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

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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.


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.


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.


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.

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