India’s journey to become one of the best functioning democracies and its signs of rapid economic growth has made it the center of attention with both ambitions and speculations crafting contrasting narratives. The steady rise of the BJP and its new policy initiatives has created several groups opposed to each other. Some hope for a modern digitized nation while others have developed the habit of displaying hardcore resentment to any constructive change with the hidden agenda of sheer political opportunism. The recent Digital India initiative, the first of its kind to strive for the much sought after digital connectivity, by permitting fast track flow of information to achieve transparent and effective governance, continues to face stiff challenges. Political quarrels between the government and the opposition have benefited none. There is an urgent need to evaluate the Digital India initiative, free from politics, to remain objective and to do justice to society by enhancing its overall well-being.
It is clear that information is the currency of the forthcoming centuries and our persistent denial of maintaining adequate transparency has resulted in evils like corruption and red-tapism which creep into our society and traumatize the lives of the poor and the ignorant many who are already too fragile to bear life’s challenges. Some critics have pointed out that there is a massive digital divide, which is definitely a genuine concern. But what stops us from viewing challenges as opportunities and imparting digital literacy to achieve better efficiency and the greater goals of gradually phasing out corruption and achieving our cherished long-term goals of transparent and effective administration?
There is also widespread criticism of excess corporatisation of the Digital India initiative. Of late, there has been a multitude of letters to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) concerning Facebook’s Free Basics campaign on ‘free basics’, differential pricing and net neutrality. This concern is however largely justified because a level playing field will remain a distant possibility otherwise. But should we abandon this entire initiative because of such resentment to these big players, or constructively create a competitive environment for smaller firms which will force them to innovate after being liberated from the shackles of protectionism they have been bound with for decades. It would be highly appreciated if the government works to minimize these anxieties by incorporating friendly schemes for the smaller players to gain confidence. The government can support them by rewarding innovations, conducting frequent skill upgradation workshops, providing marketing and financial assistance until they are able to become competent enough in the market. One might complain that it would add to significant training and development costs. But many have stopped viewing this as a fixed investment in enhancing the skills of our labour force and, in turn, realize that it would benefit us immensely in the long run to counter international competition while enabling us to improve transparency in the public sector which is showing signs of revival after decades.
Thus, this new initiative offers us a plethora of complimentary threats and opportunities which can be scripted to suit our narrative of better governance and skill development which would certainly be the pillars of our economy if implemented with caution and in the best possible and inclusive manner. There is nothing wrong with aspiring for change and breaking the jinx of backwardness and, most importantly, in undertaking well thought out initiatives to convert our weaknesses into strengths and threats into opportunities in the long run.