Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to do everything possible to make enterprise and innovation easier so that India emerges as an innovation hub and keeps pace with the fast changing world.
“The world is changing, quicker than ever before and we cannot remain oblivious to that. If we don’t innovate, if we don’t come up with cutting edge products there will be stagnation,” he said in a ‘Digital Dialogue’, and added, “On the part of the government, I assure absolute support.”
Responding to numerous suggestions with regard to digitalisation received through the day on a specially-created platform on social media, Modi said, “We are doing everything possible to make enterprise and innovation easier. We have covered substantial ground in the last 14 months and want to do a lot more in the future.”
The Government of India wants the country to emerge as the innovation hub where the next big ideas emerge, driven by the power of technology.
He said that several big companies of today are start-ups of yesterday. “They were born with a spirit of enterprise and adventure kept alive due to hard work and perseverance and today have become shining beacons of innovation,” he noted.
Replying to the questions on challenges to the road map of Digital India, Modi said, “When we have taken up such an ambitious initiative and that too at such a large scale, there will be several challenges. But, we should neither underestimate these challenges nor should we get overwhelmed by them. We must be laser-focused on our Mission and that is what we are doing.”
Talking about the challenges, he mentioned access and affordable access as also skills and knowledge.
“We have to empower our citizens with the skills and knowledge to use digital applications and services. We also have to volunteer time and effort to share digital skills so that our fellow citizens who have recently been digitally empowered get to know how to use this powerful medium and are able to get the maximum out of this medium,” he added.
Another challenge, he said, is reforming the citizen-government interface and the processes of governance. “A Digital-First model of governance will not only bring in efficiency and transparency but also will also dramatically reduce corruption,” he said.
One more challenge is innovation and keeping pace with the latest in technology, Modi said. “Everyday, there are new innovations that is making some pieces of technology obsolete. It is in this fast-changing technology environment that we must realise the Digital India goals,” he added.
Modi, who launched Digital India initiative a few days back, said technology empowers the less empowered. “If there is a strong force that brings a change in the lives of those on the margins it is technology. It serves as a leveller and a springboard,” he added.
Citing the example of a farmer, he said, technology can make agriculture productive, prosperous and profitable. “We have seen this worldwide. I was happy to know that crores of Indian farmers have been receiving agriculture related information trough SMS,” the Prime Minister added.
He noted that recently, the Cabinet cleared the scheme of Promotion of National Agriculture Market through Agri-Tech Infrastructure Fund under which 585 regulated markets across India will be integrated with common e-platform.
“Farmers and traders can get opportunities to purchase and sell agricultural commodities at optimal prices in a transparent manner,” he said.
While batting for technology, Modi said 3As are important for a Digital India– Accessible, Additive and Affordable. He said access is key and the government wants the 125 crore citizens of the country to be digitally empowered.
“We already have seen broadband usage across India go up by 63 pc in the last year. We need to accelerate this further,” he said, adding the government efforts must be complemented by similar energy and pro-activeness by other stakeholders.
“I would also like to see the private sector become part of the efforts to ensure broadband internet has the widest reach across India,” he said.
He said the Digital India initiative is about value addition which must enrich the lives of the people. “It must offer something unique to everyone, which can make a positive difference,” Modi said.
Underlining that affordability is the third key, the Prime Minister said “A product can be accessible and additive but it will never leave the long-term impact until it can be affordable. Because, at the end of the day, who are we working for? Who will gain the most from these initiatives- the poor, the marginalised, the neo-middle class.”
He said he does not see it as being limited to digital literacy as the larger point lies in encouraging people to use technology.
“In some cases the problem is access. In some cases it is lack of adequate guidance. In some cases it may even be offering the technology the person needs,” the Prime Minister said, adding “We are attending to all these challenges. Once we increase access to technology, the challenge of digital literacy will be mitigated.”
Talking about his emphasis on mobile governance, he said it will be a “game changer” as far as increasing technology penetration is concerned.
