Digital India will provide both government and non-governmental service providers a platform to co-create and co-share a transparent, leak-proof – read corruption free – and efficient delivery of services to every nook and corner of the country. This connectivity will hasten a feedback loop to the federal and regional governments by providing instantaneous data on various program implementations and other vital data.
In fact Prime Minister Modi, in his recent address at the NASSCOM summit on 1st March 1, 2015 stressed the importance of digital technology in service delivery, governance, transparency and an effective deterrent to corruption. Even at a minimum, this will be a phenomenal achievement that will set the stage for rapid economic resurgence. The benefits are immense.
However this reliance on technology is fraught with the obvious risk of obsolescence. Rapid changes in technology can render huge investments redundant and can hurt developing economies badly. Hence the window of opportunity for deploying extant technologies as an agent of transformation is minimal to small. This is precisely why we find the almost obsessive pace with which the government is working to execute the digital India initiative.
Leveraging digital technology as a transformational catalyst envisages three key prerequisites – technical knowhow, ability to consume digital technology and capital. They will dictate the success of Digital India campaign.
Unlike cryogenic engine technology of the yesteryears when the country was held to ransom by western technology, India has access to the best in class digital know-how via its very own home grown IT majors. Hence access to know-how and skilled human assets would not be a problem.
Secondly, mobile usage in India is at a record high and growing and consequently the ability to consume services via digital technology is high. India currently has approximately 90 crore mobile users! This is a vast user penetration and an incredible service delivery platform for the government.
However, availability of capital could be a major challenge. The Modi government has been investor friendly and has produced the right sound-bytes to attract fresh investments. Many analysts who have followed the Modi government for the last nine months believe that the government may not face serious challenge in raising funds externally. Internally, the recent auction of coal blocks that netted over 1 lakh crores points to new financial muscle and determination of the government.
That leaves the execution and delivery of the project which may be the weakest link in the chain. While PM Modi has the right credentials in delivering, as seen from the Gujarat experience, he is on test as to how these lofty ideas are translated on a broader canvas to benefit the country.
It is, however, imperative to point out that for the first time in over six decades, the Indian government has mustered the courage to dream big – a clear vision rooted in pragmatism and not on empty ideology or rhetoric. This has gladdened the heart of middle India. For starters, the Digital India initiative has prevailed over its biggest obstacle – selling the vision and winning hearts; it is a major victory at that. But risks persist in making this dream a reality.
India today stands at the cross-roads – a poor nation with lofty dreams that has squandered away its resources and treasure to corruption and a perverted politico-bureaucratic ecosystem bent on exploiting the country rather than serving it. It is this very same system that will help execute and deliver on Modi’s lofty vision for a digital India. Modi will need all hands on deck since Digital India is fraught with high risks, but the rewards are huge too.