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Digital India The Game Changer

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Dr Neena Pahuja

Dr Neena Pahuja
Director General, ERNET

Digital India campaign covers aspects of digital infrastructure, governance, services and digital empowerment to citizens, observes Dr Neena Pahuja in conversation with Souvik Goswami of Elets News Network (ENN)

Give us an overview of Education and Research Network (ERNET).

ERNET is an autonomous society working under the DeitY (Ministry of Communications and Information Technology). As the name suggests, ERNET was conceptualised to support and connect education and research organisations and provide collaboration solutions.
Diversities of contribution by ERNET are in the field of terrestrial and VSAT connectivity, campus wired and Wi-Fi LAN, basic IT solutions, collaborative communication, next generation R&D, consulting and solutions in fields like IPv6 and Internet of Things (IoT) and awareness and training programmes. Contribution area advantage spans to all educational institutes, including technology, research, management and health institutes. ERNET has also supported educational needs for physically challenged people.

What kind of services are being provided by your organisation?

ERNET’s bouquet of services is undoubtedly motivated by the growth in consumerisation of the ICT sector, topped up by government’s supgenport to promote ICT-related projects. ERNET offers IT solutions such as connectivity, smart classroom solutions, digitisation of information, consulting and training in IPv6, Campus wide-wired and Wi-Fi LAN, Layer 2 and Layer 3 WAN connectivity over terrestrial and VSAT networks, Internet services, Website hosting and domain name registrations for .ac.in and .edu.in, R&D projects in the areas of IoT, IPv6 and WSN.
With MOOCs (Massive Online Courses) being the need of the hour, ERNET has also worked on research projects to create a Cloud environment using eDX to support MOOCs for KV schools. ERNET is also supplementing the DeitY efforts towards creating awareness and policy making for Internet of Things in India and its applicability in Smart Cities.

ERNET has developed and implanted various projects for educational institutes and research organisations. Please share with us some of the initiatives in this field.

ERNET has done a large number of connectivity projects, even in very remote areas of our country. It has demonstrated the power of ICT and collaboration in education and research and also has fixed a baseline for new research directions and power of Internetworking.

Initiatives

  • Inclusive in approach: ERNET has taken up projects which are for the benefit of the citizens of India. Value gain to citizens is gain to ERNET.
  • Humanitarian approach: Our approach has been to reach to the unreached. We prefer attempting tough remote projects like Ajmer, Srikakulam and also contribute towards challenged citizens.
  • Futuristic approach: ERNET has been futuristic in approach even when we were the first network of the country, and we continue to have the same approach even in the Internet of Everything (IoE) phase.

‘Digital India’ campaign was launched by the Government of India recently. In what way this programme can change the game in this country?

Digital India programme has the vision to transform India into a digitally-empowered society and knowledge economy. This is a unique orchestration programme that entails various government ministries’ initiatives and thoughts into a single comprehensive vision.
Under this initiative, government will together aim to restructure some of the existing schemes clubbed with new-born schemes, and drive them to achieve a common goal of Digital India. This campaign is inclusive in nature and covers aspects of digital infrastructure, governance, services and digital empowerment to citizens.
Some game-changing expected due to Digital India:

  • A conscious attempt to provide ubiquitous but controlled internet access to citizens to help them access the government services anytime, anywhere.
  • The access will be enhanced from e-enabling to m-enabling.
  • The initiative will reduce red-tapism by introducing cradle-to-grave digital identity, seamlessly integrating services across departments and jurisdictions and easy access to common service centers.
  • This programme will also be useful in increasing literacy level using digital presence and in all Indian languages.
  • It would focus on the rural areas as much as it would on the urban areas, and tend to enable a phase shift to Rur-urbanisation.
  • Digital India is also trying to bridge the multiple decade’s gap in domestic manufacturing conjoining it with ‘Make in India’ initiative.
  • Further, it will add IT and intelligence to enhance the smartness of urban cities.

A shift from e-Governance to m-Governance is in the making. How do you think m-Governance can be leveraged for better healthcare service delivery and providing education to the unreached?

The government’s Digital India initiative is trying to create ease of access for citizens of India by providing connectivity at various levels and providing a wider coverage.
Mobile connectivity further helps in taking the application to the point of need: in education, it is students, and in healthcare, it will be the needy.

What according to you are the main challenges in the field of e-Governance and m-Governance in India?

India is a different terrain and has it’s own challenges. In order to establish and transfer true benefits of e and m-governance, following challenges will have to be taken care of:

  • Inter-ministerial and inter-departmental communications and working will have to be made seamless, and ownership- and output-based.
  • The mission is happening on a large scale and needs adequate speed planning. The government will have to adopt controlled speed and phased scale in order to achieve this.
  • Cyber security and authentication issues remain as challenge, and the government will have to draft a focussed approach before we scale up.
  • India has good device coverage but poor mobile coverage. It could be a challenge to extend mobile connectivity to the rural areas, where the volumes are not enough to sustain in a multiple service provider situation.
  • Educating citizens and managing this massive change management across the country will be another large initiative

What is your vision for ERNET?

To advance Research and Education by way of ICT contribution in the form of R&D, capacity building, consultancy and connectivity. ERNET supported the launch on Internet in India. Now it needs to support the launch of New Generation Internet, which is IoE, in India.

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