The unimpressive performance of India in terms of Networked Readiness Index (NRI) highlights the weaknesses at which India needs to look closely, and address the issues. India ranked low in Networked Readiness Index (NRI) 2016. The report points out that the Digital India program has to meet several challenges to reach its goal.
What is particularly worrying is that India’s performance has been progressively falling over the last four years. In 2013, it achieved 68 out 144 countries, while in May 2014, it dropped to 82 out of 148 countries, and in 2015 it got 83rd rank out of 148 countries.
Performance of projects under Digital India
The Rs 1.3 trillion Digital India program seeks to launch a large number of e-governance services across different sectors. These include education, healthcare and banking. Of course, the objective of all this is to bring transparency in the administration of services provided by the government to its citizens. Further, it would reduce corruption and lead to inclusive growth.
How the government is executing Digital India
The government is leveraging technologies in mobile, analytics, Internet of Things and cloud technology to implement the Digital India program, which is in turn associated with program such as Smart Cities and Make in India. The World Economic Forum (WEF) shows though India today has a better political and regulatory environment, its performance ranked 91.
One of the reasons for India’s low ranking is that its performance has remained static while that of other countries is improving fast to cope up the new emerging technologies. WEF has further attributed such poor performance to poor infrastructure and poor technology skills (individual level). The poor skills have become an impediment to widespread acceptance of information and communication technology.
A few achievements
India has made a few achievements in e-governance projects such as Digital Locker, ebastas, the linking of Aadhaar to bank accounts to disburse subsidies.
Bharat Net (erstwhile National Optical Fiber Network), the country’s digital infrastructure, has created a common service centre for each panchayat, for which all post offices and CSCs are to be upgraded.
As for broadband technology, India is better placed. According to a report by Akamai (a US-based content delivery and cloud service provider), India’s average broadband speed is 23.5 Mbps and maximum speed is 25.5 Mbps.
- Many people in rural areas have no Internet connection, and also the content in regional languages is not sufficient to keep the readers engaged. Only 15% of the households can access the Internet, and few people can access mobile broadband, which has as little as 5.5 subscriptions for every 100 people. This is despite the increasing affordability of ICT environment in the country.
- According to WEF 2016 report, nearly 33% of Indian population is functionally illiterate (rank: 95), one-third of youth do not attend secondary education (rank:103).
- The WEF report applauds the achievements in providing online services and making people participate in e-governance projects, this poor as compared to globally the best services.
- There are vast differences in urban centers such as metropolitan cities and remote rural areas, where even basic services such as electricity is unavailable to run the Digital India program.
- Above all, effective execution of the Digital India Program is a major challenge. The initiative is coordinated by DeitY, and implementation is carried on by government departments, state and the Union territories.
- Smart Cities and Make in India programs entail considerable investment in developing manpower, upgrading technology, digital literacy, and a legal framework
Despite a few remarkable achievements, many more initiatives need to be undertaken. The WEF Report is a reminder to the government in this regard, and underlines the need to realize the positive impact of Digital India and other related programs.