Three Years Of Modi Govt: Rising Up In The World
There is still a lot of work to be done before India is fully digitally empowered, but it’s on the right path
Prime minister Narendra Modi has clearly scored a distinction as far as information technology (IT) is concerned. None of his predecessors can boast of as many IT initiatives as he has taken, which makes him arguably the most digitally savvy PM India has ever seen. Last November, he announced the biggest reform with his demonetisation exercise, withdrawing existing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes from public use, in a bid to clamp down on black money, fake currency, terror funding and corruption.
Though the step may have appeared abrupt to the public, for Modi, it was a calculated and well-thought-out plan, in line with his Digital India mission announced in July 2015 as well as Startup India in August 2015. These initiatives are unlike most political policies that are forgotten soon after announcement. True to his goal to boost the startup ecosystem in India, Modi even unveiled a historic Startup Action Plan with a detailed execution strategy in January 2016.
As part of the plan, he introduced a compliance regime based on self certification to reduce regulatory burden on startups; a startup India hub to act as a single point of contact; and simplified the process of registering a startup through a mobile app and online portal. The plan allowed startups 80 per cent rebate on filing patent applications and profits were exempted from income tax for a period of three years for those set up after 1 April 2016.
Last year, the Modi government also announced master app UMANG (Unified Mobile App for New-age Governance), which is likely to integrate 200 public services including passport services, income tax, e-Post, women safety and more.
Global software companies based in India are joining hands with the government to be part of the Digital India mission. This March, search giant Google and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) announced a ‘Digital Payment Security Alliance’ initiative to enable safe and secure digital payments and impart digital skills to artisans and Android skills to students and developers. As part of this initiative, banks, fintech companies, and the government will work together to create awareness as users adopt digital and mobile payments.
Says Rajan Anandan, vice-president of Google South East Asia and India, “We are delighted to support Modi’s vision of creating a ‘New India’ where technology unleashes a wave of new opportunities. We are committed to and look forward to working with MEITY to help every Indian leverage the power of the Internet.”
Last year, Oracle’s global CEO Safra Catz announced an investment of $400 million for expansion of the company’s operations in Bengaluru. Oracle’s commitment towards India has heightened than ever before. It is even launching its flagship event Oracle OpenWorld in the capital this year.
In what comes as a testimony to the speed and efficiency of the Modi government, LinkedIn India head Akshay Kothari recently said his company struck the “fastest partnership” with it. In a post on LinkedIn, he said, “I’ve done deals with other companies, including content syndication deals with news publishers and app preload deals with phone manufacturers. None of them moved as quickly as the Indian government. Truth be told, I couldn’t have even dreamed of saying something like this a few years ago.”
Miles To Go
While one has to applaud the Modi government for all the digital initiatives, there are areas where it under delivered. Arvind Thakur, CEO and joint managing director of NIIT Technologies, says, “The scheme to create a National Optical Fibre Network to provide 2.5 lakh gram panchayats with broadband connectivity was conceived in 2011, and originally estimated to be completed by 2013. But later, timelines were revised to 2015 by the UPA government…PM Modi reviewed the progress and set a deadline to complete by end of 2016. At the end of this period, less than 30 per cent of the gram panchayats were covered. Reports suggest that even pilot locations are not fully functional. With demonetisation taking the limelight towards the end of the revised timeline, fresh targets or revised time lines are yet unknown.”
Demonetisation has also affected jobs across several cash-intensive sectors. One of the largest employers in India, the IT industry has been struggling to maintain margins amid a difficult business environment and automation. It has been forced to trim its workforce significantly. The recent tightening of the H1B visa norms under US President Donald Trump has put further pressure on Indian IT companies to hire more US nationals and cut employment locally. Now it’s on Modi to handle these issues and generate more jobs in India as promised during the elections.
While a lot more remains to be done, it’s true that India has never been as digitally-enabled as it is under the Modi government today. Modi has laid down some really notable policies for the IT industry, especially startups. However, the proof of the pudding lies in how these are implemented and put to practice.
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