OPEN APP
Home >Opinion >Views >The digital future of our country is distinctly being re-imagined

If you ask a group of people what ‘Digital India’ means to them, it is really interesting to see the variety of responses you get. For some, it is about Indian tech startups—Zomato, Ola, Urban Company, etc, that are redefining how we consume goods or services; for some it’s the legendary tech services companies—TCS, Infosys and the like that have built India’s mammoth $200 billion tech sector; for many, it is the power of social media and how it’s giving every Indian a voice; and for others, it is the increasing ease of use as more and more services, including government facilities, go online—UPI payments, Direct Benefit Transfers through Aadhaar, CoWin for vaccination, etc.

It’s the 75th year of India’s independence, and as I sit back to reflect on what is Digital India and what is unique in this journey, for me it is the transformation of lives and livelihoods that we are seeing at the grassroots, powered by technology and the ingenuity of India’s innovation ecosystem. And enabling the same is a quiet revolution that is at the heart of India’s transformation into Digital India—India’s ‘platformization’ story, that is, how the country has built one of the world’s most robust and comprehensive digital public-good platforms as the foundation of Digital India.

They say that good technology is invisible. India’s platformization strategy has quietly begun to impact each and every one of our lives: for instance, each time we use the UPI (Unified Payments Interface) to make a payment, or book a vaccination slot using CoWin, or use Aadhaar to access a service. It is the highway on which Digital India runs. And with over 20 platforms impacting over a billion lives, India is truly leading the world on building the substratum for a strong and scalable digital economy.

A digital public-good platform creates enormous value by enabling seamless transactions, catalysing innovation and generating efficiency and transparency for users. India’s 20-plus public digital platforms have successfully built scale across multiple citizen services and also helped create a vibrant tech startup ecosystem that is making good use of this digital infrastructure. The rise of public digital platforms also represents a productive engagement between the government and Indian industry to work together in tackling crucial socio-economic challenges.

Aadhaar has been India’s most visible digital platform. When you speak with Nandan Nilekani, the visionary behind Aadhaar, even he is amazed by how rapidly this ecosystem has attained 1.3 billion registrations and how a unique identity has become the foundation for digital transformation across sectors.

The state-run Bhim UPI app clocked over 3.2 billion transactions in July 2021, marking a game-changing penetration of digital payments in India. FastTag, which became mandatory earlier this year and enables online toll collection, has already facilitated 192 million transactions. The Umang app, which offers a one-stop platform for multiple government services, has witnessed a cumulative 1.7 billion transactions.

Digital platforms have also played a key role in India’s response to the covid crisis. Think of the MyGov Chatbot, which has provided validated information on key resources, or eSanjeevani, which has so far enabled 9 million telemedicine consultations, or CoWin, our vaccination gateway that has logged over 500 million vaccine doses.

So why is this important and unique to India? First is the design principles: Affordability through low-cost development, interoperability with an API-driven backend, and the driving of large-scale reach. Secondly, access infrastructure: Mobile-first suitability even for the country’s non-smartphone segment, multi-lingual interfaces, and, most importantly, the leveraging of offline infrastructure of Common Service Centres in remote areas. Lastly, it is about innovation, enabling entrepreneurs to leverage these platforms and create truly unique solutions for India’s opportunities and challenges.

Open digital ecosystems today have the potential to unlock opportunities worth $700 billion for India by 2030, as per a report by BCG. The environmental, societal and governance (ECG) impact across sectors like healthcare, talent, urban governance, agriculture, law and justice, education and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) can create new value of $500 billion-plus, and over $200 billion in savings for the country.

From enabling farmers to sell their produce through e-commerce platforms, to facilitating education and healthcare in the remotest parts of our nation, digitalization offers enormous transformative opportunities for India. The upcoming National Digital Health Mission: Universal Health Initiative, for example, can be a game-changer for healthcare services in the country.

In the last 75 years, India has made a tremendous leap to become a robust digital economy, and the future of our country will be defined by how well we can integrate digital solutions across platforms. By the 100th year of our independence, plenty more can be achieved, for which we must strive towards developing a seamless, transparent, and inclusive digital ecosystem that is driven by India’s world-class innovation capabilities.

The country must build on its digital advantage and pivot towards a more data-driven structure of governance. These platforms have laid a strong foundation for India to attain digital maturity. For many years, the country was known as the world’s “back office". That is rapidly changing, with the Indian tech industry pivoting to become the world’s digital solutions partner. In my view, the triage of digital tech solutions, digital talent and digital platforms at scale constitute Digital India.

The next few years will be decisive for India’s potential to stimulate employment and get back to being one of the world’s fasting-growing large economies. As we say at Nasscom, when the world thinks ‘digital’, the world must think ‘India.

Debjani Ghosh is president of the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom)

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our App Now!!

Close
×
Edit Profile
My ReadsRedeem a Gift CardLogout