On a lazy winter morning in the month of December last year, I dragged myself out of the bed to witness the first rays on sunlight dispel the last traces of fog in a small town of Kerala. I had taken a small break from my work. So during this time, I also decided to update the address in my Aadhar card. My father told me that there is a center nearby where in you can do the same. On further enquiry and research I found out that it is an Akshaya center. Quoting directly from the Akshaya website ”Akshaya was conceived as a landmark ICT project by the Kerala State Information Technology Mission to bring the benefits of this technology to the entire population of the State. The modus for this was establishment of grass roots level ICT centers at the Panchayat/Municipal ward level.” I lamented at my lack of knowledge of such a landmark project undertaken by the Kerala government. But in the process, I also discovered quiet a lot of things. The Digital India project was one among them.
So for the uninitiated, let me tell about the ambitious vision which the Digital India project proposes. The focus is to use technology as a key tool to enable change in the lives of people. To make sure that the remotest of villages in India receive government services, Digital India promises it to deliver at your doorstep with the click of a mouse. It is planned to implement in a phased manner by 2019 at a budget of Rs. 1, 13,000 crore. There are a lot of existing E-governance initiatives which will now be covered under the umbrella band – Digital India. In fact it combines a large number of ideas, thoughts and initiatives into one large vision in order to make them fit into the larger picture. The vision of Digital India is focused into three areas or rather pillars
There is hardly any doubt that this vision is very ambitious, but definitely not impossible. How to achieve this? E-governance is one of the answers. For the layman, let me give a brief and simple explanation about what exactly is E-governance. Very simply speaking, E-governance is the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in delivering government services. There are four models that are available for the same – government-to-citizen (customer), government-to-employees, government-to-government and government-to-business. Now in a country like India, that is so vast and populated, E-governance is an easier, reliable and better way of serving the citizens. But then it is easier said than done. There are a lot of challenges, about which I will be describing later in this post. First let us talk about the National eGovernance Plan (NeGP) of India which is an initiative taken by the government of India to implement E-governance, to make sure the citizens receive government services through the electronic media. As per the NeGP website, it aims to “make all Government services accessible to the common man in his locality through common service delivery outlets and ensure efficiency, transparency and reliability of such services at affordable costs to realize the basic needs of the common man”. This plan aims to integrate the various E-governance initiatives across the country under one vision, which will also help in a better execution.
How can E-governance help in achieving the Digital India vision? As I mentioned above, in a country like India, E-governance is the only way of governance that seems sustainable and beneficial at the same time. One example to substantiate this point is the concept of CSCs or better known as Common Service Centers. Quoting directly from the DeitY website, “The CSC is a strategic cornerstone of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), approved by the Government in May 2006, as part of its commitment in the National Common Minimum Programme to introduce e-governance on a massive scale. The CSCs would provide high quality and cost-effective video, voice and data content and services, in the areas of e-governance, education, health, telemedicine, entertainment as well as other private services. A highlight of the CSCs is that it will offer web-enabled e-governance services in rural areas, including application forms, certificates, and utility payments such as electricity, telephone and water bills”. It gives me goosebumps when I think of an India where the above vision becomes a reality. The vision of Digital India will become a reality.
However, there are a lot of challenges which we need to address before we proceed. The first is the infrastructure. In order to achieve the ambitious vision, a lot of infrastructure needs to be in place. To set up the same in the rural areas is a much bigger challenge. The maintenance – the costs as well as the skilled labor who can do it is also something we need to think and plan about. Another challenge is the social acceptability. Will the people able to accept this new way of governance? If not, how much time will it take for them to adjust? These are some questions which we need to answer. The Digital India vision is a long term vision and is certainly achievable. #DigitalIndia.
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