Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s focus on Digital India is all set to change the country. As mobile phone companies roll-out 4G services and prices of smartphones keep falling it is possible for the average Indian to connect digitally via voice, data and video services. But for Digital India to take-off, the government needs to quickly address issues relating to spectrum availability and building a robust infrastructure backbone.
These were at the centrestage of the discussions at The Express Group’s Digital India Dialogue in New Delhi on October 8. The almost two-hour long discussion also focused on privacy and security of data, building better connectivity in the country and the challenges ahead. Data privacy and security has become more important ever since the European Court of Justice recently struck down a global agreement that allowed companies to move digital data including web searches and social media posts between the European Union and the United States.
The discussion was flagged off by chief guest Ashok Chawla, chairperson, Competition Commission of India who stated that concerns on the digital path will be different and be nuanced for different countries. He said the three issues that Digital India needs to consider are the responsibility of big companies, evolving a policy framework in terms of digital electronics platforms and local manufacturing. Aruna Sundararajan, additional secretary, DeitY pointed out that the government has auctioned spectrum released by defence forces. The Indian Army on its part is all set to launch cloud services, which should lead to overall operational efficiency.
The biggest challenge before the country is to create employment opportunities for the 10 million people being added to the workforce pool every year, stressed Shankar Aggarwal, secretary, ministry of labour & employment. On the software side, Victoria A Espinel, President & CEO, BSA Group pointed out that the success of the Digital India programme depends to a large extent on policies that will allow the digital economy to flourish. The two obvious themes according to her were education and skill training & science and technology development.
The discussion included Arvind Gupta, Head IT Cell, BJP; Dr Govind, CEO, NIXI; Lt Gen Nitin Kumar Kohli, AVSM, VSM, Signal Officer in Chief, Indian Army; John E Matheson, associate general counsel, Intel Technology Asia; Praveer Sinha, CEO & managing director, Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited; Mahesh Uppal, director, Com First India; former finance secretary R Gopalan; Shailesh Pathak, executive director, Bhartiya Group; and Deepak Maheswari, head, government affairs, Symantec among others.
Dignitaries’ take on Digital India initiative:
“Three issues that Digital India needs to consider include responsibility of big companies, evolving a policy framework in terms of digital electronics and platforms by the government, and a focus on local manufacturing” – Ashok Chawla, Chairperson, Competition Commission of India
“We welcome this government’s focus on digital and believe that technology improves the efficiency of governance and the transparency of government” – Anant Goenka, Wholetime Director & Head—New Media, The Express Group
“We in the software industry are very excited about Digital India and the promise that it brings. We also believe that it will bring in transparency, accountability and that it will poise India to play a greater part in the global digital economy” – Victoria A Espinel, President & CEO, BSA Group
“We got this magic opportunity with the Internet of Things which is not an expensive platform. It needs sensors and silicon bolted together to gather data and then you have big data analytics. This is an area where India has an advantage as the mathematical capability in this country is outstanding” – John E Matheson, Associate General Counsel, Intel Tech
“Are these digital platforms going to deepen democracy or are they going to make sure that some people get on a fast lane and some people stay behind” – Aruna Sundararajan, Additional Secretary, DeitY
“Today things have changed due to the introduction of ICT. We are replacing 44 Central labour laws with 4 labour courts—on wages, industrial relations, security and safety of labour and social security” – Shankar Aggarwal,
Secretary, Ministry of Labour & Employment
“What we need in the country along with the digital economy is the development of standards, whether it is in cybersecurity or the weapons which are coming up” – Dr Govind, CEO, NIXI
“Our digital network is predominantly wireless. Roughly 65% of our data goes on wireless networks. So by definition they have a limitation on capacity. As we are soon going to face a capacity crunch, we need to manage spectrum far, far better” – Mahesh Uppal, Director, Com First India
“We employ 6,000 people in our fashion business in Chennai and Bengaluru. There is a high probability that 4,000 of those jobs will move to Vietnam in 12 months. It is not due to any digital thing but due to the Trans Pacific Partnership” – Shailesh Pathak, Executive Director, Bhartiya Group
“The army is going to launch cloud services. Whatever information we get should be translated into enhanced efficiency. In the case of the Army, it should give me enhanced combat effectiveness” – Lt Gen Nitin Kumar Kohli,
AVSM, VSM, Signal Officer in Chief, Indian Army