Cashless society is not a new found phenomenon. Decades back, India craved for it with plastic cards. The worldwide trend is to relegate cash transaction and India is not an island. Indian government has been facilitating this trend with a number of schemes and retro-measures. To weed out black money and corruption from public life, Government has been leveraging digital transaction ecosystem. By December 2017 all government agencies would adopt digital way of transacting to ensure inclusive growth. Digital India consists of three core components of creation of digital infrastructure, delivery of services digitally and digital literacy.
Digital India is not only transforming India but also helping to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030. Government’s priority in 2017 is three pronged. The first priority is to address poverty. The second priority stands over industry, innovation and infrastructure and the third priority is to bring in partnerships.
Between Nov 2016 and Feb 2017, there have been 3264 million digital transactions. 20 million people and 718,000 shopkeepers got trained through DigiDhan Melas. By 2020, digital payments will reach 45% of retail transactions and the digital payment ecosystem is estimated at 3.3 trillion Rs or 3.3 hundred thousand crore Rs. The Government of India’s mission for digital and financial inclusion is being supported by business organization associations like Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, FICCI and even International Chamber of Commerce.
Financial inclusion is expanding. Digital India is giving thrust to affordable devices, internet access and digital literacy. P.P. Chaudhary, Minister of State, Ministry Law & Justice, Electronics & Information Technology, points out at the last two years showing a three-fold increase in the number of e-transactions and the government is aiming to connect 90 per cent of India with internet services by 2018. The combination of Aadhaar with Jan Dhan and access to finance is proving people-friendly. India’s smartphone share of internet traffic is expected to reach 46% by 2018. Since 2014, mobile phone users have increased 1.5 times standing at 1080 million. Even more impressive is the 1.9 times increase of internet users since 2014. And the number of Aadhar Cards has increased 1.8 times since 2014 standing at 1110 million now.
The second priority has three thrust areas of enabling fintech innovation, investing in internet infrastructure and at the same time focus on electronic manufacturing of mobile phones, ATMs and PoS. Mobile handset manufacturing has seen a stupendous spurt of 185% since 2014. India’s internet penetration stands at 365 with 3-5 million users getting added every month and thus the total number of internet users can be conjectured to reach 730 million by 2020. Under BharatNet, India has already achieved the laying of 1,77,144 kms of fibre connecting 78,220 villages against a target of 2.5 village panchayats, up from 59 villages in 2014 May. A ‘Digital First’ budget of 10,000 crores has been declared as investment outlay for BharatNet program to ensure that the backend network is transaction-ready. 150,000 access points is the targeted number of villages to be connected through WiFi Hotspots and access to digital services. Ramesh Abhishek, Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Government of India emphasizes that digital economy is critical for India to make government services and welfare benefits accessible to remote areas of the country seamlessly and to provide last-mile connectivity in far-flung areas and the government has expedited the process of connecting all these 150000 gram panchayats with broadband services. A whopping subsidy of 745 crores, under Modified Incentive Package and Electronics Development Fund has been laid for electronic manufacturing.
The third priority is encouraging PPP models for infrastructure expansion, cross-sectoral knowledge sharing and India to provide world-leadership in infrastructure investment and technology transfers.
National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) also called Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (DISHA) initiated with the vision to make at least one person in every family digitally literate with digital literacy skills by 2020 and provide digital literacy to 6 crore rural households, including Anganwadi and ASHA workers and authorized ration dealers across the country. So far, 8.2 million people have been trained to use digital devices and services and further leverage it to improve livelihoods and access e-governance.
In order to take the benefits of Digital India to every corner of country, a vast network of more than 2.5 lakh Common Services Centers have been created, expanding from 83,000 CSCs in May, 2014.This has developed digital entrepreneurs among poor, marginalized, dalits and women of India. More than 34,000 women are working in these CSCs that provide digital services like ticket booking, telemedicine, Jan Aushadhi and Aadhaar service to people.
Our Minister, P.P. Chaudhary feels, it’s important to leverage technology to enhance quality of education and healthcare and content in Indic languages could be a game changer. India is expected to have over 650 million Indians connected to the internet by 2020. There is an urgent need to make the internet content more useful for Indians, many of whom do not speak English. FICCI along with internet stakeholders is setting up the Indian Language Internet Alliance to work with stakeholders across government, publishers and technology companies to build capacities of Indic publishing ecosystem and develop local language content of internet in India.
Now, over 82% Indians can access telecommunication services in the country. Also for a smooth transition to Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing, the government is working on a policy, which addresses issues such as data security, data storage and privacy. DigiGaon initiative is on the cards for ushering telemedicine, education and skills.
*Author is a senior journalist and a radio documentary maker.
Views expressed in the article are author’s personal.