Monday, October 26, 2015

Digital India Needs Correction

Stalled in mid stride: Digital India can transform the country, but not the way it is being implemented now

Among the flurry of initiatives announced in the wake of the new government taking over in May 2014, the Digital India initiative stood out – for its potential to transform governance, citizenship and entrepreneurship in our country. It’s an exciting vision because of its potential to leapfrog a nation and people into the technology age – creating unprecedented competitive advantages for India. It’s also exciting because of the promise to transform utterly decrepit institutions of government and democracy – fulfilling the “minimum government, maximum governance” goal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
But a year and half on, the gap between vision and execution on the ground is wide and growing. Serious questions are popping up on the capacity of the ministry and regulator to both understand and implement Digital India.
From the get go, it was obvious that Digital India and connecting Indians to the internet – transformational as it was going to be – needed serious work. It has taken about $100 billion of investment over the last 21 years to get 900 million Indians behind a mobile phone. In recent years about 200 million Indians have also connected to the internet. An estimated $80 billion is required to get 600 million Indians connected to the internet. Early on in this government’s term, i had written to government and in articles about the key building block issues that need to be addressed.
At the heart of it is credible independent regulation. India’s Trai is an agency that has suffered from serious credibility problems both in terms of quality of its regulation and perceived capture by some telcos. Its handling of issues like call drops and net neutrality has been simply terrible, raising more questions than it answered.
Trai’s capacity needs to be strengthened to regulate a sector where disruptive technologies are the norm and where consumers expect unfettered access to these new innovations, without being limited by legacy licensing or business model issues.
Focus on rights of a billion Indians destined to become digital Indians is important because consumer rights in the technology and telecom space have been given short shrift over the last decade. An infamous example is poor network quality and call drops – an issue only being handled belatedly after public outcry.
On call drops, government has demonstrated the will to break the vicelike hold of a few telcos that have in recent years controlled policy making unchallenged. That this must be balanced with the need to attract $80 billion in capital into the sector is what makes Trai’s and government’s job a sophisticated and nuanced one.
There are other building blocks that are critical to creating the policy ecosystem for Digital India – net neutrality, privacy, data protection, encryption, access and infrastructure investments. Net neutrality is an issue that arrived at the table of policy makers almost 12 months ago and remains without policy clarity to date. A report by an expert committee of government showed how far away government is from where it should be. Public outcry caused an abrupt disavowal of the report.
Net neutrality is a very simple concept – it is about creating an internet that is open, accessible and free of any gatekeepers. It is an element of Digital India that should be simple to define, legislate and regulate. It’s critical in many ways to growth of Digital India, to investments, to supporting digital entrepreneurship and creating a smooth roadmap to future innovations around the Internet of Things and Industrial Internet. Net neutrality is a defining issue for the growth of internet in our country. Government’s much delayed policy making in this area is a big deal, hurting the future of Digital India.
Privacy is yet another issue where government is behind the curve. One of the implications of Digital India is that millions of Indians will have their data and personal information in various government and private databases scattered around the country and overseas. This raises serious issues relating to privacy rights of the consumer. But government’s position in the Aadhaar case is that privacy isn’t a necessary right. I am also a petitioner in this case, now being heard in the Supreme Court.
Absence of privacy legislation is also causing government missteps like the bizarre encryption policy it issued recently, which had to be taken back amidst public furore. The debate on privacy is gaining strength and momentum globally as well. As more and more Indians get online, the clamour for protection of their data and privacy will only grow. It would be unwise to ignore this.
Finally and most importantly Digital India requires significant investments from the private sector. While there is significant global interest amongst investors in Digital India, government responses in recent times to net neutrality, the porn ban saga and encryption policy highlight the large gap between the vision of Digital India and its execution.
To make real the Digital India vision and of taking government and services to a billion Indians via the internet, Trai, DoT and DeitY have to be transformed with the specialised capacity required to deal with technology policy making and regulation. Government needs to reverse its current struggling and muddling through trial and error; it must race ahead of the curve through smart policy and leadership.
The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP and technology entrepreneur
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Modi And - Good Governance- And Modi

                            Modi And Good Governance 
                               Good Governance And Modi

