Digital India Initiatives


Digital India Initiatives

India must prepare for 5G technology


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Working principle of optical fibre

Mains level : Paper 3- Creating digital infrastructure for 5G


5G technology is going to make inroads into the country very soon.

Making Digital India project successful

  • With over 117 crore telecom users and more than 82 crore internet subscribers, India is one of the fastest-growing markets for digital consumers.
  • A 2019 Mckinsey study rated India as the second-fastest digitising economy. 
  • Internet connectivity is critical for making the Digital India project inclusive, and widespread use of optical fibre in the remotest corners of the country is vital to ensure that no one is left behind in this endeavour.

Digital infrastructure for 5G

  • Digital infrastructure, which seamlessly integrates with physical and traditional infrastructure, is critical to India’s growth story and the country’s thrust towards self-reliance.
  • Networking equipment that relies on optical fibre and other semiconductor-based device ecosystems are at the heart of building the infrastructure that will be needed when the country takes the next step in its digital journey.
  • The government has taken several measures to build the next generation of digital infrastructure.
  • A basic requirement of 5G will be data transmission networks.
  • Optical fibre is the backbone of the digital infrastructure required for this purpose — the data is transmitted by light pulses travelling through long strands of thin fibre.

Optical fibre industry in India

  • In the last 10 years, domestic manufacturers invested more than Rs 5,000 crore in optical fibre industry, which has generated direct and indirect employment for around 4 lakh individuals.
  • Exports from India: India exported optical fibre worth $138 million to over 132 countries between April 2020 and November 2021.
  • India’s annual optic fibre manufacturing capacity is around 100 million fibre km (fkm) and the domestic consumption is around 46 million fkm. Indian optical fibre cable consumption is predicted to increase to 33 million fkm by 2026 from 17 million fkm in 2021.
  • A little more than 30 per cent of mobile towers have fibre connectivity; this needs to be scaled up to at least 80 per cent.

Unfair competition from cheap imports

  • India’s optical fibre industry has also seen unfair competition from cheap imports from China, Indonesia and South Korea.
  • These countries have been dumping their products in India at rates lower than the market price.
  • What is dumping? The World Trade Organisation defines dumping as “an international price discrimination situation in which the price of a product offered in the importing country is less than the price of that product in the exporting country’s market”.
  • Way ahead: Imposing anti-dumping duties is one way of protecting the domestic industry.
  • The Directorate General of Trade Remedies has recently begun investigations against optical fibre imports.


  • India needs to invest in R&D, offer production-linked incentive (PLI) schemes to support indigenous high-tech manufacturing and develop intellectual property in critical aspects of digital connectivity.


The need of the hour is to unlock the full potential of India’s optical fibre industry and enable India to emerge as a major manufacturing and technology hub while achieving atmanirbharta in its 5G journey.

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Back2Basics: About optical fibre

  • Fiber optics, also spelled fibre optics, the science of transmitting data, voice, and images by the passage of light through thin, transparent fibers.
  • In telecommunications, fiber optic technology has virtually replaced copper wire in long-distance telephone lines, and it is used to link computers within local area networks.
  • Fibre optics is also the basis of the fiberscopes used in examining internal parts of the body (endoscopy) or inspecting the interiors of manufactured structural products.
  •  Through a process known as total internal reflection, light rays beamed into the fibre can propagate within the core for great distances with remarkably little attenuation or reduction in intensity.

Digital India Initiatives

RBI plans to link Credit Cards with UPI


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Features of UPI

Mains level : Not Much

The RBI has proposed to allow the linking of credit cards with the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).

Integrating Credit Cards to UPI

  • The integration will first begin with the indigenous RuPay credit cards.
  • Both the RuPay network and UPI are managed by the same organisation – the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).

What is UPI?

  • UPI is an instant real-time payment system developed by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) facilitating inter-bank transactions.
  • The interface is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India and works by instantly transferring funds between two bank accounts on a mobile platform.

Why such move?

  • The linkage of UPI and credit cards could possibly result in credit card usage zooming up in India given UPI’s widespread adoption.
  • The integration also opens up avenues to build credit on UPI through credit cards in India, where in the last few years, a number of startups like Slice, Uni, One etc. have emerged.
  • The move could also be a push to increase adoption by banking on UPI’s large user base.
  • So far, UPI could only be linked to debit cards and bank accounts.
  • This will provide additional convenience to the users and enhance the scope of digital payments.

What could be the hurdles?

  • There are some regulatory areas that would have to be addressed before the linkage happens.
  • For instance, it is not clear how the Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) will be applied to UPI transactions done through credit cards.
  • UPI and RuPay attract zero-MDR, meaning that no charges are applied to these transactions, which is a key reason behind the prolific adoption of UPI both by users and merchants.
  • The norm has faced pushback from the payments industry.
  • It has argued that it limits the aggregators’ ability to invest in and maintain the financial infrastructure of the payment ecosystem that they have built.
  • Applicability of zero-MDR on UPI could also be a reason why other card networks such as Visa and Mastercard may not have been onboarded to UPI for credit cards yet.

Note: MDR is a fee that a merchant is charged by their issuing bank for accepting payments from their customers via credit and debit cards.

What is the big picture?

  • UPI has become the most inclusive mode of payment in India with over 26 crore unique users and five crore merchants on the platform.
  • The progress of UPI in recent years has been unparalleled.
  • Many other countries are engaged with us in adopting similar methods in their countries.
  • In May, UPI processed 5.95 billion transactions worth over Rs 10 trillion, a record high since its launch in 2016.
  • NPCI is looking to soon process a billion transactions a day.


Try this PYQ from CSP 2017:

Q.Which one of the following best describes the term “Merchant Discount Rate” sometimes seen in news?


(a) The incentive given by a bank to a merchant for accepting payments through debit cards pertaining to that bank

(b) The amount paid back by banks to their customers when they use debit cards for financial transactions for purchasing goods or services

(c) The charge to a merchant by a bank for accepting payments from his customers through the bank’s debit cards

(d) The incentive is given by the Government to merchants for promoting digital payments by their customers through Point of Sale (PoS) machines and debit cards


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Digital India Initiatives

The Digital India transformation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SVAMITVA Yojana

Mains level : Paper 2- Digital India transformation


Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a telling observation about his idea of India: “… every Indian must have a smartphone in his hand and every field must be covered by a drone”.

Digital India program and its impact

  • Digital India solved some of the most difficult problems the country had been facing for decades.
  • The Jan-Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM) trinity has ensured that the poorest receive every penny of their entitled benefits.
  • Financial benefits worth nearly Rs 23 lakh crore have been transferred using DBT technology in the last eight years.
  • This has led to savings of Rs 2.22 lakh crore of public money.
  • Leveraging the power of drones and GIS technologies, SVAMITVA Yojana is providing digital land records to the rightful owners
  • Digital inclusion: The inclusive character of Digital India not only makes it a unique initiative but also reflects our core philosophy of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vishwas”.

Digital transformation in India

  • India today is home to more than 75 crore smartphones, 133 crore Aadhaar cards, more than 80 crore internet users, has 4G and is now accelerating towards 5G.
  • It has among the lowest data tariffs in the world.
  • Digital technology must be low-cost, developmental, inclusive, and substantially home-grown and it should bridge the digital divide and usher in digital inclusion.
  • The digital ecosystem was also useful in tackling the challenge of the pandemic.
  • To provide high-speed broadband to all the villages, optical fibre has been laid in 1.83 lakh gram panchayats under Bharat Net.
  • CSCs: There were only 80,000 Common Service Centers (CSCs) in 2014, which is an entity under the Ministry of Electronics and IT headed by Secretary IT, for providing assisted delivery of digital services to common citizens offering only a few services. Today, there are nearly four lakh CSCs.
  • Fintech innovation ecosystem: India has emerged as the fastest-growing ecosystem for fintech innovations. 
  • This was made possible due to innovative digital payment products like UPI and Aadhaar-Enabled Payment Systems (AEPS).
  • Startup ecosystem: India has more than 61,400 startups as of March 2022, making it the third-largest startup ecosystem after the US and China.
  • With nearly 14,000 startups getting recognized during 2021-22, 555 districts of India had at least one new startup as per the Economic Survey 2022.

Atmanirbharta in electronic manufacturing

  • With initiatives like Modified Special Incentive Scheme (MSIPS), Electronics Manufacturing Cluster, National Policy on Electronics 2019, Electronics Development Fund, Production Linked Incentive (PLI) and Scheme for Promotion of Electronics Components and Semiconductors (SPECS), India is moving towards self-reliance in the field of electronics manufacturing.
  • The value of electronics manufacturing in India has touched $75 billion in 2020-21 from $29 billion in 2014.
  • Indian companies have developed their own 4G and 5G technologies.


Digital India’s motto – “Power to Empower” — is truly living up to its goals and expectations. The success of Digital India only confirms that it has a robust future in India’s development.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] NITI Aayog launches National Data & Analytics Platform (NDAP)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Data andAnalytics Platform (NDAP)

Mains level : Not Much

NITI Aayog has launched the NDAP for open public use.

Note: This portal has much useful data. We can use these to substantiate our answers in mains exam.

What is NDAP?

  • The platform aims to democratize access to public government data by making data accessible, interoperable, interactive, and available on a user-friendly platform.
  • It hosts foundational datasets from various government agencies, presents them coherently, and provides tools for analytics and visualization.
  • NDAP follows a use-case-based approach to ensure that the datasets hosted on the platform are tailored to the needs of data users from government, academia, journalism, civil society, and the private sector.
  • All datasets are standardized to a common schema, which makes it easy to merge datasets and do cross-sectoral analysis.

Types of datasets available

  1. Internal & External Affairs
  2. Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry
  3. Socio-Economic development
  4. Power & Natural Resources
  5. Industries
  6. Finance
  7. Health
  8. Human Resources Development
  9. Science and Technology
  10. Consumer Affairs
  11. Transport
  12. Housing
  13. Culture and Tourism
  14. Communications

Why need such data?

  • The rise of data and digital technologies are rapidly transforming economies and societies, with enormous implications for governments’ daily operations.
  • NDAP is a critical milestone – which aims to aid India’s progress by promoting data-driven disclosure, decision making and ensuring the availability of data connecting till the last mile.


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Digital India Initiatives

Indians can now make Payments using UPI in UAE


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Features of UPI

Mains level : Success of UPI payment system

Tourists or migrants to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with Indian bank accounts will be able to make UPI payments at shops, retail establishments and other merchants in the gulf nation.

What is UPI?

  • Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is an instant real-time payment system developed by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) facilitating inter-bank transactions.
  • The interface is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and works by instantly transferring funds between two bank accounts on a mobile platform.

How does the service work?

  • The NPCI and UAE’s Mashreq Bank’s NEOPAY have partnered for this service
  • It will be mandatory for users to have a bank account in India with UPI enabled on it.
  • The users will also need an application, like BHIM, to make UPI payments.

Will UPI be accepted everywhere in the UAE?

  • Payments using UPI will only be accepted at those merchants and shops which have NEOPAY terminals.

Does NPCI have other such international arrangements?

  • NPCI’s international arm NIPL have several such arrangements with international financial services providers for its products, including UPI and RuPay cards.
  • Globally, UPI is accepted in Bhutan and Nepal, and is likely to go live in Singapore later this year.
  • In Singapore, a project to link UPI with the city-state’s instant payment system PayNow is being undertaken by the RBI and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
  • The linkage is targeted for operationalization by July this year.

Back2Basics: Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM)

  • BHIM is an Indian mobile payment App developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), based on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
  • Named after B. R. Ambedkar and launched on 30 December 2016 it is intended to facilitate e-payments directly through banks and encourage cashless transactions.
  • The application supports all Indian banks which use UPI, which is built over the Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) infrastructure and allows the user to instantly transfer money between bank accounts of any two parties.
  • It can be used on all mobile devices.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q. With reference to digital payments, consider the following statements:

  1. BHIM app allows the user to transfer money to anyone with a UPI-enabled bank account.
  2. While a chip-pin debit card has four factors of authentication, BHIM app has only two factors of authentication.

Which of the statements given above is/ are correct? (CSP 2018)

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2


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Digital India Initiatives

Forging a social contract for data


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Open Government Data platform

Mains level : Paper 3- Data Accessibility and Use Policy


The Draft India Data Accessibility and Use Policy 2022 released in February for public consultation, is silent on the norms, rules, and mechanisms to bring to fruition its vision.

Aims of the policy

  • The Draft Policy aims for harnessing public sector data for informed decision-making, citizen-centric delivery of public services, and economy-wide digital innovation.
  • It seeks to maximise access to and use of quality non-personal data (NPD) available with the public sector, overcoming a number of historical bottlenecks.
  • This GovTech 3.0 approach — to unlock the valuable resource of public sector data — does upgrade the OGD vision of the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), 2012.
  • It seeks to harness data-based intelligence for governance and economic development.

What is lacking in the draft policy?

  • Lacking in norms and rules: The Draft Policy is silent on the norms, rules, and mechanisms to bring to fruition its vision of data-supported social transformation.
  • Ignores the canons of RTI: Any attempt to promote meaningful citizen engagement with data cannot afford to ignore the canons of the Right to Information (RTI), and hence, the need for certain citizen data sets with personal identifiers to be in the public domain, towards making proactive disclosure meaningful.
  •  The unfinished task of the NDSAP in bringing coherence between restrictions on the availability of sensitive personal information in the public domain and India’s RTI, therefore, has been lost sight of.
  • Risks to group privacy: With respect to government-to-government data sharing for citizen-centric service delivery, the Draft Policy highlights that approved data inventories will be federated into a government-wide, searchable database.
  •  But even in the case of anonymised citizen data sets (that is no longer personal data), downstream processing can pose serious risks to group privacy.
  • Lack of data trusteeship framework: The Draft Policy adheres to the NDSAP paradigm of treating government agencies as ‘owners’ of the data sets they have collected and compiled instead of shifting to the trusteeship paradigm recommended by the 2020 Report of the MEITY Committee of Experts on non-personal data governance.
  • The lack of a data trusteeship framework gives government agencies unilateral privileges to determine the terms of data licensing.


  • Taking on board a trusteeship-based approach, the proposed Draft Policy must pay attention to data quality, and ensure that licensing frameworks and any associated costs do not pose an impediment to data accessibility for non-commercial purposes.
  • Create common and interoperable data spaces: In the current context, where the most valuable data resources are held by the private sector, it is increasingly evident to policymakers that socioeconomic innovation depends on the state’s ability to catalyse wide-ranging data-sharing from both public and private sector actors across various sectors.
  • The European Union, for instance, has focused on the creation of common, interoperable data spaces to encourage voluntary data-sharing in specific domains such as health, energy and agriculture.
  • Mandatory data sharing arrangement: Creating the right conditions for voluntary data-sharing is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for democratising data innovation.
  • In this regard, the data stewardship model for high-value data sets proposed by the MEITY’s Committee of Experts in their Report on Non-Personal Data Governance (2020) is instructive.
  • In this model, a government/not-for-profit organisation may request the Non-Personal Data Authority or NPDA for the creation of a high-value data set (only non-personal data) in a particular sector, demonstrating the specific public interest purpose.
  • Once such a request is approved by the NPDA, the data trustee has the right to request data-sharing from all major custodians of data sets corresponding to the high-value data set category in question – both public and private.


  • What we need is a new social contract for data whereby:
  • a) the social commons of data are governed as an inappropriable commons that belong to all citizens;
  • b) the government is the custodian or trustee with fiduciary responsibility to promote data use for public good; and
  • c) democratisation of data value is ensured through accountable institutional mechanisms for data governance.

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Digital India Initiatives

Filling the physical gaps in India’s digital push


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : DIGIT

Mains level : Paper 3- Digital Public Infrastructure


A lot has been written about the emphasis on “digital” in the 2022 Union Budget. But one aspect that hasn’t been talked about as much is the importance given in the budget to digital public infrastructure (DPI).

Significance of digital public infrastructure (DPI) in India

  • A global trendsetter: India is seen as a global trendsetter in the DPI movement, having set up multiple large-scale DPIs like Aadhaar, UPI and sector-specific platforms like DIGIT for eGovernance and DIKSHA for education.
  • Improvement in public service delivery: These DPIs have helped push the frontier of public service delivery.
  • Four key announcements in Budget: This year’s budget adds to the growing discourse on DPIs by making four key announcements:
  • 1] In health, an open platform with digital registries, a unique health identity and a robust consent framework;
  • 2] In skilling, a Digital Ecosystem for Skilling and Livelihood (DESH-Stack) to help citizens upskill through online training;
  • 3] a Unified Logistics Interface Platform (ULIP) to streamline movement of goods across modes of transport; and for travel,
  • 4] In mobility, an “open source” mobility stack for facilitating seamless travel of passengers.
  • Analysis by the Centre for Digital Economy Policy Research (C-DEP) estimates that national digital ecosystems could add over 5 per cent to India’s GDP.


  • But important design considerations must be set right if we are to truly unlock the value of these platforms.

1] Differentiating between tech and non-tech layer

  • We need to differente between the “tech” and “non-tech” layers of our digital infrastructure.
  • While India seems to have made significant headway on the “tech” layers, the “non-tech” layers of community engagement and governance need a lot more work.
  • The combination of these three layers is what is critical to making tech work for everyone.
  • Together, they embody what we call the open digital ecosystems (ODE) approach.

2] Get non-tech layers right

  • To unleash the true potential of India’s ODEs, we need to get the “non-tech” layers right, by prioritising principles around data protection, universal access and accountability.
  • In this regard, three specific non-tech levers are critical.
  • 1] Data protection: Protecting the data of all users and giving them agency over how their data gets used.
  • The passage of a robust Data Protection Bill is imperative.
  • But we also need to go beyond the mere requirement of “consent”.
  • 2] Address digital divide: It is important to address the digital divide.
  • Research by ORF, for instance, shows that Indian women are 15 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone and 33 per cent less likely to use mobile internet services than men.
  • So, we need a “phygital” approach that provides services through both online and offline options and strong grievance redressal mechanisms.
  • 3] Institutional mechanism: As we push the frontier on digitisation, India must also focus on developing anchor institutions and robust governance frameworks.
  • Just as Aadhaar is anchored by UIDAI under an Act of Parliament, and the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission is anchored by the National Health Authority, every new ODE requires an accountable institutional anchor. 
  • These institutions are critical for setting standards, ensuring a level playing field and safeguarding consumer interest.

Consider the question “India is seen as a global trendsetter in the DPI movement, having set up multiple large-scale Digital Public Infrastructures(DPI). List the various DPIs in various sectors in India. Suggest the changes needed in the non-tech layers of these DPIs.”


From Aadhaar and UPI to DBT and CoWin, India’s tech stacks are grabbing global attention. It is now critical to bring the gaze on to the non-tech layers of the stack, so that the potential of these platforms can be unlocked for every Indian.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Digital India Land Record Modernization Program


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : DILRMP

Mains level : Land records management

Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj has recently held a workshop on Digital India Land Record Modernization Programme (DILRMP).


  • The DILRMP was previously known as the National Land Record Modernization Programme (NLRMP).
  • It was launched in 2008 with the purpose to digitize and modernizing land records and developing a centralized land record management system.
  • The DILRMP is the amalgamation of two projects:
  1. Computerization of Land Records (CLR)
  2. Strengthening of Revenue Administration and Updating of Land Records (SRA & ULR)
  • The district will be taken as the unit of implementation, where all activities under the programme will converge.

Components of DILRMP

The DILRMP has 3 major components

  1. Computerization of land record
  2. Survey/re-survey
  3. Computerization of Registration

Key features: Unique Land Parcel Identification Numbers

  • It is just like the Aadhar Number of land parcels.
  • A unique ID based on Geo-coordinates of the parcels is generated and assigned to the plots.
  • This has been introduced to share the computerized digital land record data among different States/Sectors and a uniform system of assigning a unique ID to the land parcel across the country.

Benefits offered

The citizen is expected to benefit from DILRMP in one or more of the following ways;

  • Real-time land ownership records will be available to the citizen
  • Property owners will have free access to their records without any compromise in regard to the confidentiality of the information
  • Abolition of stamp papers and payment of stamp duty and registration fees through banks, etc. will also reduce interface with the Registration machinery
  • These records will be tamper-proof
  • This method will permit e-linkages to credit facilities


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Digital India Initiatives

Central bank digital currency (CBDC)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Digital currencies

Mains level : Paper 3- CBDC and challenges


Recently, Nigeria joined the Bahamas and five islands in the East Caribbean as the only economies to have introduced central bank digital currency (CBDC). This is a shortlist, but one that is likely to be supplemented.

Benefits of CBDC

  • Desire to make domestic payments systems and cross-border remittances cheaper, faster and more efficient, and deepen financial inclusion, represent key areas of priority for most other emerging market and development economies (EMDEs).
  • Between 2019 and 2021, the last three surveys conducted by the Bank for International Settlements showed that the primary drivers for central banks of EMDEs to study CBDCs were domestic payments efficiency, financial inclusion and payments safety.

