Enabling digital India through innovation and eGovernance

India is heading towards a fully digital nation. Companies like Intel are coming up with innovative ideas to fully support the country in its endeavour to become a Digital India.

Famous American writer Ray Bradbury once wrote a wonderful short story, There Will Come Soft Rains, in which he described what we would today call a 'smart home'. An intelligent central computer begins the day for the household waking the residents in a pleasant voice, putting on the coffee (milk for the kids), toast and eggs, reading out the day's schedule, washing the dishes and so on. Most importantly, the house has its own mechanism for disaster control, shutting doors and turning on sprinklers when a fire breaks out.

Reading the story years ago, I was carried away by the technological Utopia in which your home really is a safe haven and fort. No constant fears of break-ins and robberies and a peaceful sleep at night. After all, isn't safety in our homes the least of every citizen's birth right?

We love what modern technology has given us to make life easy: smartphones and WiFi speakers, microwave ovens and GPS, 4K TVs and drone cameras that get impossible angles from the air, not to mention personal computers that can do yoga! The Internet of Things (IoT) is now looking to connect all of these gadgets together and build the extremely convenient, smart home that Bradbury envisioned a little more than sixty years ago. But, what of the protection of our property and our lives?

Sure, we have home alarm systems, but how many Indian homes actually use home alarm systems to begin with? We tend to place immeasurable trust in our traditional public security infrastructure, even as house break-ins, robberies and even worse incidents are on the rise in many major metros. While there have been occasions in which our public security service has risen admirably to the occasion, the security of a country of over a billion people, it must be admitted, can be a major task for even the most experienced taskmaster.

What can technology do in the area of security? Quite a lot if we put our heads together and take the advice of tech experts.

A safer Digital India

Imagine a digital India where a centralized database keeps digital records of criminals and crimes (as the Government of India is already planning to do) so that police stations across the country can access data and prevent as well as detect crime in real-time. But if we think a step ahead, we can have every alarm system link directly to that database and send immediate data to nearby police stations in the case of a break-in or other crime. This will speed up response time and protect property and lives.

A similar system could even be used to connect to hospitals and healthcare systems to provide immediate health services in the case of an emergency. For instance, biometric and health monitors linked to a single home alarm system can note abnormal rises in blood pressure of residents and notify a central health service, which can then respond in the shortest possible time.

Success stories from home and abroad

Does it sound like reaching for the moon in a single leap? Considering that India has already changed lives with projects like eSeva (in Andhra Pradesh), Gyandoot (in Madhya Pradesh) and others that brought technology to rural areas, it is not hard to imagine a future where security and healthcare could also be centralized (and simplified) in ways to make life and governance much easier. The possibilities with eGovernance are endless, and the egovernance system in Estonia is an excellent example that the entire world can learn from.

#DigitalIndia can learn from Estonia and employ electronic ID cards for every citizen. Of course a major infrastructure overhaul will have to be made in order to support such a system, but life will become so much easier and productivity will go up by leaps and bounds. Such a streamlined identification system can be a ticket to everything, from working as passes in the Mumbai suburban train and New Delhi or Kolkata subway, to online security cards for the Keralite voters living in Australia and unable to make it home for election day. Infants can be assigned their identity numbers right at birth, as the hospital mails the parents an electronic birth certificate and their health insurance can be initialized at the same time.

With all records for each citizen online, governance will become easier and so will life for citizens. Getting birth certificates (and other documents like education certificates and so on) printed should be easy to do within minutes of filing an application. When caught violating traffic rules, traffic police should be able to pull out the citizen's violation history online, saving time and eradicating the bribery racket in the process!

Secure voting

Here is a picture of #DigitalIndia where you can vote online. Imagine an election day when you are far away from your home, perhaps working or traveling in another country altogether. You end a business meeting, log into your computer which is linked to an electronic ID card and place your vote. No fear of booth captures or endlessly long waits in the hot sun.

And let's face it. How many of us actually fly back to our home constituencies just to vote for a day? With online voting, citizens will no longer have to rush back to their constituencies (or worse, not turn up at all) on polling day.

Online voting, not as a replacement but as a supplement like in Estonia, could do away with many of the problems that even the EVM has not been able to completely eradicate. In other words, there will no longer be cases of thugs terrorizing and beating up candidate agents to leave the polling station so that they can cow voters into choosing the candidate they (unofficially of course) work for.

