Digital India Initiatives

Digital India Initiatives

PM WANI Wi-Fi Scheme: All you need to know

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: PM WANI Wi-Fi Scheme

Mains level: NA

Why in the News?

  • Under the PM-WANI scheme, India witnesses a swift rise in public Wi-Fi hotspots, reaching approximately 1,99,896 hotspots nationwide, according to government data.

What is the PM WANI Initiative?

  • PM Modi launched the Prime Minister Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (PM WANI) in December 2020.
  • It is an initiative under the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
  • It takes forward the goal of the National Digital Communications Policy, 2018 (NDCP) of creating a robust digital communications infrastructure.
    • Objective: To democratize internet access, particularly in remote and underserved areas.
    • Implementation: Leverages Public Data Offices (PDOs) established in public spaces like railway stations, banks, post offices, and more. Users can access the internet via Wi-Fi at these locations without requiring a SIM card.

PM-WANI ecosystem consists of four parts: 

  1. Public Data Office (PDO): It establishes the Wi-Fi Hotspots and provides internet access to users
  2. Public Data Office Aggregator (PDOA):  It provides authorisation and accounting services to PDOs.
  3. App Provider: It displays the available hotspots in the phone’s proximity.
  4. Central Registry: This overseen by the Centre for Development of Telematics maintains details of App Providers, PDOs, and PDOAs.

How to Utilize PM WANI?

  • To access PM WANI services, users must install the Data PM WANI app on their smartphones.
  • Through the app, users can connect to nearby public Wi-Fi PDOs.
  • This application facilitates seamless connectivity to PM-WANI-compliant Wi-Fi hotspots, empowering users to access broadband services conveniently.

Data Plans Offered

PM WANI offers various data plans to suit different usage needs:

  • Rs 6 plan: 1GB data for 1 day
  • Rs 9 plan: 2GB data for 2 days
  • Rs 18 plan: 5GB data for 3 days
  • Rs 25 plan: 20GB data for 7 days
  • Rs 49 plan: 40GB data for 14 days
  • Rs 99 plan: 100GB data for 30 days

Role of Public Data Offices (PDOs)

  • The PM-WANI scheme includes a provision for establishing Public Data Offices (PDOs) by rural entrepreneurs in remote regions.
  • These PDOs procure internet bandwidth from telecom service providers or ISPs to offer Wi-Fi services at minimal charges.
  • This model enables individuals to access the internet even in areas with limited or no data connectivity.

PYQ:

[2018] 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. Establish a policy framework to encourage overseas multinational corporations that collect Big Data to build their large data centres within our national geographical boundaries.
  3. Connect many of our villages to the Internet and bring Wi-Fi to many of our school, public places and major tourists.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

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Digital India Initiatives

[PREMIUM] An Overview of the Digitalization in Indian Economy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Schemes related to digitisation in India

Mains level: Status of Digitalization in the Indian Economy

Why in the news?

As per RBI findings, India’s core digital economy saw a rise from constituting 8.5% of GVA in 2019 to 12.5% in 2023, marking a growth rate of 15.6% over the span of 2019-2023.

What is digitisation?

  • Digitization refers to the process of converting information, data, or physical objects into digital format. Digitization enables information to be stored, accessed, and manipulated electronically, often leading to increased efficiency, accessibility, and flexibility compared to traditional analog methods.

Origin in World 

  • The origin of digitalization can be traced back to the late 19th century when Herman Hollerith developed a punch card system for tabulating data.
  • Alan Turing’s theoretical work on computation in the early 20th century laid the foundation for the development of the first electronic computers in the 1940s, which were pivotal in digitizing various forms of information.

Origin in India 

  • Late 20th century: The origins of digitalization in India can be traced back to the late 20th century, with the advent of personal computers and the internet.
  • Early 2000s:The government’s concerted efforts to drive digital transformation in the country began in the early 2000s with the launch of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) in 2006
  • 2015: The NeGP aimed to make government services available to citizens electronically by improving online infrastructure and connectivity. This laid the foundation for the more comprehensive “Digital India” initiative, which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015

Status of Digitalization in the Indian Economy

  • Enhancement of E-Governance: The Digital India initiative has brought about substantial enhancements in e-governance services. Programs such as e-visas and the Digital Locker system have effectively modernized government services, leading to a reduction in paperwork and greater accessibility for citizens.
  • E-Commerce market: India’s e-commerce market is expected to reach $200 billion by 2026. Major players like Flipkart and Amazon have expanded their reach, with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating online shopping adoption.
  • Digital transaction: The BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) app, utilizing the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), has garnered immense popularity, enabling secure peer-to-peer transactions. By August 2023, UPI had processed more than 10 billion monthly transactions, amounting to INR 18 trillion ($204.77 billion).
  • Startup Ecosystem in India: India’s rapidly growing startup ecosystem currently encompasses 110 unicorns valued at $347 billion, featuring prominent companies such as Paytm, Ola, and Zomato. These unicorns exemplify India’s prowess as a technology-driven entrepreneurial center.
  • Digital Financial Inclusion: Digital financial services, propelled by programs such as Jan Dhan Yojana, have advanced financial inclusion by facilitating the opening of millions of bank accounts for those previously excluded from or underrepresented in the banking system.
  • Surge in Broadband and Internet Usage: India has experienced a notable surge in broadband adoption, boasting 825 million mobile broadband subscribers as of July 2023. This uptick has resulted in heightened data consumption and escalated online engagement, especially among Generation Z.

Key challenges related to digitalisation in India:

  • Lack of skills: Rapid technological change increase the demand of skilled workforce. Only 42% of India’s workforce possesses digital skills, highlighting the need for digital literacy and upskilling.
  • Regulatory challenges: For businesses, especially startups, grappling with intricate digital regulations, e-commerce taxation, and intellectual property matters continues to present significant challenges.
  • Privacy issues:The surge in digital transactions and data exchange has sparked notable concerns regarding privacy and data security. These concerns are being tackled by the Personal Data Protection Bill, which introduces regulatory intricacies.
  • Cybersecurity: As digitization increases, the risk of cyber threats and attacks grows. India faced 91 lakh cybersecurity incidents in 2022, ranking third globally in the average cost of data breaches.
  • Digital Divide: Despite advancements, there remains a digital gap, with rural areas experiencing restricted internet and technology accessibility, resulting in approximately 50% of the population being offline.

Measures to address these challenges:

  • Digital Skills Development: Implement comprehensive digital literacy programs to enhance the skills of the workforce.
  • Regulatory Simplification:Streamline digital regulations, especially for startups, to reduce complexities and facilitate smoother operations.Provide guidance and support to businesses on e-commerce taxation and intellectual property matters.
  • Privacy and Data Security: Enforce the Personal Data Protection Bill to address privacy concerns and ensure data security.Enhance awareness campaigns to educate the public about data privacy and protection measures.
  • Cybersecurity Measures: Strengthen cybersecurity infrastructure to combat the increasing cyber threats and attacks.Invest in advanced cybersecurity technologies and training programs to build a resilient defense system.
  • Closing the Digital Divide:Expand digital infrastructure in rural areas to improve internet and technology accessibility.

 Steps taken by government:

  • Cybersecurity Framework: Enhance cybersecurity infrastructure and awareness, emphasizing collaboration between government agencies and the private sector under National Cyber Security Policy of 2021.
  • Data Protection Laws: Enacted data protection laws and regulations, like the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, of 2023, to ensure privacy and responsible data handling.
  • Expansion of Broadband : Accelerate efforts to expand broadband connectivity in rural and remote areas, leveraging public-private partnerships like the BharatNet project.
  • Digital initiative: Comprehensive digital literacy initiatives targeting both urban and rural communities, exemplified by programs like the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA).

Conclusion: 

Need to Implement widespread digital literacy programs to equip individuals with the necessary skills to navigate the digital landscape and emphasize upskilling and reskilling initiatives to meet the demands of rapid technological advancements.Encourage collaboration between the government and the private sector to drive digitization initiatives.

 

Mains PYQ

Q Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) based projects/programmes usually suffers in terms of certain vital factors. Identify these factors and suggest measures for their effective implementation. (UPSC IAS/2019)

Q Has digital illiteracy, particularly in rural areas, coupled with lack of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) accessibility hindered socio-economic development? Examine with justification.(UPSC IAS/2021)

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Digital India Initiatives

State-level DPI Adoption Index

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), DPI Adoption Index Mains: NA

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

The World Bank, in collaboration with the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MEITY), is spearheading the development of a state-level Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) adoption index.

About State-Level DPI Adoption Index

  • World Bank confirmed that the project was in its preparatory stages.
  • The envisioned state-level DPI index aims to identify gaps and opportunities for strengthening the DPI for the digital economy, promoting financial inclusion, and fostering public-private innovation.
  • The index will assess different states based on their adoption levels of DPIs, intending to incentivize increased utilization of these digital systems.

What is Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)?

  • DPI refers to the foundational digital infrastructure that enables the delivery of digital services and facilitates digital interactions between citizens, businesses, and governments.
  • It encompasses various technological components, policies, and frameworks aimed at enhancing digital connectivity, accessibility, and efficiency in public service delivery.
DPI, as defined by the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration (September 2023) “is a set of shared digital systems that are secure and interoperable, built on open technologies, to deliver equitable access to public and/or private services at a societal scale”.

Three Pillars of DPI:

  • DPI primarily focuses on three key pillars: identity, payments, and data management.
  • India has pioneered the development of all three DPI pillars through its India Stack Platform, setting a global benchmark.
    1. Identity: Aadhar serves as India’s digital ID system.
    2. Payment: The Unified Payments Interface (UPI) facilitates real-time fast payments.
    3. Data Management: The Data Empowerment and Protection Architecture (DEPA) ensures consent-based data sharing.

India’s Initiatives Leveraging DPI

  • Digital India: Initiatives like Digital Locker, e-sign framework, and the National Scholarship Portal are integral parts of the Digital India campaign.
  • BharatNet: This project aims to provide affordable internet connectivity to rural India, leveraging high-speed broadband networks.
  • National Health Stack: Designed to revolutionize healthcare, this infrastructure facilitates health data exchange and interoperability.
  • National Knowledge Network (NKN): Facilitating collaborative research and innovation, NKN promotes knowledge sharing.
  • UMANG: The Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance offers access to various government services and schemes.
  • Government e-Marketplace (GeM): An online platform streamlining procurement processes for government agencies.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] India showcases CPGRAMS at 3rd Biennial Pan-Commonwealth Meeting in London

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Commonwealth of Nations, CPGRAMS

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

India’s Centralised Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) received global recognition during the 3rd Biennial Pan-Commonwealth Heads in London.

What is CPGRAMS?

  • The primary objective of CPGRAMS is to provide citizens with a user-friendly mechanism to register complaints or grievances related to various government departments and agencies.
  • It is an online platform available to the citizens 24×7 to lodge their grievances to the public authorities on any subject related to service delivery.
  • It was created in June 2007 by the Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances.
  • It has been designed in-house by the National Informatics Centre team.
  • Prime Minister is the supreme head of the CPGRAMS.

Key functions of CPGRAMS include:

  • Grievance Lodging and Tracking: Citizens can lodge grievances online and track their progress using a unique registration number generated by the system.
  • Role-Based Access: Every Ministry and state have role-based access to this system, ensuring that grievances are forwarded to the concerned Ministries or Government Departments.
  • Appeal Facility: CPGRAMS provides an appeal facility to the citizens if they are not satisfied with the resolution by the Grievance Officer.
  • Feedback Mechanism: After the closure of grievance, if the complainant is not satisfied with the resolution, they can provide feedback. If the rating is ‘Poor’, the option to file an appeal is enabled. The status of the Appeal can also be tracked by the petitioner with the grievance registration number.

Issues that are NOT taken up under CPGRAMS:

  • Subjudice cases or any matter concerning judgment given by any court.
  • Personal and Family disputes.
  • Right to Information (RTI) Queries.
  • Anything that impacts upon territorial integrity of the country or friendly relations with other countries.
  • Grievances of Government employees concerning their service matters including disciplinary proceedings etc because there is already a mechanism for addressing these issues.

What is the Commonwealth of Nations?

  • The Commonwealth of Nations is an intergovernmental organization of 53 member states that are mostly former territories of the British Empire.
  • It dates back to the first half of the 20th century with the decolonization of the British Empire through increased self-governance of its territories.
  • It was originally created as the British Commonwealth of Nations through the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference.
  • It was formalized by the UK through the Statute of Westminster in 1931.
  • The symbol of this free association is Queen Elizabeth II, who is the Head of the Commonwealth.
    • Membership: Based on free and equal voluntary cooperation.

History of its creation

  • The Commonwealth was created in the early 1900s when nations that were formerly a part of the British Empire began to secede.
  • India is one of the founding members of the modern Commonwealth.
  • India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, played a key role in the creation of the modern Commonwealth in 1949, Indian policy-makers over the years have considered it as a relic of empire and steeped in colonial legacy.

Working of Commonwealth

  • Commonwealth members have no legal obligations to one another.
  • Instead, they are united by language, history, culture and their shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Actual functioning: Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)

  • CHOGM which takes place every two years is a platform for all Commonwealth leaders to meet and discuss issues about the Commonwealth.
  • The motto behind the meeting is to reaffirm common values, address the shared global challenges and agree on how to work to create a better future.

 

PYQ:

[2012] With reference to consumers rights/privileges under the provisions of law in India, which of the following statements is/are correct?
1. Consumers are empowered to take samples for food testing.

2. When a consumer files a complaint in any consumer forum, no fee is required to be paid.

3. In case of death of a consumer, his/her legal heir can file a complaint in the consumer forum on his/her behalf.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

[2016] The plan of Sir Stafford Cripps envisaged that after the Second World War,

(a) India should be granted complete independence

(b) India should be partitioned into two before granting independence

(c) India should be made a republic with the condition that it will join the Commonwealth

(d) India should be given Dominion status

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Digital India Initiatives

Krishi Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Krishi ICCC

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

Agriculture Minister has recently inaugurated the Krishi Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC) at Krishi Bhavan in New Delhi.

What is Krishi ICCC?

  • The ICCC incorporates multiple IT applications and platforms to provide actionable insights and aid informed decision-making.
  • 8 large LED screens display crucial information such as crop yields, production, drought situation, cropping patterns, and relevant trends in graphical format.
  • The dashboard offers insights, alerts, and feedback on agriculture schemes, programs, projects, and initiatives, empowering stakeholders with comprehensive information.

Data used by Krishi ICCC

The ICCC will enable comprehensive monitoring of the farm sector by making available at one place geospatial information received from multiple sources such as:

  1. Plot-level data received through Soil Survey;
  2. Weather data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD);
  3. Sowing data from Digital Crop Survey;
  4. Farmer- and farm-related data from Krishi MApper, an application for geo-fencing and geo-tagging of land;
  5. Market intelligence information from the Unified Portal for Agricultural Statistics (UPAg); and
  6. Yield estimation data from the General Crop Estimation Survey (GCES).

Objectives and Functionality

  • Comprehensive Monitoring: The ICCC aims to enable comprehensive monitoring of the farm sector by consolidating geospatial information from various sources, including remote sensing, weather data, soil surveys, and market intelligence.
  • Decision Support: Integrated visualization facilitates quick and efficient decision-making by policymakers and stakeholders, supported by real-time data and analysis.

Farmer-Specific Advisories and Practical Applications

  • Individual Farmer Advisories: The ICCC has the potential to generate individual farmer-specific advisories through apps like Kisan e-Mitra (a chatbot developed for PM-Kisan beneficiaries), leveraging AI and machine learning to customize recommendations based on farmer data.

Practical Applications:

    1. Farmer’s Advisory: Visualizations of GIS-based soil mapping, soil health card data, and weather-related information enable customized advisories on crop selection and agricultural practices.
    2. Drought Actions: Correlation of yield data with weather patterns allows proactive measures to mitigate the impact of droughts.
    3. Crop Diversification: Analysis of crop diversification maps helps identify regions suitable for diversified cropping, optimizing agricultural productivity.
    4. Farm Data Repository: The Krishi Decision Support System (K-DSS) acts as an agriculture data repository, facilitating evidence-based decision-making and the preparation of customized advisories for farmers.
    5. Validation of Yield: The ICCC enables the validation of yield data captured through different applications, ensuring accuracy and reliability.

 


PYQ:

2018: With reference to the ‘Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (CACSA)’, which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. GACSA is an outcome of the Climate Summit held in Paris in 2015.
  2. Membership of GACSA does not create any binding obligations.
  3. India was instrumental in the creation of GACSA.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

  1. 1 and 3 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

 

Practice MCQ:

What is the primary objective of the Krishi ICCC (Integrated Command and Control Centre)?

  1. To provide real-time market prices of agricultural products.
  2. To consolidate geospatial information from various sources for comprehensive monitoring of the farm sector.
  3. To offer financial support to farmers through direct benefit transfer schemes.
  4. To facilitate the construction of irrigation projects in rural areas.

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Digital India Initiatives

Data marketplaces: the next frontier

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digital Architecture, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology

Mains level: National Data Governance Framework Policy

Why in the news?

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY) released the National Data Governance Framework Policy (NPD Framework) which was touted as the first building block of the digital architecture being conceived to maximize data.

Context:

  • The role of digitization in realizing India’s vision of becoming a $5 trillion economy cannot be overstated.
  • As per a NASSCOM report, data and artificial intelligence (AI) can add approximately $450-500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025.

Types of data:

  • Personal Data – Data containing identifiers that can be used to identify specific individuals.
  • Non-Personal Data (NPD)- data excluding personal data. It constitutes the primary type of citizen data obtained by the government and holds the potential to serve as a ‘public good’.

Significance of Non-personal data-

  • NPD as a Public Good: NPD (Non-Personal Data) is considered the primary type of citizen data collected by the government. It holds the potential to serve as a ‘public good’, implying its utility and value to society as a whole.
  • Integration of NPD in Public Services: Advocates for integrating NPD into the delivery of public services to create synergies and scalable solutions. Integration aims to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of public service delivery.
  • Application of Advanced Analytics and AI: Utilizing high-value advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) on NPD can lead to predicting socially and economically beneficial outcomes. Such applications can span across various sectors of the economy.
  • Key Sectors for Data-Driven Insights: Meteorological and disaster forecasts: Utilizing NPD to enhance predictions and preparedness for weather-related events and disasters. Infrastructure capacity and citizen use patterns: Understanding how citizens interact with infrastructure to optimize usage and planning.
  • Mobility and housing patterns: Analyzing data to inform transportation and housing policies.
  • Employment trends: Using NPD to predict and address changes in employment patterns and workforce needs.
  • Informing Governance and Public Functions: NPD-driven insights can better inform decision-making in governance and public functions. Data analytics can provide valuable information for policy formulation and resource allocation.

Challenges related to NDP:

  • Privacy and Security Concerns: The unprotected inter-flow of NPD across government departments, third parties, and citizens can lead to privacy breaches and make sensitive data vulnerable. This vulnerability can disproportionately benefit capacity-carrying actors such as Big Tech.
  • Risk of Faulty Decision-making: Imperfect analysis of crucial public trends resulting from the exchange of NPD can lead to faulty decision-making. The inefficient exchange of data fails to unlock the power of interdisciplinary legislative and policy-making.
  • Gaps in the NPD Framework: The NPD Framework lacks actionable guidance and practical operationalization, focusing on abstract high-level principles and objectives. It overlooks mechanisms for pricing data, appropriate legal structures for data exchange, and standardized governance tools.
  • Lack of Legislation and Operationalization: While legislation is expected, the practical implementation and operationalization of the NPD Framework are overlooked. Questions remain unanswered regarding stakeholder rights and obligations across sectors.

Steps by Government:

  • Agriculture Data Exchange in Telangana: Telangana State has developed an agriculture data exchange platform. The platform aims to facilitate the exchange of agricultural data among various stakeholders. It is likely designed to enhance decision-making, productivity, and innovation in the agriculture sector.
  • India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX): The Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Science, has established the India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX).
    • IUDX enables better urban planning, infrastructure development, and governance through data-driven insights.
  • Data Exchanges for Geospatial Policy: The Department of Science & Technology has announced plans to establish data exchanges to implement aspects of the National Geospatial Policy.

Measures to address these challenges:

  • Need for Critical Evaluation and Enhancement: A critical evaluation of the NPD Framework is necessary to address existing gaps. Enhancements to the framework can supplement MeiTY’s efforts to regulate NPD and facilitate interoperability across sectors.
  •  Learn from International practice: countries like Australia, the UK, and Estonia highlight the adoption of data exchange frameworks and protocols. These frameworks have been applied across various sectors such as housing, employment, aged care, and agriculture to address specific issues like unemployment.
  • Regulatory Design for Data Exchanges: Creating a regulatory design for data exchanges in India can digitize and automate public welfare functions. It can reduce administrative burden, facilitate inter-sectoral integration, and build safeguards for using and sharing NPD, making civic functions more participatory.
  • Stakeholder Consultation: Engage stakeholders from government, industry, academia, and civil society in the evaluation process. Gather feedback on practical challenges faced in implementing the framework and areas needing clarification or enhancement.

Conclusion: A comprehensive evaluation and enhancement of the NPD Framework are imperative. Learning from international practices, establishing regulatory designs for data exchanges, and fostering stakeholder consultations will pave the way for effective governance of non-personal data.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] NIXI and MeitY to unveil BhashaNet Portal  

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: BhashaNet Portal, Universal Acceptance Principle

Mains level: NA

What is the news-

  • The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) is proud to announce the launch of the BhashaNet portal for the upcoming Universal Acceptance (UA) Day.
Universal Acceptance is the principle that all domain names and email addresses should be treated equally, regardless of the characters used in them.

 What is BhashaNet Portal?

  • The Bhasha-Net Portal is a digital platform launched by NIXI, aimed at promoting Universal Acceptance (UA).
  • The portal specifically focuses on ensuring that individuals, regardless of the language or script they use, can fully participate in the digital world.
  • The portal is designed to provide resources, tools, and information to support the integration of diverse languages and scripts into online platforms, websites, and applications.

Objectives:

  1. To provide a truly multilingual internet, where local language website name and local language email id, work everywhere seamlessly.
  2. To foster digital inclusivity by addressing linguistic barriers and promoting the use of local languages and scripts in digital communication.

About National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI)

 

  • Established on June 19, 2003, the NIXI is a not-for-profit organization under the auspices of MeitY.
  • NIXI is dedicated to enhancing internet penetration and adoption in India by facilitating essential infrastructure and services.
  • It plays a crucial role in enabling the internet ecosystem to be accessible and utilized by the masses, thereby promoting digital empowerment and inclusion nationwide.

Four key services include-

1.    Setting up Internet Exchange Points,

2.    Managing the .IN Registry,

3.    Promoting IPv4 and IPv6 address adoption through IRINN, and

4.    Offering data center services under NIXI-CSC.


Back2Basics:

IPv4 IPv6
Address Format 32-bit address format (e.g., 192.0.2.1) 128-bit address format (e.g., 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334)
Address Representation Decimal dotted notation (e.g., 192.0.2.1) Hexadecimal colon-hex notation (e.g., 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334)
Address Space Limited address space (~4.3 billion addresses) Vast address space (approximately 3.4×10^38 addresses)
Header Length Fixed-length header (20 bytes) Variable-length header (40 bytes or more)
Header Options Limited options Expanded options for quality of service, security, and mobility
Broadcast Uses broadcast addresses for network discovery and ARP (Address Resolution Protocol) Uses multicast addressing for efficient communication
Security Limited built-in security features Built-in IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) support for end-to-end encryption and authentication
Adoption Status Widely deployed and used Increasing adoption but not yet fully ubiquitous

 


PYQ:

2011: What is “Virtual Private Network”?

  1. It is a private computer network of an organization where the remote users can transmit encrypted information through the server of the organization
  2. It is a computer network across a public internet that provides users access to their organization’s network while maintaining the security of the information transmitted
  3. It is a computer network in which users can access a shared pool of computing resources through a service provider
  4. None of the statements (A), (B) and (C) given above is a correct description of Virtual Private Network

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Government e Marketplace (GeM)  

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Government e Marketplace (GeM)

Mains level: NA

gem

Why in the news-

  • The government’s procurement portal, GeM (Government e-Marketplace), is looking to encourage more and more start-ups and small and micro enterprises to list themselves as sellers.

About Government e-Marketplace (GeM) 

  • 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 by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • It has been developed by the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (under MCI) with technical support from the National e-governance Division (MEITy).

Functions for GeM

  • Enhancement of Public Procurement: GeM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency, and speed in public procurement processes.
  • Paperless and Cashless Transactions: It is a completely paperless, cashless, and system-driven e-marketplace that enables procurement of common-use goods and services with minimal human interface.
  • Facilitation of Best Value: GeM provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction, and demand aggregation to facilitate government users in achieving the best value for their money.
  • Mandatory Purchases by Government Users: 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.

Key Developments on GeM:

  • GeM Outlet Stores: GeM has introduced outlet stores for various product categories like SARAS, Ajeevika, Tribes India, Startup Runway, Khadi India, India Handloom, India Handicraft, Divyangjan, etc.
  • Bamboo Market Window: GeM, in collaboration with the National Bamboo Mission, has introduced a dedicated window on its portal for marketing Bamboo Goods.
  • Country of Origin Tag: Since 2020, the government has made it mandatory for sellers on the GeM portal to clarify the country of origin of their goods when registering new products.

PYQ:

Q.‘SWAYAM’, an initiative of the Government of India, aims at (2016) –

  1. Promoting the Self Help Groups in rural areas
  2. Providing financial and technical assistance to young start-up entrepreneurs
  3. Promoting the education and health of adolescent girls
  4. Providing affordable and quality education to the citizens for free

 

Practice MCQ:

With reference to the Government e-Marketplace (GeM), consider the following statements:

  1. It is a one-stop National Public Procurement Portal launched in 2016.
  2. It is developed by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT)

Select the correct option:

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

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Digital India Initiatives

4 Portals for Modernized Media Landscape

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Various portals mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: NA

Introduction

  • Minister of Information and Broadcasting unveiled four groundbreaking portals poised to reshape India’s media landscape, promising efficiency, transparency, and accessibility.

[1] Press Sewa Portal:

  • Objective: The Press Sewa Portal is designed to streamline the process of newspaper registration and related activities under the Press and Registration of Periodicals Act, 2023 (PRP Act, 2023).
  • Key Features:
    • Online Application: Publishers can submit applications for title registration online, utilizing Aadhar-based e-signatures for authentication.
    • Probability Meter: Indicates the likelihood of title availability, offering publishers insight into the registration process.
    • Real-time Tracking: Allows users to track the status of their applications through an intuitive dashboard, facilitating transparency and efficiency.
    • District Magistrate Module: Enables District Magistrates to manage applications received from publishers in a centralized dashboard.
  • Benefits of Automation: The portal offers online services for title registration, paperless processes with e-sign facilities, integration of a direct payment gateway, issuance of QR code-based digital certificates, and a module for Press Keepers/owners to provide online intimation about printing press activities.
  • Impact: Simplifies the cumbersome registration procedures prevalent under the colonial PRB Act, 1867, and modernizes the registration landscape for publishers, enhancing efficiency and transparency.

