150th Issue Articles

Democratisation of Knowledge-Based Economy

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Anand Ramamoorthy
Managing Director
South Asia, McAfee

Let’s travel back in time when any job related to the government department involved long queues, lengthy paper work and, at times, lack of clarity. However, from the early 90s e-governance has come a long way with the successful implementation of digital technologies, using IT for wider sectoral applications, reaching out to rural areas and taking in greater inputs from the private sector.

While the initial emphasis was majorly on connectivity, networking, setting up systems for processing information and delivering services, we are now moving to automation and computerisation with the ‘Digital India’ initiative. This programme will challenge set norms, promote a knowledge-sharing platform for future, making technology central for enabling change.

‘Digital India’ is a vision resonating three key areas of focus:

1. Make various utilities available to the citizens through cutting-edge digital infrastructure. It will enable delivery of services like banking and access to service centres at the doorstep of citizens with the assistance of high-speed internet

2. Focus on governance and services. This aims to bring everything in the palms of people across departments and places. It will enable providing services to people in real time, cutting across every hindrance

3. The third and the foremost vision would be to empower citizens digitally. Consider this, by 2019, the government is looking forward to having broadband in 0.25 million villages, 400,000 public internet access points, and 17 million jobs created directly with Digital India.

According to McKinsey report 2015, the realisation of Digital India will help the country with 20-30% incremental gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025. This additional GDP could create up to 21 million jobs in India. The initiative has the potential to bring forth innovations and transform the lives of citizens across the length and breadth of the country.
Social Media, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud are the foundations that will enable the Digital India vision of providing governance and services on demand, digitally empowering citizens and support the social inclusion schemes being launched by the government.

Furthering the benefits, it will ease the procedures for starting businesses in India and even the financial transactions will become effortless as people do not have to set foot outside their house. Below are a few points for consideration as we move forward sowing the seeds for future:

Changing Paradigm of Governance

With our country gradually embracing technology and progressing towards the realisation of Digital India, governance, as we know it, has transformed into a two-way channel of communication between the Government and its citizens.

One of the key pillars of the Digital India initiative, the objective of the campaign is to use business process re-engineering to transform government processes and make them simple, automated and efficient. Under this, forms will be simplified and only minimum and necessary information will be collected.

Aadhaar, the largest digital identity programme in the world, is now being commended as a marvel of India’s technological innovation and prowess. The future could see the unique identification number’s potential to bring massive changes in the social welfare sector as a whole and industries alike.

To further simplify the process, use of online repositories for certificates, educational degrees, identity documents will be encouraged so that these documents do not have to be submitted in the physical form. This will promise a seamless ecosystem across multiple government departments to make services available on both online and mobile platforms. One important aspect would be the transition of financial transactions to the cashless mode and important data to the cloud.

Emergence of Mobile First Economy

While we look at e-Governance, let us think about ‘mobile first’ and thus give importance to m-Governance as well. India is the second largest mobile phone market globally with over 1 billion mobile subscriptions. Of this, smartphone users are expected to grow to 520 million by 2020. [Considering this, no e-governance revolution is possible without focusing on mobile.]

· Mobile-based transactions are growing rapidly, driven by digital wallets and mobile banking, riding on an upsurge in the number of smartphone users. Such a dramatic increase in India has been possible due to the push from both government and the private sectors. According to a study by McKinsey, large-scale adoption of digital finance by emerging economies would boost their GDP by six percent. The report further states that India could see a boost of $700 billion, an 11.8 percent increase by 2025.
· Mobile technology has the potential to disrupt the basics of business models and habits established over the years and will continue to change the economy of India. Overseas companies have been increasingly showing an interest to invest and tap opportunities in India, particularly in retail.

Inherent Cybersecurity

· Cybersecurity is becoming a top IT priority among chief information officers (CIO) at both the government and enterprise level. What enterprises and Digital India also need is an integrated and connected architecture approach towards security so that all points of vulnerability within the network and even externally, when on a cloud platform, are secured.
· Apart from state and city level, cyber threats can also emerge from connected municipal services, from public transportation to water purification. In some cases, these services are managed by private companies, so potential cybersecurity threats can come from many different intrusion points at once.

· When it comes to shielding the deluge of data that’s being created with the digitisation initiatives, it would require the adoption of an advanced protection paradigm. The need of the hour is to make cyber security an unavoidable pattern in the IT infrastructure of our country.

Employment Opportunities

· There is an abundance of capital all over the world, but the skilled human resource is scarce. Here, India’s demographic dividend is going to play a crucial role. Therefore, Digital Skilling is going to become a great potential for growth in the overall architecture of the digital economy. With initiatives like ‘Start-up India and Skill India’, the government has been making optimum use of technology and innovation to remove the disconnect between demand and supply of skilled manpower

· Technological enablement across industries will impact the employment scenario immensely by increasing skills and job prospects. It is estimated that by 2019, about 1.7 crore young Indians will have proper training in IT, telecom and electronics.

Smart Cities

· Digital India initiatives are playing a major role in the Smart Cities Mission, with technology being the pivotal factor that will add the smartness quotient to the task. The project will make it seamless to monitor everyday concerns of life such as safety, transport, and the environment. The government is working towards implementing mechanisms to collect and analyse relevant data to make the lives of the citizens better.

· The first 60 names for the smart city project are already in place, and the second list includes 30 more cities under this plan. This would leave aside another 10 to be filled in the near future. Where 24 projects have been completed as of January 2017, implementation has begun in 49 cities.

· IoT will have a major role in “smart city” initiative and when everything is connected with each other, security will be the guardian for not just devices but it will also help develop the vision for an integrated IoT ecosystem. With around 26 smart cities expected to be established in India by 2025, cyber security will be inherent than a bolt on.

Conclusion

Over the next decade, we will see the Digital India initiative become increasingly pervasive. Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality will be a part of the digital agenda of the government as well. It could enable easier access to a wide number of services for billions of citizens. An interconnected, interoperable, transparent and accountable government, with services reaching every citizen irrespective of geography, the region will create a phenomenal impact at the grass roots level in the rural and semi-urban areas. This technology led disruption may even enable us to leap frog the west in many ways.

By: Anand Ramamoorthy, Managing Director, South Asia, McAfee

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