Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Digital India - A Better India

At a sea beach, were sitting two people, a young boy, and an elderly man. Talking to each other, they were discussing their worlds. How much they liked their worlds.
the old man to the young boy - "let me take you back to show you how we did things you people find so easy."
The boy was astonished.
here we go, the old man exclaimed.
and both went down a few decades to 1980's. the era of telegrams and letters and postcards.

The old man took the boy to a yesteryear post office. people there worked happily. There was no cellphone, or computer, or anything of that sort once can find in these days. Just while they were taking the stroll in the post office, one of the postmen packed up his bag to ride down to the nearby village to distribute the articles. They joined him. riding the bicycle, a vehicle of the masses which, not everyone could afford in those days. Cars were a rare sight. The young boy was astonished at the sight of a yesteryear's India.

All three of them reached the village the postman was to deliver the letters in. Those days postmen were a respected lot. As soon as the postmen entered the village outskirts, news would spread throughout of his arrival, and almost everyone who was expecting a letter or postcard or a money order would flock to the seat of the panchayat, where the postman would rest after cycling all the way through to the village to distribute the letters. He carefully sorted out the letters of this village, called out names of people whose letter or postcard or money order had arrived. The boy was amazed at the efficiency with which they worked. Handling over the articles to the right people, on the day the mail arrived. Knowing people of so many villages by names and faces was no easy task. The boy mumbled - these days we can't even remember people's phone numbers and this guy knows so many people. The postman continued distributing and reading the letters to whosoever asked it to be read. At that time it was not that easy to find people who have studied enough to read or write, especially in villages. So, the one who knew these was a respected person.

From here, they left the postman to do his work, and came back to the city. They visited a school. Many children were studying in their classes, a number of them were playing in the field as well.  The boy was again astonished to see class rooms without digital learning aids, projectors, smart classes and smart boards. He thought how boring it would be to carry books and copies in bags and study through these. No internet, computer or printer, to help the people get over with their homework and assignments quickly. The old man told him, it was actually fun, as this was something most students of the era cherished. Reaching school, meeting friends, studying together, coming home, and again playing in the playgrounds. He got nostalgic remembering his days of childhood, when he played  and studied and ate without any worries of the future.

From here, both of them moved down to a government offices complex. A number of government offices dealing with public were here. This was a quite congested area. Wherever they could see, they found people, in lines, holding papers and documents in files, waiting for their turn. One line went to the Driving License counter, other one to the Passport office, another one for the Ration card, and so on. This was something the old man hated about his era. Being in long queues to get various services of the government. Be it booking tickets to go somewhere by train, or getting an electricity connection, the thought of the long queue one would have to stand in sent shocks down the spine.

The boy took this as an advantage to show the old man, his era of computers and internet and e-governance. They zoomed past in the year 2015. A lot of citizen services were now available at the click of a button, sitting down in your home or office. The boy took the old man to a computer, opened up the Online portal for Transport Department. He was amazed to see that one could get an appointment for getting a license online. No standing in long queues, waiting for their turn to come. The boy further took him to the municipal corporation's website. Seeing the host of services that were available like registration of property, payment of taxes and bills, application for birth and death related certificates and such was being done from a computer from the ease of the home.

The old man thought to himself - "how much the technology has advanced? getting all these things done took months and numerous visits to departments and offices. Had this been there 25-30 years ago, life would have been easier."

He got curious to know more about the Digital initiatives taken up by the government for providing e-governance and services to the citizens of the country. He asked the boy to tell him more. Now the boy opened up in front of the old man, a bag full of wonderful initiatives the government has been taking, in partnerships with both public and private sector partners, under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model to bring about a transformation in the country, to bridge the digital divide, to provide best of services to citizens in the least amount of time, to improve the learning and infrastructural gaps between the metropolitan cities and the very remote places of the country. This was time the old man took a look at a lot of initiatives the governments have been taking.

Hole in the wall - An e-learning initiative setup under the Public Private Partnership model, developed by NIIT Ltd. and first adopted by the Govt. of NCT of Delhi, to provide path breaking learning methodology to children of the underprivileged sections of the society. Multimedia content is served via audio-visual learning stations available in a number of areas with underprivileged population to provide better, and collaborative learning that was fun.

