The Digital India project prime minister Narendra Modi inaugurated on Wednesday will take India to the next stage of development. It seeks to connect every gram panchayat through broadband, promote e-governance and transform India into a connected knowledge economy. It is an ambitious project to usher in “one connected India” which will generate employment and attract investment, including foreign direct investment. Global case studies have demonstrated how wireless broadband plays a key role in rural society, impacting GDP, productivity and employment. By now, people know very well how the Internet can impact their lives. In many states they have access to single windows through which many government services are made available.
For the project to be successful, the government will have to provide broadband services in every part of the country. The Delhi government, for instance, had promised WiFi services all over the capital but it is yet to take off. Today in some cities, 4G Internet services are available. Such islands of progress are not sufficient to make the dream of connecting every Indian a reality. Until a few years ago, telecom services were available only through wires. Wireless telecom services have revolutionised communication in India. If today a majority of the people have mobile phones, it is because of the infrastructure created by several telecom companies, including that of the government. The drastic fall in the prices of smartphones, which are also used as cameras and recording devices, not to mention several other features, have enabled even lower middle class people to own them. Small wonder that more and more people are using their mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to access the Net.
Mobile phones will soon replace PCs, laptops and tablets as the primary computing and telecommunication device. There are a large number of villages where smartphones are useless because the Internet facilities are unavailable there. Worse, they are not assured of power supply without which the phones cannot even be charged. Also, programmes and applications relevant to the rural people should be made available to them in a format they are comfortable with. Time-bound implementation of the project is a must.