The pace of digitization is accelerating and impressive but a lot still needs to be done, said Mr J.S. Deepak, Chairman, Telecom Commission & Secretary, Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Ministry of Communication and Technology. He was speaking at a session on ‘Towards a Digitalised World: Bridging the Digital Divide’ at the 2nd edition of the Global Exhibition on Services, organized by the Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, SEPC and CII at the India Expo Centre and Mart in Greater Noida .
Citing a recent survey according to which the internet is the innovation which could have the most transformational impact, especially in developing countries, he said that the growth of smart phones – especially the availability of cheaper phones – will boost the use of data services, open up new markets and boost e-commerce etc. However, the flip side of the coin is that people with no access to internet/smart phones will get more and more marginalized thus widening the digital divide. This will not only lead to greater asymmetry in information, but also asymmetry in opportunity.
He highlighted three areas that needed focus to bridge this divide: connectivity; language and digital illiteracy, and said that Government and industry must work together to address these.
Sharing Government initiatives, which include policy reforms, he spoke of the Bharat Net programme, which aims to enhance connectivity. The three phases of the programme should envelope all gram panchayats by 2018 and includes the laying down of fibre optic network creating an ecosystem that will further boost connectivity and bride the digital divide.
On the second challenge of language, he said that while today most mobile communication took place in English but by January 1, 2017 mobile devices will be enabled for English, Hindi and one vernacular language. Simultaneously, technology-enabled language conversions are also underway to enable people to access data in different languages.
On the issue of digital illiteracy, he defined a digitally literate family as one where at least one person in the household can use a computer/mobile app, and said that the National Digital Literacy Mission is expected to boost digital literacy in a big way.
Bridging the digital divide will have far-reaching benefits, socially and economically. He spoke of how the banking sector has already demonstrated the positive effects of digital connectivity by increasing banking operations without having increased brick-and-mortar facilities, and how Ease of Doing Business will get a boost as will e-commerce.
While emphasizing the Government’s commitment of building the requisite infrastructure, he stressed that Government and Industry need to work together to bridge the gap and make Digital India a force to reckon with.
Mr Harish Krishnan, Executive Director – Public Affairs & Strategic Engagements, Cisco India and SAARC said that while India is digitizing faster than any other country with the Government’s initiatives, the private sector will need to be a prime mover in digitizing India.