[2] Transparent Empanelment Media Planning and eBilling System:

  • Objective: This system aims to revolutionize media planning processes, enhance transparency, and provide an end-to-end ERP solution for the media industry, particularly for the Central Bureau of Communication (CBC).
  • Key Features:
    • Streamlined Empanelment Process: Offers an online system for empanelment of various media channels (newspapers, periodicals, TV, radio, and digital media), ensuring transparency and efficiency.
    • Automated Media Planning: Enhances tools and features for online generation of media plans, reducing manual intervention and preparation time.
    • Automated Billing: Integration of an eBilling processing system for seamless and transparent bill submission, verification, and payment.
    • Mobile App: Provides a comprehensive mobile app for partners with timestamp and geo-tagging functionality for organized monitoring.
  • Promoting Ease of Doing Business: Facilitates faster empanelment, a hassle-free business environment, automated compliance, and swifter payment processing, thereby enhancing the ease of doing business in the media industry.
  • Reliable Solution: The portal is integrated with the latest technology to generate real-time analytical reports, enabling data-driven decisions and efficient media planning.

[3] NaViGate Bharat Portal:

  • Objective: The NaViGate Bharat portal serves as the National Video Gateway of Bharat, offering a unified bilingual platform for hosting videos on government’s development initiatives and welfare-oriented measures.
  • Key Features:
    • Dedicated Pages: Offers dedicated pages for ministries, sectors, schemes, and campaigns, providing detailed descriptions and advanced search functionalities.
    • Easy Navigation & Search: Provides easy access for users to find relevant videos through categorization, tagging, and advanced search functionalities.
    • Seamless Video Playback & Streaming: Enables seamless video playback and streaming for a user-friendly viewing experience.
    • Download & Sharing Options: Allows users to download and share videos through social media platforms, promoting widespread dissemination of information.
  • Empowering Citizens: Empowers citizens by providing a single platform for accessing authentic government videos, fostering transparency, and promoting awareness about government initiatives.
  • Comprehensive Coverage: Offers comprehensive coverage of government schemes, initiatives, and campaigns, ensuring that no one is left behind in understanding the initiatives shaping the nation’s future.

[4] National Register for LCOs:

  • Objective: The National Register for Local Cable Operators (LCOs) aims to centralize the registration process for LCOs, bringing them under a centralized registration system.
  • Key Features:
    • Web Form: A web form is designed to collect information from local cable operators for the purpose of the National Register.
    • Online Publication: The National Register for LCOs is published online and regularly updated, offering a more organized approach to cable sector registration.
  • Impact: Promises a more organized cable sector with a National Registration Number for LCOs, facilitating the formulation of new policies for responsible service and convenience for cable operators.
  • Aligning with Vision: The initiative aligns with India’s vision of a developed and organized cable sector, contributing to the countries overall development and welfare.

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Digital India Initiatives

RuPay and UPI rolled out in Mauritius, Sri Lanka

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: RuPay and UPI

Mains level: Rupee as regional and global currency

Introduction

  • RBI has announced the establishment of RuPay card and Unified Payments Interface (UPI) connectivity between India and Mauritius, as well as UPI connectivity between India and Sri Lanka.
  • This initiative aims to deepen financial integration and facilitate digital payments among citizens of the three countries.

Discussion: Rupee Integration with Neighbours

  • UPI in Mauritius: Indian travellers visiting Mauritius can now pay merchants in Mauritius using UPI, while Mauritian travellers can utilize the Instant Payment System (IPS) app for payments in India.
  • RuPay Adoption: The MauCAS card scheme in Mauritius will leverage RuPay technology, allowing banks to issue RuPay cards domestically. These cards can be used at ATMs and Point of Sale (PoS) terminals in Mauritius and India.
  • First Adoption: Mauritius becomes the first country outside Asia to implement RuPay technology, enabling acceptance of Indian RuPay cards at ATMs and PoS terminals within Mauritius.
  • QR Code Payments in SL: Indian travellers can make QR code-based payments at merchant locations in Sri Lanka using their UPI apps.

About RuPay and UPI

[A] RuPay Debit Cards

Details
Launch Year 2012
Conceived by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)
Key Features First global card payment network of India

Wide acceptance at ATMs, POS devices, and e-commerce websites

Security Measures Highly secure network against anti-phishing

Supports electronic payments at all Indian banks and financial institutions

International Acceptance NPCI maintains ties with Discover Financial, JCB for international acceptance
Issuers More than 1100 banks including public sector, private, regional banks, and cooperatives
Core Promoter Banks SBI, PNB, Canara Bank, BOB, Union Bank of India, Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Citibank, HSBC

 

[B] Unified Payments Interface (UPI)

Details
Launch April 11, 2016
Developed by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)
Key Features Enables simple, easy, and quick transactions using Unified Payments Interface (UPI)
Payment Methods Direct bank payments using UPI ID or QR code scanning

Requesting money from a UPI ID

Working Transfers using UPI ID, mobile number, QR code, or Virtual Payment Address.

Offers consistent transaction PIN across apps, enhancing cross-operability.

Supports push and pull transactions, over-the-counter payments, and recurring payments such as utility bills and subscriptions.

 

Countries where UPI works

Details
Bhutan Launched in July 13, 2021.

Partnership between NPCI International Payments Ltd (NIPL) and the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) of Bhutan.

First country to adopt UPI.

Oman Launched on October 4, 2022.

Enables acceptance of Indian RuPay cards at all OmanNet network ATMs, POS & E-commerce sites.

Allows reciprocal acceptance of Oman cards/MPCSS in the networks of NPCI in India.

Mauritius Connectivity allows Indian visitors in Mauritius to use UPI for local payments, and vice versa for Mauritian tourists in India using the Instant Payment System (IPS) app.

Enables issuance of RuPay cards by banks in Mauritius through the MauCAS card network.

Sri Lanka Digital payments connectivity enables Indian travellers to make QR code-based payments at merchant locations in Sri Lanka using their UPI apps.
Nepal Nepali users can make bank transfers to India using a unified payment interface (UPI) ID through mobile banking.
France UPI service launched at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France this year.

Partnership between NPCI International Payments Limited (NIPL) and Lyra, a French leader in securing e-commerce and proximity payments.

Southeast Asia Agreement signed between NIPL and Liquid Group to enable QR-based UPI payments in 10 countries: Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

 

Why such move?

  • Tourism Promotion: Facilitating digital payments through RuPay and UPI encourages tourists from India to visit Mauritius and Sri Lanka by providing them with convenient payment options.
  • Financial Integration: The rollout of RuPay and UPI fosters closer economic ties between India, Mauritius, and Sri Lanka by enabling cross-border transactions and financial services.
  • Diversification (away from Maldives): By providing modern payment infrastructure and options comparable to those in popular tourist destinations like Mauritius and Sri Lanka can attract more tourists and diversify their tourism sectors.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] DigiReady Certification for MSMEs and Small Retailers 

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: DigiReady Certification

Mains level: Read the attached story

Introduction

  • The Quality Council of India (QCI) and Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) announced the launch of the DigiReady Certification (DRC) portal.

What is DigiReady Certification?

  • Objective: QCI, in collaboration with ONDC, aims to assess and certify the digital readiness of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
  • Self-Assessment Tool: MSMEs can utilize this online self-assessment tool to evaluate their preparedness to onboard as sellers on the ONDC platform, enhancing their digital capabilities and business potential.
  • Streamlined Seller Journey: The portal is designed to facilitate a smooth seller journey, ensuring seamless integration into existing digitized workflows for MSMEs and small retailers.
  • Certification Process: Evaluates various aspects of digital readiness, including documentation for online operations, proficiency in technology usage, integration with existing workflows, and efficient order and catalogue management.
  • Significance: Provides additional business prospects for sellers, enabling them to become integral participants in the digital ecosystem.

Back2Basics: Quality Council of India (QCI):

  • Establishment: Founded in 1997 jointly by the Department for Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade (DPIIT), the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, and the Indian industry.
  • Legal Status: Registered as a non-profit organization under the Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860.
  • Operational Structure: Managed through constituent Boards, primarily the National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB) and the National Accreditation Board for Testing & Calibration Laboratories (NABL).
  • Composition:
    1. Governed by a Council comprising 38 members with equal representations from government, industry, and consumers.
    2. The Chairman of QCI is appointed by the Prime Minister based on industry recommendations to the government.

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Digital India Initiatives

The regulator’s challenge in the age of AI

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: algorithmic auditing

Mains level: challenge of developing capabilities for AI regulation

Global Competition for AI Regulation, or a Framework for AI Diplomacy? –  The Diplomat

Central idea 

The central idea revolves around the global momentum for AI regulation, acknowledging its transformative impact on sectors. It emphasizes the urgent need for regulatory skill-building to match the evolving risks of AI, especially for regulatory agencies, while highlighting the potential widespread adoption and diverse applications of generative AI across the economy.

Key Highlights:

  • Recent Global Efforts: Global initiatives, including executive orders, legislations, and declarations, underscore the importance of regulatory skill-building in the digital age.
  • Transformative Impact: The urgency to rethink regulatory capabilities arises from AI’s transformative impact on sectors like banking, telecommunications, and insurance.
  • Generative AI Products: Products showcase vast scope and rapid improvement, indicating potential widespread adoption across the economy.

Key Challenges:

  • Urgent Skill-Building: The downstream challenge involves urgently building regulatory skills to match the pace of emerging risks from AI technology.
  • Regulatory Agencies’ Role: Regulatory agencies, at the forefront, must adapt to AI’s transformative influence in various sectors.

Key Terms and Phrases:

  • Generative AI: AI products with the capability to generate content or services, showcasing vast scope and rapid improvement.
  • Algorithmic Auditing: Audit of each part of a model’s lifecycle to understand workings and identify potential problematic outcomes.

Key Quotes:

  • “AI may alter professional practices and norms, reshaping industries such as bookkeeping, accounting, and law.”
  • “Effective regulation can facilitate market acceptance of AI products and services, necessitating a proactive regulatory approach.”

Key Statements:

  • Regulatory agencies, like the Reserve Bank of India and the Securities and Exchange Board of India, are developing AI tools for regulatory supervision.
  • Building regulatory capabilities in-house is challenging; agencies need to be nimble and proactive to acquire necessary skills and evaluate external inputs.

Key Examples and References:

  • Banks and credit card companies are using AI for fraud detection, risk assessment, and digital marketing.
  • The Indian insurance industry utilizes AI for risk management, indicating diverse applications of AI in the economy.

Key Facts and Data:

  • The Economist Intelligence Unit reports AI usage in banks, credit card companies, and e-commerce for various purposes, highlighting the technology’s growing influence.

Critical Analysis:

  • The transformative potential of AI in various sectors necessitates a reevaluation of regulatory capabilities, including algorithmic auditing and understanding disclosure-related requirements.
  • While private sector incentives may mitigate rapid AI adoption, effective regulation remains crucial for market acceptance and avoiding inadequate reliance on external expertise.

Way Forward:

  • Regulators must proactively build capabilities to understand and implement AI regulations, emphasizing the need for systemic development at the scale of the Indian state.
  • The central government should take the lead in understanding and replicating the transition from an analog to a digital state, addressing the challenge of developing capabilities for AI regulation.

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Digital India Initiatives

Norwegian perspective of India’s digital journey

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digital Public Infrastructure

Mains level: digital public goods in shaping international development frameworks

Central idea

India’s digital journey, marked by Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), exemplifies a commitment to inclusivity. The article underscores global collaboration, with MOSIP impacting millions, and highlights Norway’s role, advocating for the 50-in-5 campaign. It emphasizes the balance between openness and security in navigating the digital domain.

Key Highlights:

  • DPI Transforming India: Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) has transformed India, providing digital identities and access to services for its vast population.
  • Global Recognition and Frameworks: India’s G-20 presidency gained global recognition for DPI, setting frameworks for digital public goods and highlighting its development benefits.
  • Digital Inclusion Success Stories: MOSIP, developed in Bengaluru, serves as a global blueprint, benefiting over 97 million citizens in diverse countries, showcasing achievements in digital inclusion.
  • Comprehensive Development Framework: DPI is a comprehensive framework aligning with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), emphasizing development, inclusion, innovation, trust, and global competition.

Challenges:

  • South-South Cooperation Dynamics: The article explores the dynamics of South-South cooperation, especially in the context of MOSIP, showcasing organic global organization.
  • Financial Considerations and Privacy: Financial challenges in developing digital protocols and concerns about data privacy are highlighted as critical challenges for the future.
  • Safeguarding Digital Sovereignty: Governments and businesses must navigate challenges, ensuring digital sovereignty without compromising an open, free, and secure Internet.
  • Balancing Openness and Security: Balancing openness and security is crucial, emphasizing the importance of DPGA’s compass in certifying and pooling digital public goods.

Key Phrases:

  • “Leaving no one behind” – Emphasizes the commitment to inclusivity and the challenge in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • “Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)” – Highlights the transformative role of DPI in providing digital identities and access to services.
  • “South-South cooperation” – Signifies the collaborative efforts among countries in the global South, exemplified by MOSIP’s impact.
  • “Global development architecture” – Describes the role of digital public goods in shaping international development frameworks.

Analysis:

  • Global Recognition of DPI: The article analyzes India’s G-20 presidency and its impact on recognizing DPI as part of the international development architecture.
  • Challenges in Digital Domain: The challenges of financial considerations, data privacy, and safeguarding digital sovereignty are critically examined.
  • Norway’s Digital Contributions: The analysis delves into Norway’s contributions to the digital domain, showcasing its commitment to the 50-in-5 campaign.
  • Balancing Openness and Security: The article emphasizes the need to balance openness and security, considering the complexities of the digital domain.

Key Data:

  • MOSIP’s Global Reach: Over 97 million people in various countries, including Morocco, Togo, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines, have received IDs through MOSIP.
  • Norwegian Digital Goods: Examples include weather services (Yr), health information systems (DHIS2), and contributions targeting SDG2 on ending food hunger.
  • 50-in-5 Campaign: Norway pledges to make at least one national digital good available globally in the next five years as part of the 50-in-5 campaign.
  • Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA): The article highlights the DPGA’s role as a registry of certified digital public goods, shaping the global digital landscape.

Key Facts:

  • Digital Inclusion in India: DPI has played a pivotal role in providing digital identities to almost all of India’s 1.4 billion citizens.
  • G-20 Framework for DPI: India’s achievement in getting all G-20 countries to agree to the G-20 Framework for Systems of Digital Public Infrastructure is emphasized.
  • Norway’s Role in DPGA: Norway is a co-founder and member of the DPGA, contributing to the certification and pooling of digital public goods.
  • Digital Goods Addressing Global Challenges: Digital goods like VIPS and DHIS2 contribute to addressing global challenges such as food insecurity and health management.

Key Terms for enriching answer quality:

  • Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)
  • South-South Cooperation
  • MOSIP (Modular Open Source Identity Platform)
  • G-20 Framework for Systems of Digital Public Infrastructure
  • 50-in-5 Campaign
  • Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA)
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Way Forward:

  • Collaborative Frameworks with India: Encouraging closer collaboration with India within DPGA frameworks is seen as a positive step for advancing global digital initiatives.
  • Learning from India’s Digital Journey: Leveraging lessons from India’s digital journey is crucial for inclusive global development, offering insights into effective transformation strategies.
  • Balancing Sovereignty and Collaboration: Collaborating with India within the DPGA framework requires a delicate balance, ensuring digital sovereignty while fostering successful global digital initiatives.
  • Certification and Pooling for Global Good: Certification and pooling of digital public goods under DPGA’s global leadership provide a compass for future collaborations, emphasizing global cooperation for mutual benefit.

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Digital India Initiatives

The U.S.’s signal of a huge digital shift

Central idea

The U.S. changed its digital trade stance, wanting more control over Big Tech and AI. China’s rise influenced this, creating a possible digital Cold War. Developing nations should make strong digital rules but avoid depending too much on the U.S. or China.

Key Highlights:

  • The U.S. withdrawal from key digital trade positions at the WTO signifies a shift in global digital dynamics.
  • The move is prompted by the recognition of the need for domestic policy space to regulate Big Tech and AI, impacting data flows, source code, and computing facilities.
  • The China factor emerges as a significant reason behind the U.S. decision, as a digital Cold War scenario looms between the U.S. and China.

Challenges:

  • The potential split of the global digital space into U.S. and China-led blocs poses challenges for countries caught in the crossfire.
  • Developing nations must navigate the risk of digital dependencies on either the U.S. or China, avoiding entanglement in a new form of digital Cold War.

Key Phrases:

  • Digital colonisation and extractive nature.
  • Digital trade proposals as an agenda at plurilateral trade negotiations and the WTO.
  • The flat world concept and its evolution into a split digital world.

Analysis:

  • The withdrawal is seen as a shift from the flat world narrative, with the U.S. adapting to a more complex digital landscape influenced by the rise of China.
  • The U.S. emphasis on preserving policy space for domestic regulation highlights the recognition of the importance of digital control in the era of Big Tech and AI.

Key Data:

  • The U.S. withdrawal in late October from digital trade positions at the WTO.
  • China’s active participation in global digital trade negotiations and its potential to outsmart the U.S. digitally

Key Terms to enrich your upsc mains answer:

  • Digital colonisation.
  • ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development).
  • Digital Cold War.
  • Digital industrial policies.
  • Global-scale interoperability.

Way Forward:

  • Developing countries should leverage the global consensus on the need for strong digital regulations to shape new paradigms for national digital regulation.
  • Resistance against falling into a digital Cold War trap, emphasizing the creation of open global standards and digital public infrastructures for genuine global interoperability.

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Digital India Initiatives

A telco double dip attempt that threatens Net neutrality

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: TRAI

Mains level: Net Neutrality

Central idea

The article discusses the telecom industry’s revenue challenges due to free OTT services, the debate over regulating OTT platforms, and the concern for net neutrality. Telecom’s call for OTT platforms to share bandwidth costs is critiqued as a threat to net neutrality principles, with a focus on the way forward involving global collaboration, innovation-friendly policies, and digital literacy initiatives for an open and informed digital landscape.

What is net neutrality?

  • Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same way, without discriminating or charging differently based on the type of content or websites.
  • It ensures equal and unbiased access to online information, preventing providers from favoring or blocking particular websites or services. Net neutrality aims to maintain an open and level playing field on the Internet, promoting fair competition, innovation, and equal access for all users.

Net Neutrality:

Key Highlights:

  • TRAI Consultation: TRAI, at the government’s request, initiated a consultation on regulating Over-The-Top (OTT) services, sparking debates over telecom companies’ revenue challenges and the need for regulation.
  • Telecom Revenue Pressure: Telecom companies face declining revenue from traditional services due to free competing OTT services, coupled with heavy infrastructure investments for increased data traffic.
  • Net Neutrality Concerns: Telecom companies argue for OTT services like Netflix to share bandwidth costs, raising concerns about net neutrality principles and an uneven playing field.

Prelims focus

TRAI

Formation: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was established on February 20, 1997.

 

Regulatory Body: TRAI is the regulatory body for the telecommunications industry in India, responsible for ensuring fair competition, protecting consumer interests, and promoting the orderly growth of the telecom sector.

 

Autonomous Body: TRAI operates as an autonomous body, independent of government control, to maintain transparency and impartiality in its regulatory functions.

 

Chairperson and Members: TRAI is headed by a Chairperson and consists of six full-time members and two part-time members, each appointed by the central government.

 

Key Functions: TRAI formulates regulations and recommendations related to tariffs, quality of service, licensing, and other aspects of the telecom sector. It also resolves disputes between service providers.

 

Challenges:

  • Revenue Strain: Telecom companies claim OTT services strain their revenue as consumers opt for free alternatives, impacting their ability to recover infrastructure costs.
  • Taxation Disparity: Telecom companies argue that OTT services are not subjected to the same level of taxation and licensing fees, creating an imbalance.
  • Double Dipping: The demand for OTT platforms to share bandwidth costs is criticized as a double-dipping strategy, challenging the principles of net neutrality.

Concerns:

  • Undermining Net Neutrality: The argument for OTT platforms to contribute to bandwidth costs is seen as a threat to net neutrality, challenging the equal treatment of internet traffic.
  • Consumer Impact: Compliance with telecom demands could lead to increased subscription fees or degraded service quality for OTT users, negatively impacting consumers.

Analysis:

  • Infrastructure Investment: Telecom companies argue that they invest in infrastructure, but OTT services also contribute to increased data consumption, creating a growing revenue stream for telecom.
  • Separation of Markets: The article argues for maintaining a separation of costs between OTT services and Internet access, considering them as distinct markets.
  • Flawed Telecom Argument: The article deems the telecom argument for sharing costs with OTT platforms as flawed, highlighting that telecoms provide access to the internet but do not own it.

Key Data:

  • Over a Decade: Telecom companies have faced revenue pressure for over a decade as traditional services decline.
  • 72 Million Users: TRAI’s regulation on discriminatory tariffs in 2016 forced the withdrawal of platforms like Facebook’s Free Basics, impacting around 72 million users.

Key Terms:

  • OTT Services: Over-The-Top services like Netflix and Amazon Prime that deliver content over the internet without traditional distribution methods.
  • Net Neutrality: The principle that Internet service providers must treat all internet traffic equally, without discrimination or preferential treatment.

Way Forward:

  • Upholding Net Neutrality: Policymakers and stakeholders should recognize the importance of upholding net neutrality for fostering innovation, competition, and consumer welfare in the digital era.
  • Long-term Ramifications: Consideration of the long-term impact is crucial, emphasizing that preserving an open internet is integral to the success of Digital Public Infrastructure in countries like India.
  • Global Collaboration: Advocate for net neutrality through global cooperation, establishing common principles for an open internet worldwide.
  • Innovation-Friendly Policies: Craft policies that encourage innovation, balancing the interests of telecom and OTT sectors for a competitive and sustainable digital ecosystem.
  • Digital Literacy: Invest in digital literacy to empower users, educating them about net neutrality implications and promoting an informed and engaged digital community.

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Digital India Initiatives

Digital Health in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digital Health initiatives

Mains level: Digital Health's Transformative Potential and the Role of the G20

Central idea

  • Digital health, a transformative force, can revolutionize global healthcare by improving quality, accessibility, and efficiency, with the G20 nations wielding substantial influence due to their GDP and population share.

Digital Health

  • Digital health encompasses the use of digital technologies and data to enhance healthcare delivery and outcomes. This field includes electronic health records, mobile health applications, telemedicine, wearable health devices, health analytics, and more.
  • The goal is to make healthcare more personalized, efficient, accessible, and cost-effective by integrating technology into various aspects of patient care and health management

Key challenges facing digital health within the G20

  • Disparities in National Digital Health Strategies: Different G20 member states have varying levels of advancement in their digital health strategies. These disparities can hinder collaboration and the development of a unified approach to digital health.
  • Data Privacy Concerns: The collection and processing of sensitive personal health information in digital health systems raise significant data privacy concerns.
  • Interoperability Issues: Interoperability, especially between electronic health record (EHR) systems, is crucial for the seamless exchange of health data. Inconsistencies in standards and infrastructure pose challenges to data sharing and healthcare coordination.
  • Coordination During Global Health Crises: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for coordinated responses to global health crises. Uneven responses and a lack of coordination among countries and healthcare providers can impede efforts to effectively manage pandemics.

The G20’s Approach

  • Emphasized digital health since the initiation of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2016.
  • Prioritized addressing challenges since the Argentine presidency of 2018.
  • Endeavor to design consistent e-health systems, data protection measures, and interoperability improvements.
  • Introduced the G20 Digital Health Task Force in 2020 for a tech-augmented pandemic response approach.

Measures to Strengthen Digital Health

  • Common Minimum Framework (CMF) for Health Data Protection:
    • Map existing data protection provisions and customize for health data.
    • Review the roles of data control agencies.
    • Enhance the security and resilience of health data systems.
    • Promote awareness of health data privacy.
  • Secure Cross-Border Health Data Exchange:
    • Study successful cross-border data sharing initiatives.
    • Develop guidelines for countries to share specific health data for research.
  • Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) for Health:
    • Extend the emphasis on DPI to health sector-specific DPIs.
    • Promote knowledge-sharing, innovation, and public-private partnerships.
  • Centers of Excellence (CoEs) in Health-Tech:
    • Establish CoEs specializing in AI and emerging tech for healthcare.
    • Ensure ethical and inclusive health-tech development.
  • Telemedicine Task Force:
    • Create a dedicated task force to promote telemedicine.
    • Identify best practices, develop ethical guidelines, and explore investment opportunities.
  • Financing Digital Health Innovations:
    • Create a US$ 150-million fund (potentially within WHO) to support global-impact digital health startups.
    • Address digital gender gap and health access for marginalized communities.
  • Joint Responses to Health Crises:
    • Establish an international health-tech-focused think tank.
    • Led by WHO, focus on tech-enabled pandemic response strategies and capacity building.
  • Digital Health Repository:
    • Create a G20 Digital Health Policy Repository (DHPR) for open-access knowledge sharing.
    • Host digital health laws, policies, and data protection regulations.

Conclusion

  • The G20’s commitment to an interconnected digital health ecosystem is crucial. As the G20 health ministers emphasized, existing initiatives should be coordinated to maximize their impact, ensuring that digital health becomes a cornerstone of future healthcare systems.

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Digital India Initiatives

India’s Digital Future: The Implications of the Digital India Act 2023

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digital India Act (DIA)

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • India’s ‘Digital India’ initiative is set to receive a significant boost with the introduction of the Digital India Act 2023 (DIA).
  • This legislation, replacing the two-decade-old Information Technology Act of 2000, reflects India’s commitment to creating a future-ready legal framework for its rapidly expanding digital ecosystem.
  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has taken a proactive approach to navigate the complexities of the digital age and ensure robust regulation and governance.

Adapting to a Changing Digital Landscape

  • Challenges of the IT Act (2000): The IT Act of 2000 was crafted during the infancy of the internet, making it inadequate to address the evolving digital environment.
  • Explosive Growth: India’s internet user base has grown from 5.5 million to 850 million, accompanied by shifts in technology, user behavior, and emerging threats.

Key Provisions of the Digital India Act (DIA)

  • Online Safety and Trust: DIA prioritizes online safety and trust while remaining adaptable to market dynamics and international legal principles.
  • Responsible Technology Adoption: It provides guidelines for the responsible use of technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain, promoting ethical practices and accountability.
  • Open Internet: DIA upholds the concept of an open internet while ensuring necessary regulations to protect users.
  • Know Your Customer (KYC) for Wearable Devices: It mandates stringent KYC requirements for wearable devices, reinforced by criminal law sanctions.
  • Review of Safe Harbour Principle: The DIA contemplates a review of the “safe harbour” principle, potentially altering online accountability standards.

Challenges and Concerns

  • Impact on Innovation: Stricter regulations, especially in emerging technologies, might discourage entrepreneurial initiatives and deter foreign investments.
  • Freedom of Expression: Reviewing the “safe harbour” principle could lead to cautious behavior among online platforms, potentially affecting freedom of expression.
  • Enforcement Challenges: Effective enforcement will require significant resources, expertise, and infrastructure, and striking a balance among various stakeholders presents a challenge.

