Today, digital technology has emerged as a great enabler. It has paved the way for efficient service delivery and governance. It is improving access, in domains from education to health. And it is helping to shape the future of business and economy. Through each of these ways, it provides the less privileged sections of society, a more level playing field. On a macro-scale, it has contributed to emergence of a flat world, where a developing nation like India can compete on a level footing with developed nations.
Technology breaks barriers. We believe it validates the Indian philosophy of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” — the world is one family. This expression reflects our ancient, inclusive traditions. Through technology, we are able to give meaning to this expression, and indeed to the best of democratic values.
We in India, give primacy to the human face of technology, and are using it to improve what I call, “ease of living.” Empowerment through digital access, is an objective that the Government of India is especially committed to. “Digital India” is the world’s largest, technology-led transformative programme which is paving the way for our citizens to avail digital services. We are using mobile power or M-power to empower our citizens. I am sure most of you are already aware of Aadhaar, which is the unique biometric identity of a person. We have used this identity to liberate our people from queues and cumbersome processes. Three factors: first, financial inclusion through our Jan-Dhan bank accounts; second, the Aadhaar platform; and third, the Mobile phone, have greatly helped reduce corruption. We call this the JAM or JAM trinity. Through better targeting of subsidies, the JAM trinity has prevented leakages to the tune of nearly 10 billion dollars so far.
Let me share a few examples of how digital technology is becoming a great facilitator for “ease of living.”
Today, a farmer can access a variety of services, such as soil-testing results, expert advice, and a good price for his produce, at the click of a button. Digital technology is therefore contributing to increased farm incomes.
A small entrepreneur can register on the Government e-Marketplace, and bid competitively for supply of goods to the Government. As he expands his business, he also contributes to lowering the cost of procurement for Government. This leads to increased efficiency, and greater value for public money.
Pensioners no longer need to present themselves in front of a bank officer, to provide proof of life. Today, a pensioner can leverage the Aadhaar biometric platform, to provide this proof with minimal physical effort.
Women form a significant part of the IT workforce. Digital technology has facilitated several new enterprises led by women. In this way the IT sector has contributed towards gender empowerment. Citizens of India are increasingly adopting cashless transactions. For this, we created the Bharat Interface for Money — or BHIM App. This App is helping the movement towards a less cash and corruption free society.
These examples show the power of technology in improving governance. We are using the digital domain to facilitate participative governance, or Jan Bhagidari. When we assumed office in May 2014, many people, particularly youngsters expressed a keen desire to share their ideas and work for the nation. It is our firm belief that there are millions of Indians, whose transformative ideas can go a long way in taking India to new heights.
Therefore, we launched the citizen engagement portal, MyGov. This platform enables citizens to share their thoughts and ideas on important issues. In many key policy areas, we received thousands of valuable suggestions. Many logo and emblem designs for various Government initiatives today, are the result of crowd-sourcing, and competitions on MyGov. In fact, even the official app for the Prime Minister’s Office, is the result of a competition floated on MyGov, which received brilliant responses from youngsters. MyGov is a prime example of how technology strengthens democracy.
Today, we launched the UMANG Mobile App, which will provide over a hundred citizen-centric services. At the back-end, these services will be catered for by many different departments of the Union and State Governments. This integrated approach will add an automatic layer of “peer performance pressure”, in the working of these departments.
Cyberspace remains a key area for innovation. Our start-ups today, are looking to provide solutions to common everyday problems, and improving the lives of people. I am confident that the global investor community, will recognise the immense potential waiting to be tapped from India’s start-up pool. I invite you to invest in this space, and be a part of the unfolding story of Indian start-ups.
The quest for an open and accessible internet often leads to vulnerability. Stories of hacking and defacement of websites are the tip of an iceberg. They suggest that cyber attacks are a significant threat, especially in the democratic world. We need to ensure that vulnerable sections of our society do not fall prey to the evil designs of cyber criminals. Alertness towards cyber-security concerns, should become a way of life.
One of the major focus areas should be the training of well-equipped and capable professionals to counter cyber threats. Cyber-warriors who will remain on the alert against cyber-attacks. The term “hacking” may have acquired an exciting, even if dubious overtone. We need to ensure that cyber protection becomes an attractive and viable career option for the youth.
On a related note, nations must also take responsibility to ensure that the digital space does not become a playground for the dark forces of terrorism and radicalisation. Information sharing and coordination among security agencies is essential to counter the ever-changing threat landscape.
Surely, we can walk the fine balance between privacy and openness on one hand, and national security on the other. Together, we can overcome the differences between global and open systems on one hand, and nation-specific legal requirements on the other.
Edited excerpts from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the Global Conference on Cyber Space 2017, in New Delhi on 23 November