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View from India: 70 years after Indian Independence Day, the way forward for Digital India

Seven decades have passed since India got her independence on August 15, 1947. Today, we look at Digital India and the required solutions to make this a reality for rural and urban India. Broadly, rural economic growth can be measured through the sale of tractors, agricultural loans and exports, power demand, government expenditure and yarn production.

While policy implementation, transparency and governance are key factors for progress, technological intervention is essential to bridge the yawning gap between the rich and poor and provide economic empowerment for all.

Around 70 per cent of India lives in villages, so it’s only befitting to look at our villages in the context of providing a sound technology infrastructure and creating channels of opportunities for the rural folk. An ecosystem that will help people nurture our natural resources and sell produce to marketplaces is of utmost importance.

Harisal, a small village in Amravati district in the western Indian state of Maharashtra was once known for malnourishment. A sea change happened when the Maharashtra government and Microsoft decided to turn crisis into opportunity for development. The result is that Harisal is now a Smart Village, whose people use Skype and WhatsApp for connectivity. Microsoft’s ‘white space’ technology - the unused spectrum between two TV channels - has been used to provide free Internet connectivity to Harisal and neighbouring villages. To improve the education scenario, Maharashtra government has partnered with Hewlett Packard for creating interactive e-classrooms.

Moving on, many of our cities are getting an impetus through the Smart City Mission. In June, it was announced that a new set of 30 cities will be developed as smart cities, taking the total number to 90. Electronic delivery of citizen-centric services, public transport, last mile connectivity, digital literacy and economically viable skill-training programmes are among the features that make Smart Cities click. Smart Cities must be data-driven and cloud-powered.

Internet of Things (IoT) robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are expected to be game changers in Indian healthcare, but the challenge lies in extending the paradigm to rural India.

New-age diagnostic devices and tele-medicine along with mobile health apps need to be envisioned to deliver quality healthcare to the remote regions of the country. This can give rise to low-cost handheld multi-platform devices that can be deployed in primary health centres. To turn it into a reality, medical practitioners, NGOs and corporate social responsibility (CSR) heads need to join hands to give rural communities affordable and accessible medical aid.

Agreeably, data is the new oil of the digital world, which needs to be refined for use. When seen in the rural context, the data gathered about rural households including socio-economic demographics can be utilised for creating e-services. When we look at creating industrial corridors between cities, again enormous data and real-time information helps in achieving efficiency levels in the execution of projects.

View From India has just put together some forthcoming thoughts on Independence Day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi today has greeted the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the occasion of the 71st Independence Day of the Country. In his speech, Modi stressed the need for different skill sets for employment caused by the changing nature of technology. Skill sets of the country’s youngsters should be honed for them to become job-creators and not job-seekers.

Modi has boosted the vision of a New India, where the economic poor sections of the country will have homes, complete with water and electric connections, farmers’ income will double, opportunities open out for youth and women to fulfill their dreams and the country is healthy and free from communalism and nepotism.

Clearly, the only way forward is to strengthen the core of the country and its core opportunity is its human capital. This should be seen as an opportunity for positive disruption towards empowering and investing in human capital and create an India of opportunities for rural and urban communities.

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