Digital infrastructure in national development

  • Category
    Economy
  • Published
    24th Apr, 2019

Issue

  • The Aadhaar has worked as a digital infrastructure backbone helping governments in India to roll out several real-time initiatives and service delivery capabilities for citizens and enterprises alike, said NandanNilekani, chief architect of Aadhaarat FICCI’s National Executive Committee Meeting.
  • The Aadhaar, serving as an electronic know-your-customer (KYC) tool has triggered massive customer additions in the country’s financial and telecom sectors and similar explosive growth is expected across other segments as well in the years to come, said Mr.Nilekani.

Analysis

What is Digital infrastructure?

  • It is the collection of technological and human components, networks, systems, and processes that contribute to the functioning of an information system.
  • These digital infrastructures often evolve into larger and more complex structures such as the Internet.

Evolution of Digital Infrastructure in India:

  • 1976-National Informatics Centre was established, and has since emerged as a prime builder of e-Governance applications up to the grassroots level as well as a promoter of digital opportunities for sustainable development.
    • Almost all Indian-government websites are developed and managed by NIC.
    • Through its ICT Network-NICNET, it has institutional linkages with all the Ministries of the Central and state Government and about 708 District Administrations.
    • It is facilitating improvement and transparency in government services and promoting decentralized planning.
    • It connected all district headquarters with Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) services.
  • 1990s-Computerization of Railway’s PRS, Initiatives by state governments e.g. Gyandoot(information sharing) in Madhya Pradesh, Bhoomi (land record) in Karnataka, Akshaya (e-literacy) in Kerala.
  • 2006-National e-Governance Policy (NeGP) unveiled:
    • 31 Mission Mode Projects identified foraccording priority to the e-Government initiatives.
    • Core infrastructure components:
      • Common Service Centers (CSC) for service delivery.
      • Wide Area Networks (WAN) for connectivity.
      • Data Centres for storing data and programs.
    • Process re-engineering, change management andproject management.
    • Web-enabled delivery of services.
    • Emphasis on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) whereverfeasible.
  • 2015-Digital India program launched:
    • The program has the vision to transform India into adigitally empowered society and knowledge economy.
    • Three primary focus areas of this programare:
      • Creation of Digital Infrastructure
      • Electronic delivery of services and digital literacy
      • Empowerment of citizens with e-participation in governance.

Digital infrastructure for economic development:

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST): Its roll out has increased the tax collection. A crucial factor in ensuring its smooth implementation will be a robust technology infrastructure:
    • Determination of Tax: Companies need to introduce a system which can facilitate calculating right amount of GST and take in account all rules set out by the Government.
    • Compliance: Tax technology helps companies to make sure that there are periodic updates and uploads of sales and purchase of data with reconciliation for tax payments and credits. This will bring transparency and minimize tax evasion.
    • Reporting and Analysis: Tax technology provides audit trail of transactions and required reports which are useful in internal analysis and audits.
  • Digital payments: Initiatives like- cards, internet banking, Mobile banking, Unified Payments Interface, Mobile Wallets and Aadhaar Enabled Payment System have made financial services more affordable and inclusive.
  • E-Commerce: It has transformed the way business is done in India.Much growth of the industry has been triggered by increasing internet and smartphone penetration.India’s internet economy is expected to double from US$125 billion as of 2017 to US$ 250 billion by 2020, majorly backed by e-commerce. E-commerce revenue is expected to jump from US$ 39 billion in 2017 to US$ 120 billion in 2020, growing at an annual rate of 51 per cent, the highest in the world.
  • National Agriculture Market (eNAM): It is an online trading platform for agricultural commodities. It facilitates farmers, traders and buyers with online trading in commodities. It is helping in better price discovery and provides facilities for smooth marketing of their produce.
  • Gramin Agriculture Markets (GrAM):These are village level markets. There are 22,000 such rural agricultural markets, which help farmers in selling their produce locally. These local marketsare linked with the electronic farmer marketplace, eNAMs to sell their produce nationally.
  • Government e Marketplace (GeM):It is a dedicated e market for different goods & services procured by Government Organisations / Departments / PSUs.It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users, achieve the best value for their money.

