India in the Global Digital Economy
My good friend Mr. MJ Akbar, distinguished Minister of State for Foreign Affairs; Minister of Bangladesh, Mr. Shariar Alam; Mr. Yves Leterme, Honorable former Prime Minister of Belgium; my very good friend Member of Lok Sabha, Jay Panda; the very distinguished Foreign Secretary Mr. Jaishankar; ladies and gentlemen.
It is nice to be here in Mumbai today, in this very first Gateway House exchange. India is indeed at the cusp of a big digital revolution. And as the IT Minister of India, I am observing myself a great metamorphosis of India. Let me at the very outset make a mission statement, Indian digital economy in the coming 5 to 7 years is going to become a 1 trillion dollar economy. This includes telecommunication, IT and IT enabled services, electronic manufacturing, digital ecosystem, digital delivery of services, digital payment and e-commerce. I remember our Prime Minister started playing with digital gadgets quite early in his life. And when he was campaigning to be elected as the Prime Minister of India, he coined a very powerful slogan. IT+IT=IT. Which means, India’s Talent plus Information Technology is equal to India Tomorrow. And I never expected that in the ministry he would give me this principle assignment to execute this powerful slogan into a reality.
Ladies and gentleman, what is the digital ecosystem of India today? India is home to 108 billion mobile phones. Out of a population of 1.25 billion we have 108 billion mobile phones. India is home to 1.11 billion Aadhaar verifiable digital identity, all created by India through its own innovation. India is home to 500 million internet – landline and wireless, 350 million smart phones, very soon likely to become 500 million, and the biggest startup ecosystem in India. We are having 4 to 5 new startups everyday. Indian IT companies and IT enabled services companies and operations are present in 200 cities of 80 countries. 75% of the 500 and more fortune companies are serviced by Indian IT enabled companies or IT services companies. E-commerce in India is rising in a phenomenal manner, powered by the aspirations of the rural or hinterland people. I am the Minister for IT and Electronics both. Electronic manufacturing has shown a remarkable result. In the last 2 years we have set up 72 new mobile manufacturing factories in India. 42 mobile and 30 component manufacturing. India is becoming fast, as a good center for mobile manufacturing for the market in India and for export outside, and all the major companies of the world have set up shop here. What is the basic ideological postulate of the digital economy of India? Some of these MJ touched. Number 1, banking the unbanked, Number 2, funding the unfunded, Number 3 securing the unsecured, and number 4, pensioning the unpensioned. In all these fundamental premise, the digital platform is being used in a very very meaningful way. I will develop that one by one.
But what this digital program, under the government of Narendra Modi is about? It is transformative. Digital India, Make in India, Skill India, Startup India, Stand up India, Smart Cities are all digital based programs, working in unison to make an empowered society. What is the second postulate? The second is, digital India is more for the poor, the underprivileged. We wish to bridge the digital divide. And with that end in view, what is the platform we are creating? The platform has three features. Number 1 – technology must be affordable. Number 2 – technology must be innovative. And number 3, technology must be developmental for the deprived and the downtrodden. This is how we are using technology to make India a technologically empowered society.
Technologically affordable. I just talked of Aadhaar. Ladies and gentlemen can you believe, today, 1.11 billion i.e. 111 crore Indians are on Aadhaar. And how much we have spent? Just 2 dollars each. The total authentication and verification being done is 30 million per day. At zero cost. That is the kind of technology we have developed – what we call Aadhaar. It amazed even the World Bank, which has great words of praise. Now, other form of digital products like e-sign, e-visa, e-mandi for agriculture, e-scholarship have been launched. I will briefly outline about them. All these are very simple technology at low cost, designed to make life meaningful.
What is innovation? We have a platform of 200,000 common service centers, which we say ‘digital kiosk’. They are in the rural parts of India, in the hinterland of India, they are delivering digital services. 300 services are being delivered by them in rural India, including some in semi-urban centers. Run by woman, by Dalit woman, underprivileged woman, in the hills, in the inaccessible areas, through a simple dongle technology in the rural parts, they are delivering services and making people enlightened.
How India is changing ladies and gentlemen, I will give you one instance. There are many but I am giving just one. Satumma Devi of Telangana became digitally literate. When I learnt about it, I tweeted to congratulate her, she became famous and TV channels went to take her interview. ‘Who are you? What you have done? The Minister has congratulated.’ She became further known. Then I talked to her. She did not know English or Hindi. She only knew Telugu, her native language. She’s a bidi mazdoor, the lowliest of the low daily worker, not literate at all. I asked her a question, how did you choose to become digitally literate? And the answer that she gave, ladies and gentlemen, is a powerful statement of the changing profile of India. She said, ‘I have a son, who is a plumber in Dubai and I was missing my Grandson. Some of my friends said, if you want to talk to your grandson and see his face, learn to operate the Skype. He will talk and also see his face. And to operate the Skype, I became computer literate.’ This is the new India emerging in the hinterland of India.