Design features of CBDCs

  • In theory, the potential of CBDCs are only limited by their design and the capabilities of the central bank issuing it, but their appropriateness and form also depend on the state of the domestic banking and payments industry.
  • Ultimately, CBDCs must be seen as a means to an end.
  • A particular CBDC could, for example, be account-based or tokenised, may be distributed directly by the central bank or through intermediaries, may be interest-bearing (even the possibility of a negative interest has been considered), may be programmable, may offer limited pseudonymity to its holders (similar to, but not to the extent of, cash) and so on.
  • Whether it may be one or the other depends on what its country requires it to be.


  • An economy that adopts an interest-bearing CBDC could make the interest rate on CBDCs the main tool of monetary policy transmission domestically (assuming a high degree of substitution of fiat and fiat-like currency).
  • On the other hand, as former RBI Governor D Subbarao recently warned, rendering an Indian CBDC as an interest-bearing instrument could pose an existential threat to the banking system by eroding its critical role as intermediaries in the economy.
  • If CBDCs compete with bank deposits and facilitate a reduction of bank-held deposits, banks stand to lose out on an important and stable source of funding.
  • Banks may respond by increasing deposit rates, but this would necessitate a higher lending rate to preserve margins, and dampen lending activities.
  • The resultant shrinking of balance sheets will lead to a more pronounced disintermediation role for financial institutions, which could have long-term effects on financial stability, and facilitate easier bank runs.
  • The introduction of CBDCs would require central banks to maintain much larger balance sheets, even in non-crisis times.
  • They would need to replace the lost funding (because of migration of deposits) by lending potentially huge sums to financial institutions, while purchasing correspondingly huge amounts of government and possibly private securities.
  • CBDCs could also have implications for the state from seigniorage as the cost of printing, storing, transporting and distributing currency can be reduced.


Recent comments by RBI officials have focussed on the desirability of introducing CBDCs. But the path to a “Digital Rupee” is not clear.

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Digital India Initiatives

Assessing the digital gap and learning losses


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Digital connectivity and social sector of India

A recent survey released seeks to analyze the COVID-impact on digital connectivity in the context of healthcare, education, and work.

About the Survey

  • LIRNEasia, an Asia Pacific think tank focussed on digital policy, tied up with the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).
  • They took part in a global study funded by the Canada’s International Development Centre to assess the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 .
  • They sought to analyse access to services, with a focus on digital technologies in healthcare, education and work.

Highlights of the Survey:

[A] Internet Access and Use

(1) Internet users

  • The survey found that 47% of the population are Internet users, a significant jump from the 19% who were identified as Internet users in late 2017.
  • At least 5 crores have already become new Internet users in 2021.

(2) Gender and internet

  • Men still use the Internet more than women.
  • There is a 37% gender gap among users, although this is half of the 57% gap present four years ago.

(3) Rural-urban Gap

  • The rural-urban gap has dropped from 48% in 2017 to just 20% now as more rural residents come online.

(4) Education

  • Among those with college education, 89% are Internet users, compared to 60% of those who completed secondary school.
  • Only 23% of those who dropped out of school after Class 8, and 9% of those without any education, are able to use the Internet.

Major inferences drawn

  • Among non-users, lack of awareness is still the biggest hurdle.
  • The percentage of non-users who said they do not know what the Internet is dropped from 82% to 49% over the last four years.
  • Increasingly, lack of access to devices and lack of skills are the reason why people do not go online.

Loopholes in Remote Education

  • 80% of school-age children in the country had no access to remote education at all during the 18 months of lockdown.
  • This happened even though 64% of households actually had Internet
  • Situation was worse for those homes without Internet connections, where only 8% of children received any sort of remote education.

[B] Internet connectivity

  • Apart from not having any devices, poor 3G/4G signal and high data cost were listed as the biggest hurdles.
  • Even among the 20% who received education, only half had access to live online classes which required a good Internet connection and exclusive use of a device.
  • Most depended on recorded lessons and WhatsApp messages which could be sent to a parent’s phone and downloaded at leisure.
  • Others were able to have more direct contact with teachers via phone calls or physical visits.

Worst consequences: Dropouts

  • Nationwide, 38% of households said at least one child had dropped out of school completely due to COVID-19.
  • The situation was significantly worse among those from lower socio-economic classes, or where the head of the household had lower education levels.

[C] Internet access and healthcare

  • About 15% required healthcare access for non-COVID related purposes during the most severe national and State lockdown.
  • Of the 14% who required ongoing treatment for chronic conditions, over a third missed at least one appointment due to the lockdown.
  • Telemedicine and online doctor consultations surged during these times, but only 38% said they were able to access such services.
  • With regard to COVID-19, about 40% of respondents depended on television channels for advice as their most trusted source.


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Digital India Initiatives

How to create a truly digital public


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Designing technology with public in mind


Despite the push for the adoption of digital technologies, large segments of Indians still can’t access or haven’t learned to trust digital artefacts.

Issue of exclusion

  • Recognising the power of technology to drive inclusion at a massive scale, the state is doubling down on technology to reach more citizens and serve them better.
  • However, often the paradigm of technology for such services is built around the “elite” citizen, who is comfortable with technology.
  • Often, this imagined citizen is male, urban, upper class.
  • Large segments of Indians still can’t access or haven’t learned to trust digital artefacts.
  • Many among marginalised groups struggle to access digital civic platforms, and instead rely on trusted human intermediaries.

Suggestions to make digital space truly public

1) Design with the citizen

  • Encouraging human-centric design, and mandating user-assessments prior to roll out of GovTech platforms should be a key priority.
  • This is a shift from the default “build first and then disseminate” approach.
  • For example, formative research and human-centric design was informative in the creation of the first UPI payments app, BHIM.
  • BHIM’s simple interface and onboarding, use of relatable iconography and multi-language capabilities played an important role in early adoption of UPI among non “digital natives”.
  • Similarly, as the “Human Account” project demonstrated, it is possible to start with users in designing pro-poor fintech products, like the “Postman Savings” product which India Post Payments Bank designed for the rural poor.

2) Harness trusted human interface to serve those who are not comfortable with technology

  •  Local intermediaries, such as formal and informal community leaders and civil society organisations, can play a key role in bridging the digital divide.
  • Working with existing networks (for example ASHAs) or carefully setting them up (such as the Andhra Pradesh Ward Secretariat programme), where pre-existing trust, community knowledge, and embeddedness can play a significant role, should be prioritised.

3) Institutionalise an anchor entity that brings together innovators, policy makers and researchers

  • Such an entity will help to push the frontier on citizen-centricity in GovTech.
  • Such a platform — like the Citizen Lab in Denmark — can play a role in generating formative research.
  • Embedding this research in practice by partnering with the government as well as market innovators, and working with civil society organisations to enhance access to GovTech.


As India makes rapid strides in its digitalisation journey, it is timely to invoke Gandhiji’s talisman and ensure that GovTech can serve its highest and greatest purpose, that is, serving those who are last in line.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Geospatial Energy Map of India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GIS Energy Map

Mains level : Not Much

The NITI Aayog has launched the Geospatial Energy Map of India.

What is the GIS Energy Map?

  • NITI Aayog in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has developed a comprehensive Geographic Information System (GIS) Energy Map of India.
  • The GIS map provides a holistic picture of all energy resources of the country.
  • It enables visualization of energy installations such as conventional power plants, oil and gas wells, petroleum refineries, coal fields and coal blocks.
  • It also provides district-wise data on renewable energy power plants and renewable energy resource potential, etc through 27 thematic layers.

Significance of the map

  • The map attempts to identify and locate all primary and secondary sources of energy and their transportation/transmission networks.
  • It is a unique effort aimed at integrating energy data scattered across multiple organizations and presenting it in a consolidated, visually appealing graphical manner.
  • It leverages the latest advancements in web-GIS technology and open-source software to make it interactive and user-friendly.

Benefits offered

  • The map would provide a comprehensive view of energy production and distribution in a country.
  • It will be useful in planning and making investment decisions.
  • It will also aid in disaster management using available energy assets.
  • This may also help in resource and environmental conservation measures, inter-state coordination on infrastructure planning including different corridors of energy and road transport highways.


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Digital India Initiatives

SC introduces FASTER system to send records


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FASTER system

Mains level : Resolving judicial pendency

The Supreme Court has given its nod for e-transfer of orders to jails through the FASTER system for quick prisoner release.

What is the FASTER system?

  • FASTER is an acronym form Fast and Secured Transmission of Electronic Records.
  • The system is meant to ensure that undertrials are not made to wait for days on end behind bars to be released because the certified hard copies of their bail orders took time to reach the prison.
  • It is conceived for delivery of orders to concerned prisons, District Courts, High Courts, as the case may be, for instantaneous delivery of orders passed by apex court through a secure communication channel.
  • The process to develop the FASTER system began with the CJI’s observations in court on July 16 this year.

Benefits offered

  • With FASTER, crucial decisions, including orders on bail and stay of arrest, can be communicated electronically to prison authorities and investigating agencies through a secure channel.
  • The system would also prevent unnecessary arrests and custody of people even after the court had already granted them its protection.
  • It may even communicate a stay on an execution ordered by the final court on time.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Digital India Initiatives

Government e-Marketplace (GeM) System


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Government e-Marketplace

Mains level : Not Much

The Government e-Marketplace (GeM) system has resulted in a 10% savings in public procurement costs in five years.

Government e-Marketplace

  • GeM is an online platform for public procurement in India by various Government Departments / Organizations / PSUs.
  • The initiative was launched on August 9, 2016 by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry with the objective to create an open and transparent procurement platform for government buyers.
  • It is owned by GeM SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) which is a 100 per cent Government-owned, non-profit company under the Ministry of Commerce and Industries
  • GeM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement.
  • It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users achieve the best value for their money.
  • The purchases through GeM by Government users have been authorized and made mandatory by Ministry of Finance.

Note: The government has made it mandatory for sellers on the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal to clarify the country of origin of their goods when registering new products.

Advantages for Buyers

  • Offers rich listing of products for individual categories of Goods/Services
  • Makes available search, compare, select and buy facility
  • Enables buying Goods and Services online, as and when required.
  • Provides transparency and ease of buying
  • Ensures continuous vendor rating system
  • Up-to-date user-friendly dashboard for buying, monitoring supplies and payments
  • Provision of easy return policy

Advantages for Sellers

  • Direct access to all Government departments.
  • One-stop shop for marketing with minimal efforts
  • One-stop shop for bids / reverse auction on products / services
  • New Product Suggestion facility available to Sellers
  • Dynamic pricing: Price can be changed based on market conditions
  • Seller friendly dashboard for selling, and monitoring of supplies and payments
  • Consistent and uniform purchase procedures

Digital India Initiatives

South Asia’s emerging digital transformation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ASEAN

Mains level : Paper 3- Adoption of digital transformation


COVID-19 has forced South Asia to take a quantum leap in digitalisation, which will help shape its future prosperity.

Spike in digitisation due to Covid

  • In India, COVID-19 accelerated the launch of the National Digital Health Mission, enhancing the accessibility and the efficiency of health-care services by creating a unique health ID for every citizen.
  • Pandemic accelerated South Asia’s embrace of e-commerce, boosted by digital payment systems.
  • Bangladesh alone witnessed an increase of 70-80% in online sales in 2020, generating $708.46 million in revenues.
  • Even smaller nations such as Nepal recording almost an 11% increase in broadband Internet users.

The dangers of a digital divide

  • A wide digital divide persists in access and affordability, between and within the countries of South Asia.
  • Despite having the world’s second-largest online market, 50% of India’s population are without Internet with 59% for Bangladesh and 65% for Pakistan.
  • This divide could permanently put children out of school, place girls at risk of early marriage, and push poor children into child labour costing economies billions of dollars in future earnings.
  • Businesses too have paid a heavy price for the gap in digital solutions, whereby many South Asian firms failing to embrace e-commerce or other cloud-based technologies to survive the financial chaos of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Asian digitalisation

  • Digital transformation is a global imperative with the adoption of advanced technologies.
  • At the forefront of Asian digitalisation are countries such as Singapore, Japan, and South Korea recognised as global technological hubs.
  • The digital boom in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economies is pushing a “common market” initiative, fostering regional economic integration and enhancing global competitiveness.
  • South Asia has also made significant strides in the adoption of digital technologies such as the Digital Bangladesh Vision 2021.

How digitalisation can help South Asia?

  • The region still has a long way to go.
  • Jobs in e-commerce: E-commerce could drive the post-pandemic growth in South Asia, providing new business opportunities and access to larger markets.
  • In India, e-commerce could create a million jobs by 2030 and be worth $200 billion by 2026.
  • Growth driven by Fintech: Fintech could drive significant growth and reduce poverty by building financial inclusion.
  • Increase in productivity: A timely, inclusive, and sustainable digital transformation can not only bolster productivity and growth but also serve as a panacea for some of the region’s socio-economic divides.

Steps need to be taken

  • To reap the dividends of digital transformation, South Asia needs to address legal, regulatory and policy gaps as well as boost digital skills.
  • Digital infrastructure: A robust digital infrastructure is a sine qua non and there exists a huge financing gap.
  • India alone needs an annual investment of $35 billion to be in the top five global digital economy.
  • Private-public partnership: Public-private partnership needs to be leveraged for the region’s digital infrastructure financing.
  • Regulatory roadblocks need to be addressed as e-commerce regulations are weak in South Asia.
  • Digital literacy: There would be no digital revolution without universal digital literacy.
  • Governments and businesses need to come together to revamp the education system to meet the demand for digital skills and online platforms.
  • Cybersecurity measures: The crossflow of data and personal information calls for stringent cybersecurity measures as many have experienced painful lessons in data privacy during the pandemic.
  • Digital Single Market Proposal: By addressing issues such as regulatory barriers on currency flows inhibiting online payment to transport-related constraints for cross-border e-commerce activities, South Asia can emulate the European Union’s Digital Single Market Proposal.
  • Collaboration: Concerted collaboration at all levels is needed to push South Asia out of stagnancy and towards a digital future of shared prosperity.
  • Partnership for digital revolution: During the pandemic, South Asian nations joined hands to collectively battle the crises by contributing towards a COVID-19 emergency fund, exchanging data and information on health surveillance, sharing research findings, and developing an online learning platform for health workers.
  • If the eight nations (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) can start walking the talk, partnership for a successful digital revolution is plausible.


A shared “digital vision” could place the region on the right track towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Digital Payment Solution: e-RUPI


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : e-RUPI

Mains level : Digital Payments

The Prime Minister has launched e-RUPI, a person and purpose-specific digital payment solution.

What is e-RUPI?

  • e-RUPI is a cashless and contactless instrument for digital payment.
  • It is a QR code or SMS string-based e-Voucher, which is delivered to the mobile of the beneficiaries.
  • The users of this seamless one-time payment mechanism will be able to redeem the voucher without a card, digital payments app, or internet banking access, at the service provider.
  • It has been developed by the National Payments Corporation of India on its UPI platform, in collaboration with the Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, and National Health Authority.

How does it work?

  • e-RUPI connects the sponsors of the services with the beneficiaries and service providers in a digital manner without any physical interface.
  • It also ensures that the payment to the service provider is made only after the transaction is completed.
  • Being pre-paid in nature, it assures timely payment to the service provider without the involvement of any intermediary.

Benefits offered

  • It is expected to be a revolutionary initiative in the direction of ensuring a leak-proof delivery of welfare services.
  • Even the private sector can leverage these digital vouchers as part of their employee welfare and corporate social responsibility programs.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Which of the following is the most likely consequence of implementing the ‘Unified Payments Interface (UPI)’?

(a) Mobile wallets will not be necessary for online payments.

(b) Digital currency will totally replace physical currency in about two decades.

(c) FDI inflows will drastically increase.

(d) Direct transfer of subsidies to poor people will become very effective

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Kisan Sarathi Platform

In order to facilitate farmers to get ‘right information at right time’ in their desired language, a digital platform namely ‘Kisan Sarathi’ was launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

Kisan Sarathi

  • This digital platform empowers farmers with the technological interventions to reach farmers in remote areas.
  • Through this platform, the farmers can interact and avail personalized advisories on agriculture and allied areas directly from the respective scientists of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVKs).
  • Using this platform, farmers can get information about crop and crop production, among other things that will help them in improving the quantity of their produce.
  • Farmers will be able to get information about good crop practices, the right amount of products and many other basic things.

Digital India Initiatives

Bhutan becomes first neighbor to use BHIM UPI


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BHIM, UPI, IMPS

Mains level : Mobile banking facilities in India

Bhutan becomes the first country, in India’s immediate neighbourhood, to use the BHIM app for mobile-based payments and “to adopt UPI standards for its QR deployment”.

Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM)

  • BHIM is an Indian mobile payment App developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), based on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
  • Named after B. R. Ambedkar and launched on 30 December 2016 it is intended to facilitate e-payments directly through banks and encourage cashless transactions.
  • The application supports all Indian banks which use UPI, which is built over the Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) infrastructure and allows the user to instantly transfer money between bank accounts of any two parties.
  • It can be used on all mobile devices.

Note: Bhutan has become the first country to adopt India’s Unified Payment Interface (UPI) standards for its quick response (QR) code. It is also the second country after Singapore to have BHIM-UPI acceptance at merchant locations, NPCI International Payments Ltd (NIPL).

What is UPI?

  • Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is an instant real-time payment system developed by NPCI facilitating inter-bank transactions.
  • The interface is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India and works by instantly transferring funds between two bank accounts on a mobile platform.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q. With reference to digital payments, consider the following statements:

  1. BHIM app allows the user to transfer money to anyone with a UPI-enabled bank account.
  2. While a chip-pin debit card has four factors of authentication, BHIM app has only two factors of authentication.

Which of the statements given above is/ are correct? (CSP 2018)

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

You can use our popular TIKDAM Technique to solve such tricky questions:

Tikdam Technique – How our Prime Test Series 2020 gives you an edge

Digital India Initiatives

Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ONDC Project

Mains level : Policy support against digital monopolies in India

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has issued orders appointing an advisory committee for its Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) project.

What does one mean by ‘Open-source’?

  • An open-source project means that anybody is free to use, study, modify and distribute the project for any purpose.
  • These permissions are enforced through an open-source licence easing adoption and facilitating collaboration.

What is ONDC Project?

  • ONDC seeks to promote open networks, which are developed using the open-source methodology.
  • The project is aimed at curbing “digital monopolies”.
  • This is a step in the direction of making e-commerce processes open-source, thus creating a platform that can be utilized by all online retailers.
  • They will encourage the usage of standardized open specifications and open network protocols, which are not dependent on any particular platform or customized one.

What processes are expecting to be open-sourced with this project?

  • Several operational aspects including onboarding of sellers, vendor discovery, price discovery and product cataloguing could be made open source on the lines of Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
  • If mandated, this could be problematic for larger e-commerce companies, which have proprietary processes and technology deployed for these segments of operations.

What is the significance of making something open-source?

  • Making a software or a process open-source means that the code or the steps of that process is made available freely for others to use, redistribute and modify.
  • If the ONDC gets implemented and mandated, it would mean that all e-commerce companies will have to operate using the same processes.
  • This could give a huge booster shot to smaller online retailers and new entrants.

What does the DPIIT intend from the project?

  • ONDC is expected to digitize the entire value chain, standardize operations, promote inclusion of suppliers, derive efficiencies in logistics and enhance value for stakeholders and consumers.

What is a ‘Digital Monopoly’?

  • Digital monopolies refer to a scenario wherein e-commerce giants or Big Tech companies tend to dominate and flout competition law pertaining to monopoly.
  • The Giants have built their own proprietary platforms for operations.
  • In March, India moved to shake up digital monopolies in the country’s $ 1+ trillion retail market by making public a draft of a code of conduct — Draft Ecommerce Policy, reported Bloomberg.
  • The government sought to help local start-ups and reduce the dominance of giants such as Amazon and Walmart-Flipkart.
  • The rules sought to define the cross-border flow of user data after taking into account complaints by small retailers.

Processes in the ONDC

  • Sellers will be onboarded through open networks. Other open-source processes will include those such as vendor and price discovery; and product cataloguing.
  • The format will be similar to the one which is used in the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
  • Mega e-commerce companies have proprietary processes and technology for these operations.
  • Marketplaces such as Amazon, Flipkart, Zomato, BigBasket and Grofers will need to register on the ONDC platform to be created by DPIIT and QCI.
  • The task of implementing DPIIT’s ONDC project has been assigned to the Quality Council of India (QCI).

Back2Basics: Quality Council of India

  • QCI was set up in 1997 by the government of India jointly with Indian industry (represented by CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM) as an autonomous body under the administrative control of the department.
  • QCI establishes and operates the National Accreditation Structure for conformity assessment bodies; providing accreditation in the field of education, health and quality promotion.

Digital India Initiatives

What is AgriStack?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Agristack

Mains level : Digitalization of Agriculture

The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare has entered into an MoU with Microsoft Corporation to start a pilot project in 100 villages to create a ‘Unified Farmer Service Interface’ through its cloud computing services.


  • The AgriStack is a collection of technologies and digital databases proposed by the Central Government focusing on India’s farmers and the agricultural sector.
  • The central government has claimed that these new databases are being built to primarily tackle issues such as poor access to credit and wastage in the agricultural supply chain.
  • Under AgriStack’, the government aims to provide ‘required data sets’ of farmers’ personal information to Microsoft to develop a farmer interface for ‘smart and well-organized agriculture’.
  • The digital repository will aid precise targeting of subsidies, services and policies, the officials added.
  • Under the programme, each farmer of the country will get what is being called an FID, or a farmers’ ID, linked to land records to uniquely identify them. India has 140 million operational farm-land holdings.
  • Alongside, the government is also developing a unified farmer service platform that will help digitise agricultural services delivery by the public and private sectors.

