The Government of India has recently intensified efforts to give a push to its flagship Digital India program for making citizen services easy for people living in inaccessible and remote parts. According to you, how can the Centre take Digital India to the next level to improve and strengthen governance across the country?
Digital India has become synonymous with a series of pioneering initiatives to create rural ICT infrastructure, Aadhaar, setting up common service centers, UMANG, Mygov, Digilocker, ENAM for agriculture and many others. India has set an ambitious goal of 1 trillion digital economy by 2025. We are one of the largest growing digital consumer bases in the world, so the opportunities are unlimited. If we link the digitalisation to ease of doing business and innovation indices, the trends support the assumption about the positive potential of digital India for India’s transformation.
Talking about the next wave of Digital India, we would propose a consideration to the Government agenda that offers a seamless interface to citizens. It may be desirable to have integration and unification of Government services as the ingredient of successful achievement of the digital agenda. We would also like to propose digital enablement of SMEs to achieve the socio-economic benefits covering 63 million Indian SMEs with workforce skilling continuing as a priority.
The next wave of Digital India will be cyber-physical and earlier we create an eco-system for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain and IoT in delivery of Government services, easier will be the absorption. The next steps in Digital India would also require a regulatory ecosystem to foster absorption of technology and the process of creation of the same around data protection, privacy, cyber security, ethical AI etc. has already been initiated. One important thing that I would like to highlight is the ever-increasing need for industry-government collaboration to achieve the digital goals would be a key, going forward.
Some of the SAP solutions offer robust and scalable architecture with the ability to have a single source of truth. We would be interested to know how SAP has supported the Centre and various states in the recent time.
We at SAP have truly been privileged to strengthen the IT backbone of Indian public sector and government organisations. Our systems are helping generate visibility and insights for effective decision making in both central and state governments. Whether it’s the power utilities, oil and gas companies, metros, Indian defense or the comprehensive financial management systems, we are helping a cross section of Indian Government organisations in improving effectiveness through digital interventions.
SAP India is working with the Centre and the state governments on initiatives covering the whole spectrum of G2C, G2B, G2G and G2E services. In addition, we are also working with Indian Government to create an ecosystem of digitally inclusive growth. Our program on Code Unnati aims to cover 5 million citizens and youth for digital literacy. We have also launched a program called Global Bharat to support the digital enablement of Indian SMEs/MSMEs. We have partnerships with the NITI Aayog, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, NASSCOM and others to promote a digitally inclusive growth agenda. We are making attempts to facilitate the global market access for Indian SMEs through our Ariba platform to support the vision of Atmnirbhar Bharat.
Which are the key areas where you see the Union Government can work to improve its digital infrastructure with respect to adoption of emerging technologies?
Digital infrastructure is the foundation of all government and business initiatives. The pandemic has also demonstrated how digital communication and computing infrastructure is the key to disaster management. The Government has taken a number of steps with the announcement on public WiFi as the most recent one. The rural broadband infrastructure is already redefining rural e-commerce, digital education, telemedicine, financial inclusion and government service delivery through common service centres. Electronic manufacturing has picked up in a big way in India and the draft data centre policy is a key initiative to make India a data centre hub.
On the emerging technologies, as we say, IoT or the internet of things is the next enterprise IT. The shift to computing on edge devices is becoming more and more visible. Digital infrastructure will be the key in ensuring the integration of operational technologies with information technologies. With improved connectivity, the dream of a shift from a digital India to a digitally intelligent India may soon become a reality. Improvement in communication and computing infrastructure will surely be an enabler for data management for improved AI systems based on real time insights. The developments in digital infrastructure, adds the number of potential use cases for artificial intelligence e.g. crop and food forecasting, simulation of disease spread, medical diagnosis, etc. The developments in digital infrastructure will be the foundation for emerging technologies in India.
India has made considerable growth in the past one year in the field of ICT. According to you, where does India stand in the adoption of blockchain, IoT, artificial intelligence and cryptocurrency?
It’s not really important to rate or assess as to where India stands in the adoption of emerging technologies, however, it is important to plan the way forward to ensure an eco-system for expeditious and continuous absorption of these technologies. The need is to holistically address a number of issues and areas to ensure an environment conducive for absorption of emerging technologies. Some of these areas include the standards and inter-operability, work organisation, digital infrastructure, modelling complex systems, regulatory systems, cyber security and public safety.
While we already see intent to take on emerging technologies as a programmatic effort by the Government, it is important to appreciate that developments in this field, the required efforts by multiple stakeholder groups. Some countries have taken the approach of creating platforms which facilitate multi-stakeholder engagement from Government, academia, research, Industry, trade unions and industry associations. To some extent, this is visible in many of the initiatives by NITI Aayog too. As we say at SAP, Industry 4.0 is Industry 4.Now. The time to initiate and create a platform for multi-stakeholder interactions and synergistic collaboration is now.
Do you concur that the Digital India program needs some course correction for the citizens’ betterment?
The whole objective of Digital India is citizen’s betterment. The next wave of digital India encompassing whole of Government, emerging technologies and digital infrastructure builds on the achievements of Digital India program only. The next shape of Digital India will be a digitally intelligent India, focused on improving citizen experiences through monitoring experience data in addition to operational data. The one-way application developments and implementation will now become two-way with users’ data becoming the basis of the governance processes. Digital is already becoming the first port of call for citizens and it will surely see a shift in expectations from digital service delivery. We will now need to ensure the digital readiness of user organisations to facilitate the seamless absorption of emerging technologies.