       Good intentions bring desired results. New government under PM Modi voted to power for giving good governance. Public posed their faith in Modi and gave him mandate. PM Modi has proved his well intends. Public belief in Modi is still intact. They are hopeful that promises made in elections for ‘Achhe Din’ (AD) will be a reality sooner than later.
        PM Modi believes in minimum government and maximum governance. It shows his inclination, intention and commitment for providing good governance in letter and spirit. His orientation towards and practice for good governance as Gujrat CM is foundation for public to put their  faith in him for providing it at national level. As a result, Indian voters mandated him and gave  chance to repeat his practice at national forum. 
       The first stage of AD is completed now. The required environment for bringing AD is prepared by now. But, PM Modi needs a path correction and change in focus to convert his ideas and plans into ground reality. Otherwise public is in no mood to wait for long as already one and half year has been given to him to show his performance. 
       The start of anything decides its end. The outset of Modi government is upto the mark. He planned well. His team launched many programs, schemes, and projects meticulously. Make in India, Digital India and skill India are some acts to prove the point. 
      JAM( Jan-Dhan, Adhar, Mobile) is an effort to reach the masses with the help of technology. It helps to reach the right person to provide them social benefits meant for them without leakage.  DBT (Direct-Benefit-Transfer) is tried successfully to transfer gas subsidy directly into the account of beneficiaries. Still a lot has to be done. Lack of adequate banking facilities in rural areas are big hurdles.
      PM Modi’s planning part is ok except some exceptions. India being an agrarian country, Agriculture sector and farmers need more attention. Our farmers are backbone for our country. But, by now, they are not given any such thing to make them happy and to make them feel a change due to change in power at Delhi. This is a big lack on governance part.
       Modi has changed the gloomy environment into a positive one. He made India more visible worldwide by well organised frequent foreign tours. He marketed the might and strength of India to attract the countries' attentions towards it. Developed countries are looking at us as future power center on world map. The United Nations is considering seriously our claim for permanent seat in Security Council. All such positive changes are due to hectic and tireless efforts of PM Modi.
       Now there is a question and we need to find its answer. Is public satisfied with acts and outcomes of new government? Its answer is 75% yes while 25% no. But no answer will increase if course of correction in not taken immediately.
      Modi has to shift his focus. Plan-Prepare-Perform is a three step formula to achieve the desired results. His Plan and Prepare part is over now. He must change and fix up his efforts on third part to Perform. The share of Plan and Prepare is 20% each. Rest 60% is for Perform of three-steps result-oriented process.
       Perform is the most difficult part. It is hard and tense part of three stages. This third stage is like appearing in exam in a tight time bound framework. Public has full faith in Modi’s ability and capabilities to perform.
       Government performs through its ministries by producing different public goods and social products. To get desired results, ministries’ progress and performance be evaluated on monthly basis on different outcomes to achieve timely and quality results on ground otherwise it would be on paper.
       If ministries are forced to appear in monthly test, they are bound to perform. A tight and scientific monthly monitoring mechanism -test-will compel the minister and bubus to give desired outcomes otherwise they have to go as consequences.
       Therefore, it is imperative for PM Modi to stare his focus on third step that is how to Perform by rigorous monitoring. If it is done, it will lead him to fulfil the promises  made during elections for bringing AD by converting ideas on paper into a ground reality.
      Pubic waited patiently for one and half year while he was busy in planning, preparing and making conducive envirnoment. Now any delay in performance will make them impatient and their faith will come down sharply. So, PM has to walk the talk via rigorous monthly monitoring system to live up to the expectations of the public as he promised.
       No doubt, performance is not  an easy task. But,  a well planned frequent monitoring of works will fetch desired results. It will force non-performing bubus to act upon as needed. Experiences teach us, it is the monitoring part where we lack grossly. As a result, our plan and preparation are not converted into desired results.
       A system and mechanism must be placed for result oriented monitoring. This is need of hour. The system should have IIM graduates and world class institutions’ pass outs bright managers in key positions with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.             
        Now, Babus  are monitoring babus. Examnees and examiners are same. Such system will survise at the cost of efficiency and effectiveness. But, it will not procudce required social products to fullfil poll promises. Hence, this needs a change. Our professional managers monitor our babus in order to get the desired results on ground.