Issues with the move

  • Agriculture has become the latest sector getting a boost of ‘techno solutionism’ by the government.
  • But it has, since then, also become the latest sector to enter the whole debate about data privacy and surveillance.
  • Since the signing of the MoUs, several concerns related to sharing farmers’ data with private companies the major one being Microsoft whose owner Bill Gates is said to be the largest private farmland owner in the US.
  • In all the MoUs, there are provisions under which the agriculture ministry will enter into a data sharing agreement with the private companies of the likes of Amazon, Microsoft and Patanjali.
  • The development has raised serious concerns about information asymmetry, data privacy and consent, profiling of farmers, mismanaged land records and corporatization of agriculture.
  • The formation of ‘Agristack’ also implies commercialization of agriculture extension activities as they will shift into a digital and private sphere.

Why such concerns?

  • The project was being implemented in the absence of a data protection legislation.
  • It might end up being an exercise where private data processing entities may know more about a farmer’s land than the farmer himself.
  • Without safeguards, private entities would be able to exploit farmers’ data to whatever extent they wish to.
  • This information asymmetry, tilted towards the technology companies, might further exploit farmers, especially small and marginal ones.

What are some major threats?

  • One of the biggest worries is the threat of financial exploitation.
  • We have already seen how microfinance firms have wreaked financial havoc in rural hinterlands.
  • Now, once Fintech companies are able to collect granular data about the farmers’ operations, they may offer them usurious rates of interest precisely when they would be in the direst need for credit.
  • With this, the risk of commodifying agriculture and farmer data ran high.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP)

Mains level : Sustainable development measures

On the occasion of World Environment Day, a new product category of Green Room Air Conditioners was launched on the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) under the Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) program.

What is Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP)?

  • SPP is a process by which public authorities seek to achieve the appropriate balance between the three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental – when procuring goods, services or works at all stages of the project.
  • These three pillars are called Triple Bottom Line.
  • The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has been active in the promotion of Sustainable Public Procurement at national, regional and global levels since 2005.

Why need SPP?

  • Public procurement spend in India is nearly 15-20% of its GDP.
  • Introducing SPP to this huge quantum of government procurement will further complement the country’s climate policy objectives.
  • This innovation can provide financial savings for government buyers and will meet evolving environmental challenges by moving towards a circular economy.

Back2Basics: Government E-Marketplace

  • The GeM is a one-stop National Public Procurement Portal to facilitate online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Government Departments / Organizations / PSUs.
  • It was launched in 2016 to bring transparency and efficiency in the government buying process.
  • GEM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement.
  • It is a completely paperless, cashless and system driven e-marketplace that enables procurement of common use goods and services with minimal human interface.
  • It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users to achieve the best value for their money.
  • The purchases through GeM by Government users have been authorized and made mandatory by the Ministry of Finance by adding a new Rule No. 149 in the General Financial Rules, 2017.
  • It has been developed by Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (Ministry of Commerce and Industry) with technical support of National e-governance Division (MEITy).

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NIXI

Mains level : Not Much

The Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) has inaugurated three path-breaking initiatives for the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI).

What is NIXI?

National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) is a not-for-profit organization (section 8 of the Companies Act 2013) working since 2003 for spreading the internet infrastructure to the citizens of India through the following activities:

  1. Internet Exchanges through which the internet data is exchanged amongst ISP’s, Data Centers and CDNs.
  2. .IN Registry, managing and operation of .IN country-code domain and .भारत IDN domain for India.
  3. IRINN, managing and operating Internet protocol (IPv4/IPv6).

Which are the three new initiatives?

(1) IPv6 Expert Panel (IP Guru) (

  • IP Guru is a group to extend support to all the Indian entities who are finding it technically challenging to migrate and adopt IPv6.
  • In addition to this, the IPv6 expert group will help in identifying & hiring an agency that will help end customer by providing necessary technical support to adopt IPv6.
  • This panel will guide all such Indian entities and help in increasing IPv6 adoption.

Note: An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a numerical label assigned to each device connected to a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. An IP address serves two main functions: host or network interface identification and location addressing.

(2) NIXI Academy (

  • NIXI Academy is created to educate technical/non-technical people in India to learn and relearn technologies like IPv6 which are normally not taught in Educational Institutes.
  • NIXI academy comprises an IPv6 training portal which is developed with the help of various technical experts in order to provide mass training to the community.
  • The easy-to-use platform helps network operators and educators understand networking best practices, principles and techniques; manage Internet resources better; and use appropriate Internet technologies more effectively.


  • NIXI has developed an IPv6 index portal for the Internet community.
  • NIXI-IP-INDEX portal will showcase the IPv6 adoption rate in India and across the world.
  • It can be used to compare the IPv6 Indian adoption rate with other economies in the world.
  • NIXI will populate this portal with web adoption in IPv6, IPv6 traffic etc. in the coming days.
  • This portal will motivate organisations to adopt IPv6, provide inputs for planning by technical organisations and research by academicians.

Digital India Initiatives

E-Daakhil portal for consumer grievance redressal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : E-Daakhil

Mains level : Consumer greivances redressal mechanisms

The Union Government has informed that the ‘E-Daakhil’ portal for consumer grievance redressal is now operational in 15 states and Union Territories (UTs).

Try this question from our AWE initiative:

What are the objectives sought to be achieved through The Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020 to regulate commercial transactions? What are the issues with the rules? 10 marks


  • The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, which came into force on July 20, 2020, has a provision for e-filing of consumer complaints in the consumer commissions and online payment of the fees for filing a complaint.
  • A web application for e-filing of consumer complaints named ‘’ has been developed by NIC for the purpose.
  • E-filing was launched by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) on September 7, 2020.
  • Delhi was the first state to implement it on September 8, 2020.

Features of the portal

  • The E-Daakhil portal empowers the consumer and their advocates to file the consumer complaints along with payment of requisite fees online from anywhere for the redressal of their complaints.
  • It facilitates the consumer commissions to scrutinise the complaints online to accept, reject or forward the complaint to the concerned commission for further processing.
  • The digital software for filing consumer complaints has many features like e-notice, case document download link and virtual hearing link, filing written response by the opposite party, fling rejoinder by complainant and alerts via SMS/e-mail.
  • To facilitate the rural consumers for e-filing, it has been decided to integrate the common service centres (CSC) with the E-Daakhil portal.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] MCA21 Version 3.0


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MCA

Mains level : Digital India

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) will launch data analytics-driven MCA21 Version 3.0.

What is MCA 21?

  • MCA21 is an e-Governance initiative of Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) that enables easy and secure access of the MCA services to the corporate entities, professionals and citizens of India.
  • It is the first Mission Mode e-Governance project of GoI.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which one of the following is not a feature of Limited Liability Partnership firm?

(a) Partners should be less than 20

(b) Partnership and management need not be separate

(c) Internal governance may be decided by mutual agreement among partners

(d) It is a corporate body with perpetual succession

MCA21 3.0

  • MCA21 V3 is a technology-driven forward-looking project, envisioned to strengthen enforcement, promote Ease of Doing Business, enhance the user experience, and facilitate seamless integration and data exchange among Regulators.
  • The project will have Micro-services architecture with high scalability and capabilities for advanced analytics.
  • It will have additional modules for e-Adjudication, e-Consultation and Compliance Management.
  • Aligned with global best practices and aided by emerging technologies such as AI and ML, MCA21 V3 is envisioned to transform the corporate regulatory environment in India.

Components of MCA21 V3

  • E-Scrutiny: MCA is in process of setting up a Central Scrutiny Cell which will scrutinise certain Straight Through Process (STP) Forms filed by the corporates on the MCA21 registry and flag the companies for more in-depth scrutiny.
  • E-adjudication: E-adjudication module will provide a platform for conducting online hearings with stakeholders and end to end adjudication electronically.
  • E-Consultation: To automate and enhance the current process of public consultation on proposed amendments and draft rules etc., e-consultation module of MCA21 v3 will provide an online platform.
  • Compliance Management System (CMS): CMS will assist MCA in identifying non-compliant companies/LLPs, issuing e-notices to the said defaulting companies/LLPs etc.

Digital India Initiatives

What is EDISON Alliance?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EDISON alliance

Mains level : Global action against digital divide

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has announced the launch of an Essential Digital Infrastructure and Services Network (EDISON) Alliance.

The peculiarity of name ‘EDISON Alliance’ creates a hotspot here for prelims.  UPSC may either crate confusion over purpose or parent organization. The alliance is yet to take shape completely; hence there is an ambiguity over its members.

EDISON Alliance

  • Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF), which describes itself as an international organization for public-private partnership, will serve as the secretariat and platform for the EDISON Alliance.
  • A wider group of ‘Champions Leaders’ will advise and support the Alliance, the WEF said while announcing the launch.
  • Alliance aims to work towards ensuring global and equitable access to the digital economy.
  • Its prime goal is to ensure an unprecedented level of cross-sectoral collaboration between the technology industry and other critical sectors of the economy, according to the WEF.

Why need such an alliance?

  • Access to digital technologies has enabled many to work, learn and live during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • However, the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing gaps and inequalities in almost half of the global population.
  • Some 3.6 billion people, remain offline and broadband services are too expensive for 50 percent of the population in developed countries, the WEF said.
  • This hampers access to health, education, and economic inclusion.

Digital India Initiatives

RBI comes up with Digital Payments Index


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various parameters of the index

Mains level : Digital banking in India

The RBI has constructed a composite Digital Payments Index (DPI) with March 2018 as the base period to capture the extent of digitization of payments across the country.

Note various indicators of the DPI.

Digital Payments Index

  • RBI-DPI will be published on the central bank’s website on a semi-annual basis from March 2021 onwards with a lag of four months.
  • It comprises five broad parameters that enable the measurement of deepening and penetration of digital payments in the country over different time periods.
  • The parameters are:
  1. Payment enablers (weight 25 percent)
  2. Payment infrastructure–demand-side factors (10 percent)
  3. Payment infrastructure – supply-side factors (15 percent)
  4. Payment performance (45 percent) and
  5. Consumer centricity (5 percent)
  • Each of these parameters has sub-parameters which, in turn, consist of various measurable indicators, RBI said.

Why need such an Index?

  • Digital payments in India have been growing rapidly.
  • The DPI reflects accurately the penetration and deepening of various digital payment modes.

Digital India Initiatives

National Common Mobility Card (NCMC)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NCMC

Mains level : Common Mobility

Prime Minister has launched the ambitious National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) service for the Delhi Metro’s Airport Express Line.

Q.What is the National Common Mobility Card (NCMC)? How it a step moving towards a one nation one card system? (150W)

National Common Mobility Card

  • The idea of NCMC was floated by the Nandan Nilekani committee set up by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • The committee had suggested that NCMC should contain two instruments – a regular debit card which can be used at an ATM and a local wallet.
  • Banks mandated by the department of financial services have been asked to make their debit cards NCMC compliant, to ensure availability of service.
  • The committee has also proposed a host of measures, including all payments by the government to citizens through the digital mode, to reduce the number of cash transactions in the country.

Features of the NCMC

  • NCMC will allow passengers with RuPay debit cards, issued in the last 18 months by 23 banks, including SBI, UCO Bank, Canara Bank, Punjab National Bank, etc, to be swiped for Metro travel.
  • It can be used at all transit locations making all new metro and transit payments interoperable via one card.
  • NCMC is an automatic fare collection system. It will turn smartphones into an inter-operable transport card that commuters can use eventually to pay for Metro, bus, and suburban railways services.
  • NCMC service is slated to cover the entire 400km stretch of Delhi Metro.
  • It will allow entry and exit from Metro stations with the help of a smartphone, known as the automatic fare collection (AFC) system.
  • To make AFC compliant indigenous gates for metro stations, the government has engaged Bharat Electronics Limited. Eventually, all Metro stations will be fitted with AFC gates.

Digital India Initiatives

PM -WANI : As Game changer


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM-WANI

Mains level : Digital banking facilitation measures

The PM-WANI project seems to fit within the framework of an evolving decentralized concept to bridge the e-divide.

Practice Question:

With the PM-WANI, the state is expanding the reach of digital transformation to those who have been excluded till now. It is a game-changer because it has the potential to move Digital India to Digital Bharat. Discuss.

PM WANI – the ‘game-changer’

  • The term ‘game-changer’ can be seen as an accurate reflection of the capability of an initiative to change the status quo for Prime Minister’s Wi-Fi Access Network Interface, or PM WANI.
  • It provides for “Public Wi-Fi Networks by Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOAs) to provide public Wi-Fi service spread across the length and breadth of the country to accelerate the proliferation of Broadband Internet services through Public Wi-Fi network in the country”.

What the data shows

  • The initiative can help to bridge the increasing digital divide in India. Recently, the NITI Aayog CEO had said that India can create $1 trillion of economic value using digital technology by 2025.
  • As per the latest Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) data, about 54% of India’s population has access to the Internet.
  • The 75th round of the National Statistical Organization survey shows that only 20% of the population has the ability to use the Internet.
  • The India Internet 2019 report shows that rural India has half the Internet penetration as urban, and twice as many users who access the Internet less than once a week.

Digital poverty

  • Umang App (Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance) allows access to 2,084 services, across 194 government departments, across themes such as education, health, finance, social security, etc.
  • The ability to access and utilize the app enhances an individual’s capabilities to benefit from services that they are entitled to.
  • With each move towards digitization, we are threatening to leave behind a large part of our population to suffer in digital poverty.
  • What the government is trying to achieve with PM-WANI is anyone living in their house, a paan shop owner or a tea seller can all provide public Wi-Fi hot posts, and anyone within range can access it.
  • This will also help to reduce the pressure on the mobile Internet in India. Going back to the India Internet report, it shows that 99% of all users in India access the Internet on mobile, and about 88% are connected on the 4G network.
  • This leads to a situation where everyone is connected to a limited network, which is getting overloaded and resulting in bad speed and quality of Internet access.

Key links

  • There are three important actors here.
  1. First is the Public Data Office (PDO). The PDO can be anyone, and it is clear that along with Internet infrastructure, the government also sees this as a way to generate revenue for individuals and small shopkeepers. It is important to note that PDOs will not require registration of any kind, thus easing the regulatory burden on them.
  2. Second is the PDOA, who is basically the aggregator who will buy bandwidth from the Internet service provider (ISPs) and telecom companies and sell it to PDOs, while also accounting for data used by all PDOs.
  3. The third is the app provider, who will create an app through which users can access and discover the Wi-Fi access points.
  • Two pillars have been given as a baseline for public Wi-Fi.
  1. Interoperability – where the user will be required to login only once and stay connected across access points.
  2. Multiple payment options – allowing the user to pay both online and offline.
  • The products should start from low denominations, starting with ₹2. It is suggested in the report that the requirement of authentication through stored e-know your customer (KYC) is encouraged, which inevitably means a linking with Aadhaar.

Aiding rural connectivity

  • The PM-WANI has the potential to change the fortunes of Bharat Net as well. Bharat Net envisions broadband connectivity in all villages in India.
  • The project has missed multiple deadlines, and even where the infrastructure has been created, usage data is not enough to incentivize ISPs to use Bharat Net infra to provide services.
  • One of the reasons for the lack of demand is the deficit in digital literacy in India and the lack of last-mile availability of the Internet.
  • The term digital literacy must be seen as an evolving decentralized concept, which depends on how people interact with technology in other aspects of their life and is influenced by local social and cultural factors.
  • The PM-WANI seems to fit within this framework, simply because it seeks to make accessing the Internet as easy as having tea at a chai shop. This is not a substitute for the abysmal digital literacy efforts of the government, but will definitely help.

Security, privacy issues

  • There are some concerns, mainly with respect to security and privacy. A large-scale study conducted at public Wi-Fi spots in 15 airports across the United States, Germany, Australia, and India discovered that two thirds of users leak private information whilst accessing the Internet.
  • Further, the TRAI report recommends that ‘community interest’ data be stored locally, raising questions about data protection in a scenario where the country currently does not have a data protection law in place.
  • These are, however, problems of regulation, state capacity and awareness and do not directly affect the framework for this scheme.

Digital India Initiatives

Public Wi-Fi Access Network Interface


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM-WANI

Mains level : Internet connectivity, Digital divide

In a bid to improve wireless connectivity, the Union Cabinet approved setting up of the public WiFi was part of the Prime Minister WiFi Access Network Interface (PM- WANI).

Do you know?

According to TRAI, in most major economies, for 50%-70% of their total usage time, mobile users use WiFi technology to communicate. However, in India, this figure is less than 10%.


  • The WiFi will be provided through public data offices (PDOs) for which there will be no licence, registration or any other fees.
  • The PDO, to be set up along the lines of public calling office, can be a mom-and-pop store in the area or the common services centre present in various small towns, gram panchayats, and villages in the country.
  • The PDOs can either provide the internet on other own or lease it from other telecom and internet service providers.

The centre-stage: Public Data Offices (PDO)

  • The idea of a PDO was first floated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in 2017.
  • Like a PCO, the PDO allows users to connect to a public WiFi system for a limited session depending on the internet pack chosen by the user.
  • These internet packages can either by charged on per minute or per hour basis by the PDOs.

Licensing of PDOs

  • There will be no licence for PDOs. A simple registration system will be put in place for PDO aggregators as well as app providers, which will be approved within seven days of the application being submitted.
  • In addition to the PDOs, there will also be PDO aggregators, which will look after the authorisation and accounting of PDOs.

A note for users

  • A third layer will of app providers, available for download on the Play Store as well as the Apple Store, will enable users to register for using the public WiFi at a particular place.
  • Users, however, will not be required to download different apps, as a single app will provide seamless connectivity to any PDO across the country.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] E-Sanjeevani Telemedicine Service


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : E-Sanjeevani

Mains level : Telemedicine and its effectiveness

In a landmark achievement, eSanjeevani, Health Ministry’s national telemedicine initiative today completed 9 lakh consultations.

Although telemedicine brings with it many benefits, there are some downsides to it as well. Discuss.

What is E-Sanjeevani?

  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has launched two variants of eSanjeevani namely – doctor to doctor (eSanjeevani AB-HWC) in the hub and spoke model and patient to doctor (eSanjeevaniOPD).
  • E-Sanjeevani OPD (out-patient department) is a telemedicine variant for the public to seek health services remotely; it was rolled out on 13th of April 2020 during the first lockdown in the country.
  • It enables virtual meetings between the patients and doctors & specialists from geographically dispersed locations, through video conferencing that occurs in real-time.
  • At the end of these remote consultations, eSanjeevani generates electronic prescriptions which can be used for sourcing medicines.
  • Andhra Pradesh was the first state to roll out eSanjeevani AB-HWC services in November 2019.

Benefits of telemedicine

Telemedicine benefits patients in the following ways:

  • Transportation: Patients can avoid spending gas money or wasting time in traffic with video consultations.
  • No missing work: Today, individuals can schedule a consultation during a work break or even after work hours.
  • Childcare/Eldercare Challenges: Those who struggle to find care options can use telemedicine solutions.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] India’s AI supercomputer PARAM Siddhi


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Param Siddhi

Mains level : National Supercomputing Mission

India’s newest and fastest supercomputer, PARAM-Siddhi AI, has been ranked 63rd in the Top500 list of most powerful supercomputers in the world.

Try this MCQ:

Q.The terms Mihir, Param Siddhi and Pratyush are sometimes seen in news are actually:

a)Indigenous Submarines




Param Siddhi

  • It is a high-performance computing-artificial intelligence (HPC-AI) supercomputer established under National Supercomputing Mission (NSM) at C-DAC.
  • It was commissioned by the C-DAC earlier and has been developed in association with chipmaker Nvidia and French IT consulting firm Atos.
  • It will help deep learning, visual computing, virtual reality, accelerated computing, as well as graphics virtualization.
  • The computer is expected to be used as a platform for academia, scientific research, startups and more.

Other Indian supercomputers

  • PARAM-Siddhi is the second Indian supercomputer to be entered in the top 100 on the Top500 list.
  • Pratyush, a supercomputer used for weather forecasting at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, ranked 78th on the November edition of the list.
  • It was ranked 66th in the June rankings announced by the project.
  • Another Indian supercomputer, Mihir (146th on the list), clubs with Pratyush to generate enough computing power to match PARAM-Siddhi.

Who topped the rankings?

  • The Top500 project tracks the most powerful supercomputers in the world and is published twice a year.
  • Japanese supercomputer Fugaku (442 petaflops) and IBM’s Summit (148.8 petaflops) are the two most powerful supercomputers in the world, according to the list.
  • Chinese Sunway TaihuLight is number four on the list (93 petaflops), developed by the National Research Center of Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology (NRCPC) in China.


National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)


  • A petaflop is a measure of a computer’s processing speed and can be expressed as A thousand trillion floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) A thousand teraflops.
  • In computing, floating-point operations per second is a measure of computer performance, useful in fields of scientific computations that require floating-point calculations.
  • For such cases, it is a more accurate measure than measuring instructions per second.

