from the initiative provided that they are able to build capacity of their staff to use the programs as a launching pad for improving urban services meant for common citizens.
Impediments to the project include the access to high speed internet on mobile or computer. Internet penetration in India is still abysmally low at 15 per cent. While, Internet penetration in European countries and Central Asia is much higher at 65 per cent.
Even if the government is able to build infallible infrastructure for ensuring internet connectivity in every nook and corner of Indian cities, the major challenge is to train prospective users to utilize those services. If the e-governance projects are not implemented with a vision to include the last man then it is doubtable that it could take-off successfully.
Many state governments, educational institutes, and recruiting agencies of the central and state governments have made it compulsory to fill online application forms but the fact is that many students are not digitally literate enough to do it on their own. They are either dependent on internet cafe operators or their friends who know how to use the Internet.
Similarly, e-governance and Digital India initiatives shall focus on building the capacity of end users and also the people working at local government level. This will certainly be a huge task in a country where a large number of people are still illiterate and do not have resources to learn about technology or own gadgets to get the benefits of such initiatives.
“I dream of a digital India where High-speed Digital Highways unite the Nation; 1.2 billion connected Indians drive innovation; technology ensures the citizen-government interface is incorruptible”
“More than 250 services were launched in areas of health information, utility services, land record services, mobile app for civic amenities, social welfare and pension services, electoral services, online court services, and employment exchange services in the Digital India week”
Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Communication and IT