Wednesday, August 4, 2021

India significantly narrows the digital divide

By: K V VENKATASUBRAMANIAN, Senior Journalist

Time was when an official at the counter entered manually all kinds of data in copious ledgers and notebooks. People stood in long queues for hours at banks, post offices, railway ticket counters and other bill-paying offices, for various transactions. India has left that age far behind. Since then, the country has come a long way; and it is deep into the digital era today. India’s adoption of technology and electronic media, especially the internet and television, have dramatically reduced the distance and isolation among the Indian population, especially the rural community.

Exactly six years ago on July 1, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the “Digital India” flagship initiative. It envisions transforming the country into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. The Digital India programme has narrowed the digital divide considerably. The country is making strenuous efforts to further bridge the gap.

The scheme is empowering the common citizen by closing the distance between government and people, system and facilities, problems and solutions.

On the occasion of its sixth anniversary, the Prime Minister interacted with beneficiaries of various schemes under the Digital India programme. He said that the programme marks rapid strides that the country has taken in the adoption of technology.

From students to farmers, many shared their experiences about how adopting digital methods has made their lives easier and saved them time and money. A student of Class Five, Suhani Sahu from Uttar Pradesh, narrated how DIKSHA, the government’s national digital infrastructure for school education, has made her studies more interactive and enjoyable. Through this platform, all teachers across India have been equipped with advanced digital technology tools.

For small farmers like Prahlad Borghan in Maharashtra, the National Agriculture Market (e-NAM)—the online trading platform for agricultural commodities–has opened the doors wide. Since 2018, they have been getting more value for their produce. The digital initiative has reduced the burden on transport since farmers do not have to travel.

Shubham Kumar, from a village near the Nepal border in East Champaran in Bihar, was able to help his grandmother consult a doctor through the e-Sanjeevani application. The online platform saved them both a long journey to Lucknow. Thousands of doctors across India also find it easy to provide consultation online through this App.

Anupama Dubey from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh sells traditional silk sarees through Mahila e-Haat. She uses a digital pad and stylus to create new designs for silk sarees. Hari Ram, a migrant living in Dehradun in Uttarakhand, obtains his ration easily using the One Nation One Ration card.

India is rapidly expanding the infrastructure for the Digital India project. The Internet has reached remote areas through 0.25 million e-Common Service Centres. Another beneficiary, Mehar Dutt Sharma in Himachal Pradesh, buys various products from these online stores from his remote Dharampur village. Earlier, he used to travel to nearby towns.

Digilocker, a paperless governance initiative, helped millions of people, especially during the pandemic. School certificates, medical documents and other important certificates were stored digitally across the nation. Services like getting a driving license, birth certificate, paying electricity and water bill, filing income tax returns, became fast and convenient.

India’s capabilities in digital technology and its share in the global digital economy are expected to be significantly enhanced during this decade. India is preparing for the fifth generation 5G technology that is bringing great changes across the world. India is working on a mission mode to bring broadband internet to villages. Access points are being created to enable rural youth to connect with high-speed Internet for better services and education.

India is a shining example of Global Village, a term coined in the nineteen-sixties (the 1960s) by the eminent communication theorist Marshall McLuhan of Canada. India’s prolific growth and use of technology have led to constant and tremendous progress in its ability to share and connect with one another. Technology has made it almost like a part of us that India and the world cannot live without.

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