He took him to once such station. While the old man was still peeping through the screen watching that amazing piece of content aimed at making children learn, the boy pulled him to take him to his school. A school where the learning methods had evolved much more than what was there just a decade ago.

Interactive Teaching - The method of textbook learning had gone easier with the help of audio visual contents served right in the school, along with the text books, to help children grasp better, way better than what they could understand from the textbooks and 2 dimensional images. The old man recalled how he, as a child used to get excited at the sight of an image in one of his text books, and if it were a colour image, it was very much cherished, and here, they are teaching with 3-Dimensional graphics and animation, taking the process of teaching and learning to a whole new level.

Even before the old man got over with this amazing piece of technology in education, he was in for more surprises. The boy took him to a computer, and over the internet, he opened a few websites. One of them was of Aadhar.

Aadhar - The Unique Identification Project launched by Government of India aimed at creating a centralised database of the entire population, capturing key details and biometric information as well, like retinal scans, thumb impressions and such. The site allowed the citizens to book an appointment for getting their Aadhar cards generation, and one could also use to download an electronic copy of the card, till the original copy was delivered.

Other Online services from various Government Agencies - The old man was further taken to another site, this time, that of the transport department. One could easily apply for a Driving License, or to get a new vehicle registered. Once registered, it was easy to track the status of the application. Given the implementation of the notification for timely delivery of services to citizens, the processes got faster. One could apply online for a Driver's license, take an online test at the nearest RTO, and get a license, no need to bribe anyone.  Application of Electricity connection, water connection, Bank Account, Refill of cooking gas cylinders, application of Voter's ID Card has been made much more easier. Now one could do a lot of these things online from the convenience of their homes. Something, the old man thought, was a dream in his time.

The boy told him about the Intel's Digital Skills for India programme (#DigitalIndia), in view of the Government's vision to bridge the digital divide among the population of well developed cities and the remote, under developed villages. Something, the government envisions, will make the country a much better economy, much more capable of competing with the other developed countries of the world, The Digital India vision. The old man, though not knowing much about computers and stuff, knew Intel, the one that produces processors that power a majority of the computers manufactured/ assembled and sold in the country. This was a welcome move by a corporate, towards their social responsibility.

The old man paused for a moment, thinking what this initiative could achieve? Well, for whatever he had seen of the young boy's era, most of it was amazing. He knew this digital initiative holds a lot of potential. Thinking to himself, he imagined a world where those who needed it, will find almost all the basic information of someone, not having to carry different proofs of identity or residence, or something that could get them access to a particular service. The digitization of education system was something, he wondered could be improved a lot. With the improvement in the digital contents for e-learning, and improving the infrastructure to reach even the remotest of the locations, it would be easier to connect with people even in the most far flung areas of the country, giving them too, equal opportunity to learn and grow, not leaving anyone behind. He thought, what would happen if all the services were made available online? Long queues for obtaining citizen services would be gone. That means a full stop to corruption, and unnecessary paying of bribes to get the works done faster. Services would be available at fingertips. Just around this time, he was nagged with some thought.

Online Public Grievance Redressal - This is amazing, the old man cried euphemistically. But what about grievances? Not all government departments work that efficiently. One may have grievances with one department. How will their grievances get sorted out. The boy took him to the online public grievances portal. And showed how it worked. This was again an eye opener. One could actually put up their grievances online, with a number of government departments and its functionaries. With the proper redressal mechanism in place, it would be easier to track the status of the grievance, and get it resolved faster. This in turn meant, faster delivery of public services, much more efficiently and transparently.

The digital world has a lot of potential. The governments are increasingly understanding the need to bring it down in the governance arena, to help the government connect with people and to help people connect with their government, in building a better nation, with all stakeholders working in tandem, this can be achieved.


  1. Fantastic perspective and narration style!

    1. Thanks Ami, it's good to see someone liking it.

  2. Congrats CK :) Way to go...
    It felt so good to see your name on the winners-list, I felt as if I too had won a prize :D
    Many more to come!