Regional Director, CompTIA
Launched on July 1, 2015, Digital India generated a good deal of euphoria. The aim was to create an empowered society and knowledge economy with an emphasis on e-governance. Digital India targeted to provide internet services to 2.5 lakh villages and 1.5 lakh post offices that would be converted into multi-service centres. The government was to lay an optical fibre network in 2.5 lakh gram panchayats and take steps to ensure that, by 2018, all villages are covered through mobile connectivity. It was to train 1 crore students from small towns and villages for IT sector by 2020. The initial response was positive. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said his company would set up low-cost broadband in 5 lakh villages. Google CEO Sundar Pichai hoped that with this initiative India would play a big role in driving technology forward. But digitalisation cannot be in silo; it needs a 360-degree perspective encompassing all socio-economic parameters. So, while Digital India is great on paper, its execution has been behind schedule. The major hurdle is digital divide—even though mobile penetration in India is high, internet connectivity is poor.
Without internet, the effectiveness of digital services is compromised. Lack of language and digital literacy in using technology is also a problem. Although smartphones are getting affordable, many people don’t know how to use them. The root cause of such literacy barriers is our under-resourced education system and abysmally low IT awareness. Then, most of the country is not connected, and where it is, the network infrastructure is so poor and archaic that speed is a major concern. Even in metros, we have to put up with abysmal speed even on 4G networks. This must change, and fast. For effective implementation of Digital India, the laying of the National Optical Fibre Network has to done on war-footing.
The Bharat Broadband Network Ltd and its implementing agencies need to work with greater zeal. Another reason for slow implementation of Digital India is lack of understanding of new technologies such as cloud, mobility and IoT. Also, cyber-security is not being given the attention it deserves. This ought to be a major concern, especially with sensitive data uploaded on IT systems. We need a multi-pronged strategy and work on multi-discipline areas to bridge the digital divide. The simplest way of doing this is through mass IT awareness programmes. Improving IT skills has to be a priority. We also need to cut down on bureaucracy in the implementation of NOFN. Finally, we have to focus on cloud-based solutions to disseminate digital services.