“The world is watching India with great interest,” reveals the senior official at the American microprocessor giant, visibly excited by India’s grand efforts to build massive digital infrastructure that would ensure that government services are available to citizens electronically. His reference is to the Digital India initiative—first announced in July and approved by the Cabinet in August this year—which has been widely debated in government and industry circles to identify the challenges and opportunities in the connect-India programme, as well as prepare a roadmap that will lead towards a truly digital India.
Imagine a gigantic national optic fibre network being laid out to cover the country’s 50,000 gram panchayats this year, 100,000 next year and the remaining 100,000 the following year—entire India will be covered by broadband within three years and the internet will reach the remotest villages. This in essence is what Digital India—the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious e-governance initiative—is all about.
Without doubt, this is a great opportunity for the industry to come in and do its bit in contributing to the nation building agenda. As a first-mover, Intel has come forward to support the government’s Digital India vision. Last week, Intel India launched its ‘Digital Skills for India’ programme in the capital. It will work with the government to impact 5 million citizens by the end of 2015 with skills to compete in the global digital economy. As part of the initiative, Intel India unveiled the Digital Skills training application comprising of modules on digital literacy, financial inclusion and cleanliness in 5 Indian languages. This application is available freely on the Android Play store, and a similar offline training module will also be available in 7 Indian languages.
According to RS Sharma, secretary, department of electronics & IT, the Digital India programme is an umbrella initiative with the vision of transforming India into a digitally empowered society. “For this digital transformation to be completed, it is imperative that the government and corporates work together in creating a sustainable model for digital education. It is great to see tech leaders like Intel come forward and support the cause with innovative computing solutions that will help Indians harness the benefits of a digital India,” he says.
Intel will also work with Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL) to build capacity by imparting digital literacy training to key resource persons in the first 1,000 panchayats under the national optic fibre network roll-out in India. “Enabling broadband highways is an imperative of the Digital India vision and the national optic fibre network roll-out aims to deliver true broadband to panchayats. Intel’s initiative to provide digital literacy training will go a long way in digitally empowering citizens at the grassroots so that they can fully utilise the benefits of these broadband highways,” says Aruna Sundararajan, chairman-cum-managing director, BBNL.
In addition, Intel announced the ‘Innovate for India Challenge’, which will be launched next year. This is an initiative to drive technology innovation across platforms to create solutions that are relevant for India which will be imperative if we want pervasive technology adoption in the country. “The industry has been asked to participate to realise the Digital India vision and it is now upto us to work jointly with the government to do the right thing for our country,” says Debjani Ghosh, vice-president, sales & marketing group, managing director, Intel South Asia.
Intel has been committed to making Indian citizens digitally empowered for several years now. For over two decades, Intel has been investing in improving the quality of education in India through the effective use of technology. Intel believes that technology has the ability to transform lives and has digitally empowered Indian citizens through several initiatives like Intel Teach Programme that has trained 18 lakh teachers in India, or the Intel Learn Programme which has reached 2.35 lakh students and 4,500 faculty members. Intel India had launched the National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) in 2012 and under this programme has reached 38 lakh citizens through the Intel Learn Easy Steps digital literacy training. NDLM is now being scaled by the government and digital literacy is being called out as the cornerstone of success in the Digital India vision.
Even though India is known as a powerhouse of software, the availability of electronic government services is still comparatively low. Hopefully, the ongoing build up of national digital infrastructure should help government agencies to connect directly with people to deliver efficient governance.