We have truly entered the twenty first century. With every passing day, technology seems to have become an essential aspect of our day-to-day lives. It is, thus, no surprise that the Central Government's Digital India programme has stirred a lot of curiosity and debate among people from various sectors.
Digital India was introduced with the intention of not only transforming the public service environment but also the society by the use of information technology. This initiative focusses on nine areas:
The scope of a Digital tomorrow
While introducing the programme the Prime Minister said:
Some of the most striking features of the initiative are as follows:
a) 2,50,000 village Panchayats would be covered under the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) by December 2016.
b) Providing mobile coverage to uncovered villages
c) IT to be used to re-engineer and simplify government processes and improve efficiency.
d) IT/ITES in Northeastern States
e) Use of technology to facilitate better services
Guarantee better growth of IT-based companies and startups across Kerala
Here is what the IT Minister of Kerala P.K. Kunhalikutty had to say:
Startups: The boon vs bane game
Entrepreneurs would state that the current era is also the era of startups. Kerala was the first Indian state to establish a Private-Public Partnership (PPP) Technology Business Incubator (TBI). The Startup Village, situated in Kochi, has completed three years since its installation. Ove 500 companies are being incubated at the establishment. Thus, if one were to look into the impact of the Digital India movement in a state, like Kerala, an insight into the views of Startup owners prove to be informative.
Ayes and the Nos
In a random survey conducted among startups across Kerala (or India- check for details) by Onmanorama, it was found that the initiative was welcomed by many:
Will Kerala benefit from the Digital India intiative?
The heads of India's first Startup incubator have welcomed the 'Digital India' initiative. Here is what Sanjay Vijaykumar, the Chairman of the Startup Village, Kochi, has to say:
According to Sanjay, Digital India will be a success due to the three factors:
Computers – These machines do several tasks that humans used to do while creating new jobs simulataneously
Internet – This has democratised information and the economy and has brought the world together in a global village
Smartphones – several advancements in technology have made the smartphone as powerful as a 'super' computer.
Manoj, the Head of the Startup Studio at Startup Village, Kochi also spoke in favour of the initiative:
With regards to its impact on Kerala's industrial growth, Sanjay stated that Digital India would ensure that Kerala would be the first state to have 100% literacy, 100% smartphones and 100% Internet connectivity in the country. He added, “Off late, many youngster are coming forward to create startups and become job creators. What is stopping Kerala is not competetion from other states, it’s just the people within Kerala itself. For, once we move outside Kerala, we work extremely hard. This is a golden opportunity for Kerala to emerge and transform into a developed state from within.”
Young entrepreneurs across the state of Kerala seem hopeful of the Centre's latest project.
One of the entrepreneurs at the Startup Village said that Kerala has taken steps towards the implementation of M-Governance. This has benefited many people. He also said, “I hope that the Central government will provide the financial support as well as technical guidance that would be required for the upgrading of these systems through the Digital India program.” There were also hopes for Aadhar API becoming cheaper, more accessible and easier to subscribe. “There should be a web portal that allows to apply online for Aadhar API subscription," the entrepreneur added.
Members of the Core Team at the Startup Village in Kochi have also supported the Centre's latest move.
Manoj of the Startup Studio, Startup Village speaks:
“Kerala is already encouraging an entrepreneurship culture with institutions like Kerala Startup Mission, Startup Village playing a key role. Kochi is already one of the fastest growing Tier 2 cities in terms of IT and Technology enterprises. Kerala has already implemented e-governance in a lot of areas. Therefore Kerala already has a strong base to build on with respect to the sector. The Digital India initiative will definitely be a boost to the state’s IT sector.”
When startups can reach out to rural India
While formulating its move, the Centre had provided for the development of Rural India as well.
Several experts state that Digital India will create opportunities for startup enterprises to reach out to the villages of India as well. Some believe that the he National Optical Fibre Network being laid out to connect all villages in India would take Digital India to the heart of the nation. Others stated that by having a product tailored to the rural class, would enable startups to capture the huge market at the bottom of the pyramid, thus making it a viable business opportunity for them too.
Here is what J. A Chowdhary, Co-Chairman, FICCI had to say:
Digital Education is one such aspect of the many programmes that have drawn the attention of Startup enterrprises. Some startup entrepreneurs believe that this could be an opportunity for those village – based startups that can bring a lot of change and grow faster than other established enterprises.
With any great act, comes a great deal of responsibility. Thus, many say that a few aspects also ought to be provided for.
Jaykrishnan, CEO of Asimov Robotics, said, “I would suggest 'Digital India' must aim at generating more Intellectual Properties (IP) than scaling the low-end technology.”
J.A Chowdhary, however, did issue a word of caution regarding the impact of Digital India on the farming sector. He said, “One must take care. In doing so, the farmer must be educated to look into several aspects associated with the digital world such as revealing personal information that could lead to hacking and several other cyber crimes,” he added.
The questions that arise now are:
a) Has cyberspace security crossed the minds of its users?
b) How effectively will the issue be looked into?
c) How long will it be before cyberspace awareness takes the driver's seat?