Conclusion

  • The Digital India Act 2023 represents a progressive step toward a secure, accountable, and innovative digital future for India.
  • It acknowledges the dynamic nature of the digital age and has the potential to shape the nation’s digital landscape for generations to come.
  • As consultations and discussions continue, vigilance and adaptability will be essential to mitigate unintended consequences and ensure a balanced approach to regulation in the digital arena.

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Digital India Initiatives

Safeguarding India’s Digital Youth: A Call for Ethical AI Regulation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digital India Act, 2023

Mains level: AI Governance Challenge and measures

What’s the news?

  • India is poised to take center stage in the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) with the upcoming Global AI Summit and the GPAI Global Summit.

Central idea

  • As AI is projected to contribute significantly to India’s economy, accounting for 10% of its GDP by 2025, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rightly called for a global framework on the ethical expansion of AI. In this context, it is imperative that India address the unique challenges concerning children and adolescents in the AI landscape.

What is the Digital India Act, 2023?

  • The act is new legislation that aims to overhaul the decades-old Information Technology Act of 2000.
  • The Act covers a range of topics such as AI, cybercrime, data protection, deepfakes, competition issues among internet platforms, and online safety.
  • The Act also aims to address new complex forms of user harm that have emerged in the years since the IT Act’s enactment, such as catfishing, doxxing, trolling, and phishing.

Key features of the Digital India Act

  • Creating new regulations around newer technology, including 5G, IoT devices, cloud computing, the metaverse, blockchain, and cryptocurrency
  • Reclassifying online intermediaries into separate categories instead of one general intermediary label, each with its own set of regulations
  • Removing safe harbor immunity for online intermediaries for purposeful misinformation or other content violations from third parties
  • Creating digital standards and laws regarding artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology
  • Criminalizing cyberbullying, identity theft, and unauthorized sharing of personal information without consent.

Addressing the Governance Challenge through the Digital India Act

  • Establish a regulatory framework that aligns industry incentives with the well-being of young users.
  • Implement measures to combat exploitative AI practices, ensuring the safety and mental health of children and adolescents.
  • Provide guidance and tools for families to navigate the digital landscape responsibly.
  • Promote inclusivity and fairness by addressing biases and discrimination in AI systems.
  • Revise data protection provisions to strike a balance between privacy and personalization, recognizing the unique needs of young users.

Way Forward: Rethinking Child-Centric AI Regulation

  • International Best Practices:
  • India can draw on international best practices to develop child-centric AI regulations.
  • UNICEF’s guidance for policymakers on AI and children, aligned with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, provides a framework for creating an enabling environment that prioritizes children’s well-being, inclusion, fairness, non-discrimination, safety, transparency, explaining ability, and accountability.
  • Age-Appropriate Design:
  • Learning from California’s Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, Indian authorities can push for transparency in digital services by configuring default privacy settings, assessing the impact of algorithms and data collection on children, and using age-appropriate language for user-facing information.
  • Research on AI’s benefits and risks for Indian children and adolescents should inform the development of an Indian Age-Appropriate Design Code for AI.
  • Engaging Young Voices:
  • Establishing institutions for regular dialogue with children and adolescents is crucial.
  • Similar to Australia’s Online Safety Youth Advisory Council, these institutions could comprise individuals between the ages of 13 and 24.
  • Such entities will help regulators better understand the threats young people face while interacting with AI systems and preserve the benefits they derive from digital services.

Conclusion

  • In the era of rapidly evolving AI, India’s regulatory approach must prioritize openness, trust, and accountability over rigid prescriptions. As India progresses towards comprehensive Internet regulation and seeks to lead in global AI governance, safeguarding the interests of its young citizens should remain at the forefront of its policy agenda.

Also read:

Laying the foundation for a future-ready digital India

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Digital India Initiatives

Bima Sugam: Is it a ‘UPI moment’ for insurance sector, and how will it benefit customers?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bima Sugam

Mains level: Bima Sugam, Benefits for customers

Central idea

  • The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) is poised to introduce Bima Sugam, a groundbreaking initiative set to transform the insurance landscape in India. IRDAI envisions Bima Sugam as the UPI moment for the insurance sector, aiming to establish it as the world’s largest online marketplace for insurance products and services.

What is Bima Sugam?

  • Bima Sugam is an innovative online platform developed by This platform is designed to revolutionize the insurance sector in India by providing a comprehensive and user-friendly solution for insurance-related activities.

Key aspects and developments regarding Bima Sugam

  • Comprehensive Insurance Marketplace: Bima Sugam serves as a comprehensive online marketplace where customers have access to a wide range of insurance options offered by various insurance companies. It covers all types of insurance requirements, including life insurance, health insurance, and general insurance, which encompasses policies such as motor and travel insurance.
  • Efficient Claim Settlement: Bima Sugam focuses on enhancing the efficiency of claim settlements. Whether policyholders need to make claims related to health coverage or death benefits, the platform enables paperless claim processing based on policy numbers.
  • Data Storage: Details and information about insurance schemes are expected to be stored within the platform through an insurance repository. This repository acts as a centralized database for insurance policies, making it convenient for customers to access and manage their policy information.
  • Budget Increase: The overall budget allocated for the development and implementation of Bima Sugam has been increased to Rs 200 crore, a substantial increase from the initial budget of around Rs 85 crore. This increased budget reflects the significance and scale of the project.
  • Committee Appointment: IRDAI has appointed a dedicated committee to oversee the creation and deployment of the Bima Sugam platform. The committee is tasked with ensuring that the platform is developed effectively and meets the objectives set by IRDAI.
  • Request for Proposals (RFPs): IRDAI plans to issue requests for proposals (RFPs) soon to select a suitable service provider for the Bima Sugam platform. These service providers will serve as technological partners responsible for creating and operating the platform, offering a one-stop solution for all insurance-related services.

What is its role and utility for customers?

  • Single Window for Insurance Needs: Bima Sugam serves as a single, centralized platform where customers can fulfill all their insurance needs. It offers a diverse range of insurance options, including life insurance, health insurance, and general insurance (such as motor and travel insurance). This eliminates the need for customers to visit multiple websites or deal with various agents to explore and purchase insurance policies.
  • Streamlined Policy Selection: The platform simplifies the process of selecting the right insurance policy. Customers can easily compare and evaluate various insurance schemes from different insurers, helping them make informed decisions. This streamlined approach ensures that customers can identify policies that align with their specific requirements and preferences.
  • Efficient Claim Settlement: Bima Sugam places a strong emphasis on efficient claim settlement processes. Customers can initiate and track claims related to health coverage or death benefits through the platform. The use of policy numbers and paperless processing speeds up the claim settlement process, reducing hassles for customers during critical times.
  • Paperless Transactions: With the platform’s paperless transactions, customers can access, manage, and store their insurance policies electronically. This not only reduces the need for physical documentation but also contributes to environmental sustainability. Policyholders can view and retrieve their policy details conveniently online.
  • Cost Savings: Bima Sugam is expected to lower the commissions associated with insurance policies, resulting in cost savings for customers. Additionally, the overall cost of purchasing insurance policies is likely to decrease, making insurance more affordable and accessible.
  • Real-time Data Access: Insurance companies can access validated and authentic customer data in real-time through the platform. This enhances insurers’ ability to offer personalized services and respond promptly to customer inquiries and needs.
  • User-Friendly Interface: The platform is designed with a user-friendly interface, making it accessible and easy to navigate for customers of varying levels of technological proficiency. This ensures that a wide range of users can benefit from its services.

What the IRDAI says about Bima Sugam?

  • Electronic Marketplace Protocol: IRDAI describes Bima Sugam as an electronic marketplace protocol. It envisions this platform as a means to universalize and democratize insurance by providing a digital infrastructure for seamless service delivery.
  • Integration with India Stack: The Bima Sugam will be connected with India Stack, which is a set of application programming interfaces (APIs). These APIs enable governments, businesses, startups, and others to utilize India’s unique digital infrastructure for delivering services efficiently.
  • Empowering Insurance Stakeholders: The IRDAI Chairman, Debasish Panda, said that Bima Sugam will enable and empower all stakeholders across the insurance value chain. This suggests that the platform aims to benefit not only customers but also insurers, intermediaries, and agents by streamlining processes and improving access to data.

Implementation of the Bima Sugam

  • Initial Target: Initially, IRDAI aimed to have Bima Sugam up and running by January 2023.
  • First Postponement: The implementation timeline was postponed, and the platform’s launch was rescheduled for August 1. This delay indicated that more time was needed to develop and prepare the platform for public use.
  • Latest Implementation Date: The implementation of Bima Sugam has been postponed once again, with the new target for its launch set for June 2024. This suggests that the platform is still under development, and IRDAI is working to ensure its readiness before its official release.

Conclusion

  • Bima Sugam represents a significant leap forward in the Indian insurance sector, promising convenience, transparency, and cost-efficiency for customers while revolutionizing the way insurers conduct business. As its implementation date approaches, stakeholders eagerly anticipate the positive impact this transformative platform will have on the insurance industry and financial security for millions of Indians.

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Digital India Initiatives

NPCI Unveils Innovative UPI Features

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Unified Payments Interface (UPI)

Mains level: Read the attached story

upi

Central Idea

  • The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has introduced a range of groundbreaking features on the popular Unified Payments Interface (UPI) platform.

Hello! UPI: Voice-Enabled UPI Payments

  • Hello! UPI, a remarkable addition, facilitates voice-enabled UPI payments in Hindi and English.
  • Users can make UPI payments through voice commands via apps, telecom calls, and IoT devices.
  • Future plans include expanding this feature to support several regional languages, further enhancing accessibility.

Credit Line on UPI:  Streamlined Access to Credit

  • The RBI Governor introduced Credit Line on UPI, an initiative aimed at promoting financial inclusion and innovation.
  • This offering allows users to access pre-sanctioned credit from banks via UPI, simplifying the credit acquisition process.
  • Features include interest-free credit periods, defined charges, and seamless customer engagement channels.
  • The goal is to expedite the credit access process, driving economic growth and digital banking efficiency.

UPI LITE X:  Offline Money Transfers

  • UPI LITE X introduces offline money transfers, enabling users to send and receive funds even without internet connectivity.
  • This feature empowers transactions in areas with poor network coverage.
  • UPI LITE payments are known for their speed and efficiency, making them a preferred choice for users.

UPI Tap & Pay:  Convenience Redefined

  • UPI Tap & Pay offers a new way to complete payments at merchant locations.
  • In addition to traditional scan-and-pay, users can now tap Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled QR codes.
  • This feature enhances convenience, making transactions swift and effortless.

Conversational Payments:  AI-Enabled Transactions

  • Conversational UPI Payments and Conversational Bill Payments represent a paradigm shift in human-machine interaction.
  • These AI-enabled transactions aim to deepen the adoption of digital payments across India.
  • Users can make voice-enabled UPI payments through UPI Apps, telecom calls, and IoT devices in Hindi, English, and regional languages.
  • NPCI has collaborated with AI4Bharat at IIT Madras to develop language models for Hindi and English payments.

BillPay Connect:  Simplified Bill Payments

  • BillPay Connect introduces a nationalized number for bill payments across India.
  • Customers can conveniently fetch and pay bills through messaging apps with a simple ‘Hi.’
  • Even users without smartphones or immediate data access can pay bills via a missed call, followed by a verification call.
  • Voice Assisted Bill Payments via smart home devices offer added convenience and instant confirmation.
  • This innovation enhances security and reassurance for both customers and collection centers.

Conclusion

  • These pioneering features unveiled by NPCI mark a significant leap in India’s digital payment landscape.
  • They not only enhance accessibility but also redefine convenience, making digital transactions more user-friendly.
  • With innovative offerings like voice-enabled payments and streamlined credit access, NPCI continues to play a pivotal role in India’s technological advancement.
  • The journey towards a digitally empowered India takes a giant stride forward with these game-changing UPI features.

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Digital India Initiatives

Personalised Adaptive Learning (PAL) on DIKSHA Platform

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Disksha 2.0

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea

  • The National eGovernance Division (NeGD) plans to incorporate Personalised Adaptive Learning (PAL) into its existing Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA) platform.
  • PAL offers individualized learning experiences based on students’ unique needs and abilities.

DIKSHA 2.0 Portal

  • Diksha Portal was launched in 2017 to provide a digital platform to teachers giving them an opportunity to learn and train themselves and connect with the teacher community.
  • It serves as the National Digital Infrastructure for Teachers.
  • It aids teachers to learn and train themselves for which assessment resources will be available.
  • It houses digitized National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbooks, teaching videos, and practice questions.
  • It also has assistive technologies for learners with disabilities, but it’s a static content repository.

Integration of PAL

  • NCERT seeks MeitY’s expertise in implementing PAL within DIKSHA.
  • PAL provides customized learning paths for each student based on their learning progress.
  • PAL can loop back students to basic concepts if they make mistakes, enhancing learning efficiency.

Challenges and Implementations in States

  • PAL development involves categorizing and tagging content, potentially creating new material.
  • Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics for Classes 9 to 12 are prioritized for PAL development.
  • Several states like Andhra Pradesh, Assam, and Haryana experimented with PAL, facing budget constraints.

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Digital India Initiatives

Cabinet approves ₹1.39 lakh crore for BharatNet project

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: BharatNet Project

Mains level: Not Much

bharatnet

Central Idea

  • The Cabinet has given its approval for an outlay of ₹1.39 lakh crore for the BharatNet project, aimed at providing last-mile connectivity to around 6.4 lakh villages across India.

About BharatNet Project

  • Objectives: The project aims to connect 6.4 lakh villages, covering all gram panchayats in the country, with last-mile broadband connectivity through optical fiber.
  • Implementation: Bharat Broadband Network (BBNL), a special purpose vehicle under Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), is responsible for executing the project.
  • Tie-up with VLEs: BBNL will collaborate with village level entrepreneurs (VLEs) to provide connectivity, following a successful pilot project in four districts and later expanded to 60,000 villages.
  • Progress So Far: As of now, around 1.94 lakh villages have been connected, and the rest are expected to be covered in the next 2.5 years.

Services details

BharatNet is the world’s largest rural connectivity scheme with an Optical Fibre network.

  1. Gram Panchayat: The scheme aimed to provide 100 Mbps broadband to 2.5 lakh gram panchayats.
  2. Households: The main goal is affordable 2 Mbps to 20 Mbps broadband for all households, especially in rural areas.

Key Achievements of the Project

  • Broadband Connections: The pilot project involved 3,800 entrepreneurs providing 3.51 lakh broadband connections to villages.
  • Data Consumption: Households in connected villages recorded an average data consumption of 175 gigabytes per month.
  • Pricing and Speed: The project is based on a 50% revenue share between BBNL and VLEs, offering monthly broadband plans priced from ₹399 to ₹799 with a minimum speed of 30mbps.
  • Optical Fiber Laid: Currently, there are 37 lakh route kilometers (rkm) of optical fiber cable (OFC) laid in India, with BBNL contributing 7.7 lakh rkm OFC to the network.

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Digital India Initiatives

Centre publishes Draft National Deep Tech Startup Policy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Information Technology Agreement-I

Mains level: Deep Tech

deep tech

Central Idea

  • The office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government released a draft National Deep Tech Startup Policy (NDTSP) for public feedback.

What is Deep Technology?

  • Deep Tech refers to advanced and sophisticated technologies that have a significant impact on various industries.
  • These technologies are complex, innovation-driven, and often require interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Examples include AI, robotics, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, and renewable energy solutions.
  • Deep Tech has the potential to revolutionize existing processes and address global challenges.

About National Deep Tech Startup Policy (NDTSP)

  • The policy aims to secure India’s position in the global deep tech value chain, with a focus on areas such as semiconductors, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and space tech.
  • It aims to bolster research and development in deep tech startups, streamline intellectual property regimes, provide financing support, and promote the growth of these startups through various measures.

Key objectives:

  • Focus on Fundamental and Technical Problems: The NDTSP emphasizes support for deep tech startups focusing on fundamental and technical challenges rather than just commercializing existing technologies.
  • Financing Support: The policy addresses the critical financing needs of deep tech startups, especially during the pre-market phase when they introduce their products or ideas.
  • Streamlined Intellectual Property Regime: The policy aims to simplify the intellectual property landscape for deep tech startups to encourage innovation without undue complexities.
  • Ease of Regulatory Compliance: The NDTSP proposes measures to ease regulatory requirements for deep tech startups, creating a conducive environment for their growth.
  • Commercialization Support: The policy suggests providing assistance and resources to effectively manage and commercialize technologies developed by deep tech startups.

Measures to Promote Deep Tech Startups

  • Export Promotion Board: The NDTSP recommends creating an Export Promotion Board to facilitate Indian deep tech startups’ entry into foreign markets.
  • Coordinated Oversight: To streamline the deep tech ecosystem, the policy recommends establishing an “Inter-Ministerial Deep Tech Committee” to review and coordinate requirements effectively.
  • International Collaboration and Market Access: The policy promotes strategic international collaborations and partnerships to enhance market access for Indian deep tech startups globally.
  • Defense and Space Sector Focus: The NDTSP specifically targets deep tech startups in defense and space sectors, aiming to enhance their contributions to national security and space exploration.

Attracting Global Talent and Expertise

  • Networking Opportunities: The policy advocates providing networking opportunities to international deep-tech startups and experts interested in contributing to India’s local ecosystem.
  • Resource-Intensive Approaches: The NDTSP emphasizes resource-intensive measures to attract global talent, strengthening India’s deep tech capabilities.
  • Visa and Immigration Facilitation: The policy proposes simplifying visa and immigration processes to attract foreign experts and investors to support the growth of deep tech startups.

Need for such policy

  • 1997 Information Technology Agreement-I: The policy restates the government’s disappointment with international agreements, particularly the Information Technology Agreement-I. As an ITA participant, India made commitments to eliminate tariffs on a wide range of IT products.
  • Multi-pronged Approach: The NDTSP advocates a coordinated, comprehensive strategy to engage with international partners and multilateral institutions to foster a supportive global environment for India’s deep tech ecosystem.
  • Global Advocacy and Trade Policy Alignment: The policy emphasizes global advocacy to align trade policies with the interests of India’s deep tech startups, fostering a supportive international trade environment.

Conclusion

  • The NDTSP aims to position India as a leader in the global deep tech value chain.
  • Public feedback on the draft policy will further refine and strengthen India’s approach to deep tech entrepreneurship.

Back2Basics: Information Technology Agreement-I

  • ITA-I is a multilateral trade agreement that aims to eliminate tariffs and trade barriers on a wide range of information technology (IT) products.
  • It was negotiated under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and came into effect on July 1, 1997.

Key Points about ITA:

  1. Objective: By removing tariffs and trade barriers, the agreement aims to encourage the development and adoption of IT products and services worldwide.
  2. Product Coverage: The ITA covers a broad range of IT products, including computers, computer peripherals, telecommunications equipment, semiconductors, software, and other IT-related goods.
  3. Participants: Over time, the number of participants has expanded, and as of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, it included more than 80 WTO member countries.
  4. Binding Commitments: Once a country joins the ITA, its tariff removal commitments become legally binding under the WTO framework.
  5. Non-Tariff Barriers: While the ITA focuses on eliminating tariffs, it does not directly address non-tariff barriers to trade, such as regulatory barriers or technical requirements.

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Digital India Initiatives

Hurdles to overcome before becoming ‘Digital India’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digital payment ecosystem

Mains level: Digital payments landscape in India, financial inclusion and challenges

Digital

Central Idea

  • The digital payments landscape in India has experienced a remarkable transformation in recent years, with the United Payments Interface (UPI) playing a pivotal role in this revolution. With every neighborhood kirana store now equipped with a QR code scanner, the popularity of digital transactions has soared.

Modes of payment and their growth trends

  1. UPI (United Payments Interface):
    • Introduction: UPI was introduced in 2016.
    • Growth: Transactions in UPI have grown in value and volume since its introduction.
    • Push factors: Demonetisation in November 2016 and the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 played a significant role in the widespread adoption of digital payments, contributing to UPI’s popularity.
    • Growth rate: From June 2021 to April 2023, UPI payments grew at an average monthly rate of 6%.
    • Share of total digital retail payments: The share of UPI payments increased from less than 20% in mid-2021 to about 27% in March 2023.
    • Comparison with other modes: UPI’s growth rate outpaced all other modes of payment, including NEFT, IMPS, debit card payments, and prepaid payments.
    • Impact on NEFT: The increasing share of UPI payments came mainly at the cost of NEFT transactions, which experienced a decline of about 10 points (from 64% to less than 54%) over the same period.
    • Real-time payment settlement: UPI’s popularity might be due to its real-time payment settlement system, similar to IMPS, unlike NEFT.
  2. NEFT (National Electronic Funds Transfer):
    • Growth rate: NEFT transactions grew at an average monthly rate of 3% from June 2021 to April 2023.
    • Declining share: The share of NEFT transactions in the total value of digital retail payments declined from 64% to less than 54% over the same period, with UPI gaining popularity.
  3. IMPS (Immediate Payment Service):
    • Growth rate: IMPS transactions grew at an average monthly rate of 3% from June 2021 to April 2023.
    • Stable share: The share of IMPS transactions remained relatively stable at about 9% in the total value of digital retail payments.
  4. Debit card payments and Prepaid payments:
    • Growth rate: Debit card payments and prepaid payments experienced slower growth, with an average monthly rate of 1.5% from June 2021 to April 2023.
    • Combined share: The combined share of these modes of payment did not exceed 2.5% of the overall digital retail transactions.

Analysis: Financial Inclusion

  1. Bank Account Penetration:
    • India has made remarkable progress in bank account penetration, with 80% of the population having bank accounts in 2017 and 2021, up from 53% in 2014.
    • However, a concerning issue is the high percentage of inactive accounts, which stands at 38%. This indicates that a significant portion of the population remains excluded from actively utilizing banking services.
  2. Gender Gap:
    • There is a substantial gender gap in digital transactions, with only 28% of women conducting any digital transaction in 2021, compared to 41% of men.
    • The difference of 13 points between men and women in digital transactions is higher than many other comparable countries like Vietnam, Brazil, China, and Kenya, signaling a need for targeted measures to empower women in accessing and using digital payment methods.
  3. Rural-Urban Divide:
    • The rural-urban gap in digital payments is evident, with only 30% of Indians in rural areas making or receiving any digital payment in 2021, compared to 40% in urban areas.
    • In contrast, countries like Bangladesh and Kenya display less discrepancy between rural and urban digital payment rates, with over 70% of their populations engaged in digital transactions.
  4. Overall Digital Transaction Figures:
    • Despite the increasing popularity of UPI, only 35% of the population reported carrying out any digital transaction in 2021, indicating that a considerable proportion of the population is not actively participating in digital payments.
    • India’s figures for digital transactions are lower compared to the average of 57% for all developing countries and the world average of 64%

Way forward

  • Promote Digital Literacy: Provide training programs and workshops to enhance digital literacy, focusing on women and vulnerable populations.
  • Reduce Gender Disparities: Implement targeted measures to bridge the gender gap in digital transactions, encouraging more women to participate in digital payment ecosystems.
  • Enhance Digital Infrastructure: Expand internet connectivity and improve digital infrastructure in remote and rural areas to ensure equitable access to digital payment facilities.
  • Encourage Active Usage of Bank Accounts: Develop financial literacy programs to educate people about the benefits of using their bank accounts actively, thereby reducing the prevalence of inactive accounts.
  • Enable Business Participation: Encourage businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, to adopt digital payment methods by providing incentives and simplifying the onboarding process.
  • Strengthen Security Measures: Enhance cybersecurity protocols and fraud prevention mechanisms to build trust and confidence among users in using digital payment platforms.

Conclusion

  • The UPI has undeniably revolutionised India’s digital payments landscape. However, the journey towards achieving Digital India is far from complete. To address the persisting issues, policymakers must devise targeted interventions to ensure that the benefits of digital payments reach all sections of society. Only then can India truly harness the potential of digital payments and attain the goal of a cashless economy.

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Digital India Initiatives

What Data Protection Bill needs to do to actually protect?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Key concepts

Mains level: Data portability and interoperability and its significance

What is the news?

  • The government is reportedly introducing a revised version of the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill during the upcoming Monsoon session of Parliament. The article highlights the importance of including provisions on data portability and interoperability in the Bill.

Central idea

  • The government is set to present a revised version of the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill. This presents a unique opportunity for the government to enhance the Bill by reintroducing provisions on data portability and introducing an interoperability provision.

What is the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill about?

  • The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill aims to safeguard personal data of Indian citizens.
  • It states how data should be stored, processed, and protected.
  • The bill specifies obligations of data fiduciary for processing digital personal data and states practices they must follow to prevent data breach.
  • It also defines consent of the data principal to provide such information

What is meant by Data portability and interoperability?

Data Portability:

  • Data portability refers to the ability of individuals to transfer their personal data from one platform, service, or organization to another.
  • It focuses on the movement and transfer of personal data, allowing users to take their data with them when they switch platforms or services.
  • Data portability empowers individuals by giving them control over their personal information and the freedom to choose alternative platforms or services without losing access to their data.

Interoperability:

  • Interoperability refers to the ability of different systems, platforms, or services to seamlessly exchange and use data with one another.
  • It ensures that different technologies, applications, or networks can work together and communicate effectively, enabling data and information to flow between them.
  • Interoperability allows for the compatibility and interaction of systems, promoting collaboration and communication across different platforms.

What is the Need for Empowering Users through Data Portability and Interoperability?

  • User Control and Choice:
  • Currently, users often find themselves locked into platforms or services that collect and utilize their data without much transparency or control.
  • By enabling users to transfer their data and choose alternative platforms, data portability allows individuals to exercise their rights and make informed decisions about their data.
  • Privacy and Data Protection:
  • Users have the right to ensure that their personal data is handled responsibly and in accordance with their preferences.
  • By facilitating data portability, individuals can move their data to platforms that prioritize privacy and security, incentivizing organizations to adopt stronger data protection practices.
  • Fostering Competition and Innovation:
  • Start-ups and smaller companies often face challenges in competing with established platforms due to the network effects and data lock-in created by dominant players.
  • By allowing users to easily switch platforms while retaining their data, data portability enables start-ups to attract dissatisfied users and offer innovative alternatives, driving competition and fostering a dynamic market.
  • User Empowerment:
  • When users have the ability to freely move their data, platforms are incentivized to provide better services, respect user rights, and compete for user loyalty.
  • This shift in power dynamics puts users in a more empowered position, encouraging platforms to prioritize user interests and enhance their overall digital experience.
  • Cross-Platform Collaboration and Interaction:
  • Interoperability allows users to communicate and engage with individuals on different platforms, breaking down the silos that currently limit cross-platform interaction.
  • This promotes a more interconnected digital ecosystem and enhances user experiences by enabling seamless communication and data flow.

Potential concerns associated with data portability and interoperability

  • Privacy Risks: The movement of personal data through data portability and interoperability raises privacy concerns, including unauthorized access, breaches, and misuse of information. Robust data protection measures are necessary to safeguard user privacy.
  • Data Security: Data portability and interoperability add complexity to data security. Strong security protocols are needed to prevent unauthorized access, tampering, or loss of data.
  • Standardization Challenges: Achieving universal standardization for seamless data transfer and interoperability is challenging due to the diverse range of technologies involved. Lack of standardization can hinder smooth data transfer and interoperability.
  • Vendor Lock-in: While data portability aims to reduce vendor lock-in, some platforms may still implement practices that make it difficult to transfer data. This can limit user choice and freedom.
  • Data Quality and Compatibility: Data transfer between platforms can result in compatibility and quality issues. Differences in data formats and standards can affect data accuracy, completeness, and reliability.
  • Complexity and Technical Challenges: Implementing data portability and interoperability can be technically complex. It requires infrastructure, resources, and expertise to support seamless data transfer and compatibility.

