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Digitizing India

Digitizing India

Dinesh Malkani, President and Country Head, Cisco India &SAARC
The article was published in the Financial Express

Our digitizing India vision is one of the most exciting initiatives the country has embraced to leapfrog us to the 21st century. Given the huge divide between rural and urban India and the digital haves and have-nots, I believe that the Digital India Program is a master stroke in using technology as the great leveller for the citizens of India. The program, recently announced by the Prime Minister, charts a roadmap to a digital India where a digitally literal popilation can leverage technology for endless possibilities. What was once a visionary notion is now the new normal: technology is really as essential as the three utilities—water, gas, and electricity. Our government leaders have made it clear that broadband highways are as important as national highways. Today government leaders understand that while the end goal is to offer better services, foster innovation and generate more jobs, the critical enabler is going to be technology and the foundation to a digital nation will be laying a pan India network.

The Digital India program envisages providing digital infrastructure as a utility to every individual, delivering governance and services on demand and enabling the digital empowerment of citizens. The project has identified nine pillars for growth. One key focus for the government is the development of broadband highways that will cover 250,000 gram panchayats by December 2016. There will be a greater focus on increasing broadband penetration in urban areas through the deployment of mandated communication infrastructure in new buildings. Broadband penetration will allow technology-enabled services to be rolled out to remote parts of the country. The government is also focused on providing universal access to mobile connectivity. By 2018, more than 40,000 villages are likely to be under the banner of mobile technology.

A key part of the Digital India program is the National Rural Internet mission, through which more than 2.5 lakh villages will have Internet access through Community Service Centres which will become viable, multi-functional end points for service delivery by 2017. The program also wants to drive increased public participation and empowerment through a deeper focus on e-Governance solutions that leverage technology to improve the way the government interacts with citizens. The government understands that with online applications, tracking, and integration of existing platforms, there will be greater efficiency across many transactions involving the government. One of the pillars of the Digital India program is eKranti which is set to revolutionise the nation through the electronic delivery of services including e-Education, e-Healthcare and technology for planning. Through the program, citizens will have free access to more information on government policies, services and programmes delivered via an open data platform, and through the online hosting of information and documents.

The Digital India program also focuses on achieveing the government’s stated target of net zero imports by giving electronics manufacturing the due importance and emphasis. We believe this focus will boost India’s manufacturing capabilities and transform the nation into a manufacturing hub. As part of the program, the government will focus on cultivating an IT-ready workforce by training people in smaller towns and villages with IT for jobs over the next five years. To kick off the Digital India program, the government has announced a few early harvest programs such as installing Wi-Fi in all universities by 2015, securing email within the government, and enabling public wifi access in cities with a population of more than one million people.

It is not just connecting a mobile phone, car, a refrigerator or health device — it’s the combination of all of this. In 1984, there were 1,000 devices connected to the Internet worldwide. In 2014, 10 billion devices will have downloaded 77 billion mobile apps. 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet in the next decade, and we will be able to get massive amounts of data, from sensors. Cisco expects networked devices in India to swell to 1.8 billion by 2018. The future will not be just about the connected devices, it will be about the transformation in the creation and delivery of services that will accompany the coming deluge of big and open data. In a digital India these connections, combined with access to the world’s knowledge at our fingertips, will empower people in ways that we never imagined.

India is on the path to embracing digital technologies and reaping the ensuing benefits especially in the areas of broadband expansion, electronics manufacturing and eGovernance. Implementation of the Digital India program will help the country in overcoming our challenges, seizing our opportunities and providing citizens with access to better infrastructure and quality of life. We believe there is a huge opportunity for the industry to partner with the government in the Digital India program, help transform the life experiences of 1.2 billion Indians and drive India’s return to the centre of the world’s stage.

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