India looks to become a leader in digital revolution: Ravi Shankar Prasad

Ravi Shankar Prasad cites the example of ‘Digital Desh Drive 2.0’, which shows how mobile phones are changing the lives ordinary Indians

A file photo of information and technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Photo:Ramesh Pathania/Mint
A file photo of information and technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Photo:Ramesh Pathania/Mint

New Delhi: India does not want to miss the digital revolution and, in fact, aims to become the leader of the revolution, information and technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

Speaking at the India Summit organized by The Economist on Wednesday, the minister cited the example of Digital Desh Drive 2.0, which shows how mobile phones are changing the lives of people. Digital Desh Drive 2.0 is a book conceptualized and written by leaders of group of companies and industry bodies including Google India, NowFloats, Paytm, iSPIRT (Indian Software Product Industry Roundtable) and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI).

The book cites real life examples of entrepreneurs in rural areas and how technology has played an important role in making them successful.

“Digital India is political, ideology and Centre-state neutral. Indians love technology, they follow the process of observing it, adopting and enjoying it, and then they become empowered with it,” he said.

The minister said there are 400 million Indians currently on the internet, and that the number will touch 500 million soon. Almost 60% of them will be using mobile phones to access the Internet.

Asserting that the government’s Digital India initiative is more for the poor than the rich, he said the initiative is being used “to bank the unbanked, fund the unfunded and secure the unsecured” , besides “bridging the digital divide”. The government aims to open a common service centre in every gram panchayat. Already, there are around 220,000 common service centres in the country.

“Indian IT professionals and products are present across the globe in many countries in spite of global barriers,” Prasad said.

Prasad’s opening remarks were followed by a panel discussion among Srikanth Bolla, chief executive officer (CEO) of Bollant Industries, Hemant Kanoria, chairman and managing director of Srei Infrastructure Finance, T.R. Ramachandran, group country manager, India and South Asia,Visa, and Shinjini Kumar, CEO, Paytm payments bank.

The discussion centred around various ways in which the poor and the unbanked in backward areas can become digitally and financially empowered.

“Three aspects have revolutionised financial inclusion: First, it was the regional rural banks, followed by microfinance institutions, and now, the banking correspondents who are reaching out to the unfunded population,” Ramachandran said.

Companies like Bollant Industries and Srei Infrastructure Finance Ltd. have managed to mark their own niche in making people employable and inclusive of the system. Entrepreneurship is the key.

“Firstly, there is a need to empower people; only then any service can prove to be meaningful to them,” Bolla said. Hyderabad-based Bollant makes eco-friendly packaging solutions, employing disabled and uneducated workers.

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