Skills key to Digital India: India Inc. Interview

03-Dec-2015 #Digital India Source: India Inc

Manojit Bose is a Senior Director with India’s National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), focusing on Domestic IT and eGovernance. He has extensive experience in driving eGovernance initiatives in states and across Municipal Corporations. He is the current lead on the country’s Smart Cities initiative at NASSCOM and works closely with city and state governments.

He gives India Inc. his vision for this ambitious programme and how it complements some of the other key initiatives such as Make in India as part of the country’s growth agenda.

Is the Digital India programme on track to achieve its broad goals?

Digital India is a programme to prepare India for the knowledge future and covers several departments.It weaves together a large number of ideas and therefore is pretty big and complex in its scope. For a program of such a nature it is too early to comment on whether it is on track to achieve its goals.

However, the various measures being taken by the government certainly suggest that the direction is correct. We are seeing an urgency in rolling out broadband connectivity to the over 250,000 gram panchayats which was envisaged under NOFN (Bharat Net) and which is one of the core pillars of Digital India. Similarly, as part of early harvest program of Digital India, efforts are being made to roll out Public Wi-Fi hot spots in various places.

Efforts are underway to widen the scope of Public Internet access program with Post Office network being leveraged. Initiatives like a Digital locker for every citizen are an important step towards providing digital infrastructure as a utility.

DeitY already has a portal, MyGov, to facilitate collaborative and participative governance. Initiatives like those cited above, and many others, does suggest that the foundational elements of Digital India are being put in place.

Does this also connect well with the Smart Cities plan?

Yes, it does. Digital India complements the Smart City Mission in several ways. The focus of Digital India is in making technology central to enabling change and that is something which synergizes very well with majority of efforts in transforming a city. The vision of Digital India, as you are aware, is centred on three key areas. Digital Infrastructure as a Utility to every citizen, Governance and Services on demand and Digital empowerment of citizens. For any city to become smart, the vision areas of the Digital India programme are almost like a pre-requisite, though, from a Smart City standpoint, there would be several other elements to it.

Consistent with the above, the Smart City Mission Guidelines released by Ministry of Urban Development, too, emphasises on seeking convergence of other Central/State Government Programmes and schemes with the Smart City Mission, which includes Digital India. This aspect has been further reinforced in the Smart City Plan and Proposal template released by MoUD, so that, when the shortlisted cities prepare their Smart City Proposals, they do cover this convergence.

How far have the government’s e-governance targets been met?

Well, in so far as the eGovernance targets are concerned, the results have been mixed. Whereas some of the eGovernance initiatives have succeeded, others have not been that successful. But in a country as diverse as India, with different states at different levels of IT maturity, the mixed outcome does not come across as a surprise.

In fact, the initiatives which haven’t been successful provides a lot of learnings, which if leveraged can result in better outcomes. On a brighter note, every state in India does realise the need for eGovernance and efficient delivery of public services and are making efforts to enable the same. There is a concerted effort towards it with even the AMRUT guidelines of Ministry of Urban Development proposing to incentivise the Urban Local Bodies in 500 cities across the country, who proactively implement e-Municipality as a service.

However, more than successful implementation of eGovernance initiatives in themselves, some thought is required in bringing in interoperability amongst the various eGovernance applications running in cities and states. Many of these applications are not integrated and continue to operate in a siloed environment. As a result, neither the government nor the citizens are able to benefit from the full potential of these ICT interventions.

What more can be done from an IT skill development perspective?

India currently faces a severe shortage of well trained and skilled workers. It is estimated that only 2.3 per cent of the workforce in India has undergone formal skill training as compared to more than 50 per cent in the developed countries like UK, Germany etc.

And, therefore, skill development is clearly the need of the hour, more so, when the Government is promoting “Make in India”. For success of programs like “Make in India” the need for a suitable and skilled manpower is extremely important. It is also required for an inclusive growth which India is aspiring for. Lot of efforts have been channelised towards IT skill development. However, time bound execution and quality of imparted skill would remain the key aspects.

*Published in ‘India Investment Journal’

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