Digital India

Connectivity initiatives aim to transform India

The term Digital India describes a collection of ambitious connectivity initiatives aimed at harnessing the power of digital technology to build national electronic networks, improve government efficiency and empower Indian citizens with expanded access to information, education, health and other services.

Digital India is more than the sum of its parts, however. The term Digital India has brand power. It articulates the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government to transform India into a modern, even model, nation using digital technology as the primary enabler.

As an individual known for his respect for tradition, leading a nation that takes great pride in its ancient heritage, Modi can credibly argue for progress that doesn’t threaten Indian civilization but rather helps sustain it into the future.

The future is arriving quickly, however, and Modi’s government has much to accomplish because India has been a nation struggling with inadequate infrastructure serving a population with a wide disparity of income, education and opportunity.

Ironically, inadequate infrastructure may prove to be an advantage. It frees India from contending with legacy systems that retard digital advancement in some highly developed western nations. India can potentially leapfrog from infrastructure deficiency to state-of-the-art.

One of the key initiatives, called BharatNet, will create a fiber optic network connecting 250,000 villages. The scope of this project, and its difficult logistics, high costs and deadline challenges, indicate both the enormity of the government’s vision and the difficulties in accomplishing it.

The Indian government will not be alone in advancing its grand ambition, however. The Digital India vision drew immediate support from the United Nations when it was formally announced during Digital India Week in July 2015.

And Digital India is expected to inspire increased foreign and local investment by industries and entrepreneurs. It complements and strengthens the Make in India program that the government launched in September 2014 to encourage international companies to establish manufacturing facilities in India.

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