DC Edit | Tech is great leveller, take it to the masses
DECCAN CHRONICLE | DC Correspondent
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assertion that India of the 21st century is constantly empowering its citizens with the use of technology and the government is ensuring that the benefits of digital revolution reach every section of society in fact reflects a challenge and an opportunity.
It is a fact that that India spent the decades immediately after its Independence trying to create the basic infrastructure need for a nation that was under exploitative foreign rule for more than two centuries to offer its people hope for the future. They included heavy investments in education and science and technology. Development was a costly affair and every rupee counted in those years. We as a nation just survived the time. By the time technology, especially digital technology, finally arrived, India was ready to welcome it.
The new challenge is, as Mr Modi said, to make sure that benefits of the digital revolution reach every section of society. Mr Modi, the other day, mentioned about how the e-Sanjivani app has proved to be a godsend to the people in villages in terms of accessing healthcare. The introduction of the one-nation-one-ration-card which made the lives of people, especially at the lowest strata, a lot easier than earlier, Jan Dhan accounts, Arogya Setu, the CoWin App, railway reservations and common service centres are some of the changes technology has effected in the lives of the people. Mr Modi also explained how technology has enabled and empowered small businesses across India and how it made dealing with the government departments a transparent affair. He expects the introduction of 5G and AI will have a great impact on industry, medicine, education and agriculture.
We cannot, however, run away from the facts on the ground. The reach of technology and its absence — the digital divide as it is called — were clearly manifested when the government rolled out universal vaccinations for the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021. It was found that only 23 per cent of the households in the urban and four per cent in rural areas have a computer and Internet connectivity. The Supreme Court was constrained to note that the "marginalised sections of society will bear the brunt of this digital divide and it will have serious implications on the fundamental right to equality".
The opportunity lies in the fact that technology is a great leveller. Facilities which were available only to the rich are now available to the poor for the asking. Rightly used, it can cut cost on development and make the process fast and transparent.
The challenge will be the willingness on the part of the government to address these issues. That the Prime Minister has said that the government is investing heavily in technology and creating modern digital infrastructure points to the fact that the government is mindful of the issues on hand and the changes needed. Technology will prove to be a very effective tool if we target transforming ourselves into a developed nation by 2047. A committed, well-structured and result-oriented approach, coupled with an optimistic outlook, could do the job.