By KA Badarinath: Prime minister Narendra Modi’s signature project, Digital India, kicked off in style with Indian and global CEOs committing investments of over Rs 450,000 crore in digitising the Indian economy through rollout of IT infrastructure backbone and taking governance to rural India.
This is in addition to Rs 100,000 crore set aside by the government in the next five years for Digital India to provide a host of services including healthcare, education and Digital locker facility via the information highway.
The prime minister announced the rollout of week-long Digital India amidst a galaxy of global and Indian chief executives eager to get on the IT bandwagon that’s expected to change the way states and central government provides services.
The Digital India launch was a grandiose affair for the Modi government, bigger in scale than his other pet projects ‘make in India’, Jan Dhan Yojana, financial inclusion schemes, smart cities and housing for all.
While all other NDA government projects were launched either from Vigyan Bhavan in the capital or from other cities, Digital India made its presence felt with over 40,000 people in attendance with a line up of formally attired chief executives, half-a-dozen ministers, the entire defence establishment and domain experts at the Indira Gandhi sports stadium.
Modi extended the ‘make in India’ slogan to ‘design in India’ and called for putting an end to electronic and IT imports all together by 2020.
He asked the IT community to wage a ‘bloodless war’ and serve humanity by `building credible cyber security systems’.
The prime minister outlined his government’s drive to end the ‘digital divide’ between rural and urban India by taking all government services to citizens’ doorstep via the information highway.
“I dream of a digital India where high-speed digital highways unite the nation, 1.2 billion connected Indians drive innovation and technology ensures the citizen-government interface is incorruptible,” he said.
In an apparent reference to opposition Congress criticism on launch of satellites, Modi pointed to these satellites helping the common man, especially farmers through accurate weather forecasting.
He said Digital India was similarly targeted at leveraging economy to improve quality of life for poor people. “India may have missed the industrial revolution, but will not miss the IT revolution”, Modi declared amidst thunderous applause from IT professionals and corporate honchos who rallied behind him on Digital India.
The prime minister noted, “it was not enough for India to say that it is an ancient civilisation and a country of 125 crore with favourable demography. Modern technology needs to be blended with these strengths”.
He added: “Earlier, a child used to playfully wrench your reading glasses. Today, he reaches for your phone. We need to understand this change or the world will pass us by.”
Emphasising on the delivery of services via the internet and mobile telephony, the prime minister said “e-governance is going to change into m-governance... M is not Modi governance, it is mobile governance”.
Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani led half a dozen industry captains in support of digital India. He said, “normally industry moves faster than the government, but with Digital India, its different… the government has moved faster”.
While Ambani announced $ 39.3 billion investments in IT power play, his archrival and competitor, Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of Bharti group committed $ 16 billion.
Tata group chairman Cyrus Mistry hailed the prime minister for “giving vision and focus on digital infrastructure utility providing governance and service in real time and digitally empowering citizens”.
Mistry also announced hiring 66,000 IT professionals this year, mostly as part of Tata technology behemoth, TCS.
Microsoft global chief executive Satya Nadella, through a televised live video-link, announced the technology major’s willingness to partner the Indian government via its marquee cloud services.
Kumaramangalam Birla, chairman of Aditya Vikram Birla group, maintained that Digital India reflected, the “bold vision of our digital future which reflects his (the PM’s) clairvoyance and his futuristic thinking.”
Meanwhile, highlighting the impact of the Digital India campaign, Hemant Joshi, a partner with independent consultancy KPMG, told Financial Chronicle, “even if $18 billion is spent on digital India campaign, it will have the multiplier effect of five to ten times, i.e. add $ 90 – 180 billion”.
Joshi said the project has the potential to provide education, healthcare and banking to all via the fibre optic network backbone that connects 600,000 villages.
Interestingly enough, the biggest challenge for the digital campaign is India’s track record of poor internet speeds. As per a ranking by Akamai technologies, India figures in 115th position globally in terms of average internet speeds. email@example.com, Source: mydigitalfc.com