Digital India: Unfolding A New Story


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Once upon a time, a learned man worked in the NIIT office in Kalkaji, where a wall separated the ‘urban’ area from the slum.  With just a small thought in his mind, he made a hole in that separating wall, and inserted a computer with a touch-pad.  The screen had Internet Explorer on with Alta Vista – the search engine of that time. Soon, a small kid came there and started moving the cursor with the touch-pad and lo! He started fiddling and then using the computer!  The learned man later took this experiment to a small village called Shivpuri, where a drop-out, not only had figured the browsing bit himself, but was also teaching it to a small girl within minutes!

Our  learned man is none other than Sugata Mitra, a brilliant physicist with a PhD in Solid State Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi and extensive research in energy storage systems in Technische Universität, Vienna. He was responsible for the first curricula and pedagogy for NIIT.

Mitra has found that technology is most effective not at the top of the pyramid, but at the bottom.  The change in learning and improvement can be most experienced in the poorest areas!  Yet, all the technology experiments are introduced by the nations in the most affluent of schools and organizations and rejected because the percentage change versus investment isn’t significant enough!

Most of India’s socialist-minded analysts also believe that investment in technology will not benefit India much and is a waste of money as it is something only for the rich.  But they are wrong!  Technology will have the maximum impact in a country like India!

Courtesy: MapsofIndia
Courtesy: MapsofIndia

That is why we should have a very good reason to welcome Modi Government’s ‘Digital India’ (#DigitalIndia) program.  It is billed to be a one stop shop for government services using mobile phones as the backbone with an investment of Rs 1.13 lakh crores!  It is being complemented with the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, a financial inclusion plan, where every household in rural India will be given access to a bank account, along with a RuPay debit card and insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh.  The connectivity will be done via mobile phones as opposed to a computer.

And do you how the internet will be provided within the country?   A humongous national optic fibre network being laid out across the country to cover India’s 50,000 Gram Panchayats in 2015, 100,000 next year and the remaining 100,000 in the following year because of which the entire country will be covered by broadband within three years and the internet will reach the remotest villages.

A new revolution called #Digitalindia promises to transform India to empower the poor. Click To Tweet

With the infrastructure and high speed websites created as part of the program, the Government’s ability to deliver various services will increase manifold.  Even something like education is not being left out.  There is a plan to create 20-hour and 40-hour modules on digital literacy in regional languages so that education reaches the remotest villages.

Mitra’s research has also shown that ‘Remoteness’ – being far from metro centers of the nation – is correlated to performance of the school kids and not school resources.

The coolest piece is that, to achieve the extreme connectivity as part of the foundation infrastructure – 73 super-computers are being installed in various parts of the country, which will be linked by a computer grid.

Many multi-national companies are joining hands with the government to make the Digital India program a resounding success.  One of the major contributors is Intel India.  Timothy Q Parker, Vice President – Sales and Marketing Group, Intel Asia Pacific & Japan region – rightly says that “India is sitting at the cusp of a massive digital revolution”.

If what Modi’s government is aspiring to accomplish and is working towards reaches fruition, India could be on an amazing growth trajectory for the coming generations! And undoubtedly our great country will achieve something that Guru Rabindranath Tagore spoke about in his famous freedom quote. Touche’!

“Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

featured Image source: Flickr


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