Viewpoint: India's Digital Future

26 JUL,2020 | MEDC


Thanks to Covid-19, work from home has become a reality for most people (especially white collar employees) throughout the country. This paradigm shift is going to necessitate a large scale adoption of digital technologies. In the post-Covid world, the past is going to be a poor indicator of what lies in store for us. A large scale internal migration of the workforce is to be expected following the lockdown, and the government has to ensure that every public service has to be instantly accessible wherever they are. That will call for a massive digital upgradation of the services currently offered to them. In this regard, some progress has been made on the fiscal front. The GST may not be (at least in its current form) an ideal levy, but it has laid the foundation for a large-scale digitization of the entire tax system. Digitization of the healthcare sector is another key area where both the public and private sectors need to move rapidly. Covid-19 has clearly brought out the lacunae in our healthcare systems, and digitization will help to plug many of the infrastructural gaps therein. Education is also an important sphere for promoting digitization. Obviously, when introducing online education we should ensure that the currently prevailing massive socioeconomic disparities do not accentuate further, otherwise we will end up paying a heavy price for it. Digital tools are a great leapfrogging technique, if we know how to use them within a framework of social and distributive justice. There remain many (legitimate) concerns pertaining to the digitization of our economy and they need to be satisfactorily addressed.Indians are large consumers of data, and so we need to make data work for them. However, the idea of sentience assumes centrality here, as past information may have nothing to do with the future in today’s rapidly changing world. People need to understand that and modify their behaviour accordingly. That calls for a transformation in the education system, focusing at the minimum on the achievement of universal literacy and numeracy in the next five years. Once the lockdown gets completely lifted, the majority of Indians should be comfortable using the information superhighway, the building blocks of which have been in the making for at least the past decade. Concurrently, the government must ensure the privacy of individual data. In the industrial sector, Covid-19 is clearly differentiating those who have resilient business models from those who do not. In this context, a carefully calibrated digitization is the strategy most players need to adopt. India’s digital future had to arrive at some point in time, but the pandemic has imposed it upon us sooner than expected.

*Photo Credit: Google


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