Digital India: Transforming for the Win

When it comes to digital transformation, India has come a long way. Starting in late 1980s with India’s first computerised railways passenger ticketing and reservation system to the launch of the Digital India by the government in 2015. We’re fast moving ahead with a clear vision to transform into a digitally empowered society and a knowledge economy.

14 December, 2020 Special Reports, Technology
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When it comes to digital transformation, India has come a long way. Starting in late 1980s with India’s first computerised railways passenger ticketing and reservation system to the launch of the Digital India by the government in 2015. We’re fast moving ahead with a clear vision to transform into a digitally empowered society and a knowledge economy.

Rajarshi Purkayastha
Head, Pre-Sales, India | MECAA |
SAARC, Tata Communications

Clearly, such transformation does not and cannot happen overnight. Even technologically advanced countries could take years to reach close to a desired state and even then, it’s not over. It is a continuous journey. Years of strategising, planning and small successes are what contribute to each significant milestone!

At the 68th SKOCH Summit, we had an opportunity to interact with stakeholders in Digital India from across centre and state governments. While deliberating on the future of digital governance, what stood out were the many interesting examples in India’s digital transformation journey. Consider the UMANG application (Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance), developed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and NeGD to drive mobile governance in India. Today, it provides a single platform for all Indian citizens to access pan India e-Gov services, currently clocking over 2,000 services, which are delivered in multiple Indian languages. Similar success stories around Aadhaar, the Passport Seva and many more are true examples of transformed government operations.

There are several initiatives in exploration phase, involving new technologies such as AI, ML or Blockchain etc to enable sophisticated operations as managing performance driven contracts and pay-outs to suppliers that require real-time assessment and intelligent digital workflows or tapping into the vast network of CCTV nationally using intelligent systems to capture fugitives. While several projects are at various stages of maturity, there is clear consensus on the urgent need to leverage technology to bridge the specific gaps, which could be as basic as reaching and engaging the right citizen segment.

Purpose-led transformation that is defined by a higher mission is what helps galvanise people and inspires change—enables common interface towards ease of living and offers relevant digital services, driven by innovation, inclusion and collaboration across government systems.

A Provider Perspective

As a service provider having enabled multiple government projects and as an empanelled member across boards like MeitY and CERT-In, we clearly see that the Digital India vision is accelerating. Use of proven technologies has set a robust foundation to many government initiatives like UAN, UPI, the DigiLocker and more, all of which help the larger Digital India 2.0 imperative to unfold.

The ideal state is an intelligent and interconnected platform that will help the government to innovate and collaborate across sectors and revolutionise citizen services. The need to build a population scale digital infrastructure, harnessing intelligent tools and technologies like AI, Big Data, Internet of Things (IOT), Blockchain will help various sectors to improve the well-being of every Indian, ranging from farmers, tribal, urban populations and from sectors as wide as agriculture, natural-resource management, energy-use, transportation, health, finance, urban-infrastructure, manufacturing and more.

This will require the government to build and sustain a robust digital architecture by assessing and uplifting the digital posture of each concerned department; further enabling an interconnected ecosystem of government offices, private and peering parties and offering seamless and secure last mile reach to citizens. All this while keeping the citizen’s data and identity safe.

We recommend adopting a “citizen-first” digital platform – an integrated, scalable and resilient digital core that brings together the best of infrastructure, application, technology stacks and systems integration in a holistic manner to facilitate cohesive operations while meeting the various regulations and compliances and maintaining all security parameters across data privacy, residency, sovereignty and more.

The second critical imperative is to knit the value chain – connect the dispersed cross-functional offices and departments and the external bodies as partners, suppliers and providers, that play a pivotal role in delivering the end-services. And lastly, establish the reach to citizens, enabling them to consume the services in a secure, seamless and trusted manner, anytime and from anywhere.

