Re-imagining Digital India

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India, and we Indians in particular have been writing and re-writing the magical growth story of a nation. In last couple of years, our little sub-continent has dramatically metamorphosed from a cocoon of inhibitions to the free spirit of butterfly which has just begun to spread its wings.
While there are umpteen factors contributing to this phenomenon, the internet revolution of sorts is one of the most pertinent factors shaping the face of modern India.

From the petite, lean 56 kbps dial-up connection to the abundance of 16 MBPS high-speed, multi-lane highway - internet has never before been in better position to steer the enabling of today's India. Technology is becoming ubiquitous and is no longer limited to elite few. Isn't it amazing to see that today my cook has a Facebook account and when he went back to his home for a long vacation, it was through Facebook we communicated with him to figure out when he is returning, when his phone was not reachable.

In a subtle way, internet has become a great leveler of sorts. No-one is poor, no-one is rich in the vastness of world wide web. The reality is virtual, but, has the power to move nations and millions to join hands for a cause. Never before global issues were discussed so locally - never before a petition for Africa was signed by people in far-east! The smartphone revolution is the second great factor which has been instrumental in this story. This marriage of internet and smart-phone is a match made in heaven, and it has brought the miracles of the digital age to your pocket and finger-tips.

It is heartening to note that Governments, and GoI in particular have taken cognizance of the underlying current of change and are slowing trying to adapt for the digital age. When computers were first introduced in government - they did not replace - they in effect augmented the paper trail. However as the systems matured, computing got cheaper and software exceeded hardware in pricing, the changes are slowly becoming evident in our day to day life. E-governance, while still a concept in infancy, has made debut on several fronts. The agony of the great Indian unorganized queue is slowly becoming avoidable with alternate processes, online forms and information available online which earlier was only available at the (unmanned) information kiosks in government offices.

However, it is important that the Digital India 2.0 is achieved through a well thought process. The mistakes done in the v1 needs to be addressed. It is not required to convert the existing processes to digital one - step-by-step. That was the biggest issue with previous implementations. We need to re-imagine how citizens engage with the government on various front. Other very important aspect which needs to be considered is underlying connectivity and data-sharing between various heterogeneous government agencies. It can help in saving huge amount of time spent in filling the same information all over again and again. If my record is available with Government via my passport, it should be easy for me to apply for a driving license, with the data being passed on between systems. Aadhaar was a noble thought, but has lost relevance via its implementation. It should be easy to get this identity if it has been leveraged for intelligent big data-analytics which government is hoping for.

Other very important aspect of digitization which is slowly getting momentum in official circle is the world of mobile apps. I now have apps for banking, reviewing passport information, booking railway tickets and so-on. It will be wonderful if governments of various states come together and create a universal app platform. Next big step will be to open this platform to genuine developers who can leverage the API from this platform to create apps of the future.

Yes, there are challenges of data security and what not, but every problem can be solved with right thought and effort.

We are a young, impatient generation. This impatience is leading to everything on fast-forward mode. It is time that Government adapts its thinking to match the pace at which India thinks. A change in mind-set - both on government and citizens side is essential. If given a chance, I am sure the Indian today would like to be a partner with the government, rather than just being a perennially complaining consumer.

I am exciting & nervous about what is possible. It is this #DigitalIndia which I dream of. A nation without divide of cast, color, creed - unified by the thread of participative e-governance platform. A world where with the click of a mouse, I can help my government make my nation a better place for me, mine, all of us!

Prompt by #Digital India by Intel


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