How India is alleviating the country’s digital divide.February 08, 2016
Once upon a time internet connectivity was a luxury for a nation. Today, in order to become economically stronger, countries need Wi-Fi, training and equipment. While India is a leader in IT, the country has a steep digital divide, due mainly to lack of internet penetration in rural areas.
Without connectivity, farmers and small business owners in rural India don’t have access to proper healthcare, education or financial inclusion. For this reason, leaders of India are calling for a digital revolution.
In 2014, less than 20% of India’s 1.2 billion population used the Internet. A major obstacle to access is cost. However, thanks to a new program, The Indian market is set to explode over the next few years as the country enters a new digitization phase the Indian market is set to explode over the next few years as the country enters a new digitization phase. In July of 2015 the government of India launched the national "Digital India" initiative to make government services available to citizens electronically by bolstering internet connectivity and improving online infrastructure. A top priority of the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the plan aims to connect rural areas with high-speed networks and promote digital literacy.
How will Digital India be achieved?
Dinesh Malkani, President, Cisco India & SAARC, was quoted in the Financial Express saying that The Digital India program is focusing on the development of broadband highways that will cover 250,000 local governments by December 2016 the Digital India program is focusing on the development of broadband highways that will cover 250,000 local governments by December 2016 and that this penetration will allow technology-enabled services to reach remote parts of the country. The government is also concentrating on mobile connectivity. Malkani said that by 2018, more than 40,000 villages are likely to be under the banner of mobile technology.
Facebook is helping push the program forward by partnering with an Indian state-owned telecommunications company, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) to create 100 WiFi hotspots in rural India. The company has selected 100 villages to provide these hotspots on a revenue sharing model.
The Times of India reported that during the West Zone Vice-Chancellors Conference, former director of BITS Pilani engineering college, G Raghuram, said the Digital India initiative can be accomplished through higher education and social media. "We need an online platform to design courses effectively, and social media to make teaching an easier and effective practice," he said.
Association of Indian Universities General Secretary Furqan Qamar, in his presidential address, said that online courses at universities will help the cause, making it “compulsory” for teachers to be equipped with new technology.
Blueprint of a Digital India
The next billion consumers in India will be driven by:
- Broadband in every home
- Rapid adoption of mobility
- Citizen services
- Young workforce
- The App economy
- Social media
- Learning and education
- Digital entertainment
Through digital economies and digital identities the economy will be far more transparent, opening up new opportunities in the areas of:
- New Government infrastructure
- Smart cities
- E-government & citizen services
- National broadband
- Cable digitization
- Mobility (4G/LTE)
- Tier III town & rural expansion
- Public Safety & IoT
- WIFI to schools & connected classrooms
Through the government’s Digital India program, infrastructure will be offered as a utility to every citizen, governance and services will be on demand and citizens will be digitally empowered.
Industry estimates suggest that by 2020 there will be 140 million Indians who don’t currently use banks that will have access to mobile financial services, and 75 million children with online access to education.
The government’s National Optical Fibre Network program has gathered momentum and Cisco India believes that with the right services and applications, broadband to villages can transform the delivery and consumption of citizen services.
How will Digital India affect social change?
As Digital India becomes a reality, the next one billion consumers will drive unprecedented technological, social and economic transformation in the country. New digital infrastructure will enable digital inclusion for people, create a society with minimal digital divide and unleash a tremendous amount of entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.
In addition to aiding education and business, the proliferation of ICT is creating pathways for open government, or e-governance, in India. In other words, technology and connectivity can help the government become more transparent and accountable.
The E-Governance plan of India was created to make all government services available to citizens through electronic media.
Digital India aims to develop this plan by designing e-governance applications that make all the information and services accessible in real-time across multiple devices. To enhance this program and foster participation, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology launched a national platform named myGov. With 1.6 million members on board so far, it looks like India is indeed ready for a digital revolution.