Digital India Initiatives

Ghar Tak Fibre Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FTTH, Ghar tak fibre

Mains level : Internet connectivity, Digital divide

The government’s ambitious ‘Ghar Tak Fibre’ scheme — which aims to connect all the villages with high-speed internet — is off to a slow start in poll-bound Bihar.

Note the features of FTTH connections. They make a perfect case for a statement based prelims question. Also, try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements regarding optical fibres:

  1. A layer called the cladding, which has a refractive index more than that of the core, surrounds the core of the optical fibre.
  2. Light is propagated in an optical fibre by refraction and internal reflection.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Ghar Tak Fibre scheme

  • The Scheme will be implemented by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
  • It aims to connect all 45,945 villages of Bihar with high-speed optical fibre internet by 31st March 2021.
  • Under the scheme, Bihar has to provide at least five fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connections per village and at least one WiFi hotspot per village.

What is FTTH?

  • Fiber to the home (FTTH), also called fibre to the premises (FTTP), is the installation and use of optical fibre from a central point directly to individual buildings such as residences, apartment buildings and businesses to provide high-speed internet access.
  • FTTH dramatically increases connection speeds available to computer users compared with technologies now used in most places.
  • FTTH promises connection speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps).

Digital India Initiatives

National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NSM, Supercomputing

Mains level : National Supercomputing Mission

The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) has launched the second phase of the ambitious National Supercomputing Mission (NSM).

Tap to read more about National Supercomputing Mission (NSM):

[pib] National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

  • NSM is a proposed plan by GoI to create a cluster of seventy supercomputers connecting various academic and research institutions across India.
  • In April 2015 the government approved the NSM with a total outlay of Rs.4500 crore for a period of 7 years.
  • The mission was set up to provide the country with supercomputing infrastructure to meet the increased computational demands of academia, researchers, MSMEs, and startups by creating the capability design, manufacturing, of supercomputers indigenously in India.
  • Currently, there are four supercomputers from India in the Top 500 list of supercomputers in the world.

Aims and objectives

  • The target of the mission was set to establish a network of supercomputers ranging from a few Tera Flops (TF) to Hundreds of Tera Flops (TF) and three systems with greater than or equal to 3 Peta Flops (PF) in academic and research institutions of National importance across the country by 2022.
  • This network of Supercomputers envisaging a total of 15-20 PF was approved in 2015 and was later revised to a total of 45 PF (45000 TFs), a jump of 6 times more compute power within the same cost and capable of solving large and complex computational problems.

What is a Supercomputer?

  • A supercomputer is a computer with a high level of performance as compared to a general-purpose computer.
  • The performance of a supercomputer is commonly measured in floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) instead of million instructions per second (MIPS).
  • Since 2017, there are supercomputers which can perform over a hundred quadrillion FLOPS (petaFLOPS).
  • Since November 2017, all of the world’s fastest 500 supercomputers run Linux-based operating systems.

Why do we need supercomputers?

  • Tackle problems: Developed and almost-developed countries have begun ensuring high investments in supercomputers to boost their economies and tackle new social problems.
  • These high-performance computers can simulate the real world, by processing massive amounts of data, making cars and planes safer, and more fuel-efficient and environment-friendly.
  • They also aid in the extraction of new sources of oil and gas, development of alternative energy sources, and advancement in medical sciences.
  • Disaster Management: Supercomputers have also helped weather forecasters to accurately predict severe storms, enable better mitigation planning and warning systems.
  • They are also used by financial services, manufacturing and internet companies and infrastructure systems like water-supply networks, energy grids, and transportation.
  • Future applications of artificial intelligence (AI) also depend on supercomputing.
  • Due to the potential of this technology, countries like the US, China, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia have created national-level supercomputing strategies and are investing substantially in these programmes.

When did India initiate its efforts to build supercomputers?

  • India’s supercomputer programme initiated in the late 1980s, when the United States ceased the export of a Cray Supercomputer due to technology embargos.
  • This resulted in India setting up C-DAC in 1988, which in 1991, unveiled the prototype of PARAM 800, benchmarked at 5 Gflops. This supercomputer was the second-fastest in the world at that time.
  • Since June 2018, the USA’s Summit is the fastest supercomputer in the world, taking away this position from China.
  • As of January 2018, Pratyush and Mihir are the fastest supercomputers in India with a maximum speed of Peta Flops.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] YuWaah Platform


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : YuWaah Portal

Mains level : Not Much

Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) are set to establish YuWaah, Generation Unlimited (GenU), a global multi-stakeholder platform in India.

 YuWaah Platform

As per the Statement of Intent, the objectives of this project are:

  • Support young people by providing entrepreneurship classes (online and offline) with successful entrepreneurs and experts, towards establishing an entrepreneurial mindset among young people.
  • Upskilling of young people on 21st-century skills, life skills, digital skills through online and offline channels and support them through self-learning, for their productive lives and the future of work.
  • Create linkages with aspirational economic opportunities to connect young people with employment opportunities, including building pathways to connect them with jobs or self-employment.
  • Providing career guidance support to young people through career portal as well as through job-readiness and self-exploration sessions to make young people career-ready.

Digital India Initiatives

Issues with the Gopalakrishnan Committee Report


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Personal data and non-personal data

Mains level : Paper 3- Making open data-society by sharing making open the data collected by the government

The article highlights the importance of non-personal data collected by the government and lack of any reference to it in the Gopalakrishnan Committee report.


  • The Committee of Experts on the Non-Personal Data Governance Framework headed by K Gopalakrishnan has recommended making privately held non-personal data “open”.
  •  This has raised concerns about state interference in the private data ecoystem.

Importance of data collected by government agencies

  • The report is a missed opportunity to address the governance frameworks around data created by government agencies.
  • Some of the most important non-personal data sets are held by the government, or result from taxpayer funding.
  • Such data can be useful in either framing public policy or creating and providing new services.

Why government data should be open to citizens: 5 Reasons

  • First, the state should be transparent about information that it has. This will improve accountability.
  • Second, if taxpayer money has funded any of the data sets, then it is an obligation of the state to return the fruits of that funding to the taxpayer.
  • Third, by permitting the reuse of government data sets, we avoid the need for duplication.
  • Fourth, government data sets, curated according to publicly verified standards, can lead to increased confidence in data quality and increased usage.
  • Finally, free flow of information can have beneficial effects on society in general.

Government policies promoting openness of data

  • The Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, mandates the disclosure of government data on a suo moto basis.
  • One of the nine pillars of the Digital India Policy is “information for all”.
  • The National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), 2012 requires all non-sensitive information held by public authorities to be made publicly accessible in machine readable formats (subject to conditions).
  • The government has also set up an Open Government Data Platform to provide open access to data sets held by ministries and other agencies of the government.
  • Various States have also either created their own data portals or have provided data sets to the Open Government Data Platform.

Challenges in making the data open to society

  • There are two reasons for our failure to create an open data-based society.
  • The first is lack of clarity in some of the provisions of the NDSAP or the relevant implementation guidelines.
  • The second is the inability to enforce guidelines appropriately.
  • Data sets released by governments are often inconsistent, incomplete, outdated, published in non-machine readable or inconsistent formats, include duplicates, and lack quality (or any) metadata, thereby reducing re-usability.

Issues with Gopalakrishnana Committee Report

  • The Gopalakrishnan Committee could have evaluated what is going wrong with existing policies and practice pertaining to government data.
  • The report is a missed opportunity to address the governance frameworks around non-personal data sets in a country created by government agencies, or those resulting from taxpayer money.
  • The report largely focuses on the dangers posed by data collection by private sector entities.
  • This has raised concerns about state interference in the private data ecoystem.
  • Many of the concerns that should be addressed in the report that are central to the governance of the data ecosystem have remained in the background.
  • For instance, India’s cybersecurity framework continues to be inadequate, while even the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee report of 2018 highlighted the need to restrict the growing power of the state to carry out surveillance.

Consider the question “What are the key recommendation made by the Gopalakrishnan Committee for the regulation of non-personal data? What are the shortcomings in of the report in your opinion?”


Since data governance is a relatively new concept in India, the government would be better served in taking an incremental approach to any perceived problems. This should begin with reforming how the government itself deals with citizens’ data.

Digital India Initiatives

GIS-enabled Land Bank System


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Land Bank System

Mains level : Digital land records

A prototype of the National GIS-enabled Land Bank System was e-launched by Commerce and Industry Ministry for six States based on which land can be identified for setting up industries.

Try to answer this question in short:

Q.Discuss the benefits of digitizing land records in India.

Land Bank System

  • The system has been developed by the Integration of Industrial Information System (IIS) with state GIS (Geographic Information System).
  • IIS portal is a GIS-enabled database of industrial clusters/areas across the states.
  • On the system, more than 3,300 industrial parks across 31 states/UTs covering about 4,75,000 hectares of land have also been mapped out on the system.
  • The information available on the system will include drainage, forest; raw material heat maps (horticulture, agricultural, mineral layers); multilayer of connectivity.
  • IIS has adopted a committed approach towards industrial upgrading, resource optimization, and sustainability.

Various stakeholders

  • The initiative has been supported by the National e-Governance Division (NeGD), National Centre of Geo-Informatics (NCoG), Invest India, Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geo-Informatics (BISAG), and Ministry of Electronics and Informational Technology.

Digital India Initiatives

Digital Quality of Life Index, 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Digital Quality of Life Index

Mains level : Digital divide in India

India ranks among the lowest in the world in terms of Internet quality, according to the Digital Quality of Life Report.

Note the following aspects:

1)Organisation publishing the report

2)India’s rank and its comparison with neighbors

3)Rankers at the top

Digital Quality of Life Index

  • It is global research released by online privacy solutions provider SurfShark.
  • It releases a report on the quality of digital wellbeing in 85 countries (81% of the global population), in terms of e-infrastructure.

India’s ranking: Hits and Misses

  • India occupies 79th place, ranking below countries including Guatemala and Sri Lanka.
  • India makes it into the top 10 in terms of Internet affordability. With a ranking of nine, it outperforms countries such as the U.K., the U.S. and China.
  • Additionally, when it comes to e-government, India occupies the 15th place globally, just below countries like New Zealand and Italy.
  • However, at position 78, India’s Internet quality is one of the lowest across 85 countries analysed in the research.

Global rankings

  • The report found that seven of the 10 countries with the highest digital quality of life are in Europe, with Denmark leading among 85 countries.
  • Canada stands out as a country with the highest digital quality of life in the Americas, while Japan takes the leading position in Asia.
  • Among the countries in Africa, people in South Africa enjoy the highest quality of digital lives whereas New Zealand leads in Oceania, outperforming Australia in various digital areas.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Krishi Megh: A Cloud-based Data Recovery Centre


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cloud Storage, Krishi Megh

Mains level : NA

Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare has launched the Krishi Megh Data Recovery Centre.

Do not get confused with the name ‘Krishi Megh’. One might mistakenly relate it to some weather forecasting tool of the Indian Meteorological Department.

Krishi Megh

  • The Krishi Megh has been set up at National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (NAARM), Hyderabad.
  • It has been set up under the National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP), funded by both the government and World Bank.
  • It has been built to mitigate the risk, enhance the quality, availability and accessibility of e-governance, research, extension and education in the field of agriculture in India.
  • Currently, the main data centre of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is at the Indian Agricultural Statistics Research Institute (IASRI) in New Delhi.

Back2Basics: Cloud Storage

  • It is a cloud computing model that stores data on the Internet through a cloud computing provider who manages and operates data storage as a service.
  • It is delivered on demand with just-in-time capacity and costs, and eliminates buying and managing your own data storage infrastructure.
  • It gives agility, global scale and durability, with “anytime, anywhere” data access.

Digital India Initiatives

Submarine Cable Connectivity to Andaman and Nicobar Islands


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Optical fibre cables and their working, AandN Islands

Mains level : Digital India outreach in AandN Islands

PM has launched the submarine Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) connecting Andaman & Nicobar Islands to the mainland.

Try this PYQ:

Q. Consider the following statements regarding optical fibres:

  1. A layer called the cladding, which has a refractive index more than that of the core, surrounds the core of the optical fibre.
  2. Light is propagated in an optical fibre by refraction and internal reflection.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?(CSP 2010)

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

What is a submarine communications cable?

  • A submarine communications cable is a cable laid on the seabed between land-based stations to transmit telecommunication signals across stretches of ocean and sea.
  • The optical fibre elements are typically individually coated with plastic layers and contained in a protective tube suitable for the environment where the cable will be deployed.
  • Compared to satellites, using internet connection through submarine cables is more reliable, cost-efficient and of large capacity.

About the project

  • About 2,300 km of submarine optical fibre cable (OFC) has been laid at a cost of about Rs 1,224 crore to provide better connectivity in the UT.
  • The project envisages better connectivity from Chennai to Port Blair and seven other Islands — Swaraj Deep (Havelock), Long Island, Rangat, Hutbay (Little Andaman), Kamorta, Car Nicobar and Campbell Bay (Great Nicobar).
  • The project is funded by the government through the Universal Service Obligation Fund under the ministry of communications.
  • The foundation stone for the project was laid by PM Modi in December 2018 at Port Blair.

Expected outcomes

  • The OFC will enable the delivery of faster and more reliable mobile and landline telecom services to Andaman & Nicobar Islands, at par with other parts of India.
  • The submarine optical fibre cable link will deliver bandwidth of 2 x 200 Gigabits per second (Gbps) between Chennai and Port Blair, and 2 x 100 Gbps between Port Blair and the other islands.
  • 4G mobile services, which were constrained due to limited backhaul bandwidth provided via satellite, will also see a major boost.

Benefits of the project

  • Better connectivity in the region will facilitate the delivery of e-governance services such as telemedicine and tele-education.
  • E-commerce: Small enterprises will benefit from opportunities in e-commerce, while educational institutions will utilise the enhanced availability of bandwidth for e-learning and knowledge sharing.
  • Business Process Outsourcing services and other medium and large enterprises too also benefit from better connectivity.
  • Low cost internet:The internet bills in Andaman and Nicobar will also come down substantially.

Digital India Initiatives

Digital realities of India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

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


  • 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.”


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:

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Bharat Airfiber


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bharat Air Fibre Services

Mains level : Digital India

The Union Ministry of Communications has inaugurated “Bharat Air Fibre Services” at Akola in Maharashtra.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2018:

Q: Which of the following is/are the aim/aims of “Digital India” plan of the Government of India?

  1. Formation of India’s own Internet companies like china did.
  2. Established a policy framework to encourage overseas multinational corporations that collect big data to build their large data centers within our national geographical boundaries.
  3. Connect many of our villages to the internet and bring WiFi to many of our schools, public places and major tourist centers.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Bharat Air Fibre Services

  • The Bharat Air Fibre services are introduced by BSNL as part of Digital India initiates by the GoI.
  • It aims to provide Wireless Connectivity in the range of 20 KMs from the BSNL Locations.
  • It provides internet connectivity upto 100 Mbps speed.
  • It is completely wireless and offers broadband up to 10Mbps up to a distance of 5 Kms.
  • These services are special and different from other operators as BSNL is providing unlimited free voice calling.
  • Customers at remote places also will be benefitted as BSNL comes with the cheapest services with the support of Telecom Infrastructure Partners (TIPs).

Digital India Initiatives

The digital lifeline provided by UPI


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UPI

Mains level : Paper 3- Examining the success of UPI

The UPI sets the template for India in its journey toward digitalisation. This article by WhatsApp head Will Cathcart explains the success story of UPI and the future scope to build on its success.

The success story of UPI

  • The UPI system set a national open standard for all of India’s banks, more than 155 of which have adopted it.
  • UPI is open standard that technology companies can adopt on an equal and level-playing field.
  • This means that no one company, foreign or domestic, can write the rules for the other.
  • Since its launch, the UPI system has grown to manage a 100 million-strong user base.
  • NPCI has also set a goal to increase UPI’s user base to 500 million by 2022, which if achieved, would be a true game-changer for Digital India.

What the success of UPI means

  •  UPI has set important new frameworks around security and efficiency.
  • Because of the strong rules that India has put in place, payment transaction information remains with the banks and within the country.
  • And as a platform built on Indian technology and governed by Indian rules, UPI benefits Indians now and holds great potential for further innovation and commerce.

Future scope for UPI

  •  It is imperative more tech companies are able to leverage the power of UPI to expand the digital ecosystem to accelerate financial inclusion.
  • UPI can also anchor a broader suite of fintech applications like micro-pensions, digital insurance products, and flexible loans.
  • These are custom solutions created by Indian technology companies, on the public infrastructure of UPI.
  • These solutions will first solve large social, business and financial problems in India and then become templates for other countries to deploy.
  • COVID-19 has only underscored the importance of these tools that will serve as critical lifelines for small and micro-enterprises and individuals as they look to recover.

Consider the question “Within a short period from its launch the UPI has transformed the payment landscape in India. Examine the factors that contributed to the success of UPI and elaborate on its future scope.”


With courage, ambition, and boundless potential, India can emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever before — a leading democratic digital powerhouse that will lead the world in the 21st century.


What is Unified Payments Interface (UPI)?

Image for post

  • It was launched in April 2016 and in the last two years, the platform has emerged as a popular choice among users for sending and receiving money.
  • UPI is a payment system that allows money transfer between any two bank accounts by using a smartphone.
  • UPI allows a customer to pay directly from a bank account to different merchants, both online and offline, without the hassle of typing credit card details, IFSC code, or net banking/wallet passwords.
  • It also caters to the “Peer to Peer” collect request which can be scheduled and paid as per requirement and convenience.

Original article:

Digital India Initiatives

Digital divide in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Digital divide in India

The COVID-19 induced lockdown highlights India’s great digital divide.

Practice question for mains:

Q.What are the various facets of Digital Divide in India? Discuss how the Digital India initiative has impacted ruling out India’s digital divide?

What is Digital divide?

A digital divide is any uneven distribution in the access to, use of, or impact of information and communications technologies between any number of distinct groups, which can be defined based on social, geographical, or geopolitical criteria, or otherwise

What are the implications of the digital divide?


In the age of social media, political empowerment and mobilization are difficult without digital connectivity.


Transparency and accountability are dependent on digital connectivity. The digital divide affects e-governance initiatives negatively.


Internet penetration is associated with greater social progress of a nation. Thus digital divide in a way hinders the social progress of a country.

Rural India is suffering from information poverty due to the digital divide. It only strengthens the vicious cycle of poverty, deprivation, and backwardness.


The digital divide causes economic inequality between those who can afford the technology and those who don’t.


The digital divide is also impacting the capacity of children to learn and develop.
Without Internet access, students can not build the required tech skills.

Facets of the great Digital Divide in India

  • Education is just one area that has highlighted the digital divide between India’s rural and urban areas during the lockdown.
  • The trend is evident everywhere — telemedicine, banking, e-commerce, e-governance, all of which became accessible only via the internet during the lockdown.
  • The divide exists despite the rise in the number of wireless subscribers in India over the past few years.

1) Telecom facility, not digital progression

  • According to a report released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on June this year, the country had over 1,160 million wireless subscribers in February 2020, up from 1,010 million in February 2016.
  • This is a rise of 150 million subscribers in five years or 30 million per year.
  • The growth has been evenly distributed in urban and rural areas, with the number of urban subscribers increasing by 74 million (from 579 million to 643 million) and rural subscribers by 86 million (from 431 million to 517 million).
  • But this growth only indicates the rise in basic telecommunication facility.

2) The Urban-Rural Divide

  • Services such as online classrooms, financial transactions and e-governance require access to the internet as well as the ability to operate internet-enabled devices like phones, tablets and computers.
  • Here the urban-rural distinction is quite stark.
  • According to the NSSO conducted between July 2017 and June 2018, just 4.4 rural households have a computer, against 14.4 per cent in an urban area.
  • It had just 14.9 per cent rural households having access to the internet against 42 per cent households in urban areas.
  • Similarly, only 13 per cent people of over five years of age in rural areas have the ability to use the internet against 37 per cent in urban areas.

3) Regional Divide

  • States too greatly differ in terms of people that have access to computers or in the know-how to use the internet.
  • Himachal Pradesh leads the country in access to the internet in both, rural and urban areas.
  • Uttarakhand has the most number of computers in urban areas, while Kerala has the most number of computers in rural areas.
  • Overall, Kerala is the state where the difference between rural and urban areas is the least.

4) Digital Gender Divide

  • India has among the world’s highest gender gap in access to technology.
  • Only 21 per cent of women in India are mobile internet users, according to GSMA’s 2020 mobile gender gap report, while 42 per cent of men have access. The report says that while 79 per cent of men own a mobile phone in the country, the number for women is 63 per cent.
  • While there do economic barriers to girls’ own a mobile phone or laptop, cultural and social norms also play a major part.
  • The male-female gap in mobile use often exacerbates other inequalities for women, including access to information, economic opportunities, and networking.

5) Others

  • The earning member of the family has to carry the phone while going out to work.
  • Access to phones and the internet is not just an economic factor but also social and cultural.
  • If one family has just one phone, there is a good chance that the wife or the daughter will be the last one to use it.

