Reality Check of the Digital India Initiative
The government’s Digital India initiative which led to the digitization movement in the country has started yielding results. The initiatives are directly or indirectly impacting the inter-related services and improving the online infrastructure by conver
The Prime Minister laid out the vision of Digital India last year on July 01, 2015. He launched the program to reform governance through technology. The event lasted for a week where a number of products and policies were announced. Through this, not only did the government propel a digital economy but also gave a push to e-governance as well. Soon enough, Digital India became
has already made a very strong impact as far as cutting back on cash is concerned. It gave a solidarity impact at triggering the movement of digital payments systems.
UNIQUE IDENTITY THROUGH ELECTRONIC METHOD
While new products are being introduced for potential users and their active participation, implementation of Aadhar and e-KYC have been a major cause of change. The foundation of the digital identity infrastructure is Aadhar itself. We are able to authenticate who we are through the digital platform. Courtesy to Aadhar, 1 million people are making biometric attendance today. The use of Aadhar and e-KYC is the largest application and perhaps the first major private sector application. The e-KYC enables complete KYC process online with direct authorization of clients. Other than reducing turnaround time and paperwork, the use of e-KYC has a green impact as well as the paperless and cashless operations save approximately 50,000 trees every year.
Delivering connections through e-KYC has become very secure. This whole process of using digital services has fastened how financial transactions were made earlier. 240 million bank accounts under the Jan Dhan Yojana were opened in a period of 3-4 months where half of them used e-KYC and Aadhar. It has now become possible to subscribe to any transaction, whether it is mutual funds, insurance or opening a bank account, we can now do all of that in a paperless manner.
“We have 1 billion Aadhar numbers issued which are unique and uniqueness is very important in terms of governance and reforms. This has ensured the elimination of all duplicate ghosts. On an average, India delivers 5 lakh crore worth of subsidy; 70,000 LPG; 40,000 NREGA; and 1.25 lakh crore PDS every year which all adds up-to 5 lakh crore. If we are able to eliminate the duplicates out of this figure then we can save an estimate of 10%, which is actually quite an underestimate,” said RS Sharma, IAS, and Chairman of TRAI in the 12th National Summit e-Governance and Digital India. He also shed light on the fact that we are already saving 20,000 crore worth LPG subsidy empowered by Aadhar.
Out of many projects introduced in the Digital India Week at the launch of the program in July 2016, many initiatives have changed the scenario of how the previous operations worked. Signing a document online is now practicable through e-sign. It obsoletes the need of any card or dongle which can be easily misused. Paperless economy is being driven by digital locker. Digital locker will become the reason of de-materializing the use of documents as they can be saved on cloud and used as original documents under the IT Act.
Faceless economy is being driven by Aadhar authentication. It is availing us real time and lifelong authenticated electronic identity with negligible cost. Through various digital services available, demonetization is driving the cashless economy. Micro ATMs which are nothing but a mobile phone and a finger-print reader fitted in, may soon outworn present ATMs.
DIGITAL IMPACT: DIGITAL DIVIDE
The digital impact has connected some and divided many in India. In a country with multicultural aspects,
a vast geographical spirit and where diverse languages and dialects are spoken, it is essential that people get to connect with services to receive the necessary guidance. The big challenge now is not the technology but the utilization of the technology. Articulating or making programs and plans are one part, but implementing them practically is really the key to make the change. Today, we have 97% population covered by 2G telecom network provided by private telecom operators. 68% population is covered by 3G and 4G. So the 97% population can be very well reached by instruments of digital bank transactions like USSD. If people are educated with digital literacy, then a huge wave of change can be seen.
However, only popularizing USSD in rural areas cannot be enough to bring in the change. We need to simplify the process of using it for healthy participation. As for smartphone users, we have UPI and for the feature phone users, we have USSD. Making a transaction for smartphone users is as simple as making a phone call. But people with feature phone using USSD have to enter details like IFSC code, account number and to whom they want to pay, which practically becomes a very complicated procedure for them. There is a need to work on a push USSD rather than a pull USSD where a person with a feature phone can simply hit OK to complete a transaction without the burden of pressing keys and filling codes which confuses them. Applications designed should be able to satisfy the parameters of cost, speed scale as well as interoperability. This change is necessary otherwise the poor or less educated people might never be able to make trust in online payment procedure’s security and the digital transformation will not become a complete truth.
DIGITIZATION OF TELECOM SECTOR
While we talk of Digital India as one huge initiative of the current government, it is really important to see this as a backbone for other initiatives too. Most lively impacting e-governance initiative in the telecom sector is probably the allocation of resources and e-options in the digital platform. Also through Aadhar number, authenticating the identity of a person has eased issuance of new connections in merely 20-30 minutes as opposed to 2024 hours which were wasted earlier for the same. It has also enhanced security of the sector by ensuring SIM cards are being given to people whose identity has been established online.
Sandeep Bhargava, Executive Vice President, Vodafone said, “I think practical statistics for us is almost like 2050% of on-boarding which happens today is on e-KYC. It is a very robust platform which has been developed using Aadhar and we are making the best out of it. It helps us a lot with the dealing in terms and issues which are papercentric, so that has brought in a lot of relief. As we move further, I think the percentage is going to increase further, no stepping back on that.”
What started as a platform to give services has now become the prerequisite. With 95% of total cash in the market and only 5% in the banks, the Indian economy has till now been a cash-driven economy. But through direct or indirect means such as printing and logistics, cash has cost associated with it. Hence, cashless economy is the way forward. Fully cash to less cash and eventually a cashless economy is going to be a big challenge for the nation. 100% cashless transactions are not possible right now but less cash is definitely viable and eventually good for the nation as complete cashless transactions means everything is there in the channel and everything is accounted for.