India’s Digital Revolution- Near, yet so far

In the early 1990s, it was most difficult to get a reservation on a long-distance train in India. But now, how is it possible to reserve a berth on the train of choice by just sitting at our homes? One million tickets are booked digitally every day, making the Indian Railways’ reservation and ticketing website the largest digital application of its kind on earth.

The Digital Revolution is upon us. People, as a whole, have become so dependent on digital technology that they would not know how to survive without it. India is a global player and thus cannot afford to use the technology of past. We have to get there by using the technology of the future. Digital revolution is the backbone of the economic, technological, and social prosperity of the country. It is driven by high-speed Internet connectivity and innovative products and services.

While in India, there are numerous examples of modern, growing cities around the world but few matches the vibrancy, explosive growth and sheer potential of India’s technology sector. India is a country of vast bridging gap, where on one side it witnesses the high rise global companies and the other darkest side would meagrely have the electricity.

For accelerating this revolution in India, PM Narendra Modi ambitiously launched the programme called ‘Digital India’. A programme for transforming the knowledge and delivering e-governance to citizens by investing Rs 1,13,000 crores in it.

The use of digital technologies is rapidly spreading. By the end of 2015, the country of 1.2 billion people had more than 1 billion mobile phones. Some 400 million people used the internet resulting, India receiving over $4,091 million (over ₹26,000 crore) foreign direct investment in telecom. Therefore, the telecom sector is rising and with ‘Digital India’, it is going to rise further. Facebook has 138 million users in India, while 22 million are reported to be active users of Twitter. In the private sector, banking and insurance services have been digitized by more than 200 million new bank accounts opened last year using digital technologies. And biggest satisfaction is the recovery of the postal department with 57 centers in the country, fully automated and computerized.

With the goal of making government services available online, and empowering citizens through universal digital literacy and universal access to digital resources, this is still lacking. These goals obviously make no sense with no clarity on timeframe, implementation or funding. For instance, the government plans to provide broadband services in 250,000 village councils by 2017, but it is unclear how last-mile connectivity will be achieved.

Poor digital infrastructure is the biggest hurdle India faces on the road to digital connectivity for all. And also, when it comes to accessing digital products and services, the digital divide between urban and rural areas and between the rich and the poor remains wide and is probably even growing. Most mobile phone users live in cities, and mostly WiFi hotspots are being created in public places like railway stations, airport lounges and historical monuments. But the question is, are they really working?

Sixty-nine percent of India’s population live in rural areas – but only 40 % of its mobile phone users do so. The share of internet-connected phones is even lower in the countryside. According to a World Bank report released in December 2015, India has the world’s biggest offline population with 1.063 billion people.

This could be the urgent call to India’s government to support programmes like Make in India, Skill India to bring growth and development. It’s been 70 years to this country’s Independence and still there are lot of milestone to achieve for calling India as developed.

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