[Gist of Kurushetra December 2020] Realising ‘Digital India’ through its different Pillars

Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: eGovernance
Mains level: eGovernance initiatives and major challenges

Introduction:

• The Digital India programme has been recognised to have a transformational effect on the India’s Digital landscape as well as the economic scenario of the country. By bridging the digital divide in India, it is possible for the country to alleviate major sections of the society and leverage the underlying potential to achieve a global leadership status.

• With the advent of the pandemic, economic and technological disruptions has ensued the world and India has been at the center stage in terms of the COVID-19 response measures. Considering the enormous size of the country, digitally connecting the remotest villages of the country — through broadband and high-speed internet — is one of the crucial infrastructure necessities of the nation.

About:

• Digital Literacy is widely recognised as a key element necessary to successfully implement the eGovernance initiatives under the Digital India programme. With over one billion people in India, there is an immediate need to promote digital literacy platforms and leverage the underlying potential of India.

• The CSC and the CSC 2.0 schemes are aimed towards creating a huge self-sustaining network of CSCs spread across India. The CSCs would be responsible for carrying out standardisation of services and capacity building of stakeholders.

Pillars of Digital India:

• Broadband Highways
• Universal Access to Mobile Connectivity
• Public Internet Access Programme
• e-Governance – Reforming government through Technology
• e-Kranti, Electronic delivery of Services
• Information for All
• Electronics Manufacturing
• IT for Jobs
• Early Harvest Programmes

Implementation:

• The Digital India programme had not only launched new initiatives, but it had leveraged the existing initiatives for better optimisation of efforts. The exisiting schemes are expected 1o be restructured, revamped and re-focused, to confirm alignment to the objectives of the Digital India Programme.

• The projects which may be seen as low hanging fruits are being already grouped under the ‘Early Harvest Progamme’, most of which are under implementation and several of those projects are already completed.

Challenges:

• Technical Challenges: The integration and alignment of different networks, interfaces/ platforms across different states has been a major challenge in implementation of Digital India. Challenges such as interoperability of solutions, privacy, security and multi service interaction have been consistently faced by the implementing agencies. With a huge chunk of state and central government functioning on legacy systems, interoperability has been a major concern. With ever increasing digital interface and booming data generation, it is anticipated that the digital infrastructure would be more exposed to privacy and security threats. Digital illiteracy is another major challenge which has prevented the effective utilisation of the projects.

• Organisational Challenges: With several central and state entities in play, ensuring coordination and communication is a key to optimise national efforts towards bridging the digital divide of India. Lack of highly skilled individuals, huge population, presence of different languages and the distributed control of subject between the state and the Center, are recognised as the major challenges in the implementation of the programme.

• Economic Challenges: The scale of the Digital India programme warrants huge budget outlay, which has been a major challenge in the implementation of the programme. With limited project funding, it becomes difficult for implementing agencies to completely achieve the desired objectives of a project. The transmission of COVID-19 pandemic has not only affected the health of the common people, but it has also disrupted the multitude of ongoing projects which is a huge setback for the entire programme.

Way forward:

• By bridging the digital divide in India, it is possible for the country to alleviate major sections of the society and leverage the underlying potential to achieve a global leadership status. With the advent of the pandemic, economic and technological disruptions has ensued the world and India has been at the center stage in terms of the COVID-19 response measures.

• However, it is imperative for India to effectively and dynamically evolve the Digital India programme into a nationwide movement which would not only interventions from the government, but the industry and the academia of the country.

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