Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday launched the ambitious Digital India Campaign in the national capital with a view to empower the people of the country through the program.
Digital India is a massive tech push to provide electronic governance and universal phone connectivity across the country. The aim is to bridge India’s digital divide, bringing in large investments in technology manufacturing.
The PM described Digital India as a roadmap to change India’s future. “Earlier, a child used to playfully wrench your reading glasses”, he said, “Today, he reaches for your phone. We need to understand this change or the world will pass us by.”
‘E-Governance is going to change into M-Governance,’ the PM said, adding with a smile, “M is not Modi Governance, it is mobile governance.” He asked why the country can’t make quality electronic goods that are globally competitive.
Reliance Industries Ltd plans to invest about 2.5 lakh crore rupees ($39.3 billion) in digital initiatives, Chairman Mukesh Amabani said, though he did not indicate a timeline. “Normally, industry moves faster than government”, he said, “but with Digital India, I have no hesitation in saying the government has moved faster.”
But the push to connect India and drive a national fibre optic network, approved by the previous Congress-led government in 2011, has made slow progress in utilizing technology to bring services and deliverables to those outside large towns and cities.
Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said that during Digital India week, the government expects “billions of dollars in investment”, critical for a government that needs to create more jobs quickly.
The government plan aims to stop net imports of technology and electronics by 2020, while creating over 100 million jobs.
A growing economy and falling handset prices make India one of the fastest growing smartphone markets in the world, and PM Modi wants to harness that to drive social development in fields like education and health.
He has been named chairman of a high-powered monitoring committee for the initiative. The challenges are many. India’s average Internet speed was ranked 115th globally earlier this year among countries studied by services provider Akamai Technologies. And India had just a little over 100 million broadband subscribers at the end of April.