The second, many of my friends have come from abroad, is a more fascinating experience. There is a place, Orcha near Jhansi in the Center of India. A lot of old forts are there. A lot of Europeans come there to visit, including Spanish. The Spanish don’t speak that fluent English. An old man was running a souvenir shop, who used to speak broken English. He had a son Hrithik, aged 16 years, he knew the problem, went to google, picked up a smart course on Spanish speaking, started speaking Spanish and word spread there is a little boy who speaks Spanish and the business grew. This new innovative spirit that is happening in the hinterland of India is a remarkable facet of the new quest for technology that Indians are demonstrating. And from there came my own comment: Indians first observe technology then they adopt it, then they start enjoying it, and then they become empowered by it.
Do you know we have added mobile phones in India in the last two years equal to the population of France and Italy? That is the scale on which we work. India is becoming a big center of smart phone, very soon we are going to surpass, we have already surpassed USA, very soon we are likely to surpass even China.
The startup I talked about. What is stand up India? The Prime Minster came with a very powerful mission. Every bank in India must pick up one scheduled caste and scheduled tribe – the deprived section, and fund them to become innovators. The spirit of innovation must also come from the deprived section of society. That is innovative India happening. And all these programs are in a way servicing the UN mission 17-point Sustainable Development Goal. Now just now, MJ talked about JAM. What is JAM? Jandhan Aadhaar Mobile. We opened only 270 million bank accounts in a short span of 1 year and few months and earned a place in the Guinness book of records. Those who were poor, who did not have a bank account, that was the precondition. And the Prime Minister appealed to all the bank people to initiate and the result happened. We linked those Jandhan account to mobile, Aadhaar authenticated, and started giving all digital delivery of services to the poor people; Subsidy for gas, for ration, for payment into the daily casual work in MNREGA, etc, etc. Do you know how much we saved? 84 schemes only, saved 50,000 crores, more than 8 billion dollars in a space of 1 and a half years, which used to be pocketed by middlemen or fictitious person. Digital governance is good governance. Digital delivery is effective delivery. Digital ecosystem is a transparent ecosystem. That’s how we are working about.
Then comes the second question. How do we train the people of India? Yes, digital literacy is important. Till now we have trained about 9 million Indians. This budget we have announced, we will train 60 million Indians more, at government cost, to become digitally literate at a very mission mode programs. And just now digital payment has started which I will talk about now.
The common service center which I mentioned earlier, we use them to train Indians in the quest for digital payment. And the training was not a mere formality. Every person trained has to click an operation recorded that he has been digitally trained. We trained 20 million Indians in a short span of 2 and a half months and about less than a million shopkeepers also in this quest. Now see our innovation in digital payment. The UPI, the Bhim app, the Aadhaar enabled payment. Let me show you something very interesting that we are going to start very soon. What is Aadhaar enabled payment? Let me take out my smart phone. Here is the phone. The shopkeeper must have a phone. The customer need not have a phone. His bank account must be Aadhaar linked. He goes and purchases something from a shopkeeper. He will have his phone and a biometrics will be there. He has to pay and disclose his addhar number and the payment will be recorded on his smart phone. The new innovative technology in digital payment, an innovation that we are going to start very soon. These are all new technologies which we have started. From digital literacy to digital training. And we are also encouraging Indians in a big way by incentive. There is a scheme of 1000 rupees payment per day by a lucky draw who goes for digital payment. This is going to become nearly 10 million rupees in March in a mega draw. Till now we have given this award to nearly 7.5 million Indians who have been successful in the lucky draw, including to many shopkeepers. Therefore, from digital training to digital delivery to financial inclusion to digital payment to digital awareness, all are going in sync. Very briefly, how it is working? We came with e-scholarship, all the major scholarships of India are on e-portal. The fictitious were eliminated. E-mandi. Our farmers, India is a farming society also, we are not having proper market for their products to sell. E-mandi today is linked with more than 75 agriculture markets and by the coming next year we propose to scale it to 500 markets. At a click of a button a farmer can see which is the market where he can get the good price. Therefore the entire digital ecosystem is working in tandem.
Friends, two-three quick points I would like to highlight. And that is what? How can a digital economy empower a comparatively poor society in the quest of a better life, is a classic lesson which we are establishing in India. And I am telling you, I am amazed myself. Some of my friends like MJ and Jay who know me from my earlier days, know that I have been an activist from my student days. Long innings in politics, long innings in the parliament. Have been in charge of many states in India on behalf of my party. But the sheer metamorphosis which I am witnessing in India through the digital spread and the resulting empowerment of Indians is truly remarkable. And that is one story I would like to share. Therefore, in terms of promising digital economy, India is going to become a big, big happening place.