Programmes for Addressing the Challenges in Bridging the Digital Divide:

India taking significant steps towards acquiring competence in information and technology, the country is increasingly getting divided between people who have access to technology and those who do not. 

    • The Indian government has passed Information Technology Act, 2000 to make to e- commerce and e-governance a success story in India along with national e-governance plan. 
    • Optical Fibre Network (NOF-N), a project aimed to ensure broadband connectivity to over two lakh (200,000) gram panchayats of India by 2016.
    • Digital Mobile Library: In order to bridge the digital divide in a larger way the government of India, in collaboration with the Centre for Advanced Computing (C–DAC) based in Pune.
    • Unnati, is a project of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) which strives to bridge the digital divide in schools by giving the rural students with poor economic and social background access to computer education.
    • E-pathshala: to avail study materials  for every rural and urban student. 
    • Common Service Centres: which enabled the digital reach to unreachable areas. 

Initiatives of State Government:

  • Sourkaryan and E–Seva: Project of the government of Andhra Pradesh to provides the facility for a citizen to pay property taxes online.
  • The Gyandoot Project: It is the first ever project in India for a rural information network in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh which has the highest percentage of tribes and dense forest. The project was designed to extend the benefits of information technology to people in rural areas by directly linking the government and villagers through information kiosks

Way forward


  • The promotion of indigenous ICT development under Atmanirbhar Abhiyan can play a significant role. The promotion of budget mobile phones is the key.

  • The creation of market competition between service providers may make services cheaper.

  • Efficient spectrum allocation in large contiguous blocks should be

  • We should also explore migration to new technologies like 5G. It would resolve some of the bandwidth challenges.

2.Digital literacy

  • Digital literacy needs special attention at the school / college level.

  •  The National Digital Literacy Mission should focus on introducing digital literacy at the primary school level in all government schools for basic content and in higher classes and colleges for advanced content.

  • When these students will educate their family members, it will create multiplier effects. Higher digital literacy will also increase the adoption of computer hardware across the country.


  • State governments should pay particular attention to content creation in the Indian regional languages, particularly those related to government services.

  • Natural language processing ( NLP) in Indian languages needs to be promoted.

4.Role of regulators

  • Regulators should minimize entry barriers by reforming licensing, taxation, spectrum allocation norms.

  • TRAI should consider putting in place a credible system. This system will track call drops, weak signals, and outages. It ensures the quality and reliability of telecom services.


  • MeitY will need to evolve a comprehensive cybersecurity framework for data security, safe digital transactions, and complaint redressal.

Telecom ombudsman

  • The government should also set up telecom ombudsman for the redress of grievances.


  • The Standing Committee on Information Technology in January 2019 concluded that the digital literacy efforts of the government are far from satisfactory.
  • Clearly, internet penetration is not deep enough. At one level, we all recognise that the internet has become indispensable.
  • On another level, it still doesn’t have adequate attention of the decision-makers.
  • The most crucial need of the hour is to ensure uninterrupted internet services.

Back2Basics: Digital India Initiatives

  • Over the past decade, governments have been trying to improve internet access in the country.
  • In 2011, the BharatNet project was launched to connect 0.25 million panchayats through an optical fibre (100 MBPS) and connect India’s villages. Its implementation began only in 2014.
  • In 2014, the government launched the National Digital Literacy Mission and the Digital Saksharta Abhiyan.
  • In 2015, the government launched several schemes under its Digital India campaign to connect the entire country.
  • This includes the PM Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan, launched in 2017, to usher in digital literacy in rural India by covering 60 million households.

Digital India Initiatives

Need for open protocols and networks in the realm of internet


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : API

Mains level : Paper 3- Issues of dominance of some platforms on the internet and solution

We are familiar with the dominance of some platforms on the internet. That dominance start to create problems. This article discusses the issues with dominance and suggests the solution drawing on the success of UPI.

Platforms on the internet

  • Platforms are technology layers that leverage the internet to bring together producers, resellers and consumers.
  • Platforms reduce transaction costs by cutting out intermediaries.
  • Amazon started by selling books but became a profitable giant by creating the e-commerce platform called Amazon Marketplace.
  • The most valuable companies today are platforms for search, social interaction, advertising, insurance, travel, real estate, etc.

Issues with the platforms

  • 1)The promise of the internet was disintermediation, but the process has hit a speed breaker with major platforms taking on the role of mediation. 
  • 2) There may be multiple platforms in the game to start with, but due to network effects and the non-portability/lock-in, only a few monopolies space.
  • 3) Big platforms have tried to create a sort of  cartel in which to trap the customers while fencing off the rest of the internet.
  • 4) The platforms amass data about users which is used to influence user behaviour, which is not limited to guiding the buying decisions.

So, what is the solution?

Let’s look at the success story of  the UPI

  • Unified Payment Interface (UPI) is a set of protocols that standardises the language of money transfer.
  • It is an interface: a simple and structured protocol for instructions and a clearinghouse that relays well-formed requests to concerned parties for execution.
  • Once the language is there, a user may choose any app to link their bank account to a UPI ID and make a pay or collect request involving any other bank account.
  • UPI handled 1.3 billion transactions in June 2020, overtaking the aggregate number of transactions of all legacy “platforms”.
  • UPI succeeded because it treated all players, big or small, equally.
  • This allowed third-party innovators to drive adoption by creating solutions that addressed the need of the people.

Solution: Adopting of open protocols

  • Application Programming Interfaces (or API) are protocols that define the meaning of data exchanged between two computers.
  • Universally accepted API definitions could allow a cabbie to be discovered by any cab aggregator app the rider may choose.
  • In healthcare, it could facilitate finding a doctor, booking an ambulance, taking out insurance, filing a claim, sharing a medical report or purchasing medicines from a pharmacy.

Advantages of open protocols

  • Open protocols create ecosystems that are non-rivalrous and non-excludable by design.
  • Even smallest of application developers or start-ups can offer low-cost, locally relevant solutions using the protocol.
  • We can address the needs of the diverse business community and achieve much greater penetration for e-commerce than the 10 per cent of today.
  • Open systems have the potential to transform education, food delivery, by enabling entrepreneurs to compete on their quality and reputation alone.
  • Portability from one application to another, privacy and data empowerment will be some of the issues taken care of.
  • We can reduce our dependence on foreign platforms.

Consider the question “What are APIs? Examine the issues created by the dominant internet platforms and how the adoption of open protocols for API could address the problem?”


With such a huge potential in APIs open protocols, the government must bring out the policy for the creation of open protocols and realise the untapped potential it offers.

Digital India Initiatives

Key stakeholders in data regulation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Non-Personal Data

Mains level : Paper 3- Key stakeholder in the regulation of Non-Personal Data

The article examines the structures and role of key stakeholders in regulation of Non-Personal Data as per the report submitted by the committee headed by Kris Gopalakrishnan.


  • There is a realisation that data should be unlocked in public interest beyond the use by a few large companies
  • Data, in many cases, are not just a subject of individual decision-making but that of communities, such as in the case of ecological information.
  • Therefore, it is critical that communities are empowered to exercise some control over how the data are used.
  • Recently the Non-Personal Data committee released a governance framework, which raises many concerns.

Following are the key stakeholder as defined in the report

1)Data principals

  • As per the report, the first keyholders are data principals, who/ which can be individuals, companies or communities.
  • The idea of communities as data principals is introduced ambiguously by the report.
  • The report does not address the translation of offline inequalities and power structures to data rights.

2) Data custodians

  • Data custodian is the one who undertake collection, storage, processing, and use of data in a manner that is in the best interest of the data principal.
  • The details in this section are unclear.
  • It is not specified if the data custodian can be the government or private companies only.
  • It is also not clear what best interest is, especially when several already vague and possibly conflicting principal communities are involved.
  • It is also not clear how communities engage with the custodian.
  • Suggestion that data custodians can monetise the data they hold is especially problematic as this presents a conflict of interest with those of the data principal communities.

3) Data trustees

  • The report talks about data trustees as a way for communities to exercise data rights.
  • Trustees can be governments, citizen groups, or universities.
  • There is no clarity on how “trust” is extended and fructified with the community, and how trustees are empowered to act on behalf of the community.
  • The principles of a legal trust and the fiduciary responsibility that come with role of trustees are critical.
  • Trustees, by definition, are bound by a duty of care and loyalty towards the principal and thus work in their best interests.
  • Trustee has to negotiate on behalf of Data Principals’ data rights with technology companies and regulators.
  • This thinking is not reflected in the report.
  •  Also, the relationship between the data principal communities and the trustees is not clear.

How will the ‘Trust’ function?

  • The report explains data trusts comprising specific rules and protocols for containing and sharing a given set of data.
  • Trusts can hold data from multiple custodians and will be managed by public authority.
  • But the power, composition and functions of the trust are not established.
  • One possible way to simplify the ecosystem would be to consider data trusts as a type of custodian.
  •  So that trustees can represent the community and act on behalf of the data principals.

Consider the question “What do you understand by Non-Personal Data. Examine its utility and need to treat as a public good.”


The committee should organise broader consultations to ensure that the objective of unlocking data in public interest and through collective consent does not end up creating structures that exacerbate the problems of the data economy and are susceptible to regulatory capture.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] PRAGYATA Guidelines on Digital Education


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PRAGYATA Guidelines

Mains level : Limitations of Digital learning

Union HRD Ministry has released PRAGYATA Guidelines on Digital Education through online medium.

Practice question for mains:

Q.Discuss the impact of the COVID induced lockdowns on the education system in India. Give some solutions for it.

PRAGYATA guidelines

  • The guidelines include eight steps of online/ digital learning that is, Plan- Review- Arrange- Guide- Yak(talk)- Assign- Track- Appreciate.
  • These guidelines have been developed from the perspective of learners, with a focus on online/blended/digital education for students who are presently at home due to lockdown.
  • It provides a roadmap or pointers for carrying forward online education to enhance the quality of education.
  • The guidelines will be relevant and useful for a diverse set of stakeholders including school heads, teachers, parents, teacher educators and students.
  • It stresses upon the use of an alternative academic calendar of NCERT, for both, learners having access to digital devices and learners having limited or no access.

 Major highlights

The guidelines highlight 3 modes of online education:

The guidelines outline suggestions for administrators, school heads, teachers, parents and students in the following areas:

  • Need assessment
  • Concerns while planning online and digital education like duration, screen time, inclusiveness, balanced online and offline activities etc level-wise
  • Modalities of intervention including resource curation, level-wise delivery etc.
  • Physical, mental health and wellbeing during digital education
  • Cyber safety and ethical practices including precautions and measures for maintaining cyber safety
  • Collaboration and convergence with various initiatives

Recommended screen time

Class Recommendation
Pre Primary Not more than 30 minutes.
Classes 1 to 12 Recommended to adopt/adapt the alternative academic calendar of NCERT
Classes 1 to 8 Not more than two sessions of 30-45 minutes each on the days
Classes 9 to 12 Not more than four sessions of 30-45 minutes each on the days

Guidelines for parents

  • For parents, the guideline helps to understand the need for physical, mental health and wellbeing along with the cyber safety measures for children at home.
  • Guidelines for physical health and mental wellness is stressed so that children do not get overly stretched or stressed, or get affected owing to prolonged use of digital devices.
  • Also, it provides sufficient Dos and Don’ts regarding ergonomics and cyber safety.

Digital India Initiatives

Google for India Digitization Fund (GIDF)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Google for India Digitization Fund (GIDF)

Mains level : Digital India

Technology giant Google will invest $10 billion (₹75,000 crores) in India as part of the ‘Google for India Digitization Fund (GIDF)’.

Practice question for mains:

Q.Discuss the role of foreign investment in the digital transformation of India.

About GIDF

  • The GIDF focuses on digitizing the economy and building India-first products and services.
  • The plan is in line with big-tech’s bullish outlook on India. Earlier this year, Amazon said it would invest an additional $1 billion in India.
  • This was followed by a marquee investment announcement of $5.7 billion by Facebook in the country’s largest telecom company Reliance Jio.
  • Last month, Microsoft’s venture fund M12 said it would open an office in India to pursue investment opportunities focusing on B2B software startups.

Focus areas

The investment will focus on four areas important to digitization including:

  • Enabling affordable access and information for every Indian in their own language,
  • Building products and services that are deeply relevant to India’s unique needs,
  • Empowering businesses in their digital transformation journey and
  • Leveraging technology and AI for social good, in areas like health, education, and agriculture.

Digital India Initiatives

Digitising the state


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Overhauling India's digital payments, accounting and transactions.

This article examines the issues with governments account problems and their implications. It also suggests the ways to deal with the problems with data management in India.It is is line with the suggestions made by the CAG in this regard.

Problem with government account keeping

  • The Union budget grew from Rs 197 crore in 1947 to Rs 30 lakh crore last year.
  • Total government expenditure may be higher than Rs 70 lakh crore. (states+union)
  • But the form and manner of keeping accounts have more or less remained unchanged since Independence.
  • Manual transactions and manual payments often lead to manually entered data at different stages in different databases on different systems.
  • This makes data unreliable, violates the principle of “single source of truth”.
  • This also sabotages transparency and good governance.

Issues with computerisation by government

  • Government “computerisation” has often mechanised manual processes rather than “re-engineered processes”.
  • This has created siloed IT systems.
  • It has created various separate databases that lack modern data sharing protocols for organic linking like APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).
  • It leaves fiscal data being incomparable as basic as salary expenditure across states.
  • It creates the problem of obscurity in which large expenditures are booked under omnibus head called other.
  • Non-traceable actual expenditure against temporary advances drawn or funds drawn on contingent bills.
  • It creates the problem of misclassification so that grants in aid is classified as capital expenditure and bookings under suspense heads.

3 Steps to deal with the issues

1)  100% end-to-end data capture

  • All receipts and expenditure transactions including demands, assessment, and invoices should be received, processed, and paid electronically.

2)  Data governance for standards

  •  Data standards are rules for describing and recording data elements with precise meanings that enable integration, sharing, and interoperability.
  • Prescribing data elements for all transactions will ensure standardisation.
  • This standardisation will clarify ambiguity, minimise redundant data, and create protocols for integration across different databases across entities receiving government funds.
  • It will also integrate entities collecting revenues on behalf of the government, and those discharging core functions on behalf of the government.
  • Government-wide data standards coupled with real-time data captured end-to-end will enable the use of cognitive intelligence tools like analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning.
  • These tools, will support the establishment of budget baselines, detecting anomalies, data-driven project/activity costing, performance comparisons across departments and agencies, and benchmarking.

3) Technology architecture

  • The element of technology architecture must ensure that all IT government systems should conform to a prescribed open architecture framework.
  • This framework should ensure robust security and maintaining privacy.

How will these 3 steps help

  • It will help in recognising off-budget transactions, the last Union budget took steps towards this fiscal transparency and consolidation.
  • These steps will ensure business continuity: electronic records cannot be lost or misplaced like files or paper records.
  • It will also provide an incontrovertible audit trail.
  • It will enable Parliament and legislatures to draw “assurance” that each rupee due to the government has been collected, and each rupee has been spent for the purpose it was allocated.

Consider the question “Government expenditure has increased manifold since 1947 but the form and manner of keeping data have remained more or less the same. In light of this examine the issues with payments, accounting and transactions data system of the government. Suggest the measures to improve it.”


A citizen-centric view of a single source of truth encompassing every rupee of public money would make the 299 remarkable people who wrote India’s Constitution proud of this 21st-century citizen empowerment innovation.

Original Op-ed

Digital India Initiatives

Reforming Digital policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Data privacy

Mains level : Paper 3- Importance of digital services for Indian economy

Pandemic has been ravaging the economies across the globe but digital services have escaped the onslaught and are thriving. For India, this could be an opportunity. This article highlights the importance of the sector and how some proposed measures could have an adverse impact on the sector.

Emerging trends in economies

  • Economic growth has dropped, and the competition for foreign investment is intensifying.
  • There are national campaigns to shift supply chains and the urgent necessity to reverse recessionary trends.
  • The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development just released its latest World Investment Report.
  • The report projected that FDI to developing Asian economies could drop by as much as 45%.

Why digital services would beat this trend

  • Digital services have become critical to every 21st century economy.
  • Digital services are filling gaps when national or global emergencies interrupt more traditional modes of commerce.
  • It enables access to and delivery of a wide array of products across multiple sectors.

How it matters for India

  • India offers undeniable potential for innovative homegrown start-ups.
  • India has a huge and increasingly digitised population.
  • Indian government policies will be key determinants in how quickly and at what level the economy attracts new investment.
  • Fostering innovation, and expanding its exporting prowess will also matter.

Three pending measure

  • Three pending reform measures under consideration are-
  • 1) Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB).
  • 2) The e-commerce policy.
  • 3) The Information Technology Act Amendments.

Issues with these measures

  • These regulatory reforms seem to emphasise a focus on protecting the domestic market for domestic companies.
  • It also prioritises government access to data.
  • It may be difficult to reconcile these approaches with India’s strong interest in i) promoting data privacy ii) protecting its democratic institutions iii) encouraging FDI and India’s position as a global leader in information technology.

India-US trade relationship issue

  • The India-U.S. trade relationship is uncertain.
  • The bilateral relationship is an important factor for greater trade and investment in digital services.
  • India and the U.S. are yet to conclude negotiation on a bilateral trade agreement that could address some digital services issues.
  • The U.S. just initiated a “Section 301” review.
  • The review seeks whether digital services taxes in 10 countries constitute “unfair” trade measures, including India’s equalisation levy.

Consider the question “Digital services have become critical to every 21st-century economy and more so for Indian economy. In light, highlight the salience of digital services for the Indian economy and what are the issues that could affect the growth trajectory of the sector in India?”


Post-COVID-19 international cooperation and approaches to good governance in the digital sphere will be top-priority initiatives. The steps India takes now could well establish itself as a true global leader.

Digital India Initiatives

Share the public data with public


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NDSAP

Mains level : Paper 2-Sharing of public data

Open access to public data is essential for policy analysis and evidence-based policymaking. Policy framework for sharing of public data by the government is also looked into in this article. 

How Open Data Charter came about

  • Open-source software enthusiasts and civil society activists in the U.S. and U.K. came with a demand to unlock the data gathered by governments for unfettered access and reuse by citizens.
  • Data collected at public expense must belong to the people. This is the principle for the Open Data Charter adopted by 22 countries since 2015.
  • It calls upon governments to disseminate public data in open digital formats.
  • In return, the Charter argues, governments can expect “innovative, evidence-based policy solutions”.

Steps toward making data accessible-NDSAP

  •  The National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) was adopted in 2012.
  • It was a step towards making non-sensitive government data accessible online.
  • The main thrust of the policy is to “promote data sharing and enable access to Government of India owned data for national planning, development and awareness”.
  • The implementation guidelines for NDSAP include ideals such as “openness, flexibility, transparency, quality” of data.
  • It aims to facilitate “access to Government of India shareable data in machine-readable form”.
  • The guidelines prescribe open digital formats suitable for analysis and dissemination.
  • Opaque formats such as the portable document format and the image format are discouraged.
  • As part of the Open Government Data (OGD) initiative, was launched in 2012.
  • However, the implementation has lagged far behind its stated objectives.

How data could have helped policy making in Covid pandemic

  • The district-wise, demographic-wise case statistics and anonymous contact traces released in the public domain would have proved useful.
  • Reliable model forecasts of disease spread and targeted regional lockdown protocols could have been generated.
  • Model forecasts have limitations, but models without inputs from empirical data are even more unreliable.

Violation of OGD in data shared for pandemic

  • Principles of OGD notwithstanding, sufficiently granular infection data are not available.
  • Violating the data format guidelines, OGD portal provides COVID-19 data only as a graphic image unsuitable for any analysis.
  • The Indian Council of Medical Research and fare no better.
  • They too do not publish district-wise statistics, and the available data are not in usable formats.

Examples from other countries

  • The data portals of Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. present district-wise COVID-19 cases data.
  • These countries also provide data about the emergent effects on mental health, jobs and education.
  • According to the latest report of the Open Data Barometer, an independent group measuring the impact of open data, these nations lead the pack.
  • India is a contender to reach the top bracket and not a laggard.

Way forward

  • The government must provide the impetus and incentive to exploit this voluminous data by invigorating the dated national data portal.
  • Every department must be mandated to share substantive data respecting privacy concerns.
  • The government should look within for examples of creative outcomes of opening up the database.
  • Start-ups have built novel applications using Indian Railways data to provide ticket confirmation prediction and real-time train status.

Consider the question “Examine the provisions for data sharing and accessibility in India. Also, elaborate how the sharing of public data could help in policymaking.”


Sharing public data is a way to create beneficial social impact. So, the government must ensure the implementation of policy measures and encourage the analysis of public data to come at the informed policy decision.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Instant PAN through Aadhaar based e-KYC


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PAN

Mains level : Income tax reforms in India

The Union Finance Ministry has launched the facility for instant allotment of (Permanent Account Number) PAN.

Try this question from CSP 2018:

Q.) Consider the following gatemen.

1. Aadhaar card can be used as a proof of citizenship or domicile.

2. Once issued, the Aadhaar number cannot be deactivated or omitted by the Issuing Authority.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Can’t you expect a similar question based on PAN card? If not , go through this newscard.

What is a Permanent Account Number?

