Getting to the Digital Summit

Keshav Murugesh | Updated on June 30, 2019

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India has emerged as a digitally empowered nation. But more needs to be done to transform everyday lives

In 2018 alone, Indians downloaded 12.3 billion apps.

With 354 million smartphone users and 1.2 billion mobile phone subscriptions in 2018 the lifestyle of Indians has turned significantly ‘digital’. Banking, ordering food, cab booking, shopping, fixing appointments, online reviews and much more, digital has become a ubiquitous way of life.

An average monthly consumption of 8.3 gigabits (GB) of data each month, and the fact that 294 million active users spend an average of 17 hours per week on social media platforms corroborate this fact.

McKinsey reports that by 2025, core digital sectors could double their GDP level to as much as $435 billion, with emerging digital areas (in financial services, agriculture, retail, e-commerce, logistics, energy, healthcare and government services) creating $10-150 billion of incremental economic value.

India’s digital appetite has today turned voracious. And if we consider that this represents just 40 per cent of our population with internet subscription, an enormous potential looms ahead.

The government has shown a keen appreciation for such digital empowerment and has built policies and programmes around it. India’s digital journey has been a veritable blockbuster — with scale, complexity, and interesting demographic, social and economic shifts, where everyone turns out to be a winner.

Bouquet of value creation

Aadhaar – If one word can lay claim to being the vehicle of digital adoption in India, this would be it. As the largest single digital ID programme in the world, Aadhaar has evolved beyond individual identity verification to spur consumer adoption of digital services. McKinsey estimates that 85 per cent of bank accounts between 2014 and 2017 used Aadhaar for identification, and 82 per cent of public benefits disbursement accounts are now linked to Aadhaar.

If Aadhaar brought individual citizens on the digital platform, the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) introduced by the government, did the same with the country’s indirect tax paying business.

A close handshake between the public and private sectors has contributed to India’s rise. The government has, from day one of taking charge, backed the country’s digital surge.

A telling impact of India’s digital journey has been the financial inclusion it has achieved. The Indian government’s Jan-Dhan Yojana programme has allowed more than 332 million people to open mobile phone-based accounts (according to World Bank figures). Unified Payments Interface (UPI) has linked multiple bank accounts facilitating banking services through a single mobile application.

The success extends to non-financial sectors (logistics, supply chain and agriculture), and the realms of societal progress too. Take women empowerment, for example. ‘ArogyaSakhi,’ a mobile application helps rural women entrepreneurs deliver preventive health care at rural doorsteps. Women for Empowerment and Entrepreneurship (W2E2) is helping rural women with digital tools, e-learning and internet connection, The government’s Common Service Centre (CSC) initiative has turned many women across the country into micro-entrepreneurs.

In addition, the government eMarketplace portal ‘GeM’, an ambitious rural BPO scheme has the potential to create1.5 lakh direct jobs and indirect ones too.

The road ahead

This is stupendous progress in a matter of five years! However, we cannot afford to press the pause button, since there is still much more of the digital dividend to reap. Internet access must be made available to 60 per cent of our population, and our current high percentage of retail cash transactions must move online.

How do we ensure access to banking facilities to 600,000 underserved and unbanked villages? How can we deliver digital technologies at micro levels to transform the day-to-day lives of individuals and society? Or create digital infrastructure in villages to transform them into ‘Digital Villages’? These are the questions we need to address.

While digital applications create significant economic value, they require new skills and labour re-deployment. The government’s initiative on Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Nasscom’s ‘Future Skills’ programme and creation of 110+ centers of excellence are steps in the right direction.

India’s meteoric rise as a digitally empowered nation has been made possible due to a strong collaboration between industry and government. This close handshake will and must continue to catalyse digital acceleration, and ensure that benefits percolate to all end-users across social strata.

The vision of a Digital India is about to turn panoramicand reach every sector of the economy and every corner of the country!

The writer is Group CEO, WNS and Chairman, NASSCOM

Published on June 30, 2019

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