Way forward

  • Legislative Action: Governments must prioritize enacting comprehensive data protection laws with provisions for data portability and interoperability, establishing clear guidelines and enforcement mechanisms.
  • Industry Collaboration: Stakeholders should collaborate to develop common protocols, formats, and standards for data portability and interoperability, prioritizing user-centric design, data security, and privacy.
  • User Education: Governments and organizations should educate users about their rights regarding data portability and interoperability, raising awareness of benefits, risks, and processes involved.
  • Privacy by Design: Organizations should adopt privacy by design principles, integrating data protection into platform and service design from the outset.
  • Third-Party Verification: Independent entities can verify and audit data portability and interoperability practices, ensuring compliance with standards and building user trust.
  • International Collaboration: Governments should engage in international collaborations to promote harmonized standards and regulations for cross-border data transfers.
  • Continuous Review: Regularly reviewing and updating regulations and standards ensures adaptability to evolving technology and data governance challenges.

Conclusion

  • Given the internet’s indispensability to modern life, it is imperative for the government to seize this opportune moment and enact legislation that supports user empowerment and innovation. By striking while the iron is hot, the government can create a more equitable and thriving digital landscape for all.

Also read:

Laying the foundation for a future-ready digital India

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Digital India Initiatives

Data Protection Bill approved by Cabinet: Content, concerns

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digital Personal Data Protection Bill

Mains level: Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, significance, concerns and its implications

protection

Central Idea

  • Nearly six years after the Supreme Court recognized privacy as a fundamental right, the Indian government has taken a significant step towards safeguarding personal data with the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022. This legislation, expected to be tabled in the upcoming Monsoon Session of Parliament, aims to address concerns regarding data protection, while considering the country’s trade negotiations with international partners.

*Relevance of the topic*

Today India has more than 800 million internet users and it is expected to increase by 45% in the next five years to 900 million in 2025

Given the dynamic nature of the online sphere, privacy concerns and issues are rapidly changing.

Need for robust data protection policy and its implications on citizens

Significance of Privacy Law/ Data Protection Bill, 2022

  • Filling the Legislative Gap: The proposed bill aims to fill the legislative gap in India regarding the protection of personal data. By enacting a comprehensive privacy law, it will provide a dedicated legal framework for the collection, storage, processing, and transfer of personal data, addressing concerns that were previously unregulated.
  • Strengthening Data Protection: The bill seeks to strengthen data protection measures by placing obligations on entities, referred to as data fiduciaries, to maintain the accuracy and security of personal data. It also emphasizes the importance of deleting data once its purpose has been fulfilled, promoting responsible data management practices.
  • Trade Negotiations and Global Alignment: The bill’s enactment holds significance in India’s trade negotiations, particularly with regions like the European Union. Implementing a robust privacy law aligns India with international data protection standards, such as the GDPR, which can facilitate smoother data transfers and trade relations with countries that prioritize privacy.
  • Consumer Trust and Confidence: Establishing a privacy law builds consumer trust and confidence in the digital ecosystem. It assures individuals that their personal data will be protected, thereby encouraging greater participation in digital transactions, e-commerce, and other online activities. Increased trust contributes to the growth of the digital economy.
  • Accountability and Remedies: The bill includes provisions for accountability and remedies in case of privacy breaches. It empowers individuals to seek legal remedies and file complaints against entities that violate the privacy provisions. This promotes a culture of accountability among organizations and strengthens individuals’ rights.
  • Harmonizing Data Protection and National Interests: The proposed bill aims to strike a balance between data protection and national interests. While safeguarding privacy rights, it also provides exemptions for the central government and its agencies on grounds of national security, foreign relations, and public order, ensuring that legitimate national interests are taken into account

Concerns Surrounding the Draft Bill

  • Wide-ranging Exemptions: One of the major concerns is the inclusion of wide-ranging exemptions for the central government and its agencies. These exemptions allow the government to bypass certain provisions of the bill based on reasons such as national security, relations with foreign governments, and maintenance of public order. Critics argue that these exemptions could potentially undermine privacy protections and weaken the scope of the law.
  • Dilution of the Data Protection Board: The role of the data protection board, which serves as an adjudicatory body for privacy-related disputes, is perceived to be diluted in the draft bill. The control of the central government in appointing board members and determining the terms and conditions of their service raises concerns about the independence and effectiveness of the board.
  • Potential Impact on the Right to Information (RTI) Act: There are concerns that the draft bill could have implications for the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The protection of personal data of government functionaries under the privacy law could make it more challenging for information to be shared with RTI applicants, potentially affecting transparency and accountability

How does India’s proposal compare with other countries?

  • European Union (EU) Model: The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a comprehensive data protection law that sets high standards for the processing and protection of personal data. The GDPR is known for its stringent requirements and extensive obligations on organizations handling personal data. India’s proposed bill aims to align with international standards, including those set by the GDPR, to facilitate data transfers and trade relations with the EU.
  • United States Model: Privacy protection in the United States is primarily based on sectoral laws and regulations. The focus is on safeguarding individual liberties, with an emphasis on protection from government intrusion. The US approach allows data collection as long as individuals are informed about it. In comparison, India’s proposed bill takes a more comprehensive approach, covering various aspects of data protection and placing obligations on both government and private entities.
  • China Model: China has recently implemented new data privacy and security laws, including the Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) and the Data Security Law (DSL). These laws grant individuals new rights over their personal data and impose restrictions on cross-border data transfers. While the specific provisions of India’s proposed bill may differ, both India and China aim to enhance data protection and privacy in the face of increasing digitalization.
  • Global Adoption: According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the majority of countries globally have established data protection and privacy laws. Africa and Asia have shown significant adoption rates, with countries in these regions implementing their own privacy frameworks. It is worth noting that the level of adoption and the specifics of these laws may vary across countries.

Implications of the bill on Citizens

  1. Positive implications
  • Enhanced Privacy Protection: The bill would provide individuals with greater control over their personal data and reduce the risk of unauthorized access or misuse.
  • Strengthened Data Security: Stricter requirements for data fiduciaries to implement security measures can help safeguard sensitive data, enhancing trust and confidence in digital transactions.
  • Increased Accountability and Remedies: The bill empowers citizens by providing them with avenues to address privacy violations, ensuring that their rights are protected and promoting a culture of accountability among data handlers.
  1. Potential Negative Implications:
  • Exemptions for Government Agencies: Concerns about the government’s access to and use of personal data, leading to potential privacy risks and diminished transparency.
  • Weakened Role of the Data Protection Board: The perceived dilution of the data protection board’s role, particularly in terms of its independence and control by the central government may result in a lack of impartial adjudication and hinder citizens’ ability to seek redress for privacy violations.
  • Potential Impact on Right to Information (RTI) Act: If personal data is shielded under the privacy law, it may restrict access to information by RTI applicants, potentially affecting transparency and accountability in the public sphere.

What changes are likely in the final version?

  • Cross-border Data Flows: A key change in the final draft is a shift from a ‘whitelisting’ approach to a ‘blacklisting’ mechanism regarding cross-border data flows. This means that data transfers will be allowed to most jurisdictions by default, except for those specified in a ‘negative list’ of countries where transfers would be prohibited.
  • Stricter “Deemed Consent” Provision: The provision on “deemed consent” may be reworded to impose stricter requirements on private entities while allowing government departments to assume consent for processing personal data on grounds of national security and public interest. This change aims to strengthen privacy protections for individuals.
  • Clarification of Penalties: The final version of the bill is expected to provide clarity on penalties for data breaches. It is reported that the highest penalty for failing to prevent a data breach could be prescribed at Rs 250 crore per instance. The interpretation of “per instance” would be determined by the data protection board on a case-by-case basis.

Way forward

  • Stakeholder Consultation: Engage with privacy experts, industry representatives, and civil society organizations for comprehensive input and diverse perspectives.
  • Strengthen Privacy Safeguards: Minimize exemptions for government agencies, ensure an independent and effective data protection board, and clarify provisions on data breaches and penalties.
  • Transparency and Accountability: Establish clear guidelines for data fiduciaries, conduct regular audits, and provide accessible mechanisms for citizens to file complaints and seek redress.
  • Awareness and Education: Launch public awareness campaigns, privacy literacy programs, and collaborate with educational institutions to empower individuals with knowledge about their privacy rights.
  • International Cooperation: Align standards with international frameworks, collaborate on data transfer mechanisms, and actively participate in global privacy discussions and forums.
  • Continuous Review and Adaptation: Incorporate provisions for regular review and updates to address emerging privacy challenges and technological advancements.

Conclusion

  • As India prepares to introduce the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, it marks a significant milestone in protecting individuals’ privacy rights and regulating data practices. However, concerns regarding exemptions for government agencies and the potential impact on the RTI Act need to be carefully addressed. By striking a balance between privacy protection and national interests, India can establish a robust framework that promotes data-driven innovation, fosters international trade relations, and ensures individuals’ control over their personal data

Also read:

Digital Personal Data Protection Bill: Need A Pre-legislative Consultation

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Digital India Initiatives

KFON: Kerala’s internet connectivity scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Kerala Fibre Optical Network (KFON) and other such interventions by the government

Mains level: Prevalence and dimensions of the digital divide in India, Kerala Fibre Optical Network (KFON) project and its relevance to address the digital divide

internet

Central Idea

  • Digital poverty and exclusion persist despite the era of hyper-connectivity, leaving millions marginalized even in the wealthiest nations. In the United States, approximately 14.5 million people in rural areas lack access to broadband, exposing the stark reality of digital absence and leaving over 3 billion individuals on the fringes of the digital age. However, the state of Kerala in India has embarked on a pioneering initiative called the Kerala Fibre Optical Network (KFON) to bridge this digital divide.

Relevance of this topic:

*Although efforts are being made to bridge the gap, the digital divide in India remains a significant challenge. You can use the features of the KFON project as examples in your answer.

Kerala’s Progressive Digital Initiative: Kerala Fibre Optical Network (KFON)

  • Recognizing Internet as a Citizen’s Right: In 2016, the communist-led state government of Kerala acknowledged internet access as a fundamental right, following the example of progressive nations like Finland, Costa Rica, and France.
  • Establishment of the KFON Project: The KFON project aims to provide affordable and reliable internet connectivity to every household, government institution, and business entity in Kerala through the deployment of a fiber-optic broadband network.
  • Targeting Economically Disadvantaged Households: The KFON project adopts a focused approach, starting with approximately 14,000 economically disadvantaged households in the state. These households will receive internet connectivity in the initial phase, addressing the digital divide from the grassroots level.
  • Extending Connectivity to Remote Areas: Kerala’s KFON project goes beyond urban centers, reaching even the most remote regions and tribal hamlets, such as those in Wayanad. This ensures that connectivity reaches marginalized communities that have historically faced barriers to digital access.
  • Free Internet Connections for Economically Disadvantaged: Over the course of the next 12 to 18 months, the KFON project aims to provide free internet connections to 2 million economically disadvantaged households, enabling them to access the benefits of digital connectivity without financial burden.
  • Affordable Data Packages: Apart from free connections, the KFON project offers a range of affordable data packages for the remaining 6 million households in Kerala. These packages cater to different affordability levels, starting from as low as 300 rupees (£2.86) per month for a 20 Mbps connection, making digital access more accessible to a broader population.
  • Infrastructure Development in Schools and Government Buildings: The KFON project includes the installation of necessary infrastructure in schools and government buildings. This ensures that educational institutions and public entities are equipped with the means to leverage digital connectivity effectively.
  • Digital Literacy Campaigns: To ensure the effective utilization of digital connectivity, the Kerala government has initiated digital literacy campaigns at the grassroots level. Collaborating with local bodies, the aim is to empower individuals from marginalized communities with the necessary skills to navigate the online world and leverage digital resources for personal and professional development.

internet

Impact of KFON project on Society

  • Enhanced Healthcare Services: The availability of reliable internet connectivity through KFON enables improved access to telemedicine and remote healthcare services. People in remote areas can connect with healthcare professionals, receive consultations, and access medical information without the need for physical travel, leading to better healthcare outcomes, especially in underserved regions.
  • Empowerment through Education: KFON’s connectivity in schools and educational institutions facilitates digital learning, e-learning platforms, and access to online educational resources. This empowers students with equal opportunities for quality education, regardless of their geographical location, and equips them with essential digital skills for the future.
  • Skill Development and Employment Opportunities: Access to the internet provided by KFON opens doors to online skill development programs, vocational training, and employment opportunities. It enables individuals, especially from marginalized communities, to enhance their skills, access job portals, and explore entrepreneurial ventures, contributing to economic growth and reducing unemployment.
  • Business and Entrepreneurship: KFON’s internet connectivity creates a conducive environment for businesses to thrive. Small and medium enterprises can expand their reach, engage in e-commerce, and access digital marketing channels. It also fosters entrepreneurship by providing a platform for aspiring entrepreneurs to launch and promote their startups.
  • Digital Governance and E-Government Services: KFON’s connectivity strengthens digital governance and e-government initiatives. Citizens can access online government services, submit applications, pay bills, and participate in e-governance processes conveniently. This streamlines administrative procedures, reduces bureaucracy, and enhances transparency and efficiency in service delivery.
  • Bridging Social and Economic Divides: By providing affordable and reliable internet connectivity to economically disadvantaged households, KFON plays a significant role in bridging social and economic divides. It ensures that individuals from marginalized communities have equal opportunities to access information, resources, and services, thus reducing inequality and promoting social inclusion.

Prevalence of the digital divide in India

  • Limited Digital Literacy and Access: The Oxfam India report highlights that only about one-fifth of the Indian population can operate a computer or use the internet. This limited digital literacy and access contribute to the digital divide across different segments of society.
  • Rural-Urban Divide: There is a significant disparity in internet usage between rural and urban areas. The report mentions that around 31 percent of the rural population in India uses the internet compared to 67 percent of the urban population, indicating a notable urban-rural divide.
  • Educational Divide: The report points out the challenges faced by students in accessing digital resources for education. Only a small percentage of enrolled students have access to computers with internet connectivity, limiting their ability to leverage digital platforms for learning.
  • Financial Inclusion Disparities: The report highlights disparities in digital payment facility usage, indicating that the richest 60 percent of Indians are four times more likely to use digital payment services than the poorest 40 percent. Financial inclusion gaps exacerbate the digital divide, particularly among economically disadvantaged groups.
  • Household Disparities: The report highlights significant differences in computer and internet access between the poorest and richest households. The poorest 20 percent of households have limited access to computers and the internet, while the richest 20 percent enjoy higher rates of access.
  • Gender Divide: The gendered digital divide in India is prominent, with a wide gap of 40.4 percent between internet usage among men and women. This gender disparity limits digital access and opportunities for women, particularly in rural areas.

internet

How KFON project can contribute to address the digital divide in India?

  • Bridging the Connectivity Gap: The KFON project aims to provide affordable and reliable internet connectivity to every household, government institution, and business entity in Kerala. By ensuring widespread access to high-speed internet, KFON helps bridge the connectivity gap that exists between urban and rural areas, as well as economically disadvantaged communities.
  • Rural Outreach: The KFON project extends its network to even the most remote areas, including tribal hamlets in Kerala. By bringing internet connectivity to these underserved rural regions, KFON addresses the urban-rural digital divide and ensures that residents in these areas can access the same digital opportunities as their urban counterparts.
  • Affordability and Inclusion: KFON’s approach includes providing free internet connections to economically disadvantaged households and offering affordable data packages to others. This helps address the affordability barrier that often limits digital access for marginalized communities. By making internet services accessible and affordable, KFON ensures that more people can participate in the digital ecosystem.
  • Digital Literacy Initiatives: KFON complements its infrastructure development with digital literacy campaigns at the grassroots level. By addressing digital literacy gaps, KFON enables users to make the most of the connectivity provided and enhances their overall digital inclusion.
  • Multi-sector Impact: The KFON project’s extensive infrastructure and connectivity have a multiplier effect on various sectors, including education, healthcare, skill development, and business opportunities. By promoting digital inclusion in these sectors, KFON contributes to reducing the disparities caused by the digital divide. It helps ensure that individuals and communities have equal access to educational resources, healthcare services, employment opportunities, and digital tools for economic growth.
  • Role Model for Replication: The KFON project’s success and approach can serve as a role model for addressing the digital divide in other parts of India. By showcasing the benefits of bridging the digital divide, KFON encourages other entities to prioritize digital inclusion and work towards reducing disparities in digital access and opportunities.

Conclusion

  • Digital poverty and exclusion persist worldwide, hindering access to crucial resources and opportunities. As discussions on digital public infrastructure gain momentum, Kerala’s achievements demonstrate the power of political will and innovative thinking in bridging the digital divide and fostering equitable development.

Also read:

Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI): New Backbone of India’s Economy

 

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Digital India Initiatives

Laying the foundation for a future-ready digital India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digital India Bill and regulations

Mains level: Technology regulation in India, features of Digital India Bill and way forward for safer internet ecosystem

digital

Central Idea

  • The Ministry of Electronics and IT has taken a proactive stance in organizing consultations for the much-anticipated Digital India Bill. This proposed legislation aims to replace the outdated Information Technology (IT) Act, which has been in effect for 23 years. By upgrading the legal framework, the government intends to address emerging challenges such as user harm, competition, and misinformation prevalent in the digital space.

Relevance of the topic

  • The number of active internet users in India is expected to grow to 900 million from the current 759 million by 2025. According to NCRB latest data, India recorded massive 214 per cent rise in cases related to misinformation and rumours. Also, the fact check unit of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) Since its inception has received over 37,000 complaints. It has busted 1,160 cases of fake news.
  • These facts necessitate a comprehensive reform regulating the digital landscape of the country. Social media has a massive influence on the society, disturbing and promoting social harmony, where half of its population is online.

What are the flaws of the current regime?

  • Broad Definition of Intermediaries: The current IT Act defines intermediaries as any entity between a user and the Internet, which includes a wide range of services. This broad definition encompasses platforms like video communications, matrimonial websites, email services, and online comment sections, making it difficult to differentiate between different types of intermediaries and their associated responsibilities.
  • Uniform Treatment of Intermediaries: The existing rules treat all intermediaries, including Internet service providers, websites, e-commerce platforms, and cloud services, in a similar manner. This uniform treatment fails to account for the varying levels of risk and harm presented by different types of intermediaries in the digital space.
  • Stringent Obligations for Most Intermediaries: The current rules impose stringent obligations on most intermediaries, such as a strict 72-hour timeline for responding to law enforcement requests and content takedowns. These obligations may not be proportionate to the size and capabilities of the intermediaries, leading to unnecessary burdens and costs for smaller players in the industry.
  • Lack of Differentiation for Lower-Risk Intermediaries: Licensed intermediaries, such as Microsoft Teams or customer management solutions like Zoho, which have a closed user base and present a lower risk of harm, are treated the same as conventional social media platforms. This lack of differentiation imposes additional costs and liabilities on these intermediaries without significantly reducing the risks associated with the Internet.
  • Limited Global Precedents: Only a few countries have developed comprehensive frameworks for the regulation of intermediaries. Therefore, there is a lack of well-established precedents and best practices to draw upon when addressing the challenges posed by emerging technologies and digital platforms.

digital

The need for change

  • Evolving Technological Landscape: The digital landscape is constantly evolving, introducing new technologies, platforms, and services. A new legislation is necessary to update and align the regulatory framework with the present and future technological realities.
  • Emerging Challenges: The digital space presents new challenges that the current regime fails to adequately address. Issues such as user harm, competition, and misinformation have become prevalent and require targeted and effective regulatory measures. The proposed Bill aims to tackle these challenges by introducing provisions specifically designed to mitigate risks and ensure accountability in the digital ecosystem.
  • Inadequate Classification of Intermediaries: The current regime lacks a precise and nuanced classification system for intermediaries. By categorizing intermediaries into distinct classes based on their roles and responsibilities, the proposed Bill seeks to establish a more effective and proportionate regulatory framework.
  • Global Precedents: The absence of comprehensive global precedents for regulating intermediaries leaves room for India to develop its own framework. By considering international experiences, such as the European Union’s Digital Services Act and Australia’s classification system, India can learn from best practices and adapt them to suit its unique requirements. This allows for a more informed and balanced approach to technology regulation.
  • Balancing Accountability and Innovation: The need for change lies in striking a balance between ensuring accountability and fostering innovation in the digital space. The proposed Bill aims to minimize obligations on intermediaries while ensuring that regulatory requirements are proportionate, thereby creating an environment that promotes both online safety and business growth.

key focus areas for India

  • Classification Framework: India needs to establish a clear and effective classification framework for intermediaries. This framework should differentiate between different types of intermediaries based on their roles and responsibilities. It should also consider the risks associated with each category and assign appropriate obligations accordingly.
  • Risk Assessments: The proposed Bill should incorporate provisions that require intermediaries, especially those offering communication services, to conduct risk assessments. These assessments should take into account factors such as the number of active users, the potential harm posed, and the likelihood of harmful content going viral.
  • Proportionate Obligations: The focus should be on ensuring that regulatory obligations placed on intermediaries are proportionate to their size, capabilities, and potential risks. At the same time, obligations such as appointing a grievance officer, cooperating with law enforcement, and removing problematic content within reasonable timelines should be imposed to maintain user safety and address concerns effectively.
  • Differentiation of Intermediaries: It is crucial to differentiate intermediaries providing communication services, such as social media platforms, from other types of intermediaries like search engines and online marketplaces. Communication services involve direct interaction between end-users and require specific considerations in terms of content moderation, grievance redressal mechanisms, and user protection.
  • Consultation with Industry: To ensure the effectiveness of the proposed approach, it is essential to engage in a collaborative dialogue with industry stakeholders. Regular consultations should be held to define metrics for risk assessment, establish appropriate thresholds, and review the regulatory framework periodically.

digital

Need for an effective fact-checking mechanism

  • Combatting Misinformation: Misinformation spreads rapidly and widely on digital platforms, leading to the distortion of facts and public understanding. An effective fact-checking mechanism helps identify and debunk false or misleading information, ensuring accurate and reliable information reaches the public.
  • Protecting Public Health and Safety: Misinformation related to health, safety, and emergencies can have severe consequences. Fact-checking plays a vital role in countering false claims about medical treatments, public health measures, and other critical information, ensuring people’s well-being and safety.
  • Safeguarding Social Cohesion: Misinformation can fuel social divisions, spread hate speech, and contribute to societal unrest. Fact-checking promotes responsible and ethical communication, discouraging the spread of false narratives that can harm social cohesion.
  • Empowering Media Literacy: Fact-checking initiatives raise awareness about the importance of media literacy and critical thinking skills. They provide resources and tools for individuals to evaluate information sources, detect misinformation, and become more discerning consumers of digital content.
  • Supporting Journalistic Integrity: Fact-checking enhances the integrity of journalism by verifying facts and holding media organizations accountable for accuracy. It reinforces journalistic ethics and promotes responsible reporting, contributing to a vibrant and reliable media ecosystem.
  • Strengthening Digital Resilience: By actively debunking misinformation, fact-checking initiatives contribute to building a resilient digital ecosystem. They empower individuals to recognize and resist the influence of false information, reducing the potential harm caused by viral falsehoods.
  • Promoting Evidence-Based Decision-Making: Fact-checking equips policymakers, researchers, and other stakeholders with accurate information to inform evidence-based decision-making processes. It contributes to the formulation of effective policies and interventions grounded in reliable data and analysis.

Conclusion

  • The Digital India Bill represents a significant step in reshaping technology regulation in India. Collaborative efforts with industry stakeholders will be crucial in defining effective risk assessment metrics and ensuring periodic reviews. The proposed framework has the potential to establish a safer Internet ecosystem while providing a conducive environment for businesses to thrive.

Also read:

Highlights of the proposed Digital India Act, 2023

 

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Digital India Initiatives

Digital India Bill: Combating misinformation without attacking free speech

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digital India Bill

Mains level: Proliferation of misinformation, fake news, hate speech etc, fact checking mechanism, challenges and measures

misinformation

Central Idea

  • The proliferation of misinformation in the digital public square has raised concerns about the need for an effective fact-checking mechanism. However, recent reports suggesting the inclusion of a provision in the Digital India Bill mandating the registration of online fact-checkers have sparked valid apprehensions.

