(By Subrata Das and Paroma Sen of SAP)
Indian governments have historically been focused on incremental milestone driven funded programs, designed to achieve a set of outcomes in five or ten year horizons. The opposite approach – that of defining an ideal vision and then mapping the gaps to existing plans – doesn’t happen equally often. Our cultural cynicism usually prevents us from defining such an ideal vision, and if defined by somebody else, curbs us from fully believing that such a future is even possible.
Meanwhile, there continues to be value in painting an ideal citizen-centric model of a digital state. Such a state would have the following defining principles:
– Responsive: The biggest complaint against government interfaces to citizens is that of lack of responsiveness. Citizens reach out to government entities only in terms of great need or desperation, and at these critical times the perceived lack of support can be debilitating. A responsive state is therefore an essential ingredient.
– Inclusive: In a secular nation like India, inclusiveness is a must-have. Recent Supreme Court legislations against key divisive and historic laws is leading the way to an India based on modern thought and equality.
– Personalized and Simple: Citizen interfaces to government should be through a single platform of communication, avoiding unnecessary complexity of use.
– Frictionless: Increased transparency and communication, proactive handling of avoidable delays, and a desire to achieve a seamless citizen experience makes for a frictionless government.
– Outcome-based: A government focused on delivering outcomes of increasing economic growth, bottom-of-pyramid specific metrics, controlled inflation, and employment for the employable, would be a last important ingredient in defining a model digital state.
Now that we have defined what a model digital state would look like, let’s explore the key areas that need reinforcement for India to create a roadmap to the vision.
1. Health and Education – Good quality and free public education, as well as affordable healthcare are essential pillars of a model digital state. A modern country, irrespective of rate of growth, rarely qualifies as a developed and model country, unless health and education are addressed satisfactorily. Provision of modernized programs around these pillars and digital delivery and effectiveness tracking are essential.
2. Energy – Smarter use of energy and optimized consumption, coupled with a gradual de-reliance on fossil fuels will spell a smarter future for India.
3. Public Safety – Stronger enforcement, modernization of enforcement organizations, and use of technology to identify and prevent crime and disaster, are essential hallmarks of a model digital state.
4. Water and Waste Management – Along with energy, water is an essential resource that is in short supply. Sewage treatment and waste management are becoming larger issues as the urban population increases and conventional processes struggle to maintain pace.
5. Transportation – Provision of modern transportation options for a seamless end-to-end journey, hassle-free ticketing, and other conveniences including food and beverage are required in a model digital state. There is also the added expectation of public safety, including up-to-date maintenance and inspection.
6. Agriculture and Rural Development – With a vast percentage of India’s population living in rural areas, a model digital state will be successful only with adequate development of rural communities, with focus on social inclusion, agriculture, and integrating health and education programs for the development of the rural populace.
To conclude, a model digital state in India is not unachievable – but one needs to dare to dream first. Subsequently, a wealth of technology is available to harness to create a road-map and walk toward the ideal.