It seems that the road to digital revolution in India is fraught with challenges and none too small to ignore. Before inviting the guest (Digital Revolution), the Government needs to set the house in order. The task doesn’t look easy as the scale of implementation looks staggeringly large.
The Modi Government needs to take the National Broadband Mission seriously, along with the initiative to extend National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) to every corner of the country. The Government should take a leaf from the tireless efforts of NASSCOM Foundation and its “Follow the Fibre” approach in ensuring digital literacy in the entire villages. To make Digital India an all-pervasive campaign, the first challenge that the Government needs to proactively take up is the empowerment of 6,00,000 villages and 2,50,000 panchayats to make them ready for technology adoption.
Connectivity for healthcare, education and manufacturing enterprises
The second most important challenge for the Ministry of IT & Communication would be to clearly define the expectations and the opportunities for public-private partnerships to create green field and brown field smart city initiatives. This further leads to another imperative task – creating a road map for country-wide connectivity initiatives for healthcare, education and small and medium manufacturing enterprises. Their implementations should also be a concern for the new Government.
Making data available electronically
Creating awareness and empowering the last mile citizens may not yield the best result unless they have the ability to access information. Besides creating digital literates, the aim of the Digital India mission should be to make all data records and information available in electronic form. This is an add-on to the already existing challenge of digitalising all citizen-to-government interaction processes.
Guidelines for public-private partnerships
Another agenda that should be high on priority list is formulating guidelines for the PPPs established to implement this nation-wide programme. Besides the hardware and software giants, thousands of small solution providers are showing interest in partnering with the Government for e-government initiatives. Setting the expectations right in the form of guidelines will ensure greater participation of industry players and make this programme much more inclusive. Moreover, a clear set of guidelines will encourage more foreign companies to partner with the Government and accelerate the progress of the initiative.
Lack of internet access and local content
One need not be a subject-matter expert to understand that the digital divide in India is mainly because of lack of internet access and unavailability of content in regional languages. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), this could be a serious hurdle towards the success of Digital India initiative. Providing internet access to people all over the country could be the right step towards beckoning a digital revolution. The president of IAMAI pointed out non-availability of cost-effective smart devices and lack of local content as ‘alarming bottlenecks.’
Lack of spectrum
Scarcity of spectrum may not have the same cascading effect as that of coal shortage, but it does put a question mark on the possibility of the country’s digital success. Among several telecom-related issues, lack of spectrum could affect the progress of the campaign. In fact, the head of one of the largest telecom companies had been upfront in stating that India has “always been starved” when it comes to spectrum. According to him, the Government needs to understand the importance of spectrum to make data available. Given the volume of data getting added every day to the already humongous database and the demand for high-speed dissemination of data, the experts are rooting for more data spectrum so that public can be served as per their expectations.