The proliferation of misinformation in the digital public square

  • False News Articles: Misleading or fabricated news articles designed to deceive readers and create a false narrative.
  • Clickbait Headlines: Sensationalized or exaggerated headlines used to attract clicks and generate advertising revenue, often misleading readers about the actual content of the article.
  • Conspiracy Theories: Unsubstantiated claims or theories that propose secret plots, cover-ups, or hidden agendas by powerful entities or organizations.
  • Hoaxes and Urban Legends: False stories or rumors that circulate widely, often involving sensational or shocking elements, and are shared without verification.
  • Manipulated Images and Videos: Visual media that have been digitally altered or taken out of context to convey false information or deceive viewers.
  • False Statistics and Data: Deliberately misleading or misinterpreted data presented as factual information to support a particular narrative or agenda.
  • Satire or Parody Mistaken as Fact: Humorous or satirical content that is mistaken for real news and shared as factual information.
  • Bot-generated Content: Automated accounts, or bots, spreading misinformation by posting and sharing false information on social media platforms.
  • Echo Chambers and Filter Bubbles: Online environments where individuals are exposed only to information that aligns with their existing beliefs and biases, reinforcing misinformation and limiting exposure to diverse perspectives.
  • False Expertise and Impersonation: Individuals falsely claiming to be experts or impersonating credible sources to lend credibility to false information.

misinformation

Need for an effective fact-checking mechanism

  • Combatting Misinformation: Misinformation spreads rapidly and widely on digital platforms, leading to the distortion of facts and public understanding. An effective fact-checking mechanism helps identify and debunk false or misleading information, ensuring accurate and reliable information reaches the public.
  • Upholding Democratic Discourse: In a democratic society, informed citizens are crucial for meaningful discourse and decision-making. Fact-checking promotes the availability of accurate information, enabling individuals to make well-informed choices, engage in constructive debates, and hold public figures and institutions accountable.
  • Protecting Public Health and Safety: Misinformation related to health, safety, and emergencies can have severe consequences. Fact-checking plays a vital role in countering false claims about medical treatments, public health measures, and other critical information, ensuring people’s well-being and safety.
  • Preserving Trust and Credibility: Misinformation erodes public trust in institutions, media, and information sources. Fact-checking helps maintain credibility by providing evidence-based analysis and correcting false information, enhancing trust in reliable sources of information.
  • Safeguarding Social Cohesion: Misinformation can fuel social divisions, spread hate speech, and contribute to societal unrest. Fact-checking promotes responsible and ethical communication, discouraging the spread of false narratives that can harm social cohesion.
  • Empowering Media Literacy: Fact-checking initiatives raise awareness about the importance of media literacy and critical thinking skills. They provide resources and tools for individuals to evaluate information sources, detect misinformation, and become more discerning consumers of digital content.
  • Supporting Journalistic Integrity: Fact-checking enhances the integrity of journalism by verifying facts and holding media organizations accountable for accuracy. It reinforces journalistic ethics and promotes responsible reporting, contributing to a vibrant and reliable media ecosystem.
  • Countering Manipulation and Disinformation Campaigns: Fact-checking helps expose deliberate attempts to manipulate public opinion, identify disinformation campaigns, and protect democratic processes from undue influence or interference.
  • Strengthening Digital Resilience: By actively debunking misinformation, fact-checking initiatives contribute to building a resilient digital ecosystem. They empower individuals to recognize and resist the influence of false information, reducing the potential harm caused by viral falsehoods.
  • Promoting Evidence-Based Decision-Making: Fact-checking equips policymakers, researchers, and other stakeholders with accurate information to inform evidence-based decision-making processes. It contributes to the formulation of effective policies and interventions grounded in reliable data and analysis.

misinformation

Concerns around mandatory registration of online fact-checkers 

  • Chilling Effect on Speech: Mandatory registration could have a chilling effect on free speech. Online fact-checkers might be reluctant to fact-check content that favors the government due to fear of sanctions or implicit pressures. This reluctance undermines the goal of effectively combating misinformation, as a large portion of public discourse related to the government would be off-limits.
  • Impediment to Legitimate Fact-Checking: Compulsory registration may discourage legitimate speech and actions of online fact-checkers. The fear of consequences, such as loss of registration or other forms of restrictions, might hinder their ability to objectively fact-check and provide accurate information to the public.
  • Impact on Digital Platforms: If platforms are required to register with the government, it could lead to overcompliance with private fact-checking notices. Platforms might perceive these notices as having government backing or reflecting the will of the government, potentially limiting free speech.
  • Suppression of User Speech: Mandatory registration could result in the suppression of valid user speech. Users may self-censor their opinions or views for fear of consequences if they contradict the government’s position. This stifling effect on free expression undermines democratic discourse and inhibits the exchange of diverse opinions and ideas.
  • Criminalization of Deliberate Misinformation: Reports suggesting the Digital India Bill’s criminalization of deliberate misinformation raise concerns about the potential misuse of this provision. Vague definitions and broad interpretations may lead to the suppression of legitimate speech and dissenting voices, especially if the stance is against the government.
  • For example: Supreme Court’s ruling in the Shreya Singhal v Union of India (2015) case, which struck down section 66A of the Information Technology Act, highlighting the importance of protecting freedom of speech.
  • Disproportionate Impact on Marginalized Groups: Efforts to combat misinformation can unintentionally target the speech of marginalized and vulnerable groups. The digital public square provides these groups with a platform to amplify their voices and participate in democratic discourse.

Way forward

  • Registration with International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN): As an alternative to mandatory registration, the government can direct online fact-checkers to register with internationally recognized fact-checking organizations like the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN).
  • Public Consultations and White Paper: The government can conduct public consultations involving various stakeholders to gather insights and opinions on the establishment of an independent body for overseeing fact-checkers. The government can also issue a White Paper outlining the proposed structure and functions of this independent body, soliciting feedback from the public and stakeholders.
  • Iterative Approach and Feedback Mechanism: After issuing the White Paper, the government can encourage stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposed provisions. This feedback can be used to refine and improve the framework of the independent oversight body, ensuring it strikes a balance between combating misinformation and protecting free speech.
  • Safeguarding Free Speech: Any provisions or regulations related to fact-checking should prioritize the protection of free speech. It should be ensured that the oversight body and its functions do not infringe upon the rights of fact-checkers, digital platforms, and public personalities to express their opinions or dissenting views. Clear guidelines should be established to avoid the suppression of legitimate speech.
  • Inclusive Approach and Impact Assessment: Consider the potential impact on marginalized and vulnerable groups. Efforts to combat misinformation should not disproportionately target their speech or limit their access to the digital public square.

Conclusion

  • In order to strike a balance between combatting misinformation and preserving free speech, the government should reconsider the proposal for mandatory registration of online fact-checkers. By opting for an independent oversight body, formulated through extensive public consultations, India can ensure an effective fact-checking ecosystem that upholds the principles of free speech while combating misinformation.

Also read:

What is Digital India Act, 2023?

 

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Digital India Initiatives

National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI)

Mains level: Not Much

nixi

Central Idea: The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) marked its 20th Foundation Day.

What is NIXI?

  • NIXI is a not-for-profit Organization under Section 8 of the Companies Act 2013 and was registered on 19th June 2003.
  • It’s an initiative under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) vision 1000 days.
  • It is tasked with increasing Internet penetration and adoption in India by facilitating infrastructure aspects.

NIXI provides four key services:

  1. Internet Exchange Points: NIXI sets up and manages Internet Exchange Points, which enhance Internet connectivity and the exchange of data.
  2. .IN Registry: NIXI oversees the .in domain digital identity, promoting its adoption and growth.
  3. IRINN: NIXI facilitates the adoption of IPv4 and IPv6 addresses through its Internet Registry and Information Network.
  4. Data Centre Services: NIXI-CSC offers secure and reliable data storage services, further strengthening the digital ecosystem.

Key initiatives of NIXI

  • IPv6 Expert Panel (IP Guru): A joint effort of DOT, MeitY, and the community to support Indian entities in adopting IPv6.
  • NIXI Academy: Created to educate people in India on technologies like IPv6 that are not typically taught in educational institutes.
  • NIXI-IP-INDEX: Developed an IPv6 index portal to showcase the adoption rate in India and worldwide.

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Digital India Initiatives

UPI Transactions in India: Exploring It’s Rising Volume and Complexities

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UPI, Internationalization of UPI and other digital payment ecosystem

Mains level: proliferation of UPI transactions in India, advantages and challenges faced by the Banks

Transactions

Central Idea

  • The rapid increase in United Payments Interface (UPI) transactions in India has attracted attention due to the various daily limits imposed by apps and banks. These limitations, both in terms of value and volume, have created a complex landscape.

What is Unified Payments Interface (UPI)?

  • UPI is India’s mobile-based fast payment system, which facilitates customers to make round-the-clock payments instantly, using a Virtual Payment Address (VPA) created by the customer.
  • It eliminates the risk of sharing bank account details by the remitter.
  • UPI supports both Person-to-Person (P2P) and Person-to-Merchant (P2M) payments and it also enables a user to send or receive money.

Factors Behind the Surge in UPI Transactions

  • Increased Adoption: UPI transactions have witnessed a significant surge in adoption by Indian consumers. The ease of use, convenience, and widespread acceptance of UPI as a payment method have contributed to its popularity.
  • Post-Demonetization Boost: The demonetization drive in India, implemented in November 2016, played a crucial role in promoting digital payments. UPI emerged as a viable alternative to cash transactions, leading to a surge in its usage.
  • Rising Smartphone Penetration: With the increasing affordability and accessibility of smartphones, more people in India have gained access to UPI-enabled apps. This has facilitated a higher number of UPI transactions, as users can conveniently make payments using their smartphones.
  • Government Initiatives: The Indian government has actively promoted digital payments and cashless transactions. Initiatives such as the Digital India campaign and the introduction of UPI by the National Payments Corporation of India (NCPI) have encouraged the adoption of UPI among both businesses and individuals.
  • Merchant Acceptance: The expansion of UPI acceptance among merchants, including small businesses, street vendors, and online platforms, has contributed to the surge in transactions. The availability of UPI as a payment option in various retail outlets has increased its usage significantly.
  • Ease of Use and Seamless Integration: UPI offers a user-friendly interface, making it easy for individuals to link their bank accounts and initiate transactions. Moreover, UPI integrates seamlessly with various apps, allowing users to make payments directly from their bank accounts without the need for multiple intermediaries.
  • Cashback Offers and Discounts: Many UPI-enabled apps and platforms offer attractive cashback offers, discounts, and incentives for using UPI as a payment method. These promotional activities have incentivized users to opt for UPI transactions, further contributing to the surge in usage.
  • Government-Backed Initiatives: Government-backed schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), and Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) have promoted the use of UPI for disbursing welfare benefits and subsidies. This has significantly increased the volume of UPI transactions.
  • Expansion of UPI Ecosystem: The UPI ecosystem has witnessed continuous expansion with the addition of more banks, financial institutions, and UPI-enabled apps. This has widened the reach and accessibility of UPI, leading to a surge in transactions.
  • Peer-to-Peer Transactions: UPI’s peer-to-peer (P2P) transaction capability has been a key driver behind its growth. Users can easily transfer funds to friends, family, or vendors using just their mobile numbers or UPI IDs, eliminating the need for traditional banking details.

Challenges Faced by Banks with Rising Demand for UPI and the Apps

  • Infrastructure Upgrade: Banks need to continually upgrade their banking infrastructure to handle the increasing volume of UPI transactions. This includes investing in robust technology systems, server capacity, and network bandwidth to ensure seamless and efficient transaction processing.
  • Scalability Issues: The rapid surge in UPI transactions can strain banks’ existing systems, leading to scalability issues. Banks must scale up their infrastructure to accommodate the growing transaction volume and ensure smooth processing without disruptions or delays.
  • Technical Limitations: Banks may face technical limitations within their systems that hinder their ability to handle the high volume of UPI transactions. Outdated or inadequate technology systems may result in transaction failures, errors, or processing delays, impacting the user experience.
  • Transaction Failures: As the demand for UPI transactions increases, there is a higher risk of transaction failures due to system overload or technical glitches. Banks must address these issues promptly to minimize transaction failures and provide a reliable payment experience to users.
  • Competing with Popular Apps: Certain UPI-enabled apps, such as PhonePe and GPay, have gained significant market dominance and user adoption. Banks may find it challenging to compete with these popular apps and attract users to their own UPI platforms, which can impact their transaction volumes.
  • Disparity in Transaction Limits: Different banks and apps may have varying transaction limits imposed on UPI transactions. This creates a complex landscape where users may need to navigate through different limits set by different banks, leading to confusion and inconvenience.
  • Balancing Security and User Experience: Banks must strike a balance between ensuring robust security measures for UPI transactions and providing a seamless user experience. Enhancing security protocols without compromising user convenience can be a challenge, especially with the evolving nature of cybersecurity threats.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Banks must comply with regulatory guidelines set by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and other authorities to ensure adherence to UPI standards and data privacy regulations. Meeting these compliance requirements while managing the increasing transaction volume can pose additional challenges for banks.
  • Innovation and Stay Ahead: Banks need to continuously innovate to keep pace with evolving customer expectations and industry trends. They must introduce new features, enhance user experience, and offer competitive services to stay relevant in the UPI ecosystem.
  • Collaborating with Remitter Banks: Banks that are not dominant remitter banks may face challenges in collaborating with these dominant players to facilitate UPI transactions effectively. Establishing partnerships and ensuring interoperability between banks and apps can be crucial for seamless transaction processing.

Way Forward

  • Infrastructure Enhancement: Banks should prioritize investments in upgrading their infrastructure to handle the increasing volume of UPI transactions. This includes improving server capacity, network bandwidth, and robust technology systems to ensure scalability and efficient transaction processing.
  • Collaboration and Partnerships: Banks can collaborate with popular UPI-enabled apps to enhance their reach and user base. Partnering with these apps can provide access to a larger customer segment and help banks stay competitive in the UPI ecosystem.
  • Seamless User Experience: Banks should focus on providing a seamless and user-friendly experience for UPI transactions. This involves investing in user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design, ensuring smooth transaction flows, and offering personalized services to attract and retain customers.
  • Innovation and Feature Development: Banks need to continuously innovate and introduce new features and functionalities to differentiate themselves in the UPI ecosystem. This could include incorporating advanced security measures, enhancing transaction speeds, and introducing value-added services to enhance the overall customer experience.
  • Emphasis on Security: Maintaining robust security measures is crucial to building trust among users. Banks should invest in advanced security technologies such as multi-factor authentication, encryption, and fraud detection systems to ensure the safety and integrity of UPI transactions.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Banks must stay updated with the regulatory guidelines set by the RBI and other relevant authorities. They should ensure compliance with data privacy regulations, customer protection measures, and UPI standards to maintain trust and regulatory compliance.
  • Interoperability and Standardization: Banks should work towards establishing seamless interoperability between different UPI-enabled apps and remitter banks. This allows users to have a unified experience across various platforms and reduces confusion and inconvenience associated with different transaction limits or processes.

Transactions

Conclusion

  • The proliferation of UPI transactions in India has revolutionized the digital payments landscape. Despite the impressive surge in transaction volume, there has been a decline in the average value per transaction. As certain apps and remitter banks dominate the UPI ecosystem, further developments in the UPI framework and banking systems are necessary to ensure a seamless and efficient payment experience for all users.

Must read:

UPI: Internationalization of Digital Payments

 

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Digital India Initiatives

Data Breach: Unveiling the Cracks in Digital India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digital India

Mains level: Digital India mission and concerns over the data breach and cyber security laws

Data

Central Idea

  • On June 12, a series of events unfolded, revealing a stark disparity between the promises made by Digital India and the ground reality. From a data breach on the CoWIN platform to the absence of a comprehensive National Cyber Security Strategy and inadequate legal protection for citizens’ data, these incidents raise serious concerns about the efficacy and integrity of India’s digital transformation.

CoWIN Data Breach and Government Denials

  • Data Breach: On June 12, a data breach on the CoWIN platform was reported by the Malayala Manorama and online portal “The Fourth.” Personal details, including vaccination information and identification numbers, were found circulating on the messaging platform Telegram.
  • Government Denials: Despite the mounting evidence of the data breach, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Minister of State, Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY), responded with denials. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare labeled the reports as “mischievous,” while the Minister of State, MEITY, claimed that the sensitive information had emerged from previously stolen data.
  • Press Information Bureau Statement: Later in the day, the PIB issued a statement asserting the complete safety of the Co-WIN portal and its adequate safeguards for data privacy. However, the credibility of this statement was questionable, given the initial denials and the substantial evidence of the breach.
  • Lack of Transparency: The government’s response to the CoWIN data breach exemplifies a recurring pattern of denial and opacity in addressing data breaches in the public sector. Previous incidents, such as the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation breach and the ransomware attack on AIIMS, have been met with similar denials and lack of transparency.
  • Erosion of Trust: The consistent lack of transparency, coupled with the absence of a National Cyber Security Strategy and data protection laws requiring breach notifications to affected users, has eroded citizens’ trust in the government’s ability to secure their personal information. T

Lack of Cybersecurity Strategy and Data Protection Laws

  • Absence of National Cybersecurity Strategy: India lacks a comprehensive National Cybersecurity Strategy, which is crucial for effectively addressing the evolving cyber threats and ensuring the security of digital infrastructure.
  • Limited Legislative Framework: India does not have robust data protection laws that adequately safeguard citizens’ personal information. While the proposed Draft Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, is under consideration, there are concerns that it may exempt government entities from compliance.
  • Inadequate Breach Notification Requirements: The absence of data protection laws also means that there are no specific requirements for organizations to notify individuals in the event of a data breach.
  • Limited Accountability and Transparency: The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), responsible for investigating and responding to cyber incidents, often maintains silence and does not make its technical findings public. This lack of transparency undermines public trust and leaves citizens unaware of the actions taken to address cybersecurity incidents and protect their data.

Data

Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) and Lack of Legislative Mandate

  • Lack of Legislative Mandate: The Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) framework, encompassing various platforms like Aadhaar, Aarogya Setu, CoWIN, Government E-Marketplace (GEM), and the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), operates without a clear legislative mandate. These platforms have been created without specific functions, roles, and responsibilities defined by an Act of Parliament.
  • Joint Ventures and Special Purpose Vehicles: Many of these DPI platforms are developed as joint ventures or special purpose vehicles, which allows them to circumvent accountability mechanisms such as audits by the Computer Auditor General (CAG) or transparency mandates under the Right to Information Act.
  • Inconsistencies in Expertise: The claim of expertise in creating DPI platforms to provide citizen services is inconsistent with the evidence. Glitches, failures, and exclusion errors have been observed in systems like Aadhaar, Aarogya Setu, and GEM, undermining the credibility of their expertise.
  • Data Gathering: A common aspect of DPI platforms is their tendency to collect extensive personal information from Indian citizens that goes beyond the technical requirements. This data collection can result in multiple individual and social harms, including the risk of data breaches and privacy infringements.
  • Constitutional Frameworks and Accountability: The absence of a constitutional framework for DPI platforms hampers the establishment of robust regulatory and institutional frameworks. This lack of accountability leaves individual harms unaddressed and undermines the creation of effective governance mechanisms.

Data

Coercion and Censorship of Social Media Platforms

  • Coercion of Twitter: Jack Dorsey, the former CEO of Twitter, revealed that the Indian government coerced Twitter into complying with censorship directions regarding the farmers’ protest. The government threatened the platform’s continued operations and the safety of its staff in India to enforce compliance with their demands.
  • Secret Censorship Directions: Twitter’s resistance to comply with a secret direction to remove 250 accounts and tweets related to the farmers’ protest sparked ministerial statements and controversies. The secrecy surrounding these censorship directions raises concerns about transparency and due process in the decision-making process.
  • Office Raids: As a consequence of Twitter’s resistance and its placement of a “manipulated media” tag on a tweet by a BJP spokesperson, the platform’s offices were raided by the Delhi Police in May 2021. This coercive action against Twitter’s offices further emphasizes the government’s efforts to control and suppress dissenting voices on social media.
  • Legal Battles: Twitter filed a writ petition in the Karnataka High Court, challenging the secretive and disproportionate nature of the censorship demands. The platform argued that the demands violated principles of natural justice and lacked proper notice to account holders, who are ordinary individuals using the platform.
  • Denial by the Government: Despite public records and statements made by Twitter and its executives, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) denied the allegations of coercion and censorship. This denial reflects a pattern of dismissing concerns and evading accountability for actions taken against social media platforms.

Way ahead

  • Strengthen Cybersecurity Measures: Develop and implement a comprehensive National Cybersecurity Strategy to address the evolving cyber threats and ensure the security of digital infrastructure. This should include robust encryption standards, regular security audits, and incident response plans.
  • Enact Comprehensive Data Protection Laws: Introduce and pass robust data protection legislation that provides clear guidelines for the collection, storage, and usage of personal data. The legislation should also include provisions for breach notifications to affected individuals, ensuring transparency and accountability.
  • Establish Legislative Mandates for DPI Platforms: Define the functions, roles, and responsibilities of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) platforms through legislative mandates. This will ensure transparency, accountability, and adherence to constitutional frameworks in the development and operation of these platforms.
  • Enhance Transparency and Accountability: Foster a culture of transparency and accountability by making the technical findings of investigations into data breaches and cyber incidents public. This will build trust among citizens and stakeholders and help identify areas for improvement in cybersecurity practices.
  • Promote Public Consultation and Stakeholder Engagement: Involve the public, industry experts, and civil society organizations in the formulation of policies related to digital infrastructure, data protection, and cybersecurity. Conduct regular public consultations to gather feedback, suggestions, and concerns, ensuring a more inclusive and holistic approach.
  • Protect Digital Freedoms and Right to Privacy: Safeguard individuals’ digital freedoms and right to privacy by ensuring that government actions and regulations do not infringe upon these fundamental rights. Uphold the principles of free expression and the right to dissent on social media platforms, avoiding undue coercion and censorship.
  • Develop Cybersecurity Capacity and Expertise: Invest in building cybersecurity capacity and expertise within the government and private sector. Promote research and development in cybersecurity technologies and encourage collaboration between industry, academia, and government agencies.
  • International Cooperation: Foster international cooperation and information sharing on cybersecurity best practices, threat intelligence, and incident response. Collaborate with other nations and international organizations to address cross-border cyber threats effectively.

Conclusion

  • While India’s digital transformation holds great potential, the recent events on June 12 expose the glaring gaps between rhetoric and reality. To realize the true potential of Digital India, it is imperative to prioritize transparency, accountability, and the creation of robust regulatory frameworks.

Also read:

India’s Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)

 

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Digital India Initiatives

Kerala Fibre Optical Network (KFON)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: KFON, Fibre Optic

Mains level: Internet inclusivity

kerala kfon

Central Idea

  • Free Internet: The Kerala government officially launched KFON, a flagship project aimed at reducing the digital divide and promoting e-governance.
  • Bridging the Digital Divide: KFON intends to provide high-speed broadband internet access to all households and government offices in Kerala.

What is KFON?                          

  • KFON acts as an optical fibre cable network infrastructure provider, covering 30,000 km and 375 Points-of-Presence across Kerala.
  • KFON’s infrastructure is shared with all service providers, including cable operators, benefiting both government offices and individual beneficiaries.
  • Local ISP/TSP/cable TV providers are responsible for providing internet connectivity to households.

Spread and Speed of KFON

  • Connectivity Goals: The initial stage of KFON aims to connect 30,000 government offices and 14,000 BPL (Below Poverty Line) families in Kerala.
  • Internet Speed and Mobile Connectivity: KFON promises internet speeds ranging from 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps and is expected to improve mobile phone call quality.
  • Progress: As of June 5th, 17,412 government offices and 2,105 houses have been connected, with cable networks laid down for 9,000 houses.

Purpose: Empowering the Poor

  • Internet Connection for BPL Families: KFON aims to provide internet connections, free of cost, to 20 lakh families below the poverty line.
  • Phase 1 implementation: The first phase targets 14,000 BPL families, with a long-term plan to select 100 BPL families in each assembly constituency for high-speed internet access.

Need for KFON

  • Left’s Alternative Model of Development: KFON is showcased by the CPI(M) government as part of their commitment to the public sector and an alternative development model.
  • Rural Connectivity Challenges: KFON addresses the limited infrastructure and bandwidth provided by private telecom operators in rural areas.
  • Enhanced Service Delivery: KFON was established to ensure efficient service delivery, quality, reliability, interoperability, and security.

Stakeholders of KFON

  • Joint Venture and Ownership: KFON is a joint venture of Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and Kerala State IIT Infrastructure Limited, with KSEB owning the infrastructure assets.
  • Project Implementation: A consortium led by Central PSU Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) is responsible for implementing the KFON project.
  • Project Funding: The project is fully funded by the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB).

Services Provided

  • Core Network Infrastructure: KFON aims to create an information highway with non-discriminatory access, connecting government offices and educational institutions.
  • Range of Services: KFON offers connectivity to government offices, leasing of dark fibre, internet leased line, fibre to the home, wifi hotspots, colocation of assets, IPTV, OTT, and cloud hosting.
  • Licenses and Facilities: KFON holds Infrastructure Provider (category one) and Internet Service Provider (category B) licenses, allowing access to optic fibre network infrastructure.

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Digital India Initiatives

Highlights of the proposed Digital India Act, 2023

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digital India Bill

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • The Digital India Bill, a comprehensive overhaul of Internet laws, will be unveiled in June 2023. This bill represents a significant update since the Information Technology Act of 2000.

What is the Digital India Bill?

  • DIA will consist of 4 parts:
  1. Digital Personal Data Protection Bill,
  2. DIA rules,
  3. National Data Governance Policy, and
  4. Indian Penal Code amendments

Need for such legislation

  • India has 850 million internet users, making it the world’s largest “digitally connected democracy.”
  • The IT Act, created for the pre-digital era, lacks provisions for user rights, trust, safety, and modern cyber threats.
  • Growing cyber crimes, disinformation, and privacy concerns necessitate an updated legislation.

Goals of the Digital India Bill 

  • Evolvable digital law: Flexible rules adaptable to changing technological trends.
  • Adjudicatory mechanism: Accessible mechanism for resolving online civil and criminal offenses.
  • Principles and rules-based approach: A legislative framework based on overarching governing principles.

Key components of the DIA

  • Open Internet: Promotes choice, competition, diversity, fair market access, and ease of doing business, preventing the concentration of power.
  • Online Safety and Trust: Safeguards users against cyber threats, revenge porn, defamation, cyberbullying, and moderates fake news. Advocates for digital rights and protects minors.
  • KYC Requirements: Mandates Know Your Customer (KYC) for privacy-invading devices like spy camera glasses.
  • Monetization Rules: Overhauls rules for platform and user-generated content to align with the DIA.

Key feature: Reconsideration of Safe Harbour

  • The government is reconsidering a key aspect of cyberspace — ‘safe harbour’.
  • Safe harbour is the principle that so-called ‘intermediaries’ on the internet are not responsible for what third parties post on their website.
  • This is the principle that allows social media platforms to avoid liability for posts made by users.
  • Safe harbour has been reined in in recent years by regulations like the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which require platforms to take down posts when ordered to do so by the government, or when required by law.

Way Forward

  • The detailed timeline is undisclosed, but the government aims to conduct a comparative study of global laws and consult with experts, industry, the public, and relevant forums.
  • The draft Bill will undergo consultation, followed by a draft Cabinet note before the final version is released.

 

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Digital India Initiatives

Smart Meters to Bring a Revolution in the Power Sector

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digitalization of power sector

Mains level: Power sector reforms, challenges and measures

Smart Meters

Central Idea

  • India is replacing conventional electric meters with prepaid smart meters to bring a revolution in the power sector. The majority of smart meter users have begun to experience some of the technology benefits. However, the low uptake of smart meter apps and access to detailed electricity bills are some of the road bumps that need to be solved.

What are Smart Meters?

  • Smart meters are next-generation digital electricity meters that measure energy consumption and communicate this information back to the utility company in near real-time.
  • Unlike traditional electric meters that require manual reading, smart meters automatically send readings to the utility company, enabling a two-way communication between the meter and the utility.

A study on Smart Meters

  • A recent study by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) found that the majority of smart meter users have already begun to experience some of the technology benefits.
  • The study covered about 2,700 urban households that use prepaid or postpaid smart meters across six States.
  • Half the users reported improvements in billing regularity, and two-thirds said paying bills had become easier.
  • Around 40% of users alluded to multiple co-benefits such as a greater sense of control over their electricity expenses, a drop in instances of electricity theft, and improved power supply to the locality.
  • In fact, 70% of prepaid smart meter users said they would recommend the technology to their friends and relatives.
  • These findings give confidence that India’s smart metering transition is heading in the right direction.

Advantages of Smart Meters over traditional electric meters

  • Accurate billing: Smart meters enable accurate billing as they eliminate the need for estimated bills, providing customers with accurate and transparent information about their energy usage.
  • Near real-time data: Smart meters provide near real-time data on energy consumption, enabling customers to monitor their usage and make informed decisions about their energy consumption.
  • Dynamic pricing: Smart meters have the potential to enable dynamic pricing, where electricity tariffs vary depending on the time of day, season or other factors, incentivizing customers to use energy when it’s cheaper and reducing demand during peak hours.
  • Improved energy management: Smart meters allow utilities to better manage energy supply and demand, reduce power outages, and integrate renewable energy sources more effectively.
  • Energy theft detection: Smart meters can help detect and respond to energy theft, reducing losses for utilities and ensuring a fair distribution of energy costs.
  • Customer control: Smart meters provide customers with more control over their energy consumption, allowing them to better manage their energy usage and reduce their bills.

