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India has made its mark in global IT industry. But at home, connectivity and delivery of citizen services still remain an issue. Policy changes are critical for next level of digital reforms, suggests
Ram Sewak Sharma

There are many parameters of financial inclusion; most important among them is the access to financial services and institutional credit. Now we have technology that enables financial inclusion, especially its first step – that is opening of bank accounts at a massive scale. We should not let this opportunity go waste as I have seen that when a villager earns as low as ₹50 a day, he at least saves ₹5 as he scrimps something for future. Savings may be low, but there is huge potential of voluminous business in financial inclusion.

Ministry of finance had also mandated in 2012 that for service delivery to flagship schemes, the banks will get 2 per cent extra commission. This is an incentive, which must be leveraged. Unless we go down to the grassroots level, the goal of inclusion will be tough to achieve.

The National e-governance Plan (NeGP) was launched in 2006 and it was the first institutional platform which over a period of time has managed to unleash inclusive growth whereby a common man does not need to go to block or district office or secretariat to ask for public services. Rapid changes in technology have posed a new challenge to take these programmes at newer heights. Cloud is replacing data centres and client server technologies. Mobiles, tablets and other communication devices have changed the mode of connectivity and delivery mediums.

The best way to exploit this potential is to unbundle the entire thing, commoditise it and make it interoperable. So, a person doesn’t even need to any longer bother, in which bank branch he is holding an account. He just goes to any branch, authenticates himself and does banking. Essentially with the mission mode projects, we are evaluating each one of them and seeing as to where are the opportunities to upgrade the technology so that we will be able to leverage from the state-of-the-art.

Aadhaar is one such platform and payment gateway is another. Together, these allow convenience in paying utility bills and receive citizen services from the government. Such gateways like payments, SMS etc can be integrated as a platform into these mission mode projects.

Further, there are many areas, which are not part of mission mode projects and where the projects are being implemented by the state governments. For example, prison and registration are not under mission mode. So, a large number of activities are being undertaken by the states on their own. But the case is not uniform with the states. We need to bring everything on a single platform that will offer the hassle-free solutions. This will require heavy reconfiguration to make the applications relevant and universally usable. There is no other option.

What we are trying to do is to upgrade e-Taal to a new kind of system where we will also have a complete overview of services and also about how are they being delivered. This will allow us to run analytics to help fine-tune our programmes to deliver better.

National Rural Internet Mission, which is in the manifesto of the new government at centre, supported with National Optical Fiber Network – will redefine the prospects for rural India. The massive investment in the connectivity infrastructure would be needed for that to avoid the hurdles NeGP 1.0 faced for connectivity. National Knowledge Network (NKN), State Wide Area Network (SWAN), NICNET – all these should be interconnected to create a robust backbone. This will ensure our reach to the last mile in a reliable manner.

One of the crucial issues of inclusion is skill development and employment. The NeGP and IT enabled services have contributed very significantly in this direction. I think one area where we need to put a lot of emphasis is domestic electronic manufacturing. It is estimated that by 2020, the total import of electronic products in our country will be over $400 billion. That means it will exceed even the oil imports. This is because of the world trade agreement and ITA agreements, which offer duty-free manufacturing of IT products beyond the national boundaries.

We do all the work but the IPR belongs to the US – this must change. There is need to create an ecosystem that is conducive for innovation and entrepreneurship. There is no running away from a participative model of development that involves all the stakeholders.

Ram Sewak Sharma is Secretary,
Department of Electronics and IT, MoCIT

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Feedback - Inclusion:
Effective Leadership Is The Answer

The article by Mr Tarapore on the 'Financial problems of MSMEs' is an excellent piece, a well researched one.  RBI, SIDBI et al should look at the issues flagged by the author and see that the MSME sector gets better deal. As he has mentioned it is more a 'glamour' in lending to larger units than MSMEs. See the way every banker has walked in to lend to King Fisher Airlines which has left a huge NPA of over Rs.7000 crore with very little hope of recovering it from the owners. Recently, the newspaper report mentions that the CBI when approached the SBI, the consortium banker to provide certain information on KFA, the latter had refused to do so. The RBI has also not taken any forensic study to see if any complicity in financing such large units. It is sad its own representatives are on the Boards of these banks which have lent huge loans to KFA and others. It is sad to see that Mr Mallaya is happily watching the IPL matches cheer-leading his cricket team while 1000s of KFA employees are in the lurch without any pay for months on. Will RBI listen to the cries of common man? 
Dr S Santhanam PhD(Eco), CAIIB General Manager (Retd), NABARD & Consultant - Development Finance Pune

Feedback - Inclusion:
Ideas for Growth, October-December 2013

I appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister, Goa

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