The digital transformation is happening in a very affordable and inclusive manner, says Dr Ajay Kumar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, Government of India, in an exclusive interview with Souvik Goswami of Elets News Network (ENN).
India has come a long way in terms of e-Governance, what is its present scenario and future of e-Governance?
We are in the most exciting phase of e-governance in the history of this country. IT is bringing great transformation in the governance spectrum. We have been using technology in government in the past as well. However, what we see now is a digital tech-led transformation as never before. For example, Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) which is powered by digital technology is now helping crores of people to receive benefits at a click of a button. Earlier, benefits would flow from the Central to State governments to the district administrations to the block administration and then to the panchayats and eventually to the beneficiaries. At each stage, lots of costs and time would be spent in the layers of bureaucracy, for the transfer of money. The important thing is the scale at which DBT has been implemented in the Government. DBT has been extended to over 250 schemes and 36 crore transactions saving Rs 50000 crores. It is proposed to extend DBT to 90 crore transactions across 500 plus schemes this year and to State Government benefit transfer as well. The scale of implementation is truly transformative.
“We are in the most exciting phase of e-governance in the history of this country. IT is bringing great transformation in the governance spectrum.”
Government has set up a real-time online marketplace for public procurement called Government eMarketpplace (GeM). This in my opinion, will change the public procurement for all times to come not only in India but all over the world. The World Bank is actually studying our model of public procurement. GeM enables vendors to change the prices dynamically. GeM also ensures that payments to the vendors are made online. It ensures transparency in the whole procurement process. Our experience shows that procurement prices of goods and services are nearly 10 to 15% lower than the traditional methods. It also helps in reduction of corruption. Government ahs already mandated that all goods and services on GeM should mandatorily be procured only from this platform. Many State Governments across the country have also adopted GeM for their procurements.
Take, for example, the e-National Agriculture Mandi (eNAM) portal. Earlier the farmer was constrained to sell his produce in the local mandi. On eNAM, he has the whole country as his market and he can sell as per the best offered prices. 350 mandis and 36.4 lakh farmers are already using eNAM. 585 mandis across the country are proposed to be integrated on the portal this year.
Likewise, Aadhaar has been a game changer for so many ways. With over 116 Aadhaar and nearly 3 crore e-authentications every day, transformation is taking place. When the Supreme Court needed a mechanism which would ensure fake SIM cards should not be issued, it directed all the telecom operators to link all their subscribers with the Aadhaar number. Be it scholarships, DBT, Ration card, LPG subsidy, or MNREGA by linking all these schemes to Aadhaar– the government has ensured fakes and duplicates are removed and genuine eligible persons are benefitted in a transparent way. By linking scholarships with Aadhaar, not only fake candidates vanished but also the fake schools which were claiming these government scholarships earlier were eliminated.
Through Jeevan Pramaan scheme, the person doesn’t have to visit banks to submit life certificates. Now they can do it remotely.
The advancement of technology is being used in e-governance. First example is Cloud where it is possible to host and scale rapidly and reduce costs. In NIC, we have a Cloud First policy implying that all applications hosted in NIC in last three eyars have been only on Cloud. Instead of developing stand-alone applications, Common Applications are developed and hosted to Cloud which enable multiple users across various Ministries/ organizations to use these without having to redevelop these. One such example is Biometric Attendance System implemented across several thousand government offices in Central and State Governments at practically negligible software costs and adding a new office is as simple as opening an email account. Cloud based Online registration System and eHealth systems are changing the health scenario in India.
These were first implemented in AIIMS, Delhi. Now, any hospital can use the application for hospital management and online appointment for patients by merely creating an account and downloading the e-hospital system. This is technology-based transformation. Nearly 150 government hospitals have already adopted these systems. Scholarship portal is one such example where 25 schemes of several ministries’ scholarships have been brought on the same platform and over 1.25 crore students avail of this facilty.
There is a huge push to the digital payments which benefits e-governance and the society at large. The digital transformation is happening in a very affordable and inclusive manner.
An important aspect of this transformation is the focus on affordability, inclusion and focus on weak and the poor. The technologies like e-authentication through Aadhaar, Digital locker, BHIM or Aadhaar based payment systems are available at zero costs. eSign has brught down cost of digital signature from say Rs 1000 per year to Rs 1 per signature.
Reaching out the unreached, do you think that has been the biggest success of e-governance mission in India?
The use of digital technologies in India is different from the places world over. In other countries. World over, e-governance has mostly focused on efficiencyand productivity. We additionally focus on providing basic developmental needs of the citizens. Health, education, skilling, financial inclusion, agriculture, electrification, cooking gas, among others which are essential for improving quality of life.
Common Service Centres (CSCs) are playing a major role in ensuring the inclusivity of people in the rural areas. Through Digital Saksharta (DISHA) programme, people are being made digitally literate. About 1 crore people have been made digitally literate and under the PM Grameen Digital Saksharta (PMG DISAH) programme, 6 crore additional people are being made digitally literate. Importantly, PMG DISHA programme is going to be training people in villages which are far away from municipalities and urban areas thereby ensuring that the remotest villages are covered.
How do you view the electronic manufacturing scenario in India?
Five years back, new investment in electronics manufacturing was unthinkable. Existing units were folding up. There has been a huge change especially in the last few years. Importantly, interest in electronics manufacturing is by both MNCs and Indian companies. 80 new mobile manufacturing and component manufacturing units have come up in last 2 years. The per annum mobile production has grown from 6.5 crore units to 17.5 crore units. Nearly 250 new investment proposals involving investments of nearly Rs 1.4 lakh crores are in pipeline. With increased production, important of several electronic products like mobile phones, LED lights, LED/LCD TVS among others have started declining despite increase in domestic demand. We also have a solar fab and a LCD fab proposals which are work in progress.
India is currently the most happening country in the world in terms of investment in the electronics manufacturing segment. Make in India programme, policy initiative by Government, differential duty incentive, electronic manufacturing clusters, all these have been welcomed by the industry. The government has been very supportive. The government has given the confidence that they are there to support the manufacturing industry.
Where do you see electronics manufacturing in India in the next five years.
Electronics manufacturing is at a take-off stage. In the next five years, you can see two to three times growth of the industry. More new companies will come, the existing companies will continue to add. A lot of Indian companies will also start entering this area. We have seen a lot of interesting trends recently. Many electronics manufacturing companies are coming up with the IPOs too. This is new trend and shows how the electronics industry is shaping up.
What programmes will be on the anvil in the next two years in terms of digital transformation?
The focus is to achieve one trillion digital economy at the earliest for which several new steps are proposed to be taken. A high level industry round table was held recently wherein several new initiatives were discussed. There is electronics policy version 2.0 which is proposed. It will be formulated and put up for consultation. There are proposed software product policy, a policy framework for data security. Innovation is the key to take this transformation further.
Connectivity has been an issue.What according to you are the challenges in the digital transformation and how do you plan to overcome it?
A lot of work has happened to improve the connectivity both from the private and public sector. Optical fibre has been laid in nearly 1 lakh panchayats. States like Andhra Pradesh have a model of taking fibre to home.
Digital technologies change at a frantic pace. Consequently a challenge is to keep pace with this continuous change. There is a huge need for human resource skilling and re-skilling. We have the resources and abiity to become the technology human resource hub of the world. But that is only possible if we are able to skill our people in large number in quality. To continue leadership position in the IT sector in the next 20-30 years, we have to skill our human resource and framework for technology. Building effective infrastructure also has to be on priority.