Challenges in the Smart Meter Deployment

  • High installation costs: The upfront cost of installing smart meters can be significant, and may be a barrier to adoption for utilities or customers.
  • Technical challenges: Installing and integrating smart meters into existing grid infrastructure can be technically complex, requiring significant upgrades to communication networks and other equipment.
  • Data privacy and security: Smart meters collect and transmit sensitive customer data, raising concerns about data privacy and security.
  • User adoption: Encouraging customers to adopt smart meters can be a challenge, particularly if they are unfamiliar with the technology or if there is a lack of education around the benefits of smart meters.
  • Interoperability: Ensuring that smart meters are interoperable with different communication protocols and standards can be a challenge, particularly in areas with multiple utility providers.
  • Regulatory challenges: The regulatory environment can also be a challenge, particularly if regulations around smart meters are unclear or if there is resistance from stakeholders such as utility providers or consumer groups.

Ways to improve smart meter deployment

  • Education and awareness: Utilities and governments can run awareness campaigns to educate customers about the benefits of smart meters, and how they can help reduce energy consumption and save money. These campaigns should target different socio-economic groups, and provide actionable tips and information on how to use smart meters to their advantage.
  • Co-ownership and collaboration: Utilities and government bodies should collaborate to ensure a smooth installation and recharge experience for users, and leverage smart meter data for revenue protection and consumer engagement. Discoms (distribution companies) should take the driving seat and co-own the program with Advanced Metering Infrastructure Service Providers (AMISPs) who are responsible for installing and operating the AMI system.
  • Innovative and scalable data solutions: Discoms, system integrators, and technology providers should collaborate to devise innovative and scalable data solutions to effectively use smart meter data to unlock their true value proposition. This would require an ecosystem that fosters innovation in analytics, data hosting and sharing platforms, and enables key actors to collaboratively test and scale new solutions.
  • Empower consumers: Policymakers and regulators must strengthen regulations to empower consumers to unlock new retail markets. They must also enable simplification and innovation in tariff design and open the retail market to new business models and prosumagers (producers, consumers, and storage users). Regulations should be put in place concerning phase-out of paper bills, arrear adjustment, frequency of recharge alerts, buffer time, rebates, and data privacy.
  • Interoperability: It is crucial to ensure that smart meters are interoperable with different communication protocols and standards. This can be achieved through standardization, certification, and testing programs.
  • Pilot programs and learning opportunities: Utilities and governments can run pilot programs to test new smart meter technologies and business models, and learn from the results to scale up successful models.

Smart Meters

Conclusion

  • India is on a unique journey of meeting its growing electricity demand while decarbonizing its generation sources. Smart meters comprise a critical part of the transition toolbox, by way of enabling responsible consumption, efficient energy management, and cost-effective integration of distributed energy resources. A user-centric design and deployment philosophy will be crucial for the success of India’s smart metering initiative. With the effective implementation, India can improve smart meter deployment and user satisfaction, making the smart-meter revolution a reality.

Facts for prelims:

Electricity Regulatory Commissions (ERCs):

  • ERCs are independent statutory bodies established by the government to regulate the generation, transmission, distribution, and trading of electricity in a particular state or region.
  • The primary role of ERCs is to protect the interests of electricity consumers by ensuring that electricity is supplied to them at reasonable and affordable rates while ensuring the financial viability of the electricity sector.
  • ERCs also have the power to issue licenses to power generation and distribution companies, set tariffs, and adjudicate disputes between stakeholders in the electricity sector.

Mains Question

Q. India is replacing conventional electric meters with prepaid smart meters to bring a revolution in the power sector. In this light discuss advantages and challenges of deploying smart meters. How India can improve smart meter deployment and user satisfaction, making the smart-meter revolution a reality?

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Also Read:

Electricity Amendment Bill 2022 – Addressing the transition and equity

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Digital India Initiatives

Web 3.0: A Transformative Tool for India’s Digital Asset Opportunity

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Web transformation, Data analytics applications and developments

Mains level: Internet and Web development, and constraints and opportunities

Web 3.0

Central Idea

  • India’s digital asset opportunity is worth $1.1 trillion by 2032, and the third-generation web or Web 3.0 is crucial to realizing this potential. However, the complex and diverse descriptors used by experts make the policy perspective of Web 3.0 difficult to comprehend. The article aims to explain the transformative role of Web 3.0 in India’s digital asset opportunity.

What is Web 3?

  • Third-generation internet web: Web 3, also known as the third-generation web, is a term used to describe the next iteration of the internet, which is expected to be decentralised, privacy-oriented, blockchain-driven, and crypto-asset friendly.
  • Radically transformation the way data generated: It seeks to radically transform the manner in which data is generated, monetised, shared, and circulated, and advocates for decentralised data storage systems with the objective of unshackling the oligopolistic grip of technology behemoths over data.
  • Bold elements: Web3 has bold elements such as the strategic role it assigns to non-custodial wallets that function as digital passports for users to access blockchain-enabled transaction platforms, as well as replacing micro-economic organizations with decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs).

What is Web 3.0?

  • Semantic web: Web 3.0 upholds the property of the semantic web, which is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  • Ability to recombine information: The real point about the semantic web is its ability to recombine information available on different websites to generate new content and knowledge resources that are more authentic and creative.
  • Robust capability of data analytics: Followers of Web 3.0 claim that their version is endowed with robust capability on the data analytics front. This way, it is argued that Web 3.0 will create far better search engines.

How is Web 3 is different from 3.0?

Web3

Web 3.0

Decentralized, privacy-oriented, blockchain-driven and crypto-asset friendly Powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and upholds the property of the ‘semantic web’
Seeks to radically transform the manner in which data is generated, monetized, shared and circulated. Has the ability to recombine information available on different websites to generate new content and knowledge resources that are more authentic and creative
Advocates decentralised data storage systems to unshackle the oligopolistic grip of technology behemoths over data. Robust capability on the data analytics front to create far better search engines
Has file-sharing systems such as the Inter-Planetary File System which are cryptographically protected, more secure and capable of functioning off Internet and off blockchains. The web 3.0’s semantic web is powered by Artificial Intelligence and the ability to recombine information available on different websites to generate new content and knowledge resources that are more authentic and creative.
Strategic role it assigns to non-custodial wallets that function as digital passports for users to access blockchain-enabled transaction platforms. Has the ability to facilitate ‘analytics at the edge’ providing considerable scope for mapping the water use habits of communities
Seeks to replace micro-economic organizations with decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). Can yield insights from large volumes of community data generated by IoT-enabled development programs such as the Jal Jeevan Mission
Seeks to create a distributed economic system where special classes of native digital tokens and cryptocurrencies would form the media of monetary circulation. Can improve early warning systems for floods due to data analytics facilities being obtained at the sub-basin level
Seeks to raise the efficiency of peer-to-peer transactions. Can be utilized to draw upon the talent pool for the benefit of rural communities.

Web 3.0

Benefits of Web 3.0 for India

  • Handicraft industry: Web 3.0 could enable India’s handcraft enterprises to secure their innovations using digital tokens. Instruction tools based on Web 3.0 could also allow for the rapid dissemination of grassroots innovations from master artisans to fellow members, improving the economic fortunes of craftsmen and artisan communities in north-east, western, and peninsular India.
  • Rural development: India’s major digital public infrastructure push and the large-scale deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) in rural development projects offer major possibilities for deploying Web 3.0 in rural areas. Web 3.0’s (decentralized) analytics systems could help overcome the limitation of data analytics capabilities at the community level.
  • For Instance: Web 3.0 could yield insights from large volumes of community data generated by IoT-enabled development programs such as the Jal Jeevan Mission. Web 3.0’s natural advantage of facilitating analytics at the edge provides considerable scope for mapping the water use habits of communities.
  • Capital mobilization: Web 3.0 could generate asset tokens that are native to the new-gen web and have the potential to function as capital mobilization tools for Web3 projects. Stakeholders of DAOs can also utilize tokens to exercise their voting rights.
  • Peer-to-peer transactions: Web3 seeks to replace micro-economic organizations with decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). In general, Web3 platforms would serve to raise the efficiency of peer-to-peer transactions.
  • Data storage: Web3 advocates for decentralized data storage systems with the objective of unshackling the oligopolistic grip of technology behemoths over data. Web3 has file-sharing systems such as the Inter-Planetary File System which are cryptographically protected, more secure and capable of functioning off Internet and off blockchains.

What are the challenges for web 3.0 in India?

  • Lack of infrastructure: Web 3.0 requires a robust and reliable internet infrastructure, which is currently lacking in many parts of India. This can hinder the adoption of Web 3.0 technologies, especially in rural areas.
  • Limited digital literacy: India still has a large population with limited digital literacy. This can make it difficult for users to understand and access Web 3.0 applications, especially in remote areas where access to digital devices and the internet is limited.
  • Regulatory challenges: The use of blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies, which are central to Web 3.0, faces regulatory challenges in India. The government has been hesitant to embrace these technologies, which could hinder the development of Web 3.0 applications.
  • Skill gaps: The development of Web 3.0 applications requires a specific set of technical skills, which are currently in short supply in India. Bridging this skill gap will be crucial to enable the development and deployment of Web 3.0 technologies in India.
  • Security concerns: Web 3.0 applications are based on decentralized systems, which are inherently more secure than centralized systems. However, they are still susceptible to cyber attacks and security breaches

Constraints related to data analytics in rural areas

  • Lack of data analytics capabilities at the community level, resulting in untapped data resources such as the Atal Bhujal Yojana.
  • Rapid pace of data generation in rural areas outpacing the capacity for data analytics to keep up.
  • Limited availability of data analytics talent in rural areas.

Way ahead

  • Developing a third-gen web strategy that optimizes public interest by combining the features of Web3 and Web 3.0.
  • Providing incentives for decentralised analytics and tokenising them to draw upon the talent pool for the benefit of rural communities.
  • Exploring tokenisation and applying blockchain solutions for development programs, as proposed in India’s National Blockchain Strategy 2021.
  • Addressing challenges such as lack of awareness, regulatory uncertainty, and insufficient infrastructure.
  • Building capacity for data analytics and web design in rural areas.
  • Encouraging the deployment of Web 3 applications in rural development projects and community data initiatives.
  • Partnering with global experts to leverage their knowledge and experience in the field.
  • Facilitating research and development to enhance the capabilities of Web 3 technologies.
  • Ensuring that the development of Web 3 is inclusive and accessible to all, regardless of socio-economic status.

Conclusion

  • India’s National Blockchain Strategy 2021 must craft a third-gen web strategy that optimises public interest by combining the welcome features of Web3 and Web 3.0. By providing incentives for decentralised analytics and tokenising them, it is possible to draw upon the talent pool for the benefit of rural communities. Web 3.0 can be a transformative tool for India’s digital asset opportunity worth $1.1 trillion by 2032.

Mains Question

Q. What is web 3.0. How it is seen as different from web 3? Discuss the potential benefits and challenges of web 3.0 for India.

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Digital India Initiatives

Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI): New Backbone of India’s Economy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: India's Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), Other digital initiatives

Mains level: India's Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), Remarkable success and way ahead

DPI

Central Idea

  • India’s digital public infrastructure (DPI) is a unique marvel of our times that has brought together the government, regulators, private sector, volunteers, startups, and academia to create a superstructure that delivers consistent, affordable, and across-the-board value to citizens, government, and corporate sector alike.

What is India’s digital public infrastructure (DPI)

  • India’s digital public infrastructure (DPI) refers to the collection of technological systems, platforms, and services that enable the Indian government, businesses, and citizens to interact digitally.
  • The DPI is often referred to as the India Stack, which was built through a unique partnership between the government, regulators, the private sector, selfless volunteers, startups, and academia/think tanks.
  • India Stack includes a number of building blocks such as Aadhaar (a biometric identification system), e-KYC (electronic know your customer), UPI (Unified Payments Interface), and DigiLocker (a cloud-based document storage system).

DPI

DPI in India

  • India, first country to develop all three foundational DPIs: India through India Stack became the first country to develop all three foundational DPIs digital identity (Aadhar), real-time fast payment (UPI) and a platform to safely share personal data without compromising privacy (Account Aggregator built on the Data Empowerment Protection Architecture or DEPA)
  • Techno-legal regulatory frameworks in India: Techno-legal regulatory frameworks are used to achieve policy objectives through public-technology design.
  • For example: India’s DEPA offers technological tools for people to invoke the rights made available to them under applicable privacy laws. Framed differently, this techno-legal governance regime embeds data protection principles into a public-technology stack.
  • DPI most feasible model: DPI has emerged as the most feasible model due to its low cost, interoperability and scalable design, and because of its safeguards against monopolies and digital colonisation.

Aadhaar and the private sector

  • Rebirth of Aadhaar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision enabled Aadhaar to become the rocket ship for launching good governance in India. Currently, over 1,700 Union and State government schemes use Aadhaar.
  • Aadhaar and the private sector: After the Supreme Court’s affirmation of privacy rights, Aadhaar is gradually being opened to the private sector. Aadhaar holders can voluntarily use their Aadhaar for private sector purposes, and regulated entities can store Aadhaar numbers using secure vaults. These changes are leading to the next leapfrogging of India Stack.
  • Three changes: The next leapfrogging of the India Stack, with a dynamic political executive and inspired volunteers, will happen with three changes, voluntary usage of Aadhaar for private sector purposes, sharing of Aadhaar data between government departments, and the creation of a new private sector-friendly UIDAI.

DigiYatra and DigiLocker

  • India Stack’s greenfield market innovation potential can unlock various services such as DigiYatra, which offers a free biometric-enabled seamless travel experience through facial recognition systems, and DigiLocker, which has 150 million users and six billion stored documents.
  • Plans are afoot to expand DigiLocker to many countries around the world.

Facts for prelims

Initiative Description Launched by
DigiLocker Cloud-based document storage platform for citizens Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
DigiYatra Digital travel experience initiative for air travellers Ministry of Civil Aviation
DigiSeva Digital service delivery platform for government services Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
DigiGaon Digital village initiative to provide digital infrastructure Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
DigiShala Digital classroom initiative to promote digital education Ministry of Human Resource Development
DigiPay Digital payments platform for government services National Payments Corporation of India
DigiSaksham Digital literacy initiative to empower citizens Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
DigiDhan Digital payments and financial inclusion initiative Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
DigiSangrah Digital repository of cultural resources for citizens Ministry of Culture
DigiMuseums Digital initiative to showcase Indian museums online Ministry of Culture

Impact of unified payment interface (UPI)

  • The unified payment interface UPI which is breaking records under the visionary leadership at the National Payments Corporation of India
  • UPI has now crossed eight billion transactions per month and transacts a value of $180 billion a month, or about a staggering 65% of India’s GDP per annum.

DPI

Conclusion

  • India’s Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) can be seen as India’s second war for independence, this time for economic freedom from the daily struggles of transactions and bureaucracy. DPI has emerged as the new backbone of India’s economy, propelling it towards the goal of achieving a $25 trillion economy by the 100th year of India’s political independence. With the convergence of ChatGPT and India Stack, we can only imagine the tremendous progress and innovations that could spark a new era of economic growth and development, much like the Cambrian explosion in evolutionary history.

Mains question

Q. What is India’s digital public infrastructure (DPI)? Explain the building blocks of the India Stack and their significance.

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Digital India Initiatives

Data Sharing Governance And India’s Opportunity

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: DEPA

Mains level: Data Governance, Data Sovereignty

Governance

Central Idea

  • India’s digital strategies and data governance have advanced in recent years, but there are concerns regarding inclusivity, transparency, security, and sustainability. India’s G-20 presidency presents an opportunity to showcase advancements in data infrastructures and governance, while balancing the interests of stakeholders, promoting ethical and responsible practices, and navigating the complex issues of data sovereignty.

Governance

What is Data Governance?

  • Data governance refers to the overall management of the availability, usability, integrity, and security of data used in an organization.
  • Data governance of a country is the policies, procedures, and practices established by the government to ensure that data is effectively managed and protected throughout its lifecycle.
  • This includes defining standards for data collection, storage, usage, and sharing to ensure the accuracy, consistency, and reliability of data.

DEPA and Related Concerns

The launch of India’s Data Empowerment and Protection Architecture (DEPA), a consent management tool, has generated both excitement and concern among stakeholders.

  1. Potential: DEPA has the potential to improve data protection and privacy for citizens by giving them greater control over the use and sharing of their personal information. By allowing individuals to easily manage and control their data consents, DEPA could help to build trust in digital technologies and data governance.
  2. Concerns:
  • There are risks associated with DEPA, particularly in terms of security and privacy. If the consent management tool is not properly implemented or managed, there is a risk that personal information could be misused or misappropriated.
  • The implementation of DEPA may be inconsistent across different sectors and jurisdictions, which could undermine its effectiveness and create confusion among citizens.
  1. What needs to be done?
  • In order to realise the potential benefits of DEPA and minimise the risks, it is important that the tool is implemented in a transparent, consistent, and secure manner.
  • This will require close collaboration between the government, the private sector, civil society, and other stakeholders and the development of clear and effective regulations and standards.

Advancements in Other Sectors and related concerns

  • Digital Payments: Significant progress in financial inclusion and promotion of digital transactions through Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and other options.
  • Digital tech in Healthcare: Use of digital technologies can enhance access to health-care services and empower farmers
  • Security and privacy: There are concerns that relate to security and privacy on the one hand and on infrastructure, connectivity and the availability of a skilled human workforce on the other hand.
  • Data Misuse: There are also concerns around the potential misuse of data and information in these sectors. For example, in the health sector, there is a risk that sensitive medical information could be misused or exploited for commercial purposes, while in agriculture, there is a risk that market information could be manipulated for the benefit of certain actors.
  • Ownership and governance of data: Another issue is that of ownership and governance of data generated and collected in health and agriculture. What are the rights of data providers? And what are the responsibilities towards them? The state has to play a key role in addressing and resolving such issues.

What is Data sovereignty?

  • It is a principle that a country has the right to control the collection, storage, and use of data within its borders and citizens’ rights to informational self-determination over their data
  • It is closely related to issues of privacy, security, and national sovereignty, and is increasingly important in the age of digital globalization and the proliferation of cloud computing services.

Data sharing governance and India’s opportunity

India Data Management Office (IDMO):

  • India’s establishment of an IDMO is a step forward in the country’s journey towards data sharing and data governance.
  • The IDMO is expected to oversee and coordinate the implementation of India’s digital strategies and data governance framework, and to ensure that these efforts are aligned with the country’s values and priorities.
  • It will also work to promote the development and implementation of open-source solutions, which will help to ensure that underlying data architectures are a social public good, and to promote digital technologies to become accessible and affordable for all.
  • Again, this is a great opportunity for India to develop solutions that can be adopted and adapted in other countries. Open source and open innovation models can be important alternatives to proprietary solutions that are governed by big tech companies.

Conclusion

  • India’s digital strategies and data governance have made significant progress in recent years, but there are important concerns and issues to address. It is crucial to find a middle way between restrictive data sovereignty and limitless data flow, navigate complex issues of privacy, and invest in necessary infrastructure and skills to ensure responsible and accountable data governance.

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Digital India Initiatives

Electricity Discoms: Public Hearings And Public Participation in Decision Making

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Online Public Hearings and In person Public hearings

Public Hearings

Central Idea

  • The scale of operations of electricity distribution companies is clear from the fact that their annual revenue requirement is 20% of the Union Budget. The article discusses the importance of public participation in the decision-making process of electricity distribution companies and the role of public hearings conducted by Electricity Regulatory Commissions (ERCs) in this regard. The central ERC recently issued a public notice where it announced that hearings would resume through in-person mode.

All you need to know about Electricity Regulatory Commissions (ERCs)

  • Independent body: ERCs are independent statutory bodies established by the government to regulate the generation, transmission, distribution, and trading of electricity in a particular state or region.
  • Role: The primary role of ERCs is to protect the interests of electricity consumers by ensuring that electricity is supplied to them at reasonable and affordable rates while ensuring the financial viability of the electricity sector.
  • Powers: ERCs also have the power to issue licenses to power generation and distribution companies, set tariffs, and adjudicate disputes between stakeholders in the electricity sector.
  • To ensure transparent framework: ERCs are an essential part of the electricity sector, ensuring that there is a fair and transparent regulatory framework that promotes competition, efficiency, and innovation.

Importance of Public Participation in the decision-making process of electricity distribution companies

  • Transparency: Public participation promotes transparency in the decision-making process, It ensures that stakeholders are informed about the decisions being made, the rationale behind them, and the potential impact on the community.
  • Accountability: It creates a system of checks and balances that helps ensure that decisions made are in the best interest of the public.
  • Improved Decision Making: Public participation can provide DISCOMs with valuable insights and perspectives from the community. This can help improve decision-making by ensuring that decisions are made based on a comprehensive understanding of the issues and the needs of the community.
  • Increased Trust: When the public is involved in the decision-making process, it helps build trust between the community and the DISCOM. This can lead to increased support for the decisions made, greater acceptance of the outcomes, and reduced potential for conflict or opposition.
  • Community Empowerment: Public participation can empower the community to have a voice in the decisions that affect their daily lives. This can lead to a greater sense of ownership and responsibility for the outcomes, as well as increased engagement and participation in future decision-making processes.

In-person Public Hearings

  1. Pros of In-person Public Hearings
  • Greater sense of community: In-person hearings provide a greater sense of community and allow for face-to-face interactions, which can help build trust and foster dialogue.
  • Physical presence: In-person hearings allow participants to physically be present in the room, which can make it easier for them to be heard and have their concerns addressed.
  • Better understanding: In-person hearings may be more effective at conveying complex information and data, as participants can ask questions and seek clarification in real-time.
  • Increased transparency: In-person hearings can increase transparency as they allow the public to see and hear the proceedings first-hand, and hold regulators and utilities accountable.
  1. Cons of In-person Public Hearings
  • Accessibility: In-person hearings may not be accessible to all members of the public, especially those who are physically unable to attend, live far away, or have other commitments.
  • Time-consuming and expensive: In-person hearings can be time-consuming and expensive to organize and attend, which can deter participation and limit the diversity of voices represented.
  • Limited participation: In-person hearings may limit participation to those who are comfortable with public speaking or who have the means to travel and attend the hearing, potentially excluding some marginalized groups.

Online Public Hearings

  1. Pros of Online Public Hearings
  • Accessibility: Online hearings are more accessible to a wider audience, as participants can attend from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • Convenience and flexibility: Online hearings provide more convenience and flexibility for participants as they can attend from the comfort of their own homes and at their own pace.
  • Increased participation: Online hearings may increase participation from diverse groups and those who may not be comfortable with public speaking or traveling to attend an in-person hearing.
  • Cost-effective: Online hearings can be less expensive to organize and attend, which can allow for more resources to be dedicated to other aspects of the regulatory process.
  1. Cons of Online Public Hearings
  • Technical difficulties: Online hearings may be subject to technical difficulties, such as poor internet connection or difficulties with the online platform, which can hinder participation and the effectiveness of the hearing.
  • Limited sense of community: Online hearings may lack the sense of community that in-person hearings provide, potentially limiting the opportunity for dialogue and relationship building.
  • Digital divide: Online hearings may be inaccessible to those who do not have reliable internet access or the necessary technology to participate.
  • Privacy concerns: Online hearings may raise privacy concerns, as participants may be uncomfortable sharing personal information or speaking out in a public forum.

What could be the best option?

  • A hybrid mode with both in-person and online options is the best approach to ensure quality public participation.
  • Moving back to the pre-pandemic practice of only in-person hearings takes away a convenient avenue for consumer engagement and impacts meaningful interactions that are possible in the in-person platform.
  • The provision of online mode in addition to in-person hearings would strengthen public participation and plug access gaps, provide flexibility of participation to the citizen, and enable a robust avenue for public participation.

Conclusion

  • Public hearings conducted in hybrid mode, with the choice of mode being left to the citizen, are best suited to improving access and ensuring quality public participation. There is a need for institutions to continue to build infrastructure and experience toward online hearings and make improvements in how online hearings are conducted.

Mains Question

Q. What is the role of Electricity Regulatory Commissions (ERCs) in the electricity sector, and why is public participation important in the decision-making process of electricity distribution companies?


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Digital India Initiatives

What is Digital India Act, 2023?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Digital India Act, 2003

india

The Union government has formally outlined the Digital India Act, 2023 which is a broad overhaul of the decades-old Information Technology Act, 2000.

Central idea: Reconsideration of Safe Harbour

  • The government is reconsidering a key aspect of cyberspace — ‘safe harbour’.
  • Safe harbour is the principle that so-called ‘intermediaries’ on the internet are not responsible for what third parties post on their website.
  • This is the principle that allows social media platforms to avoid liability for posts made by users.
  • Safe harbour has been reined in in recent years by regulations like the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which require platforms to take down posts when ordered to do so by the government, or when required by law.

What is the Digital India Act, 2023?

  • The act is a new legislation that aims to overhaul the decades-old Information Technology Act, 2000.
  • The Act covers a range of topics such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), cybercrime, data protection, deepfakes, competition issues among internet platforms, and online safety.
  • The Act also aims to address “new complex forms of user harms” that have emerged in the years since the IT Act’s enactment, such as catfishing, doxxing, trolling, and phishing.

Why was this act enacted?

  • Data privacy: The Digital India Act will be implemented alongside the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, which focuses solely on processing personal data in India.
  • Lawful use of data: It seeks to address the processing of digital personal data in a manner that recognizes both the right of the individuals to protect their personal data and the need to process personal data for lawful purposes.
  • Comprehensive regulation: This Act and the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill will work in tandem with each other.

Key features of the Digital India Act

  • Creating new regulations around newer technology, including 5G, IoT devices, cloud computing, metaverse, blockchain, and cryptocurrency.
  • Reclassifying online intermediaries to separate categories instead of one general intermediary label, each one with its own set of regulations.
  • Removing “safe harbour” immunity for online intermediaries for purposeful misinformation or other content violations from third parties.
  • Creating digital standards and laws regarding artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology.
  • Criminalizing cyberbullying, identity theft, and unauthorized sharing of personal information without consent.

Significance

  • The Digital India Act provides a legal framework for promoting the growth of the digital economy in India.
  • It aims to create a conducive environment for the development and deployment of digital technologies across different sectors.
  • The Act also addresses various challenges associated with cybersecurity and data privacy, which are critical issues in the digital age.

Conclusion

  • The Digital India Act is expected to promote digital literacy and increase access to digital services for all citizens.
  • It will help in creating a digital infrastructure that is secure, reliable, and accessible to everyone.
  • The Act will also encourage the adoption of digital technologies in various sectors such as healthcare, education, and agriculture, leading to increased efficiency and productivityhow-to-start-upsc-preparation-from-zero-level

 

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Digital India Initiatives

5G: Security Features and Concerns

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: 5G

Mains level: 5G, Security and challenges

5G

Central Idea

  • With the arrival of 5G technology, all electronic devices will potentially be connected to the internet. Cyber damage scenarios, imagined only in dystopian fiction, could become a reality. A collaborative approach between the government, academia, and businesses is necessary to address these cyber security concerns and ensure that 5G technology is safe and secure for consumers.

What exactly is 5G?