Digital infrastructure for health:

  • National Health Portal: Its objective is to create awareness amongst the citizens about health, government programmes and services in Health Sector. It provides information in six languages-Hindi, English, Tamil, Gujarati, Bengali, and Punjabi. A voice portal, providing information through a toll-free number and Mobile App are also available.
  • National Telemedicine Network (NTN):It has been envisaged to provide Telemedicine Services to the remote areas. Telemedicine nodes across India are being created inter connecting SDH/PHC/CHC, District Hospital and Medical College in every State for providing Citizen-centric services.
  • e-Hospital: This Hospital Management System is a workflow based ICT solution for hospitals. It covers major functional areas like patient care, laboratory services, work flow based document information exchange, human resource and medical records management of a hospital.
  • Online Registration System (ORS):It was launched in 2015 to provide services like-taking online registration & appointment, payment of fees, online viewing diagnostic reports, enquiring availability of blood online etc. in various public hospitals.
  • Other initiatives are-MeraAspataal (Patient Feedback) Application, Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation-SUGAM, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Vaccine Tracker (Indradhanush Immunization), Mother and Child Tracking System (MCTS) and TB Patient Monitoring System-Nikshay.

Digital infrastructure for education:

  • Swayam: It an indigenously designed massive open online course (MOOC), It will host all the courses, taught in classrooms from 9th class till post-graduation and can be accessed by anyone, anywhere at any time. It aims to bridge the digital divide for students in e-education.
  • SwayamPrabha:It isa programme for utilization of satellite communication technologies for transmission of educational e-contents through 32 National Channels. Everyday four hour fresh slot is telecast and repeated 5 more times in 24 hours to provide learning opportunities for the stake holders, as per their convenience.
  • E-pathshala: It has been developed by NCERT for showcasing and disseminating all educational e-resources including textbooks, audio, video, periodicals and a variety of other print and non-print materials. So far, 3444 audios and videos, 698 e-books and 504 flip books have been made available on the portal and mobile app.
  • National Repository of Open Educational Resources:It is an initiative to bring together all digital resources across all stages of school education and teacher education. So far, 13635 files including 401 collections, 2722 documents, 565 interactive, 1664 audios, 2581 images and 6105 videos have been made available over the portal.
  • National Digital Library: It is a large online library containing 6.5 million books. It provides free access to many books in English and the Indian languages.

Digital infrastructure for governance (e-Governance):

  • E-Kranti Framework: Its objective is to redefine NeGP with transformational and outcome-oriented e-Governance initiatives, to enhance the portfolio of citizen centric services, to ensure optimum usage of core Information & Communication Technology (ICT), to promote rapid replication and integration of e-Governance applications, to leverage emerging technologies andto make use of more agile implementation models.
  • Policy on Adoption of Open Source Software: It aims to make Government services digitally accessible to citizens in their localities and to ensure efficiency, transparency and reliability of such services at affordable costs.
  • Policy on Open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs): As a part of Digital India, G2C, G2B and G2G services are to be delivered and made accessible through multiple channels like web, mobile and common service delivery outlets. Interoperability among various e-Governance applications and databases is vital for integrated service delivery.
  • E-mail Policy: It lays down the guidelines with respect to use of e-mail servicesto ensure secure access and usage of Government of India e-mail services by its users. It is applicable to all employees of GoI that use the e-mail services of GoI.
  • Application Development & Re-Engineering Guidelines for Cloud Ready Applications: It is to promote e-Governance solutions as cloud enabled products and to ensure development of Common Application Software (CAS) which can be configured as per department’s requirements without the need of modifying the core source code of the application.

Way forward:

  • Increase connectivity: India needs to accelerate the building of digital infrastructure, with a laser focus on creating high-speed broadband networks. By connecting people and devices, there is a huge opportunity to dramatically accelerate innovation.
  • Utilize the existing human resource potential: India’s software developer population was estimated to surpass that of the US and hit 5.2 million in 2018, but contributed only 2% of global software products in 2017. The country should use the potential of its engineers and their strong spirit of entrepreneurship.
  • Education and affordability: The country needs to educate the people of the country specially the rural population about the internet use, provide them with ICT enabled devices, mobile phones and laptops with affordable internet connectivity.
  • Cheap and available electricity: Government should provide round the clock electricity supply throughout the country even reaching out to remote areas so that people can access internet anytime.
  • Better bandwidth: Government should improve the internet bandwidth, speed and security of networks and promote cloud infrastructure, which enables e-governance and e-banking services.
  • Efficient manufacturing: Compared to China, India’s progress in big data analytics, AI and robotics have been lacklustre. Our robot density stands at 3 against China’s 68. Government should significantly improve its data infrastructure to sustain its manufacturing competitiveness.

Learning Aid

Practice Question:

Today all the countries in the world are depending upon digitalization in their journey to development. Discuss how digitalization is helping India in her development, where it is lacking and what efforts are needed to improve it.

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