Dream project Digital India is an e-governing initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s to integrate government departments and people of India. It aims at providing government services to citizens of India electronically by reducing paperwork. Digital India has three core components which include the creation of Digital infrastructure, Delivering services digitally and Digital literacy. This project is an Umbrella Programme–covering many departments.
The project, with an overlay of Rs.1 lakh crore, will ensure that government services are available to citizens electronically and help people gain benefits from the latest information and communication technology. It also aims to ensure that all villages avail high- speed Internet at affordable rates.
The scheme will be monitored and controlled by the Digital India Advisory group which will be chaired by the Ministry of Communications and IT. It will be an inter-ministerial initiative where all ministries and departments shall offer their own services to the public Healthcare, Education, Judicial services etc. The Public-private-partnershipmodel shall be adopted selectively. In addition, there are plans to restructure the National Informatics Centre. This project is one among the top priority projects of the Modi Administration and the project is to be accomplished by 2019.
As part of the plan, the government has set a target of providing broadband connectivity to 2.5 lakh villages and making as many schools Wi-Fi enabled by 2019.
On 21 April, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) organized the Digital India Summit 2015 with the theme “Accelerating the Digital transition” at The Hotel Taj, with four break-out sessions on:
- Tackling Structural Issues and Developing Business Models for Digital India
- Overcoming India’s Last Mile Challenge – Creating Access through Network Reach, Innovative Business Models and Affordable Data-Enabled Devices/Internet plans
- Developing a Digital Workforce – Empowering the Current and Future Workforce Through Digital Literacy
- Delivering Critical Services through a Universal, Verifiable Digital Identity
The Session on Overcoming India’s Last Mile Challenge – Creating Access through Network Reach, Innovative Business Models and Affordable Data-Enabled Devices/Internet plans was chaired by Ms Aruna Sundararajan, Additional Secretary, Department of Telecom and CMD of Bharat Boradband Network Limited and Co-Chaired by Mr Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman, Microsoft India.
Given India’s size & demographics providing digital reach to the people at the right price is one of the most piquant issues that we face. Bringing every citizen on the digital backbone will increase empowerment & inclusion. Reaching out to the 2.5 lakh villages as envisaged in the plan will require intent, innovation & investment.
Mrs Roop Sharma, President Cable Operators Federation of India was one of the panelists in this session and she had invited some last mile cable operators to get a hands down experience on the problems faced at the last mile and also what the digitalization of cable TV has already achieved that could be leveraged in achieving the government aim. Mrs Sharma gave the advantages of using cable TV networks for broadband. She told that –
- Indian Cable Networks connected more than 100 million households with about 40 million cable TV connections in the rural areas. They serve a population of about 600 million people. Most of the networks are on fiberoptic cables including in the rural areas, each joining many localities and villages. Last 500 mtrs of the networks are on coaxial cables that need to be upgraded to two-way to enable them to provide broadband services.
- Co-axial cables can carry 3 GBPS data, much more than any copper cable and it is one step short of FTTH, the ultimate broadband service.
- Manpower of cable TV networks is trained on the job is readily available, working on these fiberoptic – Coax cable HFC networks for many years. This manpower is expert in handling day to day problems of the network, working 24x7 successfully providing service to the consumers for the last 25 years, much before even the mobile revolution was ushered in.
- Because of this video revolution, we have 800 satellite channels, 6000 MSOs and more than 100,000 cable operators in the country.
- Many networks distribute internet service of ISPs using Ethernet technology. Some MSOs are also providing broadband on DOCSIS technology in the cities.
She informed the panel that these operators have also generated employment opportunities for lakhs of local people and trained them to use sophisticated equipment like Splicing machines, OTDR, transmitters and nodes.
Earlier, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in Digital India summit, organised by Times Television Network that the centre is ready to use stellites, balloons or drones to fast-forward digital connectivity in India’s rural and remote areas. He said in 2011 Rs 20,100 cr national optic fibre network initiative has been considered to provide Internet services at speed of 100 megabit per second(mbps) across 2.5 Lakh Gram Panchayat.
