India’s digital sector has been projected to reach $1 trillion and create 75 million jobs by 2025, which will lead to an inclusive, empowering and transformative impact.
India’s digital sector has been projected to reach $1 trillion and create 75 million jobs by 2025, which will lead to an inclusive, empowering and transformative impact. This evolving ‘digital environment’ has been steadily galvanised by advancements such as Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, blockchain and machine learning, among others, which have led to a series of tech disruptions in a multitude of sectors. In order to successfully leverage the potential of the digital revolution, i.e. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India mission, it is vital that a conducive ‘policy ecosystem’ be established in order to propel socio-economic growth and enhance the reach, scope, span, speed and safety of digital communications in the country.
The draft National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) is a watershed moment that can potentially catalyse the dream of Digital India. The implementation of this policy at the national scale will fundamentally redefine the contours of how India connects and communicates digitally. This has been highlighted through the adoption of a completely new ‘digital portfolio’ under the umbrella of infrastructure, services and security. In order to drive this wave of policy innovation, I present the acronym FIBRE, highlighting the transformative change that the NDCP will bring about to the Indian digital economy in terms of last-mile inclusivity, digital safety, IoT maximisation, skill development, and investment.
Facilitate ‘broadband for all’—in order to maximise citizen-centric connectivity as well as last-mile inclusivity. This initiative aims at a pan-India coverage of 50 megabytes per second (Mbps) for every citizen as well as 100 Mbps broadband to all key institutions. The policy has projected that, by 2022, 10 gigabytes per second (Gbps) connectivity shall be provided at the gram panchayat level. This will allow for deep integration of first-time internet users as well as recurring users into the new-age digital system. To build a connected and shared digital network, absolute inclusivity is a necessary first step.
Initiation of ‘new-age digital’ skills as well as re-training members of the workforce. There is a strategic focus under the NDCP that will look towards employee capacity-building in order to meet the future demand of 40 lakh next-generation jobs arising in the telecom and digital services industry by 2022. Further, existing training infrastructure facilities under telecom PSUs can be revitalised and restructured as ‘centres of digital excellence’ to promote key learning initiatives.
Bring about foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities, covering the entire information and communication technology (ICT) value chain. The NDCP project’s investments will be over $100 billion, which will be focused in areas such as emerging start-ups, innovative next-generation technologies, new-age research and development, as well as in-house manufacturing. These investments will be in line with the government of India’s long-term vision of Digital India, Make-in-India and Start-Up India.
Revolutionise national data security and cyber security norms under the banner of ‘Secure India’ to promote data protection. A key aspect of this policy would to be safeguard India against the evolving threats of cyber-attacks that arise with the transition towards a digital economy. Furthermore, with the public launch of open datasets, it is vital that security of information, data and digital communications of organisations and individuals be of paramount importance. The Justice Srikrishna Committee has just labelled its report after a year of deliberation along with a draft Bill for data protection and privacy. It should provide a good initial framework for balancing better security and openness, and must again go through a rigorous multi-stakeholder consultative process, seeking inputs for a vast nation like India.
Encourage harnessing watershed innovations and technologies to propel new-age economic growth. In order to realise the potential of complete digitisation, it is important that next-generation technologies such as 5G, Big Data, IoT, machine and deep learning be leveraged in order to improve efficiencies, provide sustainable solutions, better revenue streams and optimise costs. It is these technological game-changers that place the ICT industry at the forefront of nationwide digitisation.
The essence of the NDCP lies in its innate vision to transform the face of India’s ICT industry by leveraging the principles of Design, Innovation and Creativity-led Entrepreneurship (DICE). As India leapfrogs towards the dream of a digital economy and bringing the ‘future to the present’, it is praiseworthy to note that this policy focuses on end-to-end solutions along the entire ICT value chain under the core themes of ‘Connect India, Propel India and Secure India’. With over 2.5 lakh panchayats across 6 lakh villages being brought online, Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of a true rural-led, bottom-up, inclusive revolution is not far from being actualised.