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India 2.0: A System Upgrade

Can we have an India 2.0 soon? Will we get a system upgrade?

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Digital Transformation

India is evolving fast. When we try to gauge what needs to be done to expedite India’s growth, what comes to mind foremost is automating and digitizing systems. Information technology has to be made a tool to store and access data, which can be vital for fast running of civil systems and almost everything else in the country. 

We have 25 High Courts in India and a Supreme Court, which are computerized. However, the 672 odd district courts and lower courts have bleak access to civil and criminal records of plaintiffs and defendants who come to their courts daily. There are papers piled up and kept accumulated instead of computer screens. These screens need to be in each court room. Police stations in cities and towns are beginning to reach a very basic level of automation but this effort has to be scaled up as well as advanced and reach each and every one, and mobile units. UIDAI and passport services have biometric data., which should be used in a higher proportion for crime solving. Crime is where attention is the least, and attention is where power and money is the most, in big cities. Digitalization has to spread to the interiors. 

This investment in digital India’s future, a land of IT companies, can be fruitful for not just a safe and fair environment for its citizens, but also foreign visitors who will feel safe visiting the interiors and doing business with India. Faster judiciary is possible within this scheme of things too. Along with this, a permanent criminal record would be a deterrent for people to breach the law in the country. If India is a country where you are held accountable for your actions, we will see civility increase and be an important destination on the map.

Foreign companies working with Indian partners could find a strong judicial and law enforcement as an attraction to do business with Indians, in India. If there were online complaint websites and phone numbers for international crime reporting by Indians, there would definitely be a sense of security for our partners. 

We have to make the ride just for everyone who wants to experience India, natives and non-natives, and for that we have to make our system watertight at the lower level, against corruption. Accepting customs duty, traffic fines and other duties at all contact points between citizens and officers could be via credit card, debit card or online payment. This loophole loses the government high amounts of revenue as money is pocketed by corrupt officers. Who will trust India if its law enforcement is mucky? Automation could be a solution. 

Already, we see that a large degree of connectivity has surfaced between bank accounts, phone connections, passport and other government services to AADHAR number. While providing this kind of automation to authorities in villages and towns, requires hardcore training, it also requires a certain amount of awareness on integrity and the value of the power bestowed upon them. We need to put law above everything else and there should be no pilferage. Data is important but so is people’s privacy. While it is the job of the State to provide law enforcement and justice, people should not be in a surveillance state, a situation that can potentially spoil the ecosystem of the country and cripple its fabric. 

A large amount of technification has to happen with interfaces online for public use. Today’s era demands fact and track record check. If our passport’s strength has to increase, we need to hold outlaws accountable. Countries need to know that they are accepting safe visitors. We see visa free travel for European Union (EU) and USA passport holders and various other passports fall undern safe category to be accepted for such bilateral treaties. Our passport could potentially be very strong if our criminal justice system is strong.

Another thing we need with the help of digitization is stronger statistics, i.e., facts and figures. If the government, research institutes, companies, media and the public have adequate data which is updated regularly, there could be immense amount of planning and implementation possible in shorter time than usual. Facts like literacy rate, health facts, income statistics demographical statistics, state and region wise data, if it is made available online to data miners, our research and in-house strength to grow would increase exponentially. Statistical figures have to be made publicly available.

If India has to make its mark in research and development, government has to help create a framework for data accumulation. The way Indian government has fought COVID-19 has been commendable. An excellent example of data dissemination is the kind of detailing available with USA. They know the population of each of their town and precinct., and their demographics. 

Collection of statistical figures and automation go hand in hand. However, apropos reporting and dissemination of facts and figures is important too. A large amount of pan India projects, both by government, and private sector are possible if large amounts of Indian data goes online. That would attract researchers to take a look at our country, and come up with possible solutions. Indian universities will gain too. Information is key.

Small companies are building their presence online, but the really small one’s haven’t understood the importance of search engines. While we have the occasional phone number, there could be a larger pool in most geographical interiors. People today have access to data telephony.

Integrated e-commerce platforms help but advantages of their benefits are not known to these small businesses. Internet is a great platform to reach out to global markets.  It is easy to search for any product or service providers in interiors of many countries, India is not yet one of them. Population of internet users in India is well over 600 million, and is expected to rise to 1 billion by 2025. This makes India the second largest online marketplace. With the advent of mobile internet, this penetration can grow at an even faster rate. India is at 40% internet penetration and USA at 88%, and China 61%. This void filled could lead to a large amount of GDP rise required to reach to a high GDP and GDP per capita figure.

If India doesn’t take the leap towards this system upgradation, and modernize its civil systems, we will not go far. Internet is the ultimate destination today. In growth, speed is key, and we are currently slow due to being stuck on paper and pen, and not internet. We are in an age where agreements are drafted in forms of handwritten letters, in interest of speed, and our courts can’t clear cases for years, but that is a judicial fallacy. Why will a foreign company set shop here? We need international arbitration level court systems which run with the help of video conferencing and have centers in major jurisdictions India deals with. Levels have to go up with automation.

We have to make India a safe economy for foreign investors, people who know that the system will deliver them quick justice if they put their money in India and they run into problems. They need to know that local companies would bribe their way through authorities. All this is avoidable if we have a computerized system and a strong online presence of legal options, and a safety net which assures them safety from fraud. 

I would love to see villagers know their nearest court and access it online. Likewise, police stations, hospitals, income tax office and so on. We need to make legal information available for people to follow rules, as we have a large percentage of the population unaware of laws and their legal options. We also need to create a fear of breaking the law, which doesn’t exist, as the bribing option is not going. Automation holds the key to the future. 

Telemedicine, automated trash collection system, digitized and accurate weather bureau and so many other things come up with technology, which we need to think about. Education in science and computers at all levels are important as the world is reaching the next interface, artificial intelligence(AI), where we will compete with the best countries in the world. Can we have an India 2.0 soon? Will we get a system upgrade?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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India 2.0 digitalisation

Vaibhav Maloo

The author is Managing Director of Enso Group. He resides in Mumbai. He holds an undergraduate degree in business from Carnegie Mellon University and a postgraduate diploma in global business from Oxford University.

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