  • Latest advancement: 5G, or fifth-generation wireless technology, is the latest advancement in mobile communication and internet technology.
  • Higher frequency spectrum: 5G operates on a higher frequency spectrum than 4G, typically between 24 GHz to 90 GHz. This higher frequency range allows for faster data transfer rates and lower latency.
  • MIMO technology: 5G uses a technology called MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) to transmit and receive multiple data streams simultaneously. This allows for greater capacity and faster speeds.
  • Network slicing: It also utilizes network slicing, which enables the creation of multiple virtual networks on a single physical network. This allows for more efficient use of network resources and can improve overall network performance.
  • Applications: 5G technology is expected to enable the development and implementation of emerging technologies such as self-driving cars, virtual and augmented reality, and smart cities.

Security Features of 5G Technology

  • Security-by-Design Approach: 5G technology is designed with a security-by-design approach that embeds security features from the beginning. This approach ensures that security is an integral part of the technology, rather than an afterthought.
  • Strong Encryption Standards: 5G technology incorporates strong encryption standards that make it extremely difficult for attackers to access and use any information they might obtain. Even if an attacker manages to obtain some information, it will be in an unusable format.
  • Interconnected Device Protection: 5G technology also includes protocols that protect the confidentiality of interconnected devices. These protocols prevent unauthorized access and ensure that data transmitted between devices remains secure and private.

5G

What are the Concerns?

  • Inheriting past vulnerabilities: The initial wave of 5G will be built on existing 4G infrastructure, therefore, it will inherit vulnerabilities of the past.
  • Multiplying privacy concerns: More devices connected to the internet increase the scope of cyber-attacks. In a connected network, such attacks can spread like wildfire if not contained in time. Privacy concerns are bound to multiply as the number of devices increases.
  • Concerns about pre-ban imported equipment: A bulk of 5G network components have been imported and manufactured in factories based in China. Imports of such equipment have been banned. However, concern remains about the use of the equipment that was imported before the ban came into effect.
  • For instance, concerns over user privacy: Many countries including the USA and Canada have expressed concerns over protocols used by Huawei and ZTE that compromise the privacy of users.

What can be done to Ensure 5G Security

  • Collaborative efforts between government, academia, and businesses: Governments should work with industry experts and academia to develop comprehensive security measures and policies that align with the rapidly evolving technological landscape.
  • Ongoing security testing: Telecom companies should perform regular security testing of their 5G infrastructure to identify vulnerabilities and address them before they can be exploited by attackers. Telecom companies and ethical hackers can be invited to test infrastructure.
  • For instance: C-DOT’s 5G alliance focuses on security aspects, it needs to be scaled up as a Center of Excellence involving IITs and CERT-In.
  • Reward mechanisms: Offering incentives to 5G service providers who adhere to high security standards can promote better security practices across the industry.
  • Consumer education: Government agencies like CERT-In can publish easy-to-understand advisories to educate end-users on best practices to protect themselves and their devices from potential security breaches.
  • Greater responsibility: All stakeholders must assume greater responsibility to protect the 5G ecosystem from cyber threats.
  • International cooperation: International cooperation between governments and organizations can help establish global standards and guidelines for 5G security, promoting greater consistency and transparency in security practices.

Conclusion

  • Consumers are at the heart of the 5G ecosystem and need to be aware of the security challenges. Exciting times await us in 2023. All stakeholders need to prepare for the security challenges of the 5G package.

Mains Question

Q. Technology upgrade comes with advantages and challenges. In this light discuss security features concerns related to the implementation of 5G technology?


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Digital India Initiatives

ONDC will help small retail survive against large E-Com firms: Union Minister

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ONDC

Mains level: E-Commerce facilitation by GOI

ondc

Central idea: The article discusses the Indian government’s plan to launch the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) to support small retailers and businesses against large tech-based e-commerce firms.

About ONDC

  • The ONDC is a private non-profit Section 8 company established by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) of the Government of India.
  • It aims to develop open e-commerce by creating a set of specifications designed to foster open interchange and connections between shoppers, technology platforms, and retailers.
  • It was incorporated on December 31, 2021, with an initial investment from Quality Council of India and Protean eGov Technologies Limited (formerly NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure Limited).

What exactly is ONDC?

  • The ONDC is not an application, an intermediary, or software but a set of specifications.
  • The ONDC seeks to provide an open-source platform for digital commerce that will enable small retailers and businesses to compete with large e-commerce firms by providing them with access to a wider customer base and reducing the costs of doing business.

What does one mean by ‘Open-sourcing’?

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

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 does the DPIIT intend from the project?

  • ONDC is expected to-
  1. Digitize the entire value chain,
  2. Standardize operations,
  3. Promote inclusion of suppliers,
  4. Derive efficiencies in logistics and
  5. Enhance value for stakeholders and consumers

Countering ‘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 cataloging.
  • 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).

Why such a move by the govt?

  • This COVID pandemic has made every business to go digital.
  • India is a country with 700 million internet users of whom large crunch of population are active buyers on e-coms.
  • There are 9 platforms in the world which are billion user platform and all are private. This is the monopoly which the govt aims to hit.
  • No country would ever want a few (foreign) companies to control their domestic e-commerce ecosystem.
  • Countries like US are struggling to control their monopoly over the e-commerce giants leaving no space for Indian legislations to control these overseas companies.
  • In India Amazon, Walmart, Uber are controlling larger crunch of share in the market leaving very less scope for domestic companies to cope up with.

Scope for ONDCs success

  • Over last 50 years India is dealing with Big Tech companies with responsibility and pragmatic manner. Now it is also coming with new policies to control them.
  • The drafting panel has extraordinary persons like Mr. Nandan Nilekani and others who were in Aadhar, NPCI, MyGov, Retail industry and these make it inclusive and innovative.
  • India has successfully executed various public digital platforms like JAM Trinity, Aadhar linked projects. India for sure can handle its digital ecosystem better in e-coms too.
  • Open-sourcing will benefit society at large as did the UPI.

Issues that can be raised

  • Monopolies: Draft E-Commerce policy can raise resistance from companies like Amazon, Flipkart, and Walmart etc.
  • EODB concerns: They may raise hues over operability and ease of doing business.
  • Compliance burden: MSMEs have already raised the growing compliance burden for e-commerce.

Other challenges

  • Every platform has its own challenges so would the ONDC may have.
  • While UPI was ruled out (BHIM being the first) people were reluctant in using it due to transaction failures.
  • With subsequent improvements and openness people and businesses are using it in every walks of life. So it would work with ONDC.

Conclusion

  • Once adopted, ONDC will make sure consumer and seller interest will be protected as the UPI did.
  • Best is yet to come and we are in 4th industrial revolution where the Govt should strengthen itself accordingly and make businesses inclusive and restrict monopolies.

 


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Digital India Initiatives

UPI: Internationalization of Digital Payments

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UPI, PayNow link, UPI LITE, etc

Mains level: UPI and Internationalization of Digital Payments architecture

UPI

Central Idea

  • On Tuesday, the Union government unveiled India’s first cross-border real-time payments systems linkage, with the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) connecting with Singapore’s PayNow payment system.

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What is Unified Payments Interface (UPI)

  • UPI is India’s mobile-based fast payment system, which facilitates customers to make round-the-clock payments instantly, using a Virtual Payment Address (VPA) created by the customer.
  • It eliminates the risk of sharing bank account details by the remitter.
  • UPI supports both Person-to-Person (P2P) and Person-to-Merchant (P2M) payments and it also enables a user to send or receive money.

What is PayNow?

  • It is a fast payment system in Singapore.
  • It enables peer-to-peer funds transfer service, available to retail customers through participating banks and Non-Bank Financial Institutions (NFIs) in Singapore.
  • It allows users to send and receive instant funds from one bank or e-wallet account to another in Singapore by using just their mobile number, Singapore National Registration Identity Card (NRIC)/Foreign Identification Number (FIN), or VPA.

UPI

Overview: Remarkable success of UPI

  • Changed the landscape of electronic payments: The introduction of UPI in 2016-17 led to a dramatic change in the electronic payments landscape of the country.
  • Instrumental in dramatic growth of digital payments: Along with the JAM trinity of Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and mobile phones, this payment architecture has been instrumental in facilitating the dramatic growth of digital payments in the country, aided by a conducive regulatory framework.
  • Value and volume increasing day by day: Over the years, various reports by the RBI have documented the significant increase in digital payments transactions in the country, with per person digital transactions growing both in terms of value and volume.
  • Dramatic surge during the pandemic: Contactless payments also witnessed a surge during the pandemic. In fact, as per another study, roughly one-third of households surveyed had transacted digitally for the first time during the lockdown.
  • Statistics for instance:
  1. In January 2023, roughly 8 billion transactions were carried out on the UPI platform, whose value touched almost Rs 13 lakh crore.
  2. In comparison, in January 2020, just prior to the pandemic, 1.3 billion transactions were routed through the UPI platform, which touched Rs 2.1 lakh crore in value.
  • Aided in accelerating financial inclusion: The convenience of real-time transfer of payments, the zero-cost framework for users, the rapid expansion in the acceptance touch-points, have encouraged its widespread adoption. This has also aided in accelerating financial inclusion by providing access to financial services at low cost.

Did you know? “UPI Lite”

  • UPI Lite is a on device wallet feature similar to the ones seen on popular digital payment apps such as Paytm, Freecharge, MobiKwik and others.
  • The feature will allow you to make faster near real-time small value payments without internet connection via the money added in the wallet.
  • In phase one, UPI Lite will process transactions in near offline mode i.e. debit offline and credit online, and at a later point, UPI Lite will process transactions in complete offline mode i.e. debit and credit both offline.

UPI

All you need to know about UPI-PayNow interlinkage facility

  • How is the interlinkage benefit users?
  1. With this facility, funds held in bank accounts or e-wallets can be transferred to /from India using just the UPI ID, mobile number, or Virtual Payment Address (VPA), which is essentially the address to or through which you can make UPI money transfers.
  2. With this payment facility, both inward and outward remittances will happen instantly.
  • Who can undertake remittance transactions through this facility: Account holders of participating banks and financial institutions in India and Singapore.
  • Participating banks in India and Singapore:
  1. Banks from India are Axis Bank, DBS Bank India, ICICI Bank, Indian Bank, Indian Overseas Bank and State Bank of India (SBI). Going forward, the UPI-PayNow interlinkage will cover more banks and financial institutions.
  2. From Singapore, DBS Bank Singapore and Liquid Group (Non-Bank Financial Institution) are selected.
  3. Popular payment platforms such as PhonePe and Google Pay have been excluded from the ambit of this framework. Perhaps, over time, these platforms will also be brought under this framework, aiding in its widespread adoption.
  • The daily transaction limit:
  1. Banks in India have not communicated about any restrictions on transfers yet.
  2. It is Rs 60,000 (around SGD 1,000). Initially, DBS customers can use PayNow-UPI only to transfer funds up to SGD 200 per transaction, capped at SGD 500 per day.
  3. There is no such communication about capping for transferring funds through Liquid Group (Non-Bank Financial Institution) to India.

UPI

Conclusion

  • The UPI-PayNow interlinkage is a milestone moment for cross-border transfers. Not only India but the world has witnessed how UPI revolutionized the landscape of domestic digital payment infrastructure. With this encouraging development we are now going to see a similar revolution in the cross-border payments space as well. This internationalization of the digital payments architecture, will help bring down both the cost and the time associated with such transfers, bringing benefits to migrant workers, students, and professionals, among others.

Mains Question

Q. Recently India launched its first cross-border real-time payments systems linkage with Singapore. In this light highlight Discuss remarkable success of UPI and prospect of internationalization of UPI.

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Digital India Initiatives

India, Singapore launch UPI-PayNow Linkage

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Unified Payment Interface (UPI)

Mains level: UPI integration with global payment systems

upi

India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Singapore’s PayNow were officially connected to allow a “real-time payment linkage”.

What are UPI and PayNow?

[A] Unified Payments Interface (UPI)

  • UPI is India’s mobile-based fast payment system, which facilitates customers to make round-the-clock payments instantly, using a Virtual Payment Address (VPA) created by the customer.
  • It eliminates the risk of sharing bank account details by the remitter.
  • UPI supports both Person-to-Person (P2P) and Person-to-Merchant (P2M) payments and it also enables a user to send or receive money.

[B] PayNow

  • It is a fast payment system in Singapore.
  • It enables peer-to-peer funds transfer service, available to retail customers through participating banks and Non-Bank Financial Institutions (NFIs) in Singapore.
  • It allows users to send and receive instant funds from one bank or e-wallet account to another in Singapore by using just their mobile number, Singapore National Registration Identity Card (NRIC)/Foreign Identification Number (FIN), or VPA.

What is the UPI-PayNow linkage?

  • Cross-border retail payments are generally less transparent and more expensive than domestic transactions.
  • The project to link both the fast payment systems was initiated in September 2021 to facilitate faster, more efficient and transparent cross-border transactions relating to trade, travel and remittances between the two countries.

Significance of the integration

  • Enhanced cross-border transactions: The integration will enable easier cross-border transactions between India and Singapore, reducing the need for intermediaries and associated costs.
  • Easier remittances: The integration will make it easier for Indian workers in Singapore to send money back home to their families.
  • Boost to trade and investment: The integration will facilitate smoother transactions between businesses in the two countries, potentially increasing trade and investment.
  • Strengthening of diplomatic ties: The integration is expected to improve diplomatic ties between India and Singapore.

How the integration works?

  • The integration is made possible through the use of standardized QR codes.
  • The QR codes will allow users to transfer funds between the two systems in real-time, without the need for intermediaries.

Implications for the future

  • More integrations: The success of the UPI-PayNow integration could pave the way for similar integrations between other countries.
  • Increased use of digital payments: The integration is expected to encourage the adoption of digital payments in both India and Singapore, potentially reducing the use of cash.

 

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Digital India Initiatives

In news: Survey of India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Survey of India

Mains level: Not Much

survey

The Survey of India (SOI), India’s 250-year-old map maker, will no longer have a monopoly on making high-resolution maps. SOI will however remain the arbiter of maps that deal with State borders and national boundaries.

Key announcements by SOI

  • Focus on map accuracy: The SoI will now take action against digital platforms that violate its guidelines and will develop a framework to ensure the accuracy of maps.
  • Regulating use by digital platforms: The SoI has also asked digital platforms to comply with its guidelines and to seek its permission before publishing maps of the country.
  • Ensure territorial integrity: The move is aimed at ensuring that the country’s borders and territorial integrity are accurately depicted in maps, and that sensitive locations are not compromised by the publication of maps that violate the country’s security interests.

In a nutshell: The Survey of India (SOI) will now be more like a regulatory body.

What is Survey of India?

  • The SOI is India’s central engineering agency in charge of mapping and surveying.
  • First modern scientific survey of India” was undertaken by W. Mather in 1793–96 on instructions of Superintendent of Salem and Baramahal (TN), Col. Alexander Read.
  • Set up in 1767 to help consolidate the territories of the British East India Company, it is one of the oldest Engineering Departments of the GoI.
  • Its members are from Survey of India Service cadre of Civil Services of India and Army Officers from the Indian Army Corps of Engineers.
  • It is headed by the Surveyor General of India.

Responsibilities

  • Advisor to Govt: Survey of India acts as adviser to the Government of India on all cartography of India related matters, such as geodesy, mapping and map reproduction.
  • Geo names: It is responsible for the naming convention and spellings of names of geographical features of India.
  • Certification and publication: Scrutiny and certification of external boundaries of India and Coastline on maps published by other agencies including private publishers.
  • Surveys: geodetic datum, geodetic control network, topographical control, geophysical surveys, cadastral surveying, geologic maps, aeronautical charts within India, such as for forests, army cantonments, large scale cities, guide maps, developmental or conservation projects, etc.
  • National borders: Demarcation of the borders and external boundaries of India as well as advice on the demarcation of inter-state boundaries.

 

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Digital India Initiatives

Divyang friendly digital infrastructure in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Divyanga friendly digital infrastructure, Government efforts so far

digital

Central Idea

  • The estimation in Census 2011, that 2.21% of India’s population is disabled is a gross underestimation. According to the World Health Organization, about 16% of the global population is disabled. While technology has enormous potential to level the playing field for the disabled, it can, at the same time, reinforce the barriers that the disabled otherwise face if it is not designed with their needs in mind.

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Smartphone users with disabilities in India

  • It is difficult to determine the exact number of smartphone users with disabilities in India, as there is no specific data available on this.
  • However, according to the 2011 Census of India, there are approximately 2.68 crore (26.8 million) people with disabilities in the country.
  • India, it is reported, had 750 million Internet/smartphone users in 2020.
  • Applying the 16% figure here, this works out to be roughly 120 million (12 crore) Internet/smartphone users with disabilities.

A Report on Accessibility of Apps

  • Evaluation of the most widely used apps: A report that evaluates the accessibility of 10 of the most widely used apps in India, across five sectors. The apps were Zomato, Swiggy, PayTM, PhonePe, Amazon, Flipkart, Uber, Ola, WhatsApp and Telegram.
  • Goal for launching this report is to start discussion on digital accessibility: 1. Objective assessment of the digital accessibility of the apps. 2. To work with these service providers and help them design practices and processes that will not only improve app accessibility but also educate their stakeholders about accessibility and people with disabilities.
  • Findings of the report: Based on the number of violations, categories developed on the level of accessibility of the apps as high, medium and low. Report found that four out of the 10 apps ranked low, while five were in the medium category.

digital

key efforts for Divyanga friendly digital infrastructure

  • Guidelines for Indian Government Websites: The Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) has developed guidelines for making government websites accessible to people with disabilities. The guidelines cover various aspects of website design and development, such as colour contrast, keyboard accessibility, and assistive technology compatibility.
  • Accessible India Campaign/ Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan: The Campaign was launched by the government in 2015 to make public spaces, including government buildings, transportation, and information and communication technologies (ICT), more accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Bharat Interconnectivity Limited (BIL): BIL is a subsidiary of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) that provides accessible internet and telecom services to people with disabilities. It offers services such as audiobooks, sign language interpretation, and accessible websites and mobile applications.
  • National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH): NISH is an autonomous institute under the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. It provides training and research in the field of speech and hearing disabilities and also offers services like audiobooks and accessible software.
  • Making assistive technology more affordable and accessible: The government has also taken steps to make assistive technology more affordable and accessible to people with disabilities.
  • For example: The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities provides financial assistance to purchase assistive devices and the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) has been established to promote research and development of assistive technology.

digital

Measures to improve the accessibility of digital services

  • Promoting education and awareness: Steps must be taken to raise awareness about the needs and capabilities of people with disabilities. This could include providing training to developers and designers on how to create accessible digital products and services.
  • Enforcing web accessibility standards: The government should ensure that all websites and mobile applications comply with web accessibility standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This will make it easier for people with disabilities to access digital services.
  • Encouraging inclusive design: Designing products and services that are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities, should be an essential part of the design process. Companies and developers should be encouraged to incorporate inclusive design principles into their products from the beginning.
  • Conducting regular accessibility audits: Regular accessibility audits should be conducted to ensure that digital products and services are accessible to people with disabilities. This can help identify barriers and areas of improvement.

Conclusion

  • Core to the project of securing a more disabled friendly digital ecosystem must be the conviction that, everything digital must be accessible to everyone. This starts with incorporating the principles of accessibility and inclusive design into every digital offering, right from inception. India needs to be truly accessible for all people with disabilities. Organisations, companies, civil society, the government and the courts must make this happen.

Mains question

Q. Discuss the efforts of the Indian government towards creating a Divyanga-friendly digital infrastructure and suggest measures to improve the accessibility of digital services.

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Digital India Initiatives

Budget and the Digital Governance

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Data privacy and digital governance in India

Budget

Context

  • 2023 promises to be a landmark year for technology and digitisation in India. The Union Budget indicates growing prioritisation of these areas. For instance, the Digital India programme has been allotted Rs 4,795.24 crore, the allocation to the Ministry of Electronics and IT has nearly doubled, and there is a 1,000 per cent increase in the funding for the Artificial Intelligence and Digital Intelligence Unit. But something crucial is amiss.

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What is the issue?

  • Budget has deep discord between pace of the digitisation and legal policy: Many of the initiatives announced with the budget reinforce the deep discord between the pace of digitisation efforts, and the implementation of effective legal frameworks to strengthen privacy and cybersecurity.

Budget

What is Anonymised data?

  • Anonymised data includes data that does not contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII) like name, age, phone number, address, etc., or data from which PII has been removed.

Analysis: Privacy deficit in India

  • New National Data Governance Policy: A new National Data Governance Policy is going to be introduced to enable access to anonymised data. However, several studies have demonstrated the ease with which anonymised data can be reverse-engineered to identify individuals. Current anonymisation techniques are inadequate and do not guarantee privacy protection.
  • For instance: A study in 2019 was able to accurately reidentify 99.98 per cent of Americans in an anonymised dataset, including information held by the US government on more than 11 million people.
  • Shortfall in Draft Digital Data Protection Bill, 2022: The current Draft Digital Data Protection Bill, 2022, falls short and fails to incorporate safeguards from previous rounds of consultations and even earlier iterations of the Bill.
  • For instance: The 2021 draft imposed a penalty for the intentional reidentification of an individual’s anonymized personal information. This provision has been done away with, amplifying concerns around insufficient limitations and safeguards for privacy.
  • No effective legislative safeguards to prevent access to personal information: The budget also proposes privacy-invasive changes to the Income Tax search and seizure provisions in view of the increased use of technology and digitization. IT officials could seek the assistance of experts to access digital devices and encrypted data. Such broad authorizations are bound to increase the scope for arbitrariness and misuse.

Budget

What issues need to be addressed for expanding the scope of DigiLocker?

  • The budget proposes expanding the scope of DigiLocker. For this measure to truly serve the objective of “Trust Based Governance”, two issues need to be addressed:
  • Strengthening of the cybersecurity infrastructure: Strengthening of the cybersecurity infrastructure, including implementation of the long-awaited National Cyber Security Strategy, to inspire people’s trust, and potentially avert situations like the one in 2020 where 3.8 crore DigiLocker accounts were compromised.
  • Preventing scope creep of Aadhaar: Prevent the continuing scope creep of Aadhaar, which is increasingly being made mandatory not only to avail services and benefits but also to exercise fundamental rights such as voting. The negative human rights impact of the forced, widespread use of Aadhaar has been well-documented.

Did you know?

  • DigiLocker, a government-run cloud-based platform for storing, sharing, and verifying documents and certificates, to make it a one-stop solution of reconciliation and updating of identity and addresses with Aadhaar as foundational identity.

Budget

Conclusion

  • The World Economic Forum’s Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2023 finds that data privacy and cybersecurity regulations are effective for reducing cyber risks. Many new laws have been assured this year on data protection, telecom, internet governance and cybersecurity. As the country kickstarts its G20 presidency and prepares to be a leader in this space, we would do well to prioritise the development of exemplary, rights-respecting privacy and cybersecurity regimes.

Mains question

Q. For the potential of anonymised data to be unleashed without jeopardising people’s privacy, India first needs a robust data protection law. Discuss.

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Digital India Initiatives

India’s Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digital public goods

Mains level: DPI ecosystem in India

Digital

Context

  • Public infrastructure has been a cornerstone of human progress. The monopolisation of public infrastructure, which plagued previous generations, has manifested itself in the centralised nature of today’s digital infrastructure. Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) can fulfil this need, though it faces several challenges.

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What is the issue?

  • There is a disturbing trend of the weaponization of data and technology or Digital Colonisation (Hicks, 2019) resulting in a loss of agency, sovereignty and privacy.
  • Therefore, proactively deliberating on how to build good DPI is key to avoiding such challenges.

What Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) is and what it does?

  • Three foundational sets DPIs mediate the flow of people, money and information.
  • First, the flow of people through a digital ID System.
  • Second, the flow of money through a real-time fast payment system.
  • Third, the flow of personal information through a consent-based data sharing system to actualise the benefits of DPIs and to empower the citizen with a real ability to control data.
  • These three sets become the foundation for developing an effective DPI ecosystem.

DPI in India

  • India, first country to develop all three foundational DPIs: India through India Stack became the first country to develop all three foundational DPIs digital identity (Aadhar), real-time fast payment (UPI) and a platform to safely share personal data without compromising privacy (Account Aggregator built on the Data Empowerment Protection Architecture or DEPA)
  • Techno-legal regulatory frameworks in India: Techno-legal regulatory frameworks are used to achieve policy objectives through public-technology design.
  • For example: India’s DEPA offers technological tools for people to invoke the rights made available to them under applicable privacy laws. Framed differently, this techno-legal governance regime embeds data protection principles into a public-technology stack.
  • DPI most feasible model: DPI has emerged as the most feasible model due to its low cost, interoperability and scalable design, and because of its safeguards against monopolies and digital colonisation.

Digital

Do you know “India Stack”?

  • India Stack is a set of (application programming interface) APIs that allows governments, businesses, startups and developers to utilize a unique digital Infrastructure to solve India’s hard problems towards presence-less, paperless, and cashless service delivery.
  • The Open API team at iSPIRT has been a pro-bono partner in the development, evolution, and evangelization of these APIs and systems.

How DPIs constitute the backbone of a country’s digital infrastructure?

  • Facilitate seamless public service delivery: These layers interface with each other to create an ecosystem that facilitates seamless public service delivery and allows businesses to design novel solutions on top of the DPI layers.
  • Enables the creation of Open Networks as not seen before: India is now developing such open networks for credit (Open Credit Enablement Network), commerce (Open Network for Digital Commerce), Open Health Services Network (UHI) and many more.
  • Generate network effects: When DPIs are integrated, they can generate network effects to create these open networks for various sectors.

Digital

For India’s DPI success to become a worldwide revolution, three types of institutions must be built

  • An independent DPI steward institution: It is important to have a governance structure that is agile and responsive. A multiparty governance process through independent DPI institutions will be accountable to a broad range of stakeholders rather than be controlled by a single entity or group. This can build trust and confidence in DPI. India has created the Modular Open-Source Identity Platform (MOSIP), adopted by nine nations and with already more than 76 million active users.
  • Need to develop global standards through a multilateral dialogue led by India: If standards originating from developed nations were transplanted to an emerging economies’ context without deferring to their developmental concerns, smaller countries would simply be captive to dominant technology players. Additionally, without these standards, Big Tech would likely engage in regulatory arbitrage to concentrate power.
  • Sustainable financing models: Finally, we need to develop sustainable financing models for developing DPI for the world. Currently backed by philanthropic funding, such models are at risk of becoming a tool of philanthropic competition and positioning.

Notes for answer writing

  • In the twenty-first-century, technological innovation has created a tempest of ideological, geographical and economic implications that pose new challenges.
  • The monopolisation of public infrastructure, which plagued previous generations, has manifested itself in the centralised nature of today’s digital infrastructure.
  • It is increasingly evident that the world needs a third type of public infrastructure, following modes of transport such as ports and roads, and lines of communication such as telegraph or telecom but with open, democratic principles built in.
  • Built on top of public infrastructure, democratic countries with largely free markets have fostered public and private innovation and, therefore, generated considerable value creation in societies.
  • However, like in the case of physical infrastructure, it is important that DPIs not succumb to monopolisation, authoritarianism and digital colonisation.

