Digital India Initiatives

Digital realities of India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Digital India and role of Google

Context

  • Google has recently announced a decision to invest $10 billion in India.
  • To put that sum in context, it is over 10 times the money set aside for 100 smart cities and almost 20 times that for Digital India.
  • Purpose of that investment is stated to be digitising India.

Digital realities of India Google must consider:

1) Contradictions

  •  India recognises the internet as a human right, and yet, has led the world in internet shutdowns.
  • Its internet speeds can be slow and variable, but its uptake of smartphones is the world’s fastest.
  • It is second only to China in internet users, app downloads and social media users.

2) Lack of access to internet

  • Only 21 per cent of women are mobile internet users, while the percentage for men is twice that number.
  • There are many societal factors that make it difficult for women and girls to enjoy full digital freedoms.
  • In rural India, where two-thirds of the country lives, just about a quarter of the population has internet access.
  • Differences in digital access mean differences in the quality of education.
  • The gaps are both digital and societal.

3) Lack of access to banks

  •  India’s workforce is mostly informal.
  • Only 22 per cent of recipients of migrant remittances have access to banks within one km, according to a report by the Centre for Digital Financial Inclusion.
  • A push from Google and its competitors could make payments and financial access more inclusive.

4) Need for special products for India

  • you mention new products for India’s unique needs, of which there are many.
  • Consider the needs in the agricultural sector alone.
  • Impac of predictive data analytics and basic artificial intelligence into Indian agriculture using readily available technologies would be huge.
  • Precision farming to improve the timing and quantity of seeding, irrigation and fertiliser usage.
  • Helping farmers get credit at lower costs and helping predict commodity prices can create $33 billion in new value annually in Indian agriculture.

5) Lack of data governance and issues with it

  • Nandan Nilekani has said, India will be data rich before it is “economically rich”.
  • With 650 million internet users, there is a lot of data richness already.
  • But this data richness exists without a forward-looking and inclusive data governance policy.
  • The experience with Aarogya Setu, provided a perfect case study on the discomfort within India because of the absence of such governance.

6) Prevalence of misinformation

  • It is essential to get a handle on the “infodemic” problem in India.
  • The situation was made far worse by the pandemic, where many of the prejudices, fears have converged.
  • Google-owned YouTube is a critical medium for spreading information, fact and fiction.
  • To its credit, YouTube removed over 8,20,000 videos in India in the first quarter of 2020.
  • This is a great start, but the bad guys will only find ways around it and Google must make deeper investments in both human and machine intelligence to stay ahead.

7) Geopolitical context

  • India is inching closer to the US corner in the tech Cold War between the US and China.
  • India-China relationship has cooled this year as a fallout from the political tensions between New Delhi and Beijing.
  • India acted against Chinese ByteDance-owned video streaming app TikTok, along with 59 mobile apps.
  • Google’s role will be important as a bargaining chip against China and the partnership with Jio.
  • This important role may help Google get some domestic leverage with Indian regulators.

8) Job creation

  • Digital technologies can create jobs.
  • For this to happen India must streamline the regulations to enhancing the country’s digital and physical foundations.
  • There is also need for developing more progressive data accessibility laws.
  • To translate into productive work, the government must invest in skill-building and education at all levels.

Consider the question “Digitising India could accelerate its progress toward development but there are certain factors which must be addressed before India could reap benefits of digitising. Examine such factors and suggest the ways to deal with the issues in digitising the country.”

Conclusion

There is a lot Google can take while working on the task of digitising India. But the above-mentioned factors will help Google chart out its journey well.

Original articles:

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/sundar-pichai-google-education-digital-india-6544793/

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