Half a decade later, is Digital India a reality?

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On 2 July 2015, PM Narendra Modi launched the Digital India Campaign – an initiative to improve online infrastructure and increase Internet connectivity across the nation. This was a clear effort to develop India into a technologically driven, knowledge economy.

5 years down the line and one is forced to ask if this dream is one that was too far fetched to have in the first place. How successful has this extravagant campaign really been? Was it just a political gimmick or a well thought out plan with actionable steps – steps that were truly followed? How does a country struggling with so many odds, achieve something so idealistic? Are 5 years enough to tell? Will any amount of time be enough?

In the wake of demonetization, many of us were forced to believe in the reality of digital India – digital payments, online transactions and every other pensive truth that came with it. Today, an idealistic notion of digital India has undoubtedly emerged as the new normal. E-governance is the way to go – Aadhar card itself is a digital victory in more ways than one. Statistics support the claim that the consumers’ shifting inclination towards Internet adoption is elevating India’s position in the digital space altogether. You’ll find an Ola for every Uber, a Flipkart for every Amazon, a Hotstar for every Netflix and the list goes on. With telecom players such as Jio dominating the market in no time, the smartphone base is rising everyday. The largest economies in the world are viewing India with genuinely strong potential, owing to the volume game itself. An aggressive push by govt. of India, in the form of Digital India has proved to be a real game changer.

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Nevertheless, accessibility was and still is the biggest evil India is faced with. Digital India itself is based on the premise of affordable, seamless and extensively available Internet. Jio’s 4G filled this gap as a homegrown solution to our broadband starved nation. The point was to start somewhere. However, much to my surprise (or not), cheap Internet was enough to tempt millions of Indians to join the network but connections don’t count for connectivity. The Jio network clogged because of the poor condition and lack of India’s digital infrastructure. Which brings me to my point – accessibility is incomplete without the pre-requisites of literacy and supporting infrastructure. This must be coupled with a drastic change in mindset – of policy makers and consumers alike. Broadband highways might as well be as important as national highways, no?

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To conclude, digital India is unquestionably a step in the right direction. We’ve reached a stage where technology is argued to be a fundamental necessity amongst two square meals, clean water and shelter. But the question I’m still left with is – Even if a billion users have the ability to be online, how many of these are online in a meaningful way?

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