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.
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.