View from India: Digital India, a way of life

India is uniquely positioned in the information era, with local tech solutions that have the potential to go global.

We live in an information era, where change is disruptive and ideas and solutions can traverse beyond defined boundaries. What gives India a vantage point is its young population. Young minds should be encouraged to innovate. “India is in a sweet spot as the time is right for tech solutions to be designed in India and deployed anywhere in the world,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi while inaugurating the Bengaluru Tech Summit virtually.

When we look at innovation in the information era, the Digital India Mission that began five years ago is a channel for new ideas to percolate to the masses. It is no longer viewed as a mere government initiative. “Digital India has evolved as a way of life, especially for the poor and marginalised people, besides facilitating smooth operations in government offices. Digital India has enabled a more human-centric approach towards development,” highlighted Modi. To substantiate, technology on large scale has brought several changes in the lives of the citizens. 

Government of India (GoI) has made technology a key dimension of all schemes, particularly with its governance model Technology First, which has enhanced the human dignity of the marginalised lot. A case in point is that millions of farmers are availing monetary benefit at the click of a button. The scale of relief provided by technology has few, if any, parallels in the world. Technology has made the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, or the National Health Protection Scheme, a reality. Envisioned by GoI, the scheme aims to make healthcare available to everyone in the country. Data analytics provides solutions for clocking efficiency levels in service delivery; the speed and scale at which tech solutions are deployed is difficult to match. 

Technology is helping GoI realise the vision of building homes and providing electricity for the underprivileged. It is the same technology that will give the government the confidence to vaccinate the large population of India. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown up unique challenges, but these can become opportunities that can be deployed at a large scale. For example, the pace of technology adoption that has happened over the last few months is phenomenal; it would have otherwise taken several years for this transition. “Unified Payment Interface (UPI) has become an umbrella product. In times of the pandemic, it has empowered people, as two billon transactions have taken place last month. The National Digital Health Mission is expected to emulate the UPI model,” Modi pointed out. 

The pandemic has brought along hurdles that had to be addressed. “Indian companies that have a global footprint approached me when the lockdown was announced. This has resulted in a work-from-home model and now, the norms have been relaxed,” explained Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Communications, Electronics and Information Technology, and Law & Justice. 

Next on the anvil is a data protection law, which will soon be finalised. “India will then mould into a data economy,” assured Prasad. This is much required as data is being gathered in almost all verticals, and at an exponential pace. Land transactions are happening online. From software to drones, technology is being used everywhere. The fintech industry is completing millions of transactions. Putting all this together, it’s understandable that data will drive the digital economy. Consequently, data protection and cyber security are essential. This is where the future opportunity lies. 

Digital India is empowering India. The last five years, under direct benefit transfer, have seen transactions to the tune of Rs 12 lakh crore. Even in Covid times, the IT industry witnessed 7 per cent growth and continued to attract investments from global players such as Google and Facebook. 

Other than the IT industry, another revenue churner is the production linked incentive (PLI) scheme. It has attracted foreign companies that have established units in India to manufacture mobile components. Apple, for instance, have shifted nine of their operating units from China to India. They make mobile phones for India as well as the export market. The next stage of PLI will extend to biotechnology and electronic components. All this will boost the vision of making India self reliant, or Atma Nirbhar Bharat. 

Self Reliant India is not just for the urban masses. It takes into account Rural India, which is getting a facelift. In the next 1,000 days, six lakh villages will get connected through an optic-fibre network. Besides optic fibre, it is felt that technologies like artificial intelligence should be integrated into the lives of agricultural-rural people for their betterment. 

B S Yediyurappa, Chief Minister of Karnataka, a south-western state of India, felt that indigenous technologies will help promote Self Reliant India and reach out to grassroots level of people. “GoI is working towards making Karnataka a strong investment destination. This will also reinforce GoI’s vision of making India self reliant. This year, 4 per cent of Indian startups are unicorns from Bangalore,” said Yediyurappa. The recent IT Policy of Karnataka is expected to create over 60 lakh direct and indirect jobs. “Karnataka aims to garner 50 per cent market share of the national biotech economy target of $100bn by 2025,” added Yediyurappa

GoI wants to be an accelerator and encourage remote working as a model of the future. While remote working is getting support, it’s also important to join the dots when it comes to connectivity. “Connectivity and communication are twin concerns of our state. New airports are coming up in various parts of Karnataka to improve connectivity,” added Dr CN Aswath Narayan, Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka, and Minister for IT, BT and S&T. 

The IT industry in Karnataka is poised to grow from the present $52m digital economy into $300bn in the next five years. The vision will be accomplished through a slew of initiatives such as Karnataka Digital Economy Mission (KDM), Vision Group for Startups, Karnataka’s Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) policy, and a supportive regulatory framework. 

KDM is projected to accelerate the digital economy. IT exports worth $150bn are expected to emerge from this over the next five years. A combination of these efforts would mould Karnataka into a $1tn economy, besides contributing to the Prime Minister’s vision of turning India into a $5tn economy. 

“Karnataka is the first state to have a sector-specific policy. We were quick to roll out policies for promoting IT, BT and EVs. Post Covid, we will have product-specific clusters to develop different industries,” explained Jagadish Shettar, Minister of Large- and Medium-Scale Industries and Public Enterprises, Karnataka. 

All of these subjects were discussed at the 23rd Edition of the Bengaluru Tech Summit (BTS 2020). 'Next is Now' is the theme of  the three-day hybrid event, which includes online-offline presentations and is presented by the Department of Electronics, Information Technology, Biotechnology and Science & Technology, Government of Karnataka and STPI – Bengaluru.

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