  • A PAN is a ten-character alphanumeric identifier, issued in the form of a laminated “PAN card”, by the Income Tax Department.
  • It is issued to any “person” who applies for it or to whom the department allots the number without an application.
  • A PAN is a unique identifier issued to all judicial entities identifiable under the Indian Income Tax Act, 1961.
  • The income tax PAN and its linked card are issued under Section 139A of the Income Tax Act.
  • It is issued by the Indian Department under the supervision of the Central Board for Direct Taxes (CBDT) and it also serves as an important proof of identification.
  • It is also issued to foreign nationals (such as investors) subject to a valid visa, and hence a PAN card is not acceptable as proof of Indian citizenship.

Uses of PAN

  • The primary purpose of the PAN is to bring a universal identification to all financial transactions and to prevent tax evasion by keeping track of monetary transactions.
  • The PAN is mandatory when filing income tax returns, tax deduction at source, or any other communication with the IT Department.
  • PAN is also steadily becoming a mandatory document for opening a new bank account, a new landline telephone connection / a mobile phone connection, purchase of foreign currency, bank deposits above ₹50,000, purchase and sale of immovable properties, vehicles etc.

Why it is in the news?

  • A PAN is necessary for filing income tax returns.
  • This facility is now available for those PAN applicants who possess a valid Aadhaar number and have a mobile number registered with Aadhaar.
  • The allotment process is paperless and an electronic PAN (e-PAN) is issued to the applicants free of cost.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] UMANG Mobile App


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UMANG app services

Mains level : Utility of the UMANG app

To further enhance the initiatives of Digital India Programme, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) services have been brought on the “UMANG App”.

UPSC may puzzle you by asking a question such as: Which of the following services are included under UMANG App?  It would provide some ambiguous 5-6 options.


  • The UMANG is an acronym for Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance.
  • It is an all-in-one single, unified, secure, multi-channel, multi-platform, multi-lingual, multi-service mobile app, powered by a robust back-end platform providing access to high impact services of various organizations.
  • It was in 2017 to bring major government services on a single mobile app, with a larger goal to make the government accessible on the mobile phone of our citizens.
  • About 660 services from 127 departments & 25 states and about 180 utility bill payment services are live and more are in pipeline.
  • UMANG user base has crossed 2.1 Crore including Android, iOS, Web and KaiOS.
  • Citizens can also access their Digilocker from UMANG and give their feedback after availing any service through Rapid Assessment System (RAS) which has been integrated with UMANG.

Key features

  • Unified Platform: It brings together all government departments and their services on a single platform to provide better and easier services to citizens.
  • Mobile-First Strategy: It aligns all government services with the mobile-first strategy to leverage mobile adoption trends.
  • Integration with Digital India Services: It provides seamless integration with other Digital India Services like Aadhaar, DigiLocker, and PayGov. Any new such service will automatically be integrated with the platform.
  • Uniform Experience: It is designed to enable citizens to discover, download, access, and use all government services easily.
  • Secure and Scalable: It supports Aadhaar-based and other authentication mechanisms for service access. The sensitive profile data is saved in an encrypted format and no one can view this information.

Benefits for Citizens

  • Single-Point Ubiquitous Access: All government services are available for citizens on a unified platform for easy access through multiple online and offline channels (SMS, email, app, and web).
  • More for Less: Only a single mobile app needs to be installed instead of each app of each department.
  • Convenience: Citizens do not even need to install or update the app again to avail government services if more services are added to the platform.
  • Saving of Time and Money: Citizens can anytime and anywhere avail these services through their mobile phones, desktops, and laptops without any need for visiting the department office and standing in queues.
  • Uniform Experience: All the government services including payment-based transactions provide secure and uniform experience.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] CollabCAD tool to create 3D Computer Aided Designs


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CollabCAD tool and its utility

Mains level : Not Much

Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog and National Informatics Centre (NIC) jointly launched CollabCAD.


  • It is a computer-enabled software system which provides a total engineering solution from 2D drafting & detailing to 3D product design.
  • It helps the user to build models in virtual 3d space and create and engineering drawings for the shop floor which makes it a complete package for smart manufacturing.
  • The aim of this initiative is to provide a great platform to students of Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) across the country to create and modify 3d designs with free flow of creativity and imagination.
  • This software would also enable students to create data across the network and concurrently access the same design data for storage and visualization.

Back2Basics: Atal Innovation Mission (AIM)

  • The Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) is a flagship initiative set up by the NITI Aayog to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across the length and breadth of the country.
  • AlM’s objectives are to create and promote an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship across the country at school, university, research institutions, MSME and industry levels.
  • At the school level, AIM establishes Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL) in all districts across India. ATLs provide tinkering spaces to children to hone their innovative ideas and creativity.
  • At the university, NGO, SME and Corporate industry levels, AIM is setting up world-class Atal Incubators (AICs) that would trigger and enable successful growth of sustainable startups in every sector.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Swayam Prabha TV Channels


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SWAYAM prabha initiaitive

Mains level : DIgital learning initiaitives and their outreach in India

The HRD Ministry has taken several prompt, new and unique initiatives to ensure that the education of learners should not get affected by the challenging situation arising out of COVID 19. One of them is Swayamprabha TV channels.

There are various web/portals/apps with peculiar names such as YUKTI, DISHA, SWAYAM etc. Their core purpose is similar with slight differences. Pen them down on a separate sheet under the title various digital HRD initiatives.


  • The SWAYAM Prabha is a group of 32 DTH channels devoted to telecasting of high-quality educational programmes on a 24X7 basis using the GSAT-15 satellite.
  • The channels are uplinked from BISAG, Gandhinagar. The contents are provided by NPTEL, IITs, UGC, CEC, IGNOU, NCERT and NIOS.
  • The INFLIBNET Centre maintains the web portal.
  • Every day, there will be new content for at least 4 hours which would be repeated 5 more times in a day, allowing the students to choose the time of their convenience.

The DTH Channels shall cover the following:

Higher Education: Curriculum-based course contents at post-graduate and under-graduate level covering diverse disciplines such as arts, science, commerce, performing arts, social sciences and humanities, engineering, technology, law, medicine, agriculture, etc.

School education (9-12 levels): Modules for teacher’s training as well as teaching and learning aids for children of India to help them understand the subjects better and also help them in preparing for competitive examinations for admissions to professional degree programmes.

Curriculum-based courses: These channels can meet the needs of life-long learners of Indian citizens in India and abroad.

Back2Basics: SWAYAM Portal

  • SWAYAM is a Hindi acronym that stands for “Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds” is an Indian Massive open online course (MOOC) platform.
  • It is an initiative launched by the Ministry of HRD, under Digital India to give a coordinated stage and free entry to web courses, covering all advanced education, High School and skill sector courses.
  • It was launched on 9th July 2017 by Honorable President of India.
  • The platform offers free access to everyone and hosts courses from class 9 till post-graduation.
  • It enables professors and faculty of centrally funded institutes like IITs, IIMs, IISERs, etc. to teach students.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] ‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign

Mains level : Not Much

Union HRD Ministry has launched a week-long ‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign for Crowdsourcing of Ideas for Improving Online Education ecosystem of India.

‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign

  • Students and teachers are the main target audience of this campaign.
  • Students who are currently studying in schools or higher educational institutions are the ones engaging with the existing digital platforms offering various courses etc. on a daily basis.
  • They can share what is lacking in the existing online platforms and how it can be made more engaging.
  • The educators across the country can also come forward to contribute with their expertise and experience in the field of education.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Integrated Government Online Training (iGOT)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : iGOT portal, DIKSHA Portal

Mains level : Not Much

The Union govt. has launched a training module for management of COVID-19 named ‘Integrated Government Online training’ (iGOT) on DIKSHA platform of MHRD.

About iGOT

  • It is training module for management of COVID-19 on DIKSHA platform for the capacity building of frontline workers to handle the COVID-19 pandemic efficiently.
  • Courses on iGOT have been launched specially for Doctors, Nurses, Paramedics, Hygiene Workers, Technicians, Auxiliary Nursing Midwives (ANMs), State Government Officers, Civil Defence Officers, Various Police Organisations.
  • They are also available to NCC corps, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS), NSS volunteers, Indian Red Cross Society, Bharat Scouts and Guides and other volunteers at the stage.

Back2Basics: DIKSHA Portal

  • HRD ministry has launched Diksha Portal ( for providing a digital platform to a teacher to make their lifestyle more digital.
  • It aims to serve as National Digital Infrastructure for Teachers.
  • The portal will cover the whole teacher’s life cycle – from the time they were enrolled as student teachers in Teacher Education Institutes (TEIs) to after they retire as teachers.
  • It will enable, accelerate and amplify solutions in the realm of teacher education. It will aid teachers to learn and train themselves for which assessment resources will be available.

Digital India Initiatives

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


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

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


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.


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.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] SPICe+ web form


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SPICe+

Mains level : Not Much


The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has launched SPICe+ web form.


  • It would offer 10 services by 3 Central Govt Ministries & Departments (Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Ministry of Labour & Department of Revenue in the Ministry of Finance) and One State Government (Maharashtra).
  • It saves as many procedures, time and cost for Starting a Business in India and would be applicable for all new company incorporations.

Following are the features of the new Spice+ web form:

  • SPICe+ would be an integrated Web Form.
  • SPICe+ would have two parts viz.: Part A-for Name reservation for new companies and Part B offering a bouquet of services viz.
  • Registration for Profession Tax shall also be mandatory for all new companies to be incorporated in the State of Maharashtra through SPICe+.
  • All new companies incorporated through SPICe+ would also be mandatorily required to apply for opening the company’s Bank account through the AGILE-PRO linked web form.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] ASKDISHA Chatbot


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ask DISHA Chatbot

Mains level : Applications of AI


In order to resolve queries of railway passengers over the internet pertaining to various services offered, Indian Railways had introduced the services of Artificial Intelligence-based ASKDISHA chatbot in October 2018 for the benefit of the users.


  • IRCTC had launched this chat bot to answer various queries about ticket booking, cancellation and various value-added services.
  • The chatbot is a special computer programme designed to simulate conversation with users, especially over the internet.
  • It was jointly developed by IRCTC and CoRover Private Limited, a Bangalore-based startup.
  • The first-of-its-kind initiative by IRCTC is aimed at facilitating accessibility by answering users’ queries pertaining to various services offered to railway passengers.

What is the new update?

  • The ASKDISHA Chatbot was initially launched in English language but in order to further enhance the customer services rendered.
  • To further strengthen the services of the chatbot, IRCTC has now powered voice-enabled ASKDISHA to converse with customers in Hindi language also in the e-ticketing site
  • The customers can now ask queries to ASKDISHA in Hindi language by voice as well as text.
  • On an average, around three thousand enquiries are being handled by ASKDISHA in Hindi language on daily basis and the figure is increasing day by day which also shows the acceptability of the new feature by the customer.
  • IRCTC plans to launch ASKDISHA in more languages along with many other additional features in the near future.

Digital India Initiatives

Riding on data for mobility


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Applying digital revolution to transform governance.


Data-based governance can assist in reducing traffic congestion, as illustrated by a pilot study in Hyderabad.

How the Digital revolution is transforming lives

  • Seamless and efficient interaction: The digital revolution has made interactions between humans and machines, and among citizens, governments and businesses, seamless and efficient.
  • Helping efficient delivery of services: Today, e-governance enables and empowers citizens to directly engage with the state, thereby eliminating barriers in the delivery of public services.
  • The next wave of transformation: The next wave of transformation in digital governance is at the intersection of data and the public good.
    • Data as a strategic asset: The key to this transformation lies in incorporating data as a strategic asset in all aspects of-
    • Policy.
    • Planning.
    • Service delivery and-
    • Operations of the government.

Transportation system improvement by leveraging Digital revolution

  • Loss caused by the congestion
    • Congestion caused an estimated $24 billion to the four metro cities in India in 2018.
    • Given the limited land resources available, the key to solving congestion lies in improving the efficiency of existing transportation systems.
  • How can Digital revolution help tackle the problem?
    • An efficient transportation system would help ease congestion, reduce travel time and cost, and provide greater convenience.
    • How it will work? Data from multiple sources such as-
    • CCTV cameras.
    • Automatic traffic 
    • Map services and-
    • Transportation service providers could be used.
  • Results of the previous studies
    • London example: A study by Transport for London estimates that its open data initiative on sharing of real-time transit data has helped add £130 million a year to London’s economy by improving productivity and efficiency.
    • Results from China: In China, an artificial intelligence-based traffic management platform developed by Alibaba has helped improve average speeds by 15%.

Hyderabad Open Transit Data portal

  • Hyderabad Open Transit Data, launched by Open Data Telangana, is the country’s first data portal.
    • What does it do? It publishes datasets on bus stops, bus routes, metro routes, metro stations, schedules, fares, and frequency of public transit services.
  • The objective of the portal: The objective is to empower start-ups and developers to create useful mobility applications.
    • The datasets were built after an intensive exercise carried out by the Open Data Team and Telangana State Road Transport Corporation to collect, verify and digitise the data.
  • Collaboration with the private sector: Hyderabad has also begun collaborating with the private sector to improve traffic infrastructure.
    • MoU with Ola Mobility Institute: One such partnership followed a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Telangana government and Ola Mobility Institute.
    • Monitoring the quality of roads in the city: Under this collaboration, Ola has developed a tool, Ola City Sense, to provide data-based insights that can monitor the quality of Hyderabad’s roads and identify bad quality patches.
    • Other areas in which the data is used: The information thus given is useful not only for carrying out road repairs, it also helps officials take initiatives to improve road safetymonitor quality of construction, and study the role of bad roads in causing congestion.
  • A pilot project to prioritisation of repairs: A pilot was implemented in a municipal zone to gauge the efficacy of the data in supporting road monitoring and prioritisation of repairs.
    • The early results of this pilot project were encouraging. The dashboard helped city officials plan the pre-monsoon repair work and budget for repairs last year.


  • The willingness of the government to apply data-based insights: The Hyderabad project and the pilot demonstrated the willingness of government departments to apply data-based insights for better decision making.
    • This could also serve as a model for other cities to emulate.
  • Making the departments data-centric: The Hyderabad example also shows that governments can make their departments data-centric by-
    • Institutionalising data collection.
    • Building technology platforms.
    • And helping the departments develop the capacity to handle the insights generated from the data.
    • Smart cities as a starting point: Command and control centres under the ‘smart cities’ initiative can be an ideal starting point.
    • Data security and privacy: Such interventions, however, also need to address genuine concerns around data security and privacy.



Digital India Initiatives

[pib] SERVICE Initiative


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SERVICE Initiative

Mains level : NA

The Steel Authority of India Ltd has launched an initiative called SERVICE to promote Voluntary Philanthropist Activities (VPA) by its employees.


  • SERVICE stands for “SAIL Employee Rendering Voluntarism and Initiatives for Community Engagement (SERVICE)”.
  • It aims to promote and facilitate philanthropist activities by the employees in a structured manner.
  • The Minister also launched a portal for the employees to register for the scheme.
  • This dedicated portal will act as a platform for enabling faster interaction and communication amongst the various stakeholders.

Digital India Initiatives

[op-ed of the day] Business possibilities in a world of digital payments


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3-Potentials of UPI in increasing digital payments.


UPI has brought digital payments to the common man and it has immense scope for growth.

Zero MDR rate

  • Recently the finance minister made the announcement of the zero merchant discount rate (MDR) policy for payments through RuPay debit cards and Unified Payments Interface (UPI) instruments.
  • What does it mean? This policy dictates that when a consumer pays a merchant using RuPay or UPI, the bank may not charge the merchant a commission on the sale value that it usually charges a merchant.
  • Criticism of the move: Critics of this policy lament that it would begin to reverse the progress India has made in recent years to expand the digital payments network.

Some facts and figures

  • Setting up of NPCI: In 2008 the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) was set up as an umbrella organization for operating retail payments and settlements in India
  • UPI:  In 2016, NPCI introduced UPI.
    • UPI has since registered 100 million users.
    • UPI now clocks more than 1 billion transactions every month.
  • Growth prospects for mobile payments: According to the NITI Aayog, mobile payments in India are expected to grow nearly 20-fold to $190 billion in the next three years.
  • Digital payment for the common man: There are 1 billion mobile phone users in India.
  • 420 million users have a feature phone, these users can use the *99# USSD service to dial into 13 different languages.
  • Which would connect them to UPI and brings digital payments to the common man.

Need for innovation

  • We are far behind: India is far behind china, where 55% of spending is done digitally, compared to only 11% in India.
    • The outlook for future growth is mind-boggling.
    • There is a need for innovation at three levels.
  • First level-Adoption
    • A better understanding of human behaviour, technology, use cases and dis-use cases will facilitate the 10x growth necessary in adoption rates to cover the entire population.
  • Second level-Policy
    • The government has the rare opportunity to develop a data-centric understanding of how the economy conducts itself and uses money, and can set taxes accordingly.
  • Third level-Technology
    • Voice for authentication: At the technology level, there is an opportunity to use voice as a means for authentication and conduct transactions across multiple local languages.
    • Data analysis: Copious amounts of data from payment transactions can be analysed to understand user needs and develop personalized loans and financial solutions at scale.

Taking UPI to Global Level

  • UPI in Singapore and UAE: The NCPI is gearing up to take UPI to other countries, beginning with Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
    • NCPI is working with its counterpart in Singapore, the Network for Electronic Transfers for Singapore, to bring UPI live in Singapore.
  • The low hanging fruit is to provide payment solutions to Indians travelling abroad.
  • Competition with global peers: The bigger and tougher game is to increase its usage among local people in countries outside India.
    • This would put UPI in competition with the likes of PayPal and Skrill.


We have seen just the tip, albeit a very substantial tip, of the digital payments iceberg. In the coming years, young business leaders of today must learn to uncover the iceberg itself.





Digital India Initiatives

‘MANI’ app


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MANI app

Mains level : Eliminating counterfeit currency notes

With an eye to aid the differently-abled, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has launched a mobile app to identify currency notes.


  • ‘MANI’, is an acronym for Mobile Aided Note Identifier.
  • The visually challenged can identify the denomination of a note by using the application, which can also work offline once it is installed.
  • A user will have to scan the notes using the camera and it will give the audio output to give out results in Hindi and English.
  • RBI has clarified that the app does not authenticate a note as either genuine or counterfeit.

Digital India Initiatives

National Broadband Mission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Features of the mission

Mains level : Various initiatives for digital empowerment of rural India

The union government has launched the National Broadband Mission (NBM).

National Broadband Mission (NBM)

  • It is aimed at providing broadband access in all villages in the country by 2022, entailing investments of around ₹7 lakh crore from various stakeholders.
  • The vision of the NBM is to fast track growth of digital communications infrastructure, bridge the digital divide, facilitate digital empowerment and inclusion and provide affordable and universal access of broadband for all.

Objectives of the mission

Some of the objectives of the Mission which is structured with strong emphasis on the three principles of universality, affordability and quality are:

  • Broadband access to all villages by 2022
  • Laying of incremental 30 lakhs route km of Optical Fiber Cable and increase in tower density from 0.42 to 1.0 tower per thousand of population by 2024
  • Develop a Broadband Readiness Index (BRI) to measure the availability of digital communications infrastructure and conducive policy ecosystem within a State/UT.
  • Creation of a digital fiber map of the Digital Communications network and infrastructure, including Optical Fiber Cables and Towers, across the country

Digital India Initiatives

Government Instant Messaging System (GIMS)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GIMS

Mains level : Cyber Security

The government is testing a prototype of an Indian equivalent of popular messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp and Telegram, for secure internal use.

Government Instant Messaging System

  • Codenamed GIMS the platform is in the pilot testing stage across some states, including Odisha — and is learnt to have been released to the Indian Navy to be tried out on trial basis.
  • It is designed and developed by the Kerala unit of National Informatics Centre (NIC).
  • It is being packaged for employees of Central and state government departments and organisations for intra and inter-organisation communications.
  • Besides one-to-one messaging and group messaging, there are specific provisions in GIMS for documents and media sharing in keeping with the hierarchies in the government system.

Why need GIMS?

  • It is being developed as a secure Indian alternative without the security concerns attached with apps hosted abroad or those owned by foreign entities.
  • Like WhatsApp, GIMS employs end-to-end encryption for one-to-one messaging.
  • The launch of the new app comes amid the recent controversy over the WhatsApp breach through a spyware called Pegasus.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Gandhipedia


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gandhipedia

Mains level : Gandhian values and thier significance

The Government is developing ‘Gandhi Encyclopedia’ to spread awareness in the society.


  • The project is at present being designed by the National Council for Science and Museums. It will be jointly implemented by IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Gandhinagar.
  • It is being developed as a social media portal that will contain original works related to the Father of the Nation.
  • It aims for promotion of appropriate Gandhian philosophy and thoughts through social media platforms under 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi Ji.
  • The portal will function on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine running.


  • The portal will contain original photographs, visuals, speeches and the 100 collected works of Gandhiji.
  • Books by Gandhiji will also be available on the portal apart from books that have been written on him.
  • It will be free for access to everybody.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] RailWire Wi-Fi


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RailWire

Mains level : Various Digital India initiatives

Indian Railways has successfully completed the work of providing free public Wi-Fi at 5500 stations across the country.  This is a unique initiative as this Wi-Fi network is one of the largest Wi-Fi networks in the world.


