PM Narendra Modi will go on a highly anticipated journey to the United States of America by June end for his first meeting with the US President Donald Trump. Modi had scaled new heights in terms of politics and diplomacy when he last visited the country in 2016. But Trump is an unpredictable man and this visit could turn out to be quite as unpredictable. Trump is known for his ‘America First’ approach, that has put many countries on its toes, India knows that his policies contradict some of Modi government’s initiatives. Meanwhile, the government’s ‘Digital India’ programme has to overcome steep challenges before it can claim success if it has to compete with developed countries. While there has been a lot of criticism regarding the implementation of the policy, we must also look at how even developed countries lack in technology in certain areas. Presidential advisor Jared Kushner on Monday said that the US government is still using floppy disks and checking for Y2K compliance. He added that the private sector’s creativity will help move the Trump administration past the turn of the century.
Kushner, who is also President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, helps lead the White House Office of American Innovation. He met with major tech executives on June 19. He said that work is still going on the regarding the elimination of outdated, unsustainable policies and systems that are as much as 56 years old and have held back departments. He most interestingly offered a stunning outline of the federal government’s recidivistic tech tendencies, by saying that the US Department of Defense still uses 8-inch floppy disks, a stored media technology retired by most businesses back in the early 1980s. Even in India, which was fairly late in adopting major technological changes stopped using that device in the early 2000’s. The 8inch floppies were first replaced by smaller 5.25-inch floppies and then 3.5-inch media, and eventually CD-ROMs. After the pen drive and hard disc revolution, people now use Cloud storage in most organisations all over the world. But not the US government. Kushner in his speech said a lot of baffling things, like the use of antiquated media in operational functions of the nation’s nuclear forces, use of COBOL in several sectors, which is a programming language from the 1950s and 60s.
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Meanwhile, India still ranks low on the Networked Readiness Index (NRI), a key component of the World Economic Forum’s The Global Information Technology Report. However, Digital India’s Rs.1.3 trillion programme, which envisages a plethora of e-governance services across sectors like healthcare, education and banking, and promises to introduce transparency in the system, reduce corruption and achieve inclusive growth, was only given the green light in 2015. The NDA government is making efforts in using technologies like mobility, analytics, cloud and the Internet of Things to implement the Digital India programme that connects with its other initiatives like Smart Cities and Make in India.
One can indeed see tangibles like the government’s Digital Locker that allows you to store important files and lets you authenticate them online with your Aadhaar number, e-bastas, and the linking of Aadhaar to bank accounts and PAN cards. It’s also true that these e-services ride on a robust GI Cloud, also known as Meghraj, and that over 1,700 government departments and agencies across the country already use the mobile platform, Mobile Seva.
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While one should accept that a deep divide persists between well-connected metropolitan hubs and remote rural areas, where even the most basic infrastructure is insufficient and many parts of our country lack basic electricity to power Digital India. But, with more investments planned in terms of manpower, technological upgrades, skill development, and digital literacy, we can surely remain positive about our position in the technological world in the future.