2-3 general points I would like to highlight. The first is, speaking behind this memorable building, in the wake of what happened on 26/11. This has become truly iconic; this particular balcony has become truly iconic when the terror strike happened here – you all know it. Internet is one of the finest creations of human mind, it should not be allowed to be abused by few. That is a very firm view we have taken in India. And therefore, cyber security comes into the center of the digital ecosystem in India. And as our Prime Minister has said, cyber war is akin to a bloodless war. The whole world needs to speak in one voice. We are keenly emphasizing ourselves on reinforcing our security architecture. We are establishing a cyber-coordination center, promoting cyber training, cyber drills, and upgrading our cyber legal architecture. And today, before this international crowd, I would like to highlight that there is a need for coordinated, concerted action in the quest of cyber security initiative. And it’s going to be a good economy also, because cyber security is going to become a central pillar of all operations, not only in India all around the world. Therefore, new innovation, new ideas, new initiatives are needed in which India is going to play a very crucial role along with cooperation of other countries of the world.
What is the other issue I would like to highlight? The other issue is; internet governance. If internet is one of the finest creations of human mind, it should not become the monopoly of few, if internet is the global medium, it must have the linkage with the local. Local ideas, local culture, local views, must blend with the global. That shall be the real relevance of internet. And speaking on behalf of India, we are very firm. Any new imperialism in the internet governance is plain and simple, unacceptable to us. Therefore, we talked of the multi stakeholder model. Because in the rise of the internet, the state, the civil society, the academia, the business community, the industry, all have played a role and all must become equal participants in the management of internet governance. This view, I articulated. The Prime Minister himself gave us direction. And today I am very happy that internet governance multi-stake model has become the order of the day. The second thing which is important is: security, which I mentioned about. If cyber security is important, the state must continue to play a crucial role in management of cyber security because the state’s role is important and will continue to remain important. These are some of the general ideas which we have thought to articulate about India’s initiative in the quest of digital governance, including digital economy.
Ladies and gentlemen, how India is changing, let me tell you a very interesting statistics. We have got e-taal portal in my office in Delhi. Taal means rhythm, e-taal means any digital movement in India is recorded automatically on the e-taal. You purchase a ticket; it will be recorded. You give your income tax digitally; it will be recorded, like this. In the rural hinterland, if any woman is having the digital delivery of services it will be recorded. In 2013, it was 6.6 million per day; in 2014, it was 9.6 million per day; in 2015, it was 18.5 million per day; in 2016, it is 30 million per day. That is the rise which is happening in India as far as digital spread and digital delivery of services is concerned. And if this is the indication, I’m sure by the end of 2017, it will be 50 million per day. That is the larger ecosystem that we are making.
And what is my concluding comments? The concluding comment is, not only to make India a digitally connected society. Not only to make Indian, an IT enabled society, but to make India and Indians an IT empowered society. Because a digitally empowered society is a better society. How India is changing, I will conclude with one example. All the Ministers, MJ, myself, all are on Facebook. All are on Twitter. Sitting with Jaishankar by his side, we are exchanging notes on Twitter about what is happening. Good. The PM said all of you should be available, every time of the day. We take complaints on social media. People interact with us. I used to be the communications minister of India also. I remember, I had just become one week old as a Minister. A complaint came from an Indian living in Australia on my Facebook saying Mr. Minister, I had sent a consignment to my widow mother in Ludhiana, it is more than 2 months ago. You have become a new Minister, can you do something about it? I thought, what to do? I sent a twitter to my district concerned in Punjab: if by tomorrow evening, the consignment is not delivered, action will follow from my office. And lo and behold, by the afternoon itself, the consignment was delivered. This is the way we are using technology; we are using digital platform for good governance. And these examples have been replicated. Our Prime Minister is one of the most followed man, digitally, in the world. All the offices, all the departments are having digital handles, twitter accounts. I’m sure there should be a twitter account of this function tweeting, this is how the entire ecosystem is developing. Making India a truly digitally empowered society, fully accountable and transparent. And we believe in complete freedom of social media. We are very particular about it. Yes, if there are certain issues of national concern, terrorism, communal violence come about, we have to intervene for the sake of the society. But, people can congratulate us, people can suggest to us, people can also abuse us. And we take that sportingly, because that’s what Indian democracy is about. I’m sure, ladies and gentlemen, in the coming years, India’s powerful digital ecosystem surely will become a beacon for the rest of the world. The world is noticing it, they are appreciating it, I’m sure the common people will also replicate it.
Thank you. Namaskaar. Jai Hind.
Hon’ble Ravi Shankar Prasad is the Minister of Law & Justice and Minister of Electronics & Information Technology at the Government of India.
This speech was delivered as the Inaugural Keynote II at The Gateway of India Geoeconomic Dialogue 2017, held in Mumbai on the 13-14th of February 2017.
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