“A mobile is something every Indian dreams of having and is something every Indian even ends up having. We must make full use of this. Giving our citizens a choice architecture, which enables them to choose technology led solutions through carefully calibrated nudges will help.
“A robust choice architecture implies producers are constantly innovating and consumers have a gamut of products and services to chose from. There will be something for everything,” he said.
Emphasising the importance of harnessing technology in totality, Modi said, “In the past we have seen use of technology in isolation. The power of technology lies in convergence. Convergence brings convenience and this increases usage.”
“To me technology used wisely is a catalyst to magically transforming the way we live,” he said.
Modi said the government wants to give every Indian “a unique digital identity”. In the past, there have been too many digital identities for every person but every service has it’s own requirement and every service has its own database, he said.
“In terms of scale, extent and influence, our Digital India initiatives must be path breaking and all inclusive, laying the foundation for how we script India’s development story in the 21st century,” the Prime Minister said.
“A decade ago and beyond, the pressing challenge was to take mobile phones to as many people as possible. Today, when already a large majority of people have mobile phones in the country yes, we do hope the number increases but the focus has shifted only beyond numerical reach of mobiles,” he said.
He also talked about the recent launch of ‘Narendra Modi Mobile App.’ Saying it is a one-stop destination for all the latest news and updates from his side and allows people to directly communicate with him and gives him an opportunity to hear their insights.
Referring to ‘M-governance’, he said it is empowered governance and has the potential to make development a truly inclusive and comprehensive mass movement. It puts governance into everyone’s reach. It puts governance in your hands 24/7, he added.
“Technology has time and again created opportunities for a whole new generation of jobs and industries,” Modi said and added that people in India already have a natural advantage given their strengths in software and Information Technology.
Even as technology and automation may make low skilled jobs redundant in some sectors, we have the natural advantage to learn new skills and lay claim to a whole new generation of jobs to manage all of this new age automation. Hence my mantra is don’t talk about “Digital India”, “Make in India”, “Design in India” and “Skilled India” in silos.
“All of them are interrelated. It is in the synergy across all three lies India’s Opportunity for the 21st Century,” he said.
Modi said the industrial revolution may have come late to India, “but we are going strong in the current start-up revolution. I am told that we are currently the 4th largest startup ecosystem in the world and soon we are poised to be 2nd, only after the US. And the best part is- this is driven by the youth. This is drawing the interest of the world and has energised people across India.
“I want to tell everyone — our quest for a Digital India is all encompassing. It is going to touch your lives in several ways, making it easier. For instance, the Digital Locker and e-Sign will manage all key documents with ease and efficiency. Documents can be accessed at a click and that too without being inconvenienced,” he said.
Citing the example of health-care, he said, eHospital would mean no more wasting time standing in hospital lines. “Instead, there is online registration for appointment, online payment and online reports”.
To a question about an online portal where information and prices of drugs and medicine will be made available, the Prime Minister said the Department of Electronics and IT is actively working on this.
The National Scholarship Portal brings together all scholarship schemes under a single application form. “Thus, you will have one convenient platform to search the right scholarship, filling several forms and tracking their progress.”
He said the real strength of these initiatives will come when they are extensively used. “More usage will enable them to become mature and world class. That is why, I urge everyone to use these innovative services as much as possible,” he said.
Modi said his being on social media has enriched him in many ways. “After a long day at work, I log on to social media and it is very very refreshing. I am active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram. It gives me a pulse of what people think. get a lot of feedback,” he said.
He said the future belongs to social media, which is “egalitarian and inclusive”.
“Social media is not about any country, any language, any colour, any community but it is about human values and that is the underlying link binding humanity,” he said.
“Technology for me is — discover, learn, evolve and implement. It combines 3S — speed, simplicity and service. Technology is fast, technology is simple and technology is a brilliant way to serve people. It is also a great teacher. The more we learn about technology and the more we learn through technology, the better it is.”
He said technology transforms people’s lives, from mitigating poverty to simplifying processes, ending corruption to providing better services.
“Technology is omnipresent. It has become the single-most important instrument of human progress,” Modi said