  • A Cloud First strategy will help government departments to build a centralised IT infrastructure, which can optimise operations and reduce maintenance costs and downtime. It also helps build and deploy applications in a scalable manner using containers and microservices, enabling the government to launch new or enhanced citizen services seamlessly in the future. Cloud also smoothens the adoption of new technologies, which help churn insights from large volumes of data, thereby adding intelligence and automation in the system.
  • An Internet First strategy can help with a ubiquitous, easy to access, flexible and elastic digital infrastructure. The Internet also brings an added advantage of improved accessibility between digital services of various entities in the ecosystem, be it connecting inter-cloud environments or data centres of ecosystem peers. The reach to the end consumer, i.e., citizens in mass, can only be enabled through public Internet, allowing them with easy access and consumption of services anytime, anywhere through smart phones, laptops, tablets using 4G and broadband connections.
  • A Security First strategy helps manage and reduce cyber risk across entities and layers. The frequency, scale and severity of cyberattacks are getting more intense. The hyper connected digital environments have expanded the attack surfaces and vulnerabilities. A single security breach may lead to data loss, disruption of day-to-day operations impacting the credibility of the system. A Security First strategy will not only help enable ministries to adopt best security standards and practices to protect the digital infrastructure and citizen data, but will also ensure the privacy of citizen data and establish necessary controls across people, processes and technology to ensure adherence to compliances and regulations. The concept of Privacy Operation Center (POC) is another key aspect that we recommend should be a part of digital initiatives. A central POC can serve as the single point of data privacy management; monitor all access to private data, review consent, audit services for privacy compliance and enable wider deployment and adoption across departments. The POC framework will consider multiple elements as – acts and regulations, privacy principles, data classification, consent management, privacy breach incident handling, digital forensics and much more. As a country, we’ve got a strong digital foundation, the right talent, players and partners, coupled with a very clear vision. Following the above-mentioned steps will help the government, the citizens and the larger ecosystem to be well-prepared for what is and will be, a truly exciting and exhilarating journey ahead into the Future of Digital Governance.

Domain Experts on Digital India

We are clear about the sovereign function and the service delivery function. The journey of e-Gov is marked by collaboration of public and private sector. MeitY and e-Gov would not have moved further without this partnership. Technology is helping in both ease-of-doing-business and ease-of-living.
Abhishek Singh
President & CEO, NeGD, MeitY
New technologies are being extensively used in development and maintenance of PMGSY. It is helping us to have real-time monitoring of the network and available data is being used for planning further. A digital process has been developed to track the condition and performance of roads.
Ashish Goel
Joint Secretary and Director General, NRIDA
Outlay to the Panchayats have increased three times. It is important to track the funds and utilisation and measure outcomes. We have put in place a robust e-Governance system to implement online audit to cover all Panchayats. This will enhance the accountability.
Khushwant Sethi
Joint Secretary
Ministry of Panchayati Raj
“Bhoomi Rashi portal has reduced the time taken for approval and publication of notifications pertaining to land acquisition. Project Management & Information System does real-time project monitoring and dashboard for the minister and all officers to track project progress.”
Amit Kumar Ghosh
Joint Secretary
Ministry of Road Transport and Highways
Mobilising 7.11 cr women in 66 lakh SHGs is a humongous effort. We have trained 3 lakh community resource persons too. These initiatives are taken under the NRLM, which functions on the key principles of social mobilisation and building strong institutions for the poor.
Charanjit Singh
Joint Secretary

Ministry of Rural Development
Due to the end-to-end digitisation and with the help of platforms like Aadhaar and Jan Dhan accounts, it was possible to ensure that relief measures reach the intended beneficiaries in a timely and in a hassle-free manner at the bottom of the pyramid.”
Navaljit Kapoor
Joint Secretary
Ministry of Tribal Affairs
“We have introduced an app called ‘Rail Madad’ using which, a passenger can register complaints using all channels into a single entity. The resultant management reports present a holistic picture of weak areas and enable focused corrective action by way of auto-escalation to the concerned officials.
Vivek Srivastava
Executive Director, Railway Board
Ministry of Railways
Cyber security has assumed greater importance in digital governance. The government has taken up various measures to strengthen cyber security. A lot of attention is being given to the vulnerabilities and cybercrimes particularly against women and children.
B N Shetty, CTO
Ministry of Home Affairs
The next phase of digital governance would be backed by emerging technologies like AI, Big Data, Hybrid cloud, and Analytics. It will be the consumers and citizens on the one side and business houses, corporates and the service providers on the other.
Golok Simli, CTO
Ministry of External Affairs
“With expanding technologies like IoTs, we are collecting and managing a lot more data, in most of our services delivery applications. However, from Business-Tech angle – before collecting any Data, we must be clear about its need; public data should be available first followed by confidentiality; master data may not be private, only transactions to be protected; and, data-custodians should not try exclusive control over citizens’ master data.
Vijay Devnath
CISO, Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS)
eMARG application is helping us in objective and evidence-based monitoring of the condition of rural roads. If a contractor gets marks less than 80 per cent, then he won’t get any payment. If it is 90 per cent, then he will get only 90 per cent of the total payment.
Pradeep Agrawal
Director – Projects, NRIDA

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