A simpler complex life

I imagine a Digital India in which life is simple and productive despite the complexities of our modern lives. In Digital India, applying for a pipeline gas in the new homes of newly-weds should no longer be a tedious process of following up and an endlessly long wait peppered with microwaved dinners and instant noodles. It should not matter if the address on your Voter ID card is from another constituency, because all you have to do in order to get an address change is make an online application.

In such an India, applying for a Voter ID card in the first place should be easy (though not un-secure in the least). There won't be citizens cynically having to say, in response to the question of why so many educated Indians do not vote; that it is because the Voter ID card is so hard to get accurately the first time.

A Digital India won't be a place where anyone, including Hanumanji, can apply for an Aadhar Card without scrutiny, and actually have the card delivered to his address in the C/O Pawanji. It will be a country where all farmers and investors can access land records in minutes instead of months, and where farmers can access the latest market prices for land and their agricultural produce and avoid unscrupulous land traders. It will be a country where citizens of every state can pay all of their bills online instead of having to take a day off from work to wait in a long queue.

Every day there is news of innovators working with the government on a new project to revolutionize the meaning of governance and bring convenience to citizens across the country. As a country, we have taken great steps to be recognized on the global stage with our own Mars mission and steady economy. Now it only remains for our lives to become simpler, more productive and much safer as technology can make it.

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Article by Tony John
Tony John is a professional blogger from India, who started his first Weblog in 1998 at Tripod.com. Tony switched to blogging as a passion blended business in the year 2000 and currently operates several popular web properties including IndiaStudyChannel.com, Techulator.com, dotnetspider.com and many more.

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Author: Timmappa Kamat28 Mar 2015 Member Level: Gold   Points : 8

It would really be a dream come true to be able to do any of your tasks from the comforts of your home. But such an exercise needs the active participation of the citizens. I have seen people who used to shun the mobile phones (when they just arrived) saying they are only for business class. Adopting to the newer technology is the responsibility of the citizens.

Even in my home State Goa, the Electricity department has introduced online payment of bills, but sadly there are a few takers. They say they find it safer and better to pay the bills at the bank! And all this in the capital city of Panaji!

So will we be ready for the digital innovations that are meant to make our life easy? We need to, and that amounts to the progress of the nation as a whole.

Author: Anwesha06 Apr 2015 Member Level: Gold   Points : 5

I agree in totality that a Digital India can save a lot of time and energy, and it would also help in fighting corruption, as for every small and big interaction, officials take undue advantage of screwing the common people.

But it needs good coordination and manpower management for better implication of this facility. And also a digital process of checking out its functionality, as we are enjoying in private facilities. Only then can it benefit people and the nation as a whole.

Guest Author: Safir07 Apr 2015

It is good to see a lot of efforts are made by the previous government and current government to digitalize India. This will help in reducing correction significantly. Looking forward to see a digital India.

Author: Tony John07 Apr 2015 Member Level: Gold   Points : 2


Thank you for your comments. The Kerala government also introduced a lot of digitalization movements but they need cooperation from people too. Lot of people are ready to book movie tickets online but not use the digital services by the government. Hope the scenario will change soon.

Author: Timmappa Kamat07 Apr 2015 Member Level: Gold   Points : 5

Exactly Tony sir, people do not hesitate or think twice before purchasing mobiles and booking movie tickets online. Then why this kind of apathy to the government schemes? Actually, opting for egovernance will help eradicate corruption. The current DBTL scheme in case of LPG is a good example. The LPG distributors used to charge vague amounts for the refill cylinders. Imagine even a extra Rs.2 per consumer will help the distributor to gain thousands of Rupees - without any record!

Same goes for the social benefit schemes launched by various governments. There used to be corruption - or Baksheesh everywhere right from the official to the postman. Now with the online transfer directly into the bank account of the beneficiary , there has been no chance for baksheesh.

Author: Timmappa Kamat16 May 2015 Member Level: Gold   Points : 1

The government of Goa has been steadily moving towards making egovernance a complete success. Given the small size of the state, it becomes quite easy to bring the total population under the scheme much easier. The current scheme is to do away with older paper ration cards and digitising the data. Ration cards are being linked to Aadhaar card and EPIC. This will help get rid of the bogus cards.

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