The ambitious ‘Digital India’ project, a flagship programme of the Government of India, was launched to bridge the gap between digital haves and have nots. Sakal Times attempts to throw light on the project’s penetration and future potential, besides looking into factors slowing its progress. Ganesh Natarajan, Chairman of 5F World, NASSCOM Foundation, Pune City Connect, shares his views on the progress achieved so far. Rajamanohar KS, CEO of Hexolabs, member of World Economic Forum and Expert in Digital Inclusion Strategy, shares his views on what more needs to be done.
Use of digital tools in country’s 2.5 lakh gram panchyats will be true digital inclusion: Ganesh Natarajan
Digital India is one of the most ambitious missions of the new government. It holds the promise of digital inclusion to over four hundred million Indians who missed the bus earlier towards progress and economic success. A truly digital country would provide digitally enabled access to literacy and skills and also enable healthcare and financial services without the pain of travel or other access asymmetries.
Many of us - Pune City Connect NASSCOM Foundation and Global Talent Track - are exemplars and have changed the fortunes of a few lakh youth, and much more needs to be done.
True digital inclusion will happen when access through optical fibre and wi-fi touches all 2,50,000 gram panchayats in the country and partners are available in every part of the country to deliver services and support citizens in their adoption of digital tools. Digital platforms and extensive use of smart bots and other artificial intelligence tools coupled with IoT sensors and beacons and other ‘sense and respond’ mechanisms will bring the power of information and communication to every part of the country. Preparing youth for the future and opening windows of opportunity in their minds is the key. Let us build better technology processes and a digital culture to create pathways to a truly digital nation!
Language barrier, profit concerns need to be overcome for digital inclusion of those in India’s remotest villages: Rajamanohar KS
Through visionary digital infrastructure development projects like BharatNet, the government has made substantial progress on making mobile communication affordable to masses. The industry further expects progressive policies for higher spectrum allocation and reasonable pricing for a sustainable telecom business ecosystem. This will enable PPPs to create infrastructure in the 5,50,00 odd remotest villages that are still deprived of mobile connectivity. The state owned BSNL has to be lauded for its efforts to create infrastructure in these parts, which are still ignored by private players due to lack of commercial viability.
Reaching out to the bottom of the pyramid has never been easy in our country, thanks to the diverse linguistic practices and cultures that keep changing every 500 km. The lack of Indian language interface poses a huge challenge for on-boarding non-English and non-Hindi audiences and this is about 2/3 of the populace.
The center’s two-language policy has proven detrimental to the digital inclusion initiatives. The initiatives are more likely to work when the Union government offers a level playing field for all Indian languages and works with states for effective inclusion of Indian languages.
It makes sense to launch government apps on Google Play Store first given the sheer numbers of smart phones that operate on Android. However, it is critical to make apps that offer cross platform compatibility to create an inclusive society.Two-thirds of the population is yet to own a smartphone and making an app alone is not going to help reach out to them. Basic voice and SMS remains the basic common denominator for communication to those who don’t have smartphones. The government should look into delivering services through basic voice and SMS to those who are yet to be part of the smart phone revolution.