A Game Changer
It is actually not easy to remember what all was announced at the Digital India Week by the prime minister early this month, but I have to admit that each one of them will be a game changer in citizen services. And equally important, each one of them can lead to big opportunities for the Indian ICT industry in terms of generating revenues and employment.
As the country embarks on its Digital India journey, I think that there are some things to be very careful about. There is a possibility that have we taken too many things in our plate, and we could lose focus. The nine pillars of Digital India : Broadband Highway, Universal Access to Phones, Public Internet Access, eGovernance, eKranti, Information for Aall, Electronics Manufacturing, IT for Jobs, Early Harvest Program (Please check out DeitY website for a detailed description of each) are like everything under the sun. Are we geared up to handle all of them together? Or we are just building expectations which we are unlikely to be able to fulfill.
My belief is that collaboration will be the name of the game, simply because Digital India touches so many aspects. Collaboration within governments will perhaps be the first. Then it will need to happen between governments, technology companies, enterprise users, people’s groups, and so on. I am not sure any of the stake-holders today know how to collaborate to build infrastructure and services for the nation. Getting big telecom and IT company bosses on the dais where they deliver 2 minute speeches that consist of nothing but their own company plans is not collaboration for Digital India. It will need far more than that. It will need collaboration at the drawing board level.
Each of these nine pillars are huge – and some of them like domestic manufacturing, eGovernance or broadband highways have had repeated failures. I don’t think these programs will move anywhere unless we have a Nandan Nilekani (the man behind UIDAI) for each of them. Do we have such people in our midst today?
When will Digital India be off the ground; how long will it take before Indians at large start benefiting from it; etc etc are questions which we should not even attempt to answer. They will only pull us down. What I am very sure about is that Digital India can be a big game changer for the country – its citizens, it businesses, and its government. Lets see how everybody collaborates to make it a success.
Just a small observation, which surprised as well as saddened me. Seating stalwarts like Azim Premji, Mukesh and Anil Ambani, Cyrus Mistry, Anil Agarwal, and Kumar Mangalam Birla right behind the prime minister and his team, as if they were a bunch of PS (personal secretaries) who carry the ministers’ speech papers and bouquets, or like the security personnel, was not in very good taste. Many of these businesses leaders are seen in much higher esteem than the political VIPs they were sitting behind, and are the biggest stake-holders in the Digital India plan, on whom its success depends.
The Rs 4.5 lakh crore investments, and the 1.8 million jobs that the PM quickly estimated to be committed for Digital India, is actually all coming from these business men. I am not sure what message was the prime minister or the telecom and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was trying to send.