  • To transform the Railway stations into the hub of Digital inclusion, Indian Railways mandated RailTel, a Miniratna PSU under Ministry of Railways, to provide free high-speed Wi-Fi at the Railway stations.
  • The journey started in January 2016 from the financial capital of India – Mumbai Central station and in a span of 46 months Railways has successfully provided Wi-Fi at 5500 stations across the country.
  • The mission is to provide Wi-Fi at all Railway stations (except the halt ones).
  • The Wi-Fi is being provided under the brand name of RailWire.

Digital India Initiatives

National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NATGRID

Mains level : Significance of NATGRID

The ambitious National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) project will be operational by December 31, 2020, the Lok Sabha was informed recently.


  • The project, initially started in 2009 with a budget of ₹2,800 crore, is an online database for collating scattered pieces of information and putting them together on one platform.
  • NATGRID is exempted from the Right to Information Act, 2005 under sub-section (2) of Section 24.
  • The NATGRID links intelligence and investigation agencies.
  • At least 10 Central government agencies, such as the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing and others will have access to the data on a secured platform.
  • NATGRID has developed application software for proof of technology (POT) which is yet to be fully rolled out. NATGRID solution is planned to go live by 31.12.2020.

Utility of NATGRID

  • The NATGRID will enable multiple security and intelligence agencies to access a database related to immigration entry and exit, banking and telephone details, among others, from a common platform.
  • The 10 user agencies will be linked independently with certain databases which will be procured from 21 providing organisations including telecom, tax records, bank, immigration etc. to generate intelligence inputs.

Digital India Initiatives

[op-ed snap] Kerala’s plan for providing free Internet access to the poor is worthy of emulation by others


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Internet as a right


Kerala could have near-universal Internet access in a year’s time. 

The project

    • Last week, the state cabinet for the Kerala Fibre Optic Network project cleared the path for a Kerala-wide optical fiber network by December 2020.
    • It recognised that Internet access is a basic human right. No other Indian State has recognised Internet access in this manner till now. 
    • This is also in sync with the UN.
    • It aims to touch every household in Kerala by delivering free Internet access to over two million BPL families. It aims to charge affordable rates for other families. 
    • It is to be set up by the Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd. and the Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd., 
    • It will connect 30,000 government offices and educational institutions. 
    • When complete, a State that already tops in human development indicators in the country, will be ready for a steep digital evolution.


    • Rights – The role of the Internet in enabling freedom of speech and reducing inequality is huge.
    • Progress – India has made huge leaps in providing Internet access to its people in recent years.
    • A good part of the growth till now can be attributed to cheap data plans, triggered by the advent of Reliance Jio. According to a recent study by the Internet and Mobile Association of India and Nielsen, the country has 451 million active Internet users.

Gaps remain

    • Huge in number – Internet have-nots still exist in the millions.
    • Urban > Rural- Internet penetration is significantly higher in urban areas than it is in rural areas.
    • Gender gap – It is also significantly higher for men than it is for women. 
    • Regional gaps – The best-performing State, Delhi-NCR, has an Internet penetration of 69%. The second-best is Kerala, with just 54%. 
    • Tech companies – Global technology companies have in recent years eyed the huge population of Internet have-nots as an opportunity. Some, like Facebook, came up with an idea of free access to a list of chosen sites. 


There is no doubt that governments need to play an interventionist role in plugging this gap. Kerala could set a healthy example.

Digital India Initiatives

BHIM 2.0


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BHIM 2.0

Mains level : Promoting digital payments in India

  • The IT Ministry unveiled a slew of new initiatives and programmes, including BHIM 2.0 that packs-in new functionalities, support additional languages and has increased transaction limits.

BHIM 2.0

  • BHIM app, a UPI based payment interface developed by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) that allows real-time fund transfer, was launched in December 2016.
  • Some of the striking features marking BHIM 2.0 include a ‘Donation’ gateway, increased transaction limits for high-value transactions, linking multiple bank accounts, offers from merchants, the option of applying in IPO, gifting money etc.
  • The new version of BHIM also supports three additional languages — Konkani, Bhojpuri and Haryanvi — over and above the existing 13.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Digital Bharat Digital Sanskriti


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Digital Bharat Digital Sanskriti

Mains level : Various Digital India initiatives

Digital Bharat Digital Sanskriti

  • Union Ministry of State for Culture & Tourism has launched the E-Portal of CCRT ‘Digital Bharat Digital Sanskriti’ and CCRT YouTube Channel.
  • This will enable dissemination of cultural education through digital interactive medium into the classrooms all over the country.
  • For this initiative, CCRT has tied up with Routes 2 Roots, an NGO, for connecting seamlessly all the CCRT Regional Centres i.e., Guwahati, Udaipur and Hyderabad.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] GOAL (Going Online as Leaders) Initiative


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GOAL

Mains level : Various Digital India initiatives

  • Union Ministry of Tribal Affairannounced the second phase of GOAL (Going Online as Leaders) initiative.

About GOAL

  • It is a Facebook program aimed at inspiring, guiding and encouraging tribal girls from across India to become village-level digital young leaders for their communities.
  • Launched earlier this year in March, GOAL connects underprivileged young tribal women with senior expert mentors in the areas of business, fashion and arts to learn digital and life skills.
  • In the second phase of the program, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Fb together will digitally mentor 5000 young women in India’s tribal dominated districts.

Initiatives under GOAL

  • The GOAL program will provide economically and socially marginalized young women with the tools and guidance they need to succeed, using technology they may otherwise have not had access to.
  • The program will include weekly one-to-one mentoring sessions, focused on a range of skills such as digital literacy, entrepreneurship and online safety.
  • In total, more than 200,000 hours of guidance will be provided using Facebook family of apps including WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Consumer App


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the app and its features

Mains level : Consumer awareness measures

  • In order to fast-track consumer grievance redressal process and provide an effective forum for consumers to give their valuable suggestions Union Minister of Consumer Affairs launched the ‘Consumer App’.

Consumer App

  • The app aims to provide a one stop solution for consumer grievance redressal at the palm of every consumer across the nation via mobile phones.
  • The complaint status will be monitored on a daily basis by the ministry and on a weekly basis by the minister personally.
  • The registered consumer will be informed about their complaint via SMS/E-mail with a unique number which can be tracked by the consumer.
  • The knowledgebase available in the app is very useful feature that will help consumers get information pertaining to 42 Sectors including Consumer Durables, Electronic Products, e-commerce, Banking, Insurance, etc.

Grievance redressal

  • There will be time bound resolution of all grievances and those that are simple in nature will be resolved within 20 days.
  • Those that elicit a feedback from companies or further enquiries will be resolved within 2 months/60 days.
  • If after 60 days the grievance is not resolved, the consumer will be advised to proceed to consumer fora.
  • Also, now the consumer will be informed before closure of a complaint and if the consumer is not satisfied then the complaint will be referred further to the concerned department.

Digital India Initiatives

World Digital Competitiveness Ranking (WDCR) 2019


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the ranking

Mains level : Digital competitiveness in India

  • India has advanced four places to 44th position in terms of digital competitiveness in the world.

About the ranking

  • The Ranking, produced by the IMD World Competitiveness Center, measures the capacity and readiness of 63 nations to adopt and explore digital technologies as a key driver for economic transformation in business, government and wider society.
  • To evaluate an economy, WDCR examines three factors:
  1. Knowledge: the capacity to understand and learn the new technologies;
  2. Technology: the competence to develop new digital innovations; and
  3. Future readiness: the preparedness for the coming developments.

India’s progress

  • India rose from 48th place in 2018 to 44th rank this year as the country has improved overall in all factors — knowledge, technology and future readiness — as compared to the previous year’s ranking.
  • India has made improvement in terms of knowledge and future readiness to adopt and explore digital technologies, according to a global report.

Global scenario

  • The US was ranked as the world’s most digitally competitive economy, followed by Singapore in the second place.
  • Sweden was ranked third on the list, followed by Denmark and Switzerland in the 4th and 5th place, respectively.
  • Others in the list of top-10 most digitally competitive economy include Netherlands in the 6th place, Finland (7th), Hong Kong SAR (8th), Norway (9th) and Republic of Korea (10th).
  • The largest jump in the overall ranking was registered by China, moving from 30th to 22nd, and Indonesia, from 62nd to 56th.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Inflight and Maritime Telecom Connectivity in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FMC Rules

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • Union Ministry for Communications, Electronics & Information Technology has launched the maritime communication services.

Providing Maritime connectivity

  • Nelco India’s leading VSAT solutions provider is the first Indian company that will now provide quality broadband services to the maritime sector.
  • Nelco through global partnerships, infrastructure including transponder capacity on satellite of ISRO and a comprehensive service portfolio
  • It will help Energy, Cargo and Cruise vessels by enhancing operational efficiency, improving crew welfare and enabling customer services.
  • Maritime Connectivity will enable high-end support to those in sea by providing access to Voice, Data and Video services while traveling on sailing vessels, cruise liners, ships in India, using satellite technology.

Making it possible through IFMC license

  • In December 2018, the Govt. announced the licenses for In-flight and Maritime Communications (IFMC) that allows voice and internet services while flying over the Indian skies and sailing in Indian waters.
  • The IFMC licence has not only enabled connectivity for on-board users on ships but also brings operational efficiencies for shipping companies which were less evolved until now.
  • The IFMC license is a key initiative of the Telecom Ministry, a move to liberalise satellite communication services in India.
  • It permits both international and Indian aircrafts and vessels.

FMC Rules

  • In a major policy decision, Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications had notified the Flight and Maritime Connectivity (FMC) Rules, 2018 on 14th December, 2018.
  • It permits voice and data service provisioning in flights and ships.
  • The intent is to open the airspace and territorial waters for telecommunication services for general public which was not possible earlier due to lack of enabling rules.
  • Rules envisage creation of satellite gateway within India for providing telecom services in aircraft and ships through Indian licensed service providers.
  • Further, Indian satellite bandwidth has to be utilised. If a foreign satellite is used, it has to be approved by ISRO.
  • Only the authorized IFMC service provider, can provide wireless voice or data or both type of services on ships within Indian territorial waters and on aircraft within or above India or Indian territorial waters.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Biometric Seafarer Identity Document (BSID)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BSID

Mains level : Utility of BSID

  • India has become the first country in the world to issue Biometric Seafarer Identity Document (BSID), capturing the facial bio-metric data of seafarers.

About BSID

  • In India the BSID project has been taken up in collaboration with Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), Mumbai.
  • The Government notified the Merchant Shipping (Seafarers Bio-metric Identification Document) Rules in 2016.
  • Every Indian seafarer who possesses a valid Continuous Discharge Certificate issued by the Govt. of India will be eligible for issue of a BSID.
  • Nine data collection centers have been setup  at Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Noida, Goa, New Mangalore, Kochi, Vizag & Kandla for issue of BSID.

Working of BSID

  • It introduces modern security features.  It will have a biometric chip embedded in it.
  • The security of the BSID card is ensured at various levels and through different methods.
  • At the time of data capturing the live face is cross matched through passport photo using a face matching software.
  • The card has two optical security features- Micro prints/micro texts and Unique Guilloche pattern.
  • A software has been developed for capturing the facial biometrics and its authentication through the public key infrastructure.
  • A record of each SID issued will be maintained in a national database and its related information will be internationally accessible.


  • The BSID is a marked improvement over the two finger or iris based bio-metric data, with modern security features.
  • It will make the identification of the SID holder more reliable and efficient, while protecting their dignity and privacy.
  • It will give a foolproof identification to our seafarers which will facilitate their movement, provide ease of getting jobs and help in identifying them from any location in the world.
  • The new card is in confirmation of the Convention No. 185 of the International Labour Organisation on BSID. (India ratified the Convention in October 2015.)

Digital India Initiatives

Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas Campaign


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the campaign

Mains level : Read the attached story

About the Campaign

  • The Union government has decided to roll out its People’s Plan Campaign, also known as Sabki Yojana Sabka Vikas.
  • It aims to draw up a development plan for each Gram Panchayat (GP) in the country and place it on a website where anyone can see the status of the government’s flagship schemes such as SBM and PM Awas Yojana, etc.

Creating GP Development Plans

  • Gram Panchayats have been mandated for the preparation of GPDP for economic development and social justice utilizing the resources available to them.
  • The GPDP planning process will be comprehensive and participatory by involving full convergence with the schemes of all related Central Ministries / Line Departments.

How will GPDP work?

  • The process of creating Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDPs) requires each GP being scored on an array of 48 indicators.
  • It will cover various aspects such as health and sanitation, education, agriculture, housing, roads, drinking water, electrification, poverty alleviation programmes, social welfare etc.
  • After each GP is scored out of 100 — with 30 marks for infrastructure, 30 marks for human development, and 40 marks for economic activity — the GPs will be ranked.
  • The data on the 48 indicators would come from Census 2011 (for physical infrastructure), Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 (for Household-level deprivation data), and fresh survey starting September that will be carried out by local facilitators.

Defining priorities

  • The score for each GP will reflect the local needs and priorities. For instance, for a drought-prone area, water conservation would be accorded the highest priority.
  • Within this ranking, households suffering the worst deprivations would be prioritised further.
  • This entire ranking exercise is meant to identify the gaps at the GP level, make an assessment of where it stands, and accordingly plan the interventions.

Digital India Initiatives

Biometric Token System


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BTS

Mains level : Reforms in railway sector

  • The Western and Central Railways have introduced a new Biometric Token System (BTS) that seeks to streamline the process of boarding unreserved coaches.

What is Biometric Token System (BTS)?

  • The Western and Central Railways have introduced a new system by which passengers travelling in the general coach, where seats are not reserved, are given a token roughly three hours before the train’s departure.
  • These tokens are given on a first-come, first-served basis, and carry a serial number on them, which governs the order in which passengers will board the train.
  • Passengers with valid tickets are required to place their fingers on a scanner, and are issued a token with a serial number against their biometric data.
  • Passengers must queue up and enter the compartment in the order of their serial numbers.
  • The tokens are issued three hours before a train’s departure. The use of biometrics cuts out the touts, and helps genuine passengers.

Why such move?

  • Boarding ‘general’ compartments — in which seating is not reserved — especially in long-distance trains leaving major cities, has always been an ordeal for passengers.
  • The massive mismatch between the numbers of travellers and the available seats drives people to queue up on platforms up to 10 hours in advance.
  • Chaos at the time of boarding has led to stampedes and even deaths in the past.
  • Gangs of touts ‘reserve’ seats for a price, and those who can’t pay suffer.

Why use BTS?

  • The use of biometrics (fingerprint) rules out touts and ensures only bonafide travellers receive a token.
  • The data (captured in the machines) will be used to analyse the pattern of crowds and the patronage of trains.
  • In case of a mishap, officials will have details of the passengers, and with the help of this (biometric information) they can prevent black marketing of unreserved tickets.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Broadband Readiness Index (BRI)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BRI

Mains level : Utility of the BRI

Broadband Readiness Index (BRI)

  • The Department of Telecom and the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) signed a MoU to develop a Broadband Readiness Index (BRI) for Indian States and UTs.
  • The first estimate will be made in 2019 and subsequently every year until 2022.

Why such index?

  • The National Digital Communication Policy (NDCP) 2018 acknowledged the need for building a robust digital communications infrastructure leveraging existing assets of the broadcasting and power sectors.
  • Accordingly the policy recommended that a BRI for States and UTs be developed to attract investments and address Right of Way challenges across India.

Utility of the index

  • This index will appraise the condition of the underlying digital infrastructure and related factors at the State/UT level.
  • Such an exercise will provide useful insights into strategic choices made by States for investment allocations in ICT programmes.
  • In the spirit of competitive federalism, the index will encourage states to cross learn and jointly participate in achieving the overall objective of digital inclusion and development in India.
  • The framework will not only evaluate a state’s relative development but will also allow for better understanding of a state’s strengths and weaknesses that can feed into evidence-based policy making.

BRI of components

  • Part I will focus on infrastructure development based on the measurement of nine parameters.
  • Part II consists of demand side parameters which will be captured through primary surveys.
  • It will include indicators such as percentage of households using computers/ laptops with internet connection, percentage of households with fixed broadband connection, internet users as a percentage of the population, smart phones density, percentage of households with at least one digitally literate member, etc.
  • This will be a first of its kind exercise that will comprehensively measure the development of telecom infrastructure at the sub national level.

Digital India Initiatives

National Digital Health Mission (NDHM)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NDHM

Mains level : Need for digital health record

  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has recommended the setting up of a National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) to manage “enormous amounts of health data” generated by Ayushman Bharat, the Centre’s flagship health programme.

National Digital Health Mission (NDHM)

  • The NDHM would provide technology to manage and analyse data, and create a system of personal health records and health applications. Central to the “ecosystem” would be a Personal Health Identifier (PHI) to maintain a Personal Health Record (PHR).
  • The PHI would contain the names of patients and those of their immediate family, date of birth, gender, mobile number, email address, location, family ID and photograph.
  • While Aadhaar assures uniqueness of identity and provides an online mechanism for authentication, it cannot be used in every health context as per the applicable regulations.
  • The design of PHI, therefore, must allow multiple identifiers (chosen from the specified types of identifiers) for designing the structure and processes relating to PHI.

Blueprint of the mission

  • The Health Ministry has decided to consult Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which issues Aadhaar, and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in the design of the PHI.
  • These recommendations come from a National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB) created by a committee.
  • The 14-member committee included officials from the Health Ministry, state governments, NITI Aayog, MeitY, National eGovernance Division (NeGD), NIC, CDAC and AIIMS.
  • The panel envisions the new Mission to be autonomous like UIDAI and GSTN (Goods and Services Tax Network).
  • It would be partly funded by the government but will also “raise a part of its funding through a transaction fee” with private players.
  • The committee has also suggested a Command, Control, and Communication Center (CCCC) as a single point of contact in public health emergencies.
  • It estimates that all the components of the Mission would take about 18 months to develop.

Digital India Initiatives

Gandhipedia ‘to sensitize society’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gandhipedia

Mains level : Importance of Gandhian thoughts

  • A “Gandhipedia” was being developed in order to sensitize society, particularly the youth, about Gandhian values, Finance Minister informed in her Budget 2019-2010 speech.

What is Gandhipedia?

  • With the government marking the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi with several programmes throughout the year, an encyclopedia-like “Gandhipedia” would be among the efforts to spread his values.
  • The National Council for Science Museums (NCSM), based in Kolkata, is developing a Gandhipedia “to sensitize” youth and society “at large” about positive Gandhian values.
  • This comes about 10 months after President launched a web portal to provide people with free access to an online repository of Gandhian literature, philosophy, audios, videos and rare photographs of the Father of nation
  • The Minister, however, did not share more details on ‘Gandhipedia’ project of the NCSM, which functions under the Union Culture Ministry.

Digital India Initiatives

Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR), IMEI

Mains level : Privacy concerns associated with mobile phones

  • In a bid to curtail the rampant cloning and theft of mobile phones across the country, the Telecom Ministry is ready to roll out a Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) — a database of IMEIs, the 15-digit numbers that uniquely identify each mobile device.

Central Equipment Identity Register

  • The concept of a central identity register is advocated by the GSM Association (GSMA), a body representing mobile operators, equipment manufacturers, and software and internet companies, among other stakeholders in the telecom ecosystem.
  • In India, the plan to prepare the registry of mobile identification numbers was first conceived in the National Telecom Policy-2012.
  • A pilot for the project was developed and conducted by state-owned BSNL’s IT Project Service unit in Pune.
  • In the interim budget for 2019-20, the government allocated Rs 15 crore to the DoT for the CEIR project.

How will database work?

  • In line with global practices, DoT’s identity register will be a database of IMEI numbers that will consist of three lists – white, grey and black.
  • Mobile phones with IMEI numbers in the white list will be permitted for use, while those in the blacklist will be the ones that are reported stolen or lost and will not be allowed to access the network.
  • Devices with IMEI numbers in the greylist will be the ones that do not conform to standards but will be permitted to connect under supervision.

Utility of CEIR

  • Once implemented in the coming weeks, consumers in India whose mobile phones are lost or stolen can inform the Department of Telecom (DoT) via a helpline number after filing a report with police.
  • The DoT can then blacklist the IMEI number, effectively blocking the mobile device from accessing any cellular network in the future.
  • The CEIR will have access to GSMA’s global IMEI database, allowing comparison of IMEI numbers to identify counterfeit devices.

Why it is important?

  • The theft and cloning of mobile phones have become a serious problem.
  • The theft of mobile phones is not just a financial loss but also a threat to personal life of the citizens as well as national security.


What is IMEI?

  • The International Mobile Equipment Identity or IMEI is a number, usually unique to identify 3GPP and mobile phones, as well as some satellite phones.
  • GSM networks use the IMEI number to identify valid devices, and can stop a stolen phone from accessing the network.
  • For example, if a mobile phone is stolen, the owner can have their network provider use the IMEI number to blacklist the phone.
  • This renders the phone useless on that network and sometimes other networks, even if the thief changes the phone’s subscriber identity module (SIM).
  • The IMEI only identifies the device and has no particular relationship to the subscriber.
  • The phone identifies the subscriber by transmitting the International mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) number, which it stores on a SIM card that can, in theory, be transferred to any handset.
  • However, the network’s ability to know a subscriber’s current, individual device enables many network and security features.

