Digital India Initiatives

The Covid-19 crisis could bring the country up to digital speed

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Application of digitalisation in healthcare and judiciary.

Context

The Covid-19 pandemic gives us a chance to re-evaluate the worth of two major initiatives of the government: demonetization and digitization.

Importance of digitalisation in pandemic

  • The importance of digitization in a pandemic cannot be exaggerated when we are repeatedly told to maintain social distance and work from home in order to avoid infection.
  • Consider how nigh impossible it would be to avoid contact with retail cashiers and point-of-sale (PoS) terminals if we were to use credit cards and cash to pay for our daily necessities.
  • Today, most bill payments have moved online and barring older people, who may prefer to pay their electricity bills at physical counters, digitization is delivering in spades.
  • But digitization is not just about payments and financial transactions. Consider what all will happen as the current lockdown persists across the country.

Application in the judiciary

  • Courts are beginning to use video-conferencing to conduct hearings. It is ironic that something that should have been done years ago to hasten hearings is now being done to prevent infections.
  • India’s judiciary has been resisting technology for as long as one can remember.
  • Witnesses do not have to drag themselves to court every day; they can video-record their statements in advance, and submit themselves to questioning through Skype or other such video-calling apps.
  • When the entire case is recorded, the possibility of judges conducting trials in an unfair way gets substantially reduced, for those at the receiving end of judicial injustice can seek retrials based on video recordings.
  • These recordings will also enable the higher judiciary to figure out who its good judges are, and who adopts dilatory tactics and frequent adjournments, delaying justice.
  • At some point, a judicial appointments commission will have video records of all judges shortlisted for promotions. They will thus know whom to recommend for elevation and whom to sideline. Corruption is also likely to come down.

Application in the healthcare sector

  • In the current Covid-19 crisis, doctors and nurses are putting themselves at huge risk, and so are those handling millions of samples of throat swabs that need to be analysed for the virus
  • Applications: Remote patient examinations, analysis of symptoms with the help of databases and algorithms, and even the basic task of taking down a new patient’s medical history can all be done remotely through a digital app or interface.
  • The doctor will know even before he has met the patient what could be wrong, something she only has to confirm after interacting with the patient.
  • India is spending humongous amounts of money, and so are to-be doctors, to master medical knowledge that doubles every 75 days. In short, by the time your average MBBS doctor completes his or her degree, much of that knowledge could be outdated.
  • He or she has to use technology to update himself or herself, and also rely on databases and artificial intelligence to deliver healthcare without the risk of misdiagnosis.
  • India may be spending too much on training doctors at a cost of millions of rupees per head when a lot of that money could have been spent on technology to deliver competent and lower-cost healthcare.

Conclusion

If we just stop to think where we would have been in this pandemic but for digital technology, we would recognize the importance of going digital. It should make us think of how to convert the Covid-19 disruption into an agenda that brings us up to technological speed in various spheres of human activity.

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