Digital

Conclusion

  • The world needs a new playbook for digital infrastructure that mediates the flow of people, money and information. This will facilitate countries looking to digitally empower their citizens. They can then rapidly build platforms that address the specific needs of people, while ensuring people are able to trust and use the platform – without fear of exclusion or exploitation.

Mains question

Q. What Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) is and what it does? What can be done for India’s DPI success to become a worldwide revolution?

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Digital India Initiatives

Unified Payments Interface (UPI) market cap deadline extended by 2 years

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UPI

Mains level: UPI transactions

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has extended by two years the deadline to comply with its 30 percent cap on the market share of platforms operating on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).

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.

What is the NPCI plan for UPI?

  • NPCI had initially planned to enforce the market cap rules in January 2021.
  • It aimed to limit any single payments app from processing more than 30 per cent of UPI transactions in a month.

Why extension?

  • The extension is being seen as a major relief for Walmart and Flipkart-backed PhonePe and Google Pay, which currently command a majority of the UPI market share.

How could it impact UPI platforms?

  • Industry analysts believe the move comes as a shot in the arm for PhonePe and Google Pay, which collectively control more than 80 per cent of UPI’s market share.
  • For platforms like Paytm and WhatsApp Pay, however, the extension could be seen as a natural loss.
  • As of October, Paytm had a market share of 15 per cent on UPI.
  • In comparison, PhonePe had a 47 per cent market share, while GooglePay accounted for around 35 per cent.

How is UPI performing?

  • According to the Reserve Bank of India’s Payment Vision 2025, UPI is expected to register an average annualized growth of 50 percent.
  • After touching a new high of Rs 12.11 lakh crore in October, the UPI transaction value for the month of November came in at Rs 11.90 lakh crore.
  • However, the transaction count at 7.3 billion in October remained the same in November.

 

Try this PYQ:

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

 

Post your answers here.
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Digital India Initiatives

5G revolution and challenges

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: particulars of 5G

Mains level: scientific achievements and issues with it

5G revolution Context

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently announced that 5G revolution deployment in India will commence sooner than expected.

What is 5G technology?

  • 5G or fifth generation revolution  is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks.
  • 5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices.
  • It’s a unified platform which is much more capable than previous mobile services with more capacity, lower latency, faster data delivery rate and better utilisation of spectrum.

How it evolved from 1G to 5G?

  • 1G: Launched in the 1980s. Analog radio signals and supported only voice calls.
  • 2G: Launched in the 1990s. Uses digital radio signals and supported both voice and data transmission with a Bandwidth (BW) of 64 Kbps.
  • 3G: Launched in the 2000s. With a speed of 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps it has the ability to transmit telephone signal including digitized voice, video calls and conferencing.
  • 4G: With a peak speed of 100 Mbps-1 Gbps it also enables 3D virtual reality.
  • 5G: with a speed of more than 1Gbps, it is capable of connecting entire world without limits.

5G revolutionSalient features

  • Capability: 5G will provide much faster mobile broadband service as compared to the previous versions and will provide support to previous services like mission critical communication and the massive Internet Of Things (IoT).
  • Upgraded LTE: 5G is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks.
  • Speed: With peak delivering rate of up to 20 Gbps and an average of 100Mbps, it will be much faster as compared to its predecessors. The speed increment is partly achieved partly by using higher-frequency radio waves than previous networks.
  • Capacity: There will be up to 100 x increase in traffic capacity and network efficiency.
  • Spectrum usage: Will provide better usage for every bit of spectrum, from low bands below 1 GHz to high bands.
  • Latency: It’s expected to have lower latency with better instantaneous, real-time access of the data. The 5G, like 4G LTE, also uses Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) but the new 5G NR (New Radio) air interface will enhance OFDM and provide better flexibility in data delivery.


5G revolutionApplications of 5G technology

  • High-Speed mobile network: 5G will revolutionize the mobile experience with supercharged wireless network. Compared to conventional mobile transmission technologies, voice and high-speed data can be simultaneously transferred efficiently in 5G.
  • Entertainment and multimedia: 5G can provide 120 frames per second, high resolution and higher dynamic range video streaming without interruption. Audiovisual experience will be rewritten after the implementation of the latest technologies powered by 5G wireless. Augmented Reality and virtual Reality services will be better experienced over 5G.
  • Internet of Things: IoT applications collects huge amount of data from millions of devices and sensors and thus requires an efficient network for data collection, processing, transmission, control and real-time analytics which 5G network is a better candidate.

Interesting facts about 5G

According to researchers, about 1.5 billion people will have access to 5G by 2024.

It may not seem like it at present, however, 5G will cover about 40% of the world.

The security risks introduced BY 5G

  • Increased attack surface: With millions and even billions more connected devices, 5G makes it possible for larger and more dangerous attacks. Current and future vulnerabilities of the existing internet infrastructure are only exacerbated. The risk of more sophisticated botnets, privacy violations, and faster data extraction can escalate with 5G.
  • More IoT, more problems: IoT devices are inherently insecure; security is often not built-in by design. Each insecure IoT device on an organization’s networks represents another potential hole that an attacker can expose.
  • Decreased network visibility: With 5G, our networks will only expand and become more usable by mobile users and devices. This means much more network traffic to manage. But without a robust wide area network (WAN) security solution like Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) in place, companies may not be able to gain the network traffic visibility required to identify abnormalities or attacks.
  • Increased supply chain and software vulnerabilities: Currently and for the foreseeable future, 5G supply chains are limited. Vulnerabilities exist — particularly as devices are rushed to market — increasing the potential for faulty and insecure components. Compared to traditional mobile networks, 5G is also more reliant on software, which elevates the risk of exploitation of the network infrastructure.

Challenges in rolling out 5G

  • Enabling critical infrastructures: 5G will require a fundamental change to the core architecture of the communication system. The major flaw of data transfer using 5G is that it can’t carry data over longer distances. Hence, even 5G technology needs to be augmented to enable infrastructure.
  • Financial liability on consumers: For transition from 4G to 5G technology, one has to upgrade to the latest cellular technology, thereby creating financial liability on consumers.
  • Capital Inadequacy: Lack of flow of cash and adequate capital with the suitable telecom companies (like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea) is delaying the 5G spectrum allocation.

Way forward

  • India should not miss the opportunity and should proactively work to deploy 5G technology. We should focus on strengthening our cyber infrastructure.
  • 5G start-ups that enable this design and manufacturing capabilities should be promoted. This will spur leaps in the coverage, capacity and density of wireless networks.

Conclusion

  • The recent recommendation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to the government to develop a national road map for India to implement 5G in the best possible manner should include cyber security concerns.

Mains question

Q. 5G is already transforming and enhancing connectivity. In this context Discuss India’s preparedness and cybersecurity challenges that needs to be taken care of for earlier roll out of 5G.

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Digital India Initiatives

Data diplomacy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Data localisation

Mains level: Data diplomacy, Data sovereignty

Context

  • The government has withdrawn the Personal Data Protection Bill from Parliament after several amendments were proposed by the Joint-Parliamentary Committee.

Definition of data

  • Data is a collection of discrete values that convey information, describing quantity, quality, fact, statistics, other basic units of meaning, or simply sequences of symbols that may be further interpreted.

What is Data Protection?

  • Data protection refers to policies and procedures seeking to minimise intrusion into the privacy of an individual caused by collection and usage of their personal data.

What is data localisation?

  • Data localization or data residency law requires data about a nation’s citizens or residents to be collected, processed, and/or stored inside the country, often before being transferred internationally.

What is Data Governance?

  • Data governance is a collection of processes, roles, policies, standards, and metrics that ensure the effective and efficient use of information in enabling an organization to achieve its goals. Data governance defines who can take what action, upon what data, in what situations, using what methods.

Interesting facts

  • Over 90% of all the data in the world was created in the past 2 years;
  • The total amount of data being captured and stored by industry doubles every 1.2 years;
  • If you burned all of the data created in just one day onto DVDs, you could stack them on top of each other and reach the moon – twice.

Data sovereignty of India

  • Definition: India has placed itself at the heart of the battle, its foreign policy vision fuelled by the principle of ‘data sovereignty’—a broad notion that supports the assertion of sovereign writ over data generated by citizens within a country’s physical boundaries.
  • Issues: The ideal of “data sovereignty”, and global attempts to leverage it, has come under heavy criticism from various stakeholders who are of the view that the concept violates the principle of “free and open internet”. They also argue that “data sovereignty” hampers innovation and economic growth, and is a ruse for authoritarian digital governance.

India’s Data Diplomacy: Three Pillars

  • Pillar 1: India’s data for India’s development

The flagship ‘Digital India’ programme clearly views data as the cornerstone of India’s socioeconomic future—one where the government leverages the Indian citizen’s data for the benefit of the people themselves, and not solely for profit-making.

  • Pillar 2: Cross-border data flows and digital trade

In keeping with its foreign policy tradition of actively shaping debates on global trade rules, India has been an active participant in the ongoing contestation on regulating cross-border data flows.

  • Pillar 3: Securitising the economic

The final pillar of India’s data diplomacy has been predicated ostensibly on safeguarding its citizens’ data from external threats.

Why data is important?

  • Improve People’s Lives: Data will help you to improve quality of life for people you support: Improving quality is first and foremost among the reasons why organizations should be using data.
  • Make Informed Decisions: Data = Knowledge. Good data provides indisputable evidence, while anecdotal evidence, assumptions, or abstract observation might lead to wasted resources due to taking action based on an incorrect conclusion.
  • Stop Molehills from Turning into Mountains: Data allows you to monitor the health of important systems in your organization: By utilizing data for quality monitoring, organizations are able to respond to challenges before they become full-blown crisis.
  • Get The Results You Want: Data allows organizations to measure the effectiveness of a given strategy: When strategies are put into place to overcome a challenge, collecting data will allow you to determine how well your solution is performing, and whether or not your approach needs to be tweaked or changed over the long-term.

Conclusion

  • The fulcrum of India’s data diplomacy should be predicated on the rule of law and the genuine protection of fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. A commitment to the rule of law and accountability for all actors sets India apart from present adversaries like China and offers an opportunity to burnish its reputation globally.

Mains question

Q.Data is considered as new gold across the globe in this context analyse data sovereignty along with status of data diplomacy of India.

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Digital India Initiatives

Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ONDC

Mains level: Read the attached story

US firm Microsoft has become the first big tech company to join the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC).

What does Microsoft joining ONDC mean?

  • Microsoft getting on board the ONDC wagon means the project gets its first international marquee name ahead of its Bengaluru launch.
  • A number of participants are currently live on the ONDC network, offering a number of services in the e-commerce supply chain such as buying, selling and offering logistics services.

Who else is on board

  • Among those that are live are Paytm, which has joined the platform as a buyer, and Reliance-backed Dunzo, which is offering logistics services for hyperlocal deliveries.
  • Companies like Kotak, PhonePe, Zoho and Snapdeal are in the “advanced stage of development”, according to the ONDC website.
  • Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and Airtel have already initiated integration with the network.
  • According to some media reports, e-commerce giants Flipkart and Amazon are also considering joining the network.

What is ONDC?

  • 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 does one mean by ‘Open-sourcing’?

  • 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 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.

Countering ‘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 cataloging.
  • 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).

Why such a move by the govt?

  • This COVID pandemic has made every business to go digital.
  • India is a country with 700 million internet users of whom large crunch of population are active buyers on e-coms.
  • There are 9 platforms in the world which are billion user platform and all are private. This is the monopoly which the govt aims to hit.
  • No country would ever want a few (foreign) companies to control their domestic e-commerce ecosystem.
  • Countries like US are struggling to control their monopoly over the e-commerce giants leaving no space for Indian legislations to control these overseas companies.
  • In India Amazon, Walmart, Uber are controlling larger crunch of share in the market leaving very less scope for domestic companies to cope up with.

Scope for ONDCs success

  • Over last 50 years India is dealing with Big Tech companies with responsibility and pragmatic manner. Now it is also coming with new policies to control them.
  • The drafting panel has extraordinary persons like Mr. Nandan Nilekani and others who were in Aadhar, NPCI, MyGov, Retail industry and these make it inclusive and innovative.
  • India has successfully executed various public digital platforms like JAM Trinity, Aadhar linked projects. India for sure can handle its digital ecosystem better in e-coms too.
  • Open-sourcing will benefit society at large as did the UPI.

Issues that can be raised

  • Draft E-Commerce policy can raise resistance from companies like Amazon, Flipkart, Walmart etc.
  • They may raise hues over operability and ease of doing business.
  • MSMEs have already raised the growing compliance burden for e-commerce.
  • They have argued that the govt is technologically and digitally motivating everybody to get online and on the other hand it is culling their very ability to reach out to the consumer to get more people on board.

Possible issues with ONDC

  • Every platform has its own challenges so would the ONDC may have.
  • While UPI was ruled out (BHIM being the first) people were reluctant in using it due to transaction failures.
  • With subsequent improvements and openness people and businesses are using it in every walks of life. So it would work with ONDC.

Conclusion

  • Once adopted, ONDC will make sure consumer and seller interest will be protected as the UPI did.
  • Best is yet to come and we are in 4th industrial revolution where the Govt should strengthen itself accordingly and make businesses inclusive and restrict the monopolies.

 

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Digital India Initiatives

Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: USOF

Mains level: Expansion of internet connectivity

The Union Cabinet has approved a project for providing 4G mobile services in thousands of villages across the country under the USOF.

What do you mean by Universal Service?

  • In the modern world, universal service refers to having a phone and affordable phone service in every home.
  • It means, providing telecommunication service with access to a defined minimum service of specified quality to all users everywhere at an affordable price.
  • In 1837, the concept was rolled on by Rowland Hill, a British educator and tax reformer, which included uniform rates across the UK and prepayment by sender via postage stamps.

What is USOF?

  • The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) was formed by an Act of Parliament, was established in April 2002 under the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Act 2003.
  • It aims to provide financial support for the provision of telecom services in commercially unviable rural and remote areas of the country.
  • It is an attached office of the Department of Telecom, and is headed by the administrator, who is appointed by the central government.

Scope of the USOF

  • Initially, the USOF was established with the fundamental objective of providing access to ‘basic’ telecom services to people in rural and remote areas at affordable and reasonable prices.
  • Subsequently, the scope was widened.
  • Now it aims to provide subsidy support for enabling access to all types of telecom services, including mobile services, broadband connectivity and the creation of infrastructure in rural and remote areas.

Funding of the USOF

  • The resources for the implementation of USO are raised by way of collecting a Universal Service Levy (USL), which is 5 percent of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) of Telecom Service Providers.

Nature of the fund

  • USOF is a non-lapsable Fund.
  • The Levy amount is credited to the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • The fund is made available to USOF after due appropriation by the Parliament.

 

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Digital India Initiatives

Generation of Unique Disability IDs ramped up

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Unique Disability IDs (UDIDs)

Mains level: Not Much

The generation of unique disability IDs (UDIDs) had increased from an average of 5,000 a day to an average of 7,000 to 9,000 daily during the 90-day Azadi Se Antodaya Tak campaign.

Why such a move?

  • According to the 2011 Census, there were 2.68 crore people with disabilities.

What is Unique Disability IDs (UDIDs)?

  • “Unique ID for Persons with Disabilities” project is being implemented with a view of creating a National Database for PwDs, and to issue a Unique Disability Identity Card to each person with disabilities.
  • It functions under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • The project aims only to encourage transparency, efficiency and ease of delivering the government benefits to the person with disabilities, and ensure uniformity.
  • The project will also help in stream-lining the tracking of physical and financial progress of beneficiary at all levels of hierarchy of implementation – from village level, block level, District level , State level and National level.

Types of disabilities covered

As per the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights & Full Participation) Act, 1995 – A person with a disability can be defined as one with one or more of disabilities falling under any of the below-mentioned categories :

  • Blindness
  • Leprosy-cured
  • Cerebral Palsy: It means a group of non-progressive conditions of a person characterized by abnormal motor control posture resulting from brain insult or injuries occurring in the pre-natal, peri-natal or infant period of development.
  • Low vision: It means a person with impairment of visual functioning even after treatment of standard refractive correction but who uses or is potentially capable of using vision for the planning or execution of a task with appropriate assistive device;
  • Locomotor disability: It means disability of the bones, joints or muscles leading to substantial restriction of the movement of the limbs or nay form of cerebral palsy;
  • Mental retardation: It means a conditions of arrested or incomplete development of mind of a person which is specially characterized by sub normality of intelligence;
  • Mental illness: It means any mental disorder other than Mental retardation
  • Hearing Impairment: It means loss of sixty decibels or more in the better ear in the conversational range of frequencies

 

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Digital India Initiatives

Indian MNCs are absent from discussions on digital policy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 3- Digital economy and policy formulation challenges

Context

Hyperactivity in the digital regulatory space in India in the form of policies, rules and guidelines signals the accelerated growth of the digital ecosystem which needs regulatory nurturing.

Recent policy measures related to digital ecosystem

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has announced the draft amendment to the IT Rules 2021 (June 2022).
  • The draft India Data Accessibility and Use Policy (February 2022),
  • National Data Governance Framework Policy (May 2022) and the new cyber security directions (April 2022).
  • Besides these, the most awaited and critical e-commerce policy and the Data Protection Bill, both of which have been in the making for at least a few years now, are likely to be announced soon.
  • This hyperactivity signals the accelerated growth of the digital ecosystem which needs regulatory nurturing.
  • The government has recently invited stakeholders to an open house discussion on the proposed changes to the IT Rules.

Participation of Big Tech platforms  and other stakeholders in policy discussions

  • Various aspects of digital economy: Governments have been pushed to respond to myriad aspects of the digital economy — from financial sector regulation to anti-trust to data privacy.
  • With so much at stake, Big Tech platforms have upped their advocacy by hiring qualified professionals and funding empirical research, not only in India but also across the world.
  • Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and the likes are all actively engaged in policy discussions, either directly or through third parties to put forth a point of view.
  • Similarly, start-ups, think tanks, civil society organisations and academics invested in the issues of the digital economy either as users or as observers contribute to the policy discourse.

Who is missing?

  • Indian origin multinational corporations — the Tatas, Reliance, Aditya Birla Group, Godrej, ITC, Bajaj, and Hero — have collectively contributed to the country’s development.
  • While these may not be quintessential digital companies, except for Reliance Jio, many are working towards adopting digital technologies for manufacturing, distribution, and client service.
  • Many companies now have online distribution channels that retail through intermediary platforms or their own websites.
  • The Tatas have taken the plunge into e-commerce, first with Tata Cliq and recently with Neu.
  •  Despite this, these Indian MNCs are distant from conversations on these landmark policies that will determine the future of Indian commerce.

Government relations and outreach functions of MNCs

  • Government relations and outreach functions have always been important to big businesses.
  • At what point and in what manner MNCs interact with the government will of course vary.
  • Using a sector-specific example, all telecom companies in India committedly participate in TRAI’s open houses, industry deliberations and written submissions so that they can nudge policymakers toward industry-friendly decision-making that sits well with overall growth objectives.
  • On general concerns such as infrastructure and the ease of doing business, intervention from the industry is much more indirect and often an ex-post phenomenon, that is, after the policy has been announced.
  • The practice of multi-stakeholderism in policy formulation is present in letter, if not always in spirit.

Policy formulation in digital economy

  • The case of the digital economy is different.
  • There are multiple opportunities and avenues for participating in dialogue.
  • Striking balance between business viability and government objectives: The policy teams of Big Tech make the most use of these channels to present their point of view and hope for reconciliation on issues, with the final policy document attempting to strike a balance between business viability and government objectives.
  • Over the last few years of active debate on critical digital policies including those on data governance, privacy, anti-trust, and intermediary liability, there has been an overwhelming presence of the Big Tech Indian start-ups competing in this space, as well as their affiliated associations.
  • Indian MNCs, for reasons unclear, has been mostly absent.

Conclusion

Absence of Indian MNCs resulted in is a disproportionate policy focus on keeping Big Tech in check as against creating an enabling, secure and trusted digital ecosystem in India. As many issues highlighted by Big Tech are likely to be pain points for Indian businesses as well, participation of Indian MNCs could break the “us versus them” problem plaguing policy making in India today.

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Digital India Initiatives

India must prepare for 5G technology

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Working principle of optical fibre

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

Context

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.

Suggestions

  • 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.

Conclusion

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NIXI

Mains level: Not Much

Two new Internet Exchange points (IXP) of NIXI were inaugurated at Durgapur and Bardhman.

What is NIXI?

  • NIXI is a not for profit Organization under section 8 of the Companies Act 2013 and was registered on 19th June 2003.
  • It’s an initiative under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) vision 1000 days.
  • It aims 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 Internet Service Protocols (ISPs), Data Centers and CDNs.
  2. .IN Registry, managing and operation of .IN country-code domain and .भारत IDN domain for India.
  3. Indian Registry for Internet Names and Numbers (IRINN), managing and operating Internet protocol (IPv4/IPv6).

Why NIXI?

  • NIXI was set up for peering of Internet Service Protocols (ISPs) among themselves for the purpose of routing the domestic traffic within the country, instead of taking it all the way to US/Abroad.
  • It is thereby resulting in better quality of service (reduced latency) and reduced bandwidth charges for ISPs by saving on International Bandwidth.
  • NIXI is managed and operated on a Neutral basis, in line with the best practices for such initiatives globally.

Utility of NIXI

  • The launch of these new NIXI internet exchanges will contribute to the enhancement and improvement of Internet and Broadband services at local level and in neighbouring regions.
  • The internet service providers connecting at these points will benefit as their broadband services to their end users will improve, bringing about a change in the lives of the people of the region.
  • It will benefit every sector of the state ranging from health, education, agriculture, startup, and ecosystem to MSMEs & other business verticals.
  • Accessibility and convenience will increase for citizens in terms of availing government benefits and improving quality of life.

 

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Digital India Initiatives

RBI plans to link Credit Cards with UPI

Note4Students

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

 

Post your answers here.
9
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Digital India Initiatives

The Digital India transformation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: SVAMITVA Yojana

Mains level: Paper 2- Digital India transformation

Context

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.

Conclusion

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)

Note4Students

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

Note4Students

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

 

Post your answers here.
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Digital India Initiatives

Forging a social contract for data

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Open Government Data platform

Mains level: Paper 3- Data Accessibility and Use Policy

Context

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.

Suggestions

  • 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.

Conclusion

  • 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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: DIGIT

Mains level: Paper 3- Digital Public Infrastructure

Context

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.

Suggestions

  • 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.”

Conclusion

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

Note4Students

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).

About 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)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digital currencies

Mains level: Paper 3- CBDC and challenges

Context

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.

Challenges

  • 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.

Conclusion

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

Note4Students

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

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

Context

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.

Conclusion

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

Note4Students

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

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

Government e-Marketplace (GeM) System

Note4Students

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

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Digital India Initiatives

South Asia’s emerging digital transformation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ASEAN

Mains level: Paper 3- Adoption of digital transformation

Context

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.

Conclusion

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

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Digital Payment Solution: e-RUPI

Note4Students

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

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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.

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Digital India Initiatives

Bhutan becomes first neighbor to use BHIM UPI

Note4Students

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


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Digital India Initiatives

Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) Project

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

What is AgriStack?

Note4Students

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.

AgriStack

  • 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.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP)

Note4Students

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).

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[pib] National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI)

Note4Students

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) (https://nixi.in):

  • 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 (https://training.nixi.in):

  • 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.

(3) NIXI-IP-INDEX (https://ipv6.nixi.in):

  • 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.

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Digital India Initiatives

E-Daakhil portal for consumer grievance redressal

Note4Students

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

E-Daakhil

  • 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 ‘edaakhil.nic.in’ 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.

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[pib] MCA21 Version 3.0

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

What is EDISON Alliance?

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

RBI comes up with Digital Payments Index

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

National Common Mobility Card (NCMC)

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

PM -WANI : As Game changer

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

Public Wi-Fi Access Network Interface

Note4Students

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%.

PM- WANI

  • 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.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] E-Sanjeevani Telemedicine Service

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] India’s AI supercomputer PARAM Siddhi

Note4Students

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

b)Supercomputers

c)Missiles

d)Satellites

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.

Back2Basics:

National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

Petaflop

  • 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.

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Digital India Initiatives

Ghar Tak Fibre Scheme

Note4Students

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).

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Digital India Initiatives

National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] YuWaah Platform

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

Issues with the Gopalakrishnan Committee Report

Note4Students

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.

Background

  • 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?”

Conclusion

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

GIS-enabled Land Bank System

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

Digital Quality of Life Index, 2020

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

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

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

Submarine Cable Connectivity to Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

Digital realities of India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

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

Context

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

Digital realities of India Google must consider:

1) Contradictions

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

2) Lack of access to internet

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

3) Lack of access to banks

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

4) Need for special products for India

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

5) Lack of data governance and issues with it

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

6) Prevalence of misinformation

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

7) Geopolitical context

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

8) Job creation

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

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

Conclusion

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

Original articles:

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

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Bharat Airfiber

Note4Students

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).

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Digital India Initiatives

The digital lifeline provided by UPI

Note4Students

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.”

Conclusion

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.

B2BASICS

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:

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/coronavirus-india-economy-poverty-digital-payment-bhim-upi-6533171/

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Digital India Initiatives

Digital divide in India

Note4Students

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?

Political

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

Governance

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

Social

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.

Economic

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

Educational

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

1.Infrastructure

  • 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
    explored.

  • 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.

3.Language

  • 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.

5.Cybersecurity

  • 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.

Conclusion

  • 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.

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Digital India Initiatives

Need for open protocols and networks in the realm of internet

Note4Students

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?”

Conclusion

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

Key stakeholders in data regulation

Note4Students

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.

Context

  • 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.”

Conclusion

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] PRAGYATA Guidelines on Digital Education

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

Google for India Digitization Fund (GIDF)

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

Digitising the state

Note4Students

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.”

Conclusion

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

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/digitising-the-state-6496692/

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Digital India Initiatives

Reforming Digital policy

Note4Students

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?”

Conclusion

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

Share the public data with public

Note4Students

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, data.gov.in 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 mygov.in 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.”

Conclusion

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Instant PAN through Aadhaar based e-KYC

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] UMANG Mobile App

Note4Students

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.

UMANG App

  • 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.

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Digital India Initiatives

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

Note4Students

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.

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Swayam Prabha TV Channels

Note4Students

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.

SWAYAM Prabha

  • 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.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] ‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign

Note4Students

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.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] Integrated Government Online Training (iGOT)

Note4Students

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 (diksha.gov.in) 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.

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Digital India Initiatives

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much.

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

Context

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

Importance of digitalisation in pandemic

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

Application in the judiciary

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

Application in the healthcare sector

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

Conclusion

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

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] SPICe+ web form

Note4Students

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.

SPICe+

  • 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.

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] ASKDISHA Chatbot

Note4Students

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.

ASKDISHA Chatbot

  • 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 irctc.co.in.
  • 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.

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Digital India Initiatives

Riding on data for mobility

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much.

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

Context

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.

Conclusion

  • 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.

 

 

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Digital India Initiatives

[pib] SERVICE Initiative

Note4Students

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.

About SERVICE

  • 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.

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Digital India Initiatives

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much.

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

Context

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

 

 

 

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Digital India Initiatives

‘MANI’ app

Note4Students

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 App

  • ‘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.

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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.

Narendra-Modi-Digital-India


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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