Almost three years ago, having a 3G connection on a mobile phone in our country was considered to be a novelty as it was largely limited to a certain class of consumers. However, neither the technology then was fast enough to deal with the millions of mobile users, nor the mobile internet plans were this budget-friendly as they are today. Infact, those were the days when cafes, restaurants and swanky hotels used to woo customers with the free-wifi access and internet services.
But thanks to the government’s ‘Digital India Campaign’, there’s been a steady improvement in India’s technological performance especially, in terms of access to the Internet, adoption of smartphones, and the impact of technology on Indian lifestyle and culture. According to a joint report by IAMAI and KANTAR IMRB as published in The Times of India, the number of internet users in India was projected to reach 500 million by June’18 which indicates the success of the campaign that laid its foundation to transform India into a “digitally empowered society.”
Infact, a couple of years back if you would have asked a villager about owning a debit card, the response, probably, would have been a blank stare in oblivion. Or, owing to insufficient cash in your wallet, if you ever backed off a stealer deal, chances are the shopkeeper, at the most would have guided you to the closest ATM kiosk. But today, before you reach out for your wallet, even a roadside vendor will offer you to make a cashless payment with a smirky grin on his face. And the villager, well, chances are he, does possess a debit card and don’t be surprised if he talks about being active on mKisan or some similar mobile application that’s developed for the welfare of the farming community.
So, to ask, has Digital India campaign left a remarkable footprint? Definitely, it has, by opening boundless opportunities for everyone – right from a student to a healthcare professional to a homemaker. Infact, with every transaction we make through our mobile app or even as we seek medical help without having to drive or park outside our doctor’s clinic, we only feel digitally empowered.
According to the report published in Forbes India, McKinsey Global Institute’s (MGI) data reveals that India’s Digital Index rose by about 56 percent during 2014-2017, from 18 to 29 on a scale of 1-100. This has placed India second in terms of growth among 17 emerging and mature Digital economies across the globe. One cannot overlook the fact that increased internet access means increased opportunity, both for private and public players to offer digital services which in return, is expected to boost and give impetus to the digital economy.
However, the success of the campaign is largely attributed to the wave of digital literacy that ushered all across the nation. What made this endeavor truly pioneering is that instead of restricting itself to the urban metropolitan cities, the initiative also laid emphasis on reaching out to masses at the grass-root levels through plans to connect rural areas with internet connectivity. And to encourage digital empowerment especially, to the rural communities, various schemes such as the Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (DISHA) or National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) project, e-health, digital locker, etc., were formulated. Nonetheless, to support the government’s initiative, some key private-sector players and blue-chip tech companies such as Google, NASSCOM, Facebook, etc., contributed regularly to scale up the reach of the mission. Infact, in a recent announcement, Facebook has revealed its plan to train five million people with digital skills in three years. With as many as ten ongoing programs, Facebook has already trained one million people across 150 cities and 48,000 villages with support from 50 partners. And they have been successful so far.
In its initial phase, the wave of digitization that swept the entire nation disrupted the traditional forms of doing business. But then to ensure a smooth transition and make sense, BHIM app – the UPI based mobile app for digital payments was launched to bridge the gap that existed between different societies and especially, for people who still had no access to the plastic money and mobile wallets. Besides, various other measures such as waiver of service charge on e-ticket booking via IRCTC, possible mandates for digital payment facilities at hospitals, colleges, and municipalities, and proposed amendment to the Negotiable Instruments Act- all are steps earmarked to expedite India’s journey on the path to digitization.
Overall, to bring in the wave of digitalization, a good number of initiatives have been taken, but somehow it lacked good execution and follow-through. If the banking industry has grown rapidly with financial institutions encouraging customers to do online banking transactions, etc., then the Internet crimes and thefts that pose a serious threat to cyber security cannot be ignored. Besides, if we talk about smart cities, a flagship program that is based on digital e-governance, it has seen a slow start. Though this can be attributed to the fact that unlike a normal city, the smart city requires a cutting-edge project management consultant.
So, there’s no doubt we have come a long way in digitalization. The fact that our farmers in remote villages are able to use mobile phones to find out the right price of their food grains or to check for monsoon updates is no less than a digital marvel. But with India already on the ‘cusp of a massive digital revolution’, we still have a long way to go to achieve the vision of Digital India.