Another focus area in the Digital India programme is e-governance. Besides making government services available on Internet and mobile platforms, the key challenge will be to take the 2.5 lakh panchayats in the country online. The target of the mission is also to make 10 lakh people digitally literate by 2015-end.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chief Rahul Khullar said that the target to connect 2.5 Lakh GP with broadband is an over-ambitious project as at present 89 per cent of all districts have at least one private operator and 73 per cent have two. He suggested to provide 100 per cent connectivity to metros first then to cities and talukas in a gradual manner. He also suggested to first cover 50 per cent population and then go to more ambitious target.
The project aims to provide thrust to nine pillars identified as growth areas. These include broadband highways, everywhere mobile connectivity, Public Internet Access programme, e-governance, ekranti (which aims to give electronic delivery of services), information for all, electronics manufacturing, IT for jobs and early harvest programmes.
Government will prefer to adopt public private partnerships (PPP) wherever feasible for rolling out the programme.
The DI initiative must be read along with the Draft Internet of Things (IoT) Policy of India. However, the problems, the challenges and the deficiencies in the Indian legal structure remain the same.
The project aims to provide thrust to nine pillars identified as growth areas. These include broadband highways, Universal Access to Phones, Public Internet Access programme, e-governance, ekranti (which aims to give electronic delivery of services), Electronics manufacturing (for targeting net zero Imports), IT for jobs and early harvest programmes.
This covers three sub components, namely Broadband for All Rural, Broadband for All Urban and National Information Infrastructure. Under Broadband for All Rural, 2.5 Lakh Gram Panchayats would be covered by December, 2016 with estimated cost of approximately Rs. 32,000 Cr.
Under Broadband for All Urban, Virtual Network Operators would be leveraged for service delivery and communication infrastructure in new urban development and buildings would be mandated.
National Information Infrastructure would integrate the networks like SWAN, NKN and NOFN along with cloud enabled National and State Data Centres. It will also have provision for horizontal connectivity to 100, 50, 20 and 5 government offices/ service outlets at state, district, block and panchayat levels respectively. DeitY will be the nodal department and the estimated cost is to be complete by March 2017 with estimated cost around Rs 15,686 Cr.
Universal Access to Mobile Connectivity
It focuses on network penetration to cover remaining uncovered villages (approximate 42,300 Villages) in the country by 2018 with the estimated cost of Rs 16,000 Cr.
Public Internet Access Programme
Public Internet Access Programme is having two parts namely Common Service Centres and Post Offices as multi-service centres. Common Service Centres would be made viable, multi-funcitonal end-point for delivery of services and the number of CSCs would be increased to 2.5 Lakh from existing 135,000 (approximate). DeitY would be the nodal department to implement the scheme.
In its second part total 1.5 lakh Post Offices have been proposed to be converted into multi service centres and the Department of Post would be its nodal Agency.
e-Governance: Reforming Government through Technology
Government Business Process Re-engineering using IT to improve transaction includes form simplification and reduction, online application and tracking, Interface between departments, use of online repositories, and integration of services and platforms.
US and Indian experts agree to continue exploring opportunities for collaboration on implementing Digital India initiative, with the goal of enhancing digital infrastructure, deploying e-governance and e-services, and expanding the diffusion and use of ICT as a tool to expand economic opportunity, boost productivity, create jobs and empower citizens.
Some believe that DI cannot be successful till mandatory e-governance services in India are introduced. Having incomplete implementation of the National e-Governance Plan of India will only affect the success of the DI project. India has poor regulations in the field of privacy protection, data protection, cyber law, telegraph, e-governance, e-commerce, etc. Further, many legal experts believe that e-governance and DI without cyber security is useless. In these circumstances, Critical infrastructure protection would be a really tough task to manage for the Indian Government. The project also lacks the concept of proper E-waste management.