The government today launched the Digital India Campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious initiative to provide fast internet connections for all.
The $18-billion tech push aims at connecting 250,000 Indian villages through fast internet by 2019, enabling electronic governance and universal phone connectivity across the country.
The programme to bridge India's digital divide, will also bring in large investments in technology manufacturing.
The digital week, launched today, aims to stop net imports of technology and electronics by 2020, while creating over 100 million jobs.
India's average Internet speed was ranked 115th globally in the first quarter of the year, among countries studied by services provider Akamai Technologies.
India had just a little over 100 million broadband subscribers at the end of April, out of a population of close to 1.3 billion, according to the sector regulator, which considers internet connections with minimum download speeds of 512 kbps.
Digital India has been envisioned as an ambitious umbrella programme to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.
It comprises various initiatives under the single programme each targeted to prepare India for becoming a knowledge economy and for bringing good governance to citizens through synchronised and co-ordinated engagement of the entire government.
This programme has been envisaged and coordinated by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) in collaboration with various central ministries / departments and state governments. Activities under `Digital India' initiative will be closely monitored by a committee headed by the prime minister.
All the existing and ongoing e-Governance initiatives have been revamped to align them with the principles of Digital India.
The Digital India programme also envisions inclusive growth in areas of electronic services, products, manufacturing and job opportunities etc. The vision of Digital India is centred on three key areas:
- Digital Infrastructure as a utility to every citizen;
- Governance and services on demand; and
- Digital empowerment of citizens
With the above vision, the Digital India programme aims to provide broadband highways, universal access to mobile connectivity, public internet access programme, e-governance for reforming government through technology, eKranti - electronic delivery of services, information for all, electronics manufacturing with the aim of zero net imports, IT for jobs and early harvest programmes.
Several projects / products have already been launched or are ready to be launched, which include:
- Digital Locker System - to minimise the usage of physical documents and enable sharing of e-documents across agencies. The sharing of the e-documents will be done through registered repositories thereby ensuring the authenticity of the documents online;
- MyGov.in has been implemented as a platform for citizen engagement in governance, through a ''Discuss'', ''Do'' and ''Disseminate'' approach. The mobile App for MyGov would bring these features to users on a mobile phone;
- Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) - Mobile app would be used by people and government organisations for achieving the goals of Swachh Bharat Mission;
- eSign framework would allow citizens to digitally sign a document online using Aadhaar authentication;
- Online Registration System (ORS) under the eHospital application has been introduced. This application provides important services such as online registration, payment of fees and appointment, online diagnostic reports, enquiring availability of blood online etc;
- National Scholarships Portal is a one stop solution for end-to-end scholarship process right from submission of student application, verification, sanction and disbursal to end beneficiary for all the scholarships provided by the Government of India;
- DeitY has undertaken an initiative namely Digitise India Platform (DIP) for large scale digitization of records in the country that would facilitate efficient delivery of services to the citizens;
- Government of India has undertaken an initiative, namely Bharat Net - a high speed digital highway to connect all 250,000 gram panchayats of the country. This would be the world's largest rural broadband connectivity project using optical fibre;
- BSNL has introduced Next Generation Network (NGN), to replace 30 year old exchanges, which is an IP-based technology, to manage all types of services like voice, data, multimedia/ video and other types of packet switched communication services;
- BSNL has also undertaken large scale deployment of Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the country. Users can latch on the BSNL Wi-Fi network through their mobile devices.
- To deliver citizen services electronically and improve the way citizens and authorities transact with each other, it is imperative to have ubiquitous connectivity.
The government also realises this need as reflected by including 'broadband highways' as one of the pillars of Digital India. While connectivity is one criterion, enabling and providing technologies to facilitate delivery of services to citizens forms the other.
Policy initiatives have also been undertaken by DeitY in the e-governance domain like e-Kranti framework, adoption of Open Source Software for government use as also the framework for adoption of Open Source Software in e-governance systems, formulation of policy on Open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for Government of India, e-mail policy of the government, policy on use of IT resources of the government, policy on collaborative application development by opening the Source Code of government applications, application development and re-engineering guidelines for cloud-ready applications.
The government has approved a BPO policy to create BPO centres in different North Eastern states and also in smaller / mofussil towns of other states.
An Electronics Development Fund (EDF) has been created to promote Innovation, R&D, and product development and to create a resource pool of IP within the country to create a self-sustaining eco-system of Venture Funds.
National Centre for Flexible Electronics (NCFlexE) is an initiative of Government of India to promote research and innovation in the emerging area of flexible electronics.
It is also planning a Centre of Excellence on Internet on Things (IoT) as a joint initiative of Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), ERNET and NASSCOM.
The estimated impact of Digital India by 2019 would be cross cutting, ranging from broadband connectivity in all panchayats, Wi-fi in schools and universities and public Wi-Fi hotspots.
The programme will generate huge number of IT, telecom and electronics jobs, both directly and indirectly.
Success of this programme will make India digitally empowered and the leader in usage of IT in delivery of services related to various domains such as health, education, agriculture, banking, etc.