Digital India Initiatives

[op-ed snap] Going digital


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Digital payment system

Mains level : Nilekani's commiittee's report on digital payment.


The payments ecosystem in India has seen a flurry of activity in the recent past. Post demonetisation, the shift towards digital payments has been particularly striking.

Low digital acceptance

Yet, acceptance, from an infrastructure perspective, continues to be low.

For instance, while debit card issuance has touched a billion, there are only about 3.5 million POS devices and two lakh ATMs that accept cards.

Against this backdrop, a committee headed by Nandan Nilekani has recommended several suggestions to broaden the acceptance infrastructure and deepen digital financial inclusion.

Committee’s recommendations

  1. The high cost of structures –
  • On the issue of acceptance, the committee notes that “high cost structures, including merchant fees, as well as limited financial service offering impede merchants from accepting digital payments”.
  • To address this, it has recommended reducing the interchange on card payments by 15 basis points hoping this will “increase the incentive for acquirers to sign-up merchants”.

2. Setting up a committee

  • Then there’s also the suggestion of setting up of a committee to review merchant discount rate and interchange on a regular basis.
  • Now, merchant acquisition is central to expanding the payment ecosystem.
  • But, rather than focusing more on the card-based ecosystem, perhaps greater emphasis could have been placed on the Aadhaar-enabled payment systems, which is likely to have greater appeal, especially in the rural hinterland.

3.No user charges on digital payments

  • There are also suggestions which call for ensuring no user charges for digital payments, and providing businesses tax incentives “calibrated on the proportion of digital payments in their receipts”.
  • These are eminently sensible recommendations. But implementation is likely to prove challenging.

Example – Take, for instance, the government’s decision to waive of fees on transactions less than Rs 2,000. Theoretically, a sound proportion. But, the roll-out was not as smooth as was expected.

4. Participation of non-banks in the payment system – The committee has also suggested that non-banks be encouraged to participate in payment systems.


  • But, this is where questions over the existing payments architecture crop up.
  • As the inter-ministerial committee had pointed out earlier, there is need to distinguish between the RBI’s role “as an infrastructure institution providing settlement function from its role as regulator of the payments system”.
  • As the panel has said, the role of the regulator needs to evolve from being “largely bank centric”.
  • Non-banks are at an inherent disadvantage in the current payment ecosystem.


Perhaps, as the Nilekani committee notes, bringing in “non-banks as associate members to build acceptance infrastructure”, and allowing them access to settlement systems, might help create a level-playing field.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] National Common Mobility Card


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, and Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NCMC

Mains level: Utility of the NCMC


  • In order to ensure a seamless travel across metros and other transport systems in addition to retail shopping and purchases, the MoHUA came out with the National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) Program.


  • Public Transport is extensively used across India as the economical and convenient mode of commuting for all classes of society.
  • Cash continues to be the most preferred mode of fare payments across the public transport.
  • However, there are multiple challenges associated with the cash payment e.g. cash handling, revenue leakages, cash reconciliation etc.
  • The introduction of closed loop cards issued by these operators helped to digitize the fare collection to a significant extent.

National Common Mobility Card

  1. Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs brought to the fore the NCMC to enable seamless travel by different metros and other transport systems across the country besides retail shopping and purchases.
  2. India’s First Indigenously Developed Payment Eco-system for transport consists of:
  • NCMC Card
  • SWEEKAR (Swachalit Kiraya: Automatic Fare Collection System)
  • SWAGAT (Swachalit Gate)
  1. These are bank issued cards on Debit/Credit/Prepaid card product platform.
  2. The customer may use this single card for payments across all segments including metro, bus, suburban railways, toll, parking, smart city and retail.
  3. The stored value on card supports offline transaction across all travel needs with minimal financial risk to involved stakeholders.
  4. The service area feature of this card supports operator specific applications e.g. monthly passes, season tickets etc.

Agencies Involved

  1. CDAC was entrusted the task of finalization of NCMC specification for AFC system including the interface with Bank server.
  2. CDAC worked in collaboration with NPCI to complete this activity. Thereafter, BEL was roped in for making Gates & Reader.
  3. NCMC Ecosystem offers the value proposition for customers as they need not to carry multiple cards for different usage.

About Automatic Fare Collection System

  • AFC System (gates, readers/validators, backend infrastructure etc.) is the core of any transit operator to automate the fare collection process.
  • The major challenge associated with AFC system implementation in India till now is the lack of indigenous solution provider.
  • Till now, AFC systems deployed at various Metros are from foreign players.
  • In order to avoid the vendor lock-in and create an interoperable system, there was a need to develop indigenous standards and AFC system under Make in India initiative.

Digital India Initiatives

[op-ed snap] Jobs growth: Digitally-enabled mass services to be game changer


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:Internet of things, blockchain tech, big data, etc.

Mains level: Importance of digital technology in creating growth and jobs.



Digital technologies have the same potential to transform the paradigm of economic growth and jobs through mass services, and India is well positioned to lead this paradigm shift as England, the US and China had done earlier.

Nature of revolutions in past and present

  • In the last 150 years, the world has seen three industrial revolutions starting with the steam engine in the 19th century, mass manufacturing in the mid-20th one and the internet in late 20th century.
  • Now we are embarking on the fourth industrial revolution led by digital technologies which will once again reshape the paradigm for economic growth and job.

What is the mass production?

  • Mass production refers to the production of a large number of similar products efficiently and typically is characterized by some type of mechanization to achieve high volume, detailed organization of materials flow, careful control of quality standards and division of labor.

Potential of digital technologies as mass production

  • Digital technologies have the same potential to transform the paradigm of economic growth and jobs through mass services, and India is well positioned to lead this paradigm shift as England, the US and China had done earlier.
  • Like mass manufacturing technologies, digital technologies dramatically alter the cost-price equation of services which can lead to the creation of a virtuous cycle of growth, competition, investments and new jobs.

Ways to create growth

  • Digital technology does this in four different ways. First, it drives productivity. For example, large asset managers, by leveraging the digital technology stack, have reduced customer acquisition and operations costs by 10-100 times.
  • Secondly, it has the unique characteristic of allowing ‘fractionalisation’ or in consumer vocabulary, ‘sachetisation’, i.e, breaking down the service into small consumption offers.
  • The third is its unique characteristic to allow integration of physical and digital assets and processes to drive down price, induce consumption and grow the market, e.g, taxi aggregators or e-commerce.
  • Finally, the digital and digitally-enabled businesses also spur innovation by entrepreneurs to find new value creation opportunities through the exploitation of the power of data and analytics across the value chains.

Factors contributing to India being a leader in digital services growth

  • The first is the huge unmet demand for services and a decent starting position in service sectors.
  • India has both, with services being the largest part of its economy, unlike other developing countries, but still with huge unmet demand existing across sectors, especially health, education, financial services, logistics and transportation, government and municipal services, tourism, and agricultural services.
  • A world-class public digital infrastructure as the backbone of mass service sectors, as high quality public physical infrastructure like roads, ports, and airports was the backbone of the mass manufacturing industry.
  • India has a world-leading starting position on this front with its digital stack consisting of Jan Dhan (banking for all), Aadhaar (digital identifier for all), and mobile connectivity, and public applications like e-KYC (for e-authentication), digi-locker (for digital storage), e-signature (digital signature recognition), BHIM (a national payments gateway).
  • Together, they constitute a comprehensive digital architecture which offers open APIs as public infrastructure which private and public enterprises can integrate into their digital platforms to transform the cost-price equations of a wide range of services.

Interventions that are needed to be  taken

  • The first is setting standards for data flows which are the backbone of any service offering—in terms of both interoperability and privacy.
  • Secondly, a regulator is required which has the technical skills and understanding to develop and regulate the revenue sharing arrangements between partners in the digital ecosystem to create an efficient market.
  • Finally, a public policy case can be made for creating societal digital platforms for all public goods like education and health and which are offered for free for the development of business solutions by entrepreneurs.
  • GSTN can be one such powerful public digital platform which, of course with necessary privacy protections in place, can help entrepreneurs develop truly innovative financial products which can, for example, solve the huge challenge of funding faced by small enterprises.


Examples of mass service Success

  • We have experienced it in India to drive growth and create new jobs in the telecom sector after it was liberalised in the mid-1990s. At that time, the price of a phone call was over Rs 16 per minute and the total subscriber base was just above 1 million. As the cost per minute fell below Rs 1 (currently it is Rs 0.19), the number of subscribers expanded exponentially (today we have over 1.13 billion today) showing the scale of unmet need in the market.


The twenty-first century will see the emergence of mass services as the driver of economic and jobs growth, much as mass manufacturing did in the twentieth. India has a great starting point to be an early leader in this fourth industrial era. Whether we grasp this opportunity or lose the plot, as we did with the third industrial transformation (internet-driven low-cost manufacturing), only time will tell.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Operation Digital Board


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Op Digital Board

Mains level: Raising standard of teaching and learning in India


  • The Ministry of HRD launched Operation Digital Board to leverage technology in order to boost quality education in the country.

Operation Digital Board

  1. It is a revolutionary step which will make the learning as well as the teaching process interactive and popularize flipped learning as a pedagogical approach.
  2. The digital board will be introduced all over the country in government and government aided schools from class 9th onwards as well as in higher education institutions.
  3. The process will begin from the coming session of 2019 itself.


I. In Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)

  • UGC will be the implementing agency for ODB in HEIs.
  • UGC will put in place a Portal for all the public funded HEIs to log-in and opt for the scheme giving details of this facility.
  • This can be implemented as a Central scheme under a loan from HEFA.

II. In Schools

  • Digital / SMART board will be provided in all Government and Government – aided schools having Secondary and Sr. Secondary classes.
  • Nearly 1.5 lakh Secondary / Sr. Secondary schools will be covered under the scheme in collaboration with the State and UTs


  1. ODB aims at converting a class room into a digital class room.
  2. It will make available e-resources at any time and at any place to students.
  3. It will also help in provisioning of personalized adaptive learning as well as Intelligent Tutoring by exploiting emerging technologies like Machine Learning, AI & Data Analytics.

Other technological initiatives

  1. The MHRD has launched of e-Pathshala, DIKSHA, NROER, NPTEL, E-PGpathshala SWAYAM and SWAYAM-Prabha DTH Channels etc.
  2. These have provided adequate content of high quality which can be taken to every classroom.
  3. These pedagogical interventions have raised the standards of teaching, irrespective of the location of the Schools and Colleges.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] GeM Start-up Runway and SWAYATT Initiative


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Ministries & Departments of the Government

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  GeM, SWAYATT, StartUp Runway

Mains level: Benefits of centralised procurement in online mode


GeM Start-up Runway

  1. Launched on 19th February 2019, “StartUp Runway” is a unique concept initiated by GeM to promote entrepreneurship through innovation.
  2. This program is an opportunity for Startups to reach out to the Government Buyers by offering products and services that are unique in concept, design, process and functionality.
  3. DPIIT (Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade) certified Startups are invited to offer their products/services for procurement on GeM.
  4. It seeks to support technology development, research and innovation by ensuring a conducive policy environment for industrial diversification and value addition to commodities.
  5. It aligns with Government’s philosophy to turn Job-seekers into job-creators.

SWAYATT Initiative

  1. It is an initiative to promote Start-ups, Women and Youth Advantage Through eTransactions on Government e Marketplace (GeM).
  2. This will bring together the key stakeholders within the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem to Government e-Marketplace the national procurement portal.


Government e-Marketplace

  1. GeM is a one stop portal to facilitate online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Government Departments / Organizations / PSUs.
  2. GeM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement.
  3. It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users achieve the best value for their money.
  4. The purchases through GeM by Government users have been authorized and made mandatory by Ministry of Finance by adding a new Rule No. 149 in the General Financial Rules, 2017.

Digital India Initiatives

[pib] eCourts Services through Common Service Centres


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  E-Court Services

Mains level: Utility of the E-Court Services


  • In order to provide efficient and time-bound access to the Courts services to litigant public, who are on the other side of the digital divide and don’t have access to internet, the Department of Justice has decided to deliver eCourts services to them through around 2 lakh Common Service Centres (CSCs).

E-Court Services

  1. The eCourts database contains case information in respect of over 10 crore cases and more than 7 crore orders / judgments.
  2. To ensure affordability, Department of Justice has decided not to charge any fee from the customers for eCourts related services delivered through CSC’s.
  3. The project has made significant progress under the guidance of e-Committee of Supreme Court of India in computerizing district and subordinate courts of the country through installation of case information software, hardware and local area network in courts.
  4. ECourts services are also being connected on Wide Area Network through a dedicated network offering bandwidth upto 100 Mbps.
  5. They have now been successfully rolled out through SMS, email, web, mobile app etc. benefiting millions of litigants and advocates.
  6. Court case information such as judicial proceedings/decisions, case registration, cause list, case status, daily orders, and final judgments of all computerized district and subordinate courts of the country will now be available across all CSCs in the country.

Why CSCs?

  1. The rural reach of the CSC’s is extensive, envisaging a minimum of one CSC in each Gram Panchayat, thus enabling eCourts services to reach all corners of the country.
  2. Towards cost of service, CSC’s has been authorized to charge Rs.5/- for any of the 23 services available on Courts portal.

Digital India Initiatives

Womaniya on GeM initiative


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Ministries & Departments of the Government

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Government e Marketplace (GeM), Womaniya on GeM

Mains level: Benefits of centralised procurement in online mode


  • The commerce ministry has said Government eMarketplace (GeM) has launched an initiative to enable women entrepreneurs and self-help groups to sell different products on the platform.

Womaniya on GeM

  1. The initiative – Womaniya on GeM – seeks to develop women entrepreneurship on the margins of society to achieve gender-inclusive economic growth.
  2. The initiative would enable women entrepreneurs and women SHGs to sell handicrafts and handloom, jute and coir products, home décor and office furnishings, directly to various government ministries, departments and institutions.
  3. Womaniya homepage [] will inform procurement officers in various government ministries, departments and CPSEs about the drive to promote procurement of common use goods and services from women entrepreneurs.


Government eMarketplace

  1. Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Commerce & Industry
  2. Government e-Marketplace (GeM) is a one stop portal to facilitate online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Government Departments / Organizations / PSUs.
  3. GeM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement.
  4. It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users achieve the best value for their money.
  5. The purchases through GeM by Government users have been authorized and made mandatory by Ministry of Finance by adding a new Rule No. 149 in the General Financial Rules, 2017.

Digital India Initiatives

RBI issues guidelines for tokenization of card transactions


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources, Banking

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Token mode of payment

Mains level: Promotion of Digital Payments


  • Reserve Bank of India has released guidelines on tokenization for various card transactions, including from debit and credit cards.

What is Tokenization?

  1. Tokenisation, which aims at improving safety and security of the payment system, refers to replacement of actual card details with an unique alternate code called the ‘token’.
  2. It shall be unique for a combination of card, token requestor and identified device.
  3. Instead of using actual card details, this token is used to perform card transactions in contactless mode at point of sale(POS) terminals, quick response(QR) code payments.

RBI permits its usage

  • RBI has given permission to offer tokenised card transactions services to all channels such as near field communication (NFC), magnetic secure transmission (MST) based contactless transactions, in-app payments, QR code-based payments or token storage mechanisms, including cloud, secure element and trusted execution environment.

How to avail them?

  1. Tokenization and de-tokenization shall be performed only by the authorised card network and recovery of original Primary Account Number (PAN) should be feasible for the authorised card network only, the release said.
  2. The request for tokenization and de-tokenization should be logged by the card network and available for retrieval.
  3. A customer would not have to pay any charges for availing this service.
  4. At present, tokenized card transaction facility would be offered through mobile phones or tablets only and will be extended to other devices later based on experience.

A note for Payment Networks

  1. Card networks shall get the card issuers/acquirers, their service providers and any other entity involved in payment transaction chain, certified in respect of changes done for processing tokenised card transactions by them.
  2. Providing card tokenization services, authorised card payment networks shall put in place a mechanism for periodic system audit, at least annually, of all entities involved in providing card tokenisation services to customers.
  3. The central bank also asked card issuers to ensure easy access to customers for reporting loss of ‘identified device’ or any other such event which may expose tokens to unauthorised usage.
  4. Registration of a card on token requestors app shall be done only with explicit customer consent through Additional Factor of Authentication (AFA), and not by way of a forced / default/automatic selection of check box, radio button.

Digital India Initiatives

States to rollout ‘PARIVESH’ by January 15


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of PARIVESH

Mains level: Read the attached story


  • An ambitious web-based single-window system ‘Parivesh’ will be rolled-out at state levels by January 15, bringing an end to the clearance nightmare for entrepreneurs.
  • This automated clearance has already been implemented at the Central level, while various States starting from Gujarat will begin to implement the scheme by January 15.


  1. It is a Single-Window Integrated Environmental Management System which stands for Pro-Active and Responsive facilitation by Interactive, Virtuous and Environmental Single-window H
  2. It is a workflow based application and portal, based on the concept of web architecture.
  3. The system has been designed, developed and hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, with technical support from National Informatics Centre, (NIC).
  4. It automates the entire process of submitting the application and tracking the status of such proposals at each stage of processing.

Utility of the portal

  1. It facilitates for online submission, monitoring and management of proposals submitted by Project Proponents to the MOEFCC, as well as to the State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA).
  2. It will also he;p seek various types of clearances (e.g. Environment, Forest, Wildlife and Coastal Regulation Zone Clearances) from Central, State and district-level authorities.
  3. The main highlights of PARIVESH include –
  • single registration and single sign-in for all types of clearances (i.e. Environment, Forest, Wildlife and CRZ),
  • unique-ID for all types of clearances required for a particular project and
  • single Window interface for the proponent to submit applications for getting all types of clearances (i.e. Environment, Forests, Wildlife and CRZ clearances)

More efficiency to be achieved

The facility of Geographic Information System (GIS) interface will help them in analyzing the proposal efficiently, automatic alerts (via SMS and emails) at important stages to the concerned officers, committee members and higher authorities to check the delays if any.

Budget to boost Digital India vision

The Union Budget 2016-17 has given a big boost to the Digital India vision of the Hon’ble Prime Minister. Let’s understand it in brief.


Announcements for Digital India

  • Budget announcements will give a big boost to Digital India initiatives, Digital literacy, greater application of Cloud and above all big push to the Electronics Manufacturing
  • Focus on the larger involvement of post office platform for financial inclusion, including delivery of services

Let’s now take an overview of some profound changes of last 20 years –

  • IT / ITeS exports have crossed USD 100 billion
  • India’s share in global IT services outsourcing presently 56%, is growing every year
  • Total employment in IT / ITeS sector is 37 lakhs in this financial year, out of which the net addition is 2 lakhs
  • Electronics Manufacturing has seen remarkable improvement, due to the initiatives of government in this sector

Digital India 9 pillars

New Incentives announced in the Budget 2016-17

Electronics Manufacturing

  • Electronic manufacturing in India has got boost by further rationalization of duty structure
  • Tax benefits for IT units in SEZs has been extended from 2017 till 2020.
  • This will enable technology units to set up and commence operations in SEZs and also significant move for skill development to services companies as well
  • This will permit 30 % of additional wages paid to new workmen, deductible for 3 years. This will give a big boost to the BPO operations and generate new jobs (essential for India to reap it’s demographic dividend)

Encouragement to Digital Literacy & Digital Lockers

  • Digital depository of school leaving certificates, college degrees and mark-sheets will be created
  • This would enhance the footprint of cloud technology in the Country
  • The IT department has already laid down the framework for cloud technology and will assist in the expansion <Cloud Technology is the delivery of on-demand computing resources— everything from applications to data centers over the Internet on a pay-for-use basis>
  • Extraordinary expansion to Digital Literacy in the country; imparting digital literacy to 6 crore households in next 3 years
  • As of now, against the target of 52.5 lakhs, more than40 lakhs have been trained

Use of Aadhaar platform for delivery of services

  • A legislation will be brought to give a statutory backing to Aadhaar, for delivery of services /subsidies / benefits, corning out of Consolidated Fund of India
  • This will prevent leakages by identifying the beneficiaries correctly and would encourage good governance
  • Greater stress on the use of digital platform across various departments
  • This will further encourage consolidation of seminal programmed of Digital India

Reforms in Postal department

  • Effort is being made to leverage the vast network of India Post for implementing the mandate of financial inclusion
  • Today, India Post has not only installed more than 576 ATMs but has overtaken the SBI to become India’s largest Core Banking Network having 18,231 branches
  • By March, 2016 all the 25,000 Departmental Post Offices would offer Anywhere Banking facilities using Core Banking Solutions
  • Further, India Post has achieved new heights in tapping the potential of e-commerce
  • Its parcel revenues have witnessed a growth of 110% and it has collected more than Rs.1200 Crores from Cash on Delivery mode of payment for e-Commerce services

Read more-

  1. Digital India Initiative : What is Buzzing  
  2. Seven Mission for Transformation of Railways

Published with inputs from Arun Source - Ministry of Communications & IT | Pic - 9 Pillars of Digital India
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