Pitching his pet Digital India initiative with the titans of the IT world, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday promised to make governance more accountable and transparent while assuring data privacy and security. Speaking before a gathering of Silicon Valley CEOs, Modi announced plans to create more public Wi-Fi spots including at 500 railway stations across India and an aggressive expansion of the National Optical Fibre Network to take broadband to 6,00,000 villages.
"As our economy and our lives get more wired, we are also giving the highest importance to data privacy and security, intellectual property rights and cyber security", he said at a dinner interaction attended among others by Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayan, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Qualcomm executive chairman Paul Jacobs and Google CEO Sunder Pichai.
"We will transform governance, making it more transparent, accountable, accessible and participative, Modi said, adding that E-Governance is foundation of better governance efficient, economical and effective. In a nation of one billion cell phones, M-Governance or mobile governance has the potential to make development a truly inclusive and comprehensive mass movement. It puts governance within everyone's reach", he said.
Modi said Digital India was born out of conviction that it was possible to rapidly transform the lives of people on margins and touch the lives of the weakest, farthest and the poorest citizen of India as also change the way our nation will live and work.
"We will connect all schools and colleges with broadband. Building I-ways are as important as highways", he said.
"We are expanding our public Wi-Fi hotspots. For example, we want to ensure that free Wi-Fi is not only there in airport lounges, but also on our railway platforms. Teaming up with Google, we will cover 500 railway stations in a short time", he said.
The government, he said, wants to free citizens from the burden of excessive paper documents in every office. "We want paperless transactions. We will set up a digital locker for every citizen to store personal documents that can be shared across departments", he said. "Setting up of Ebiz portal has made approvals for businesses and citizens easy and efficient, technology is being used to impart scale and speed to development", he said.
Calling for bridging the digital divide and promote digital literacy, Modi said in the same way that we seek to ensure general literacy, technology must be accessible, affordable and value adding.
Modi said that by using space technology and internet, 170 applications have been identified that will make governance better and development faster.
"Today, technology is advancing citizen empowerment and democracy that once drew their strength from Constitutions. Technology is forcing governments to deal with massive volume of data and generate responses, not in 24 hours but in 24 minutes", Modi said.
"To achieve the vision of Digital India, the government must also start thinking a bit like corporate world", he said. So, from creating infrastructure to services, from manufacture of products to human resource development, from support governments to enabling citizens and promoting digital literacy,
"Digital India is a vast cyber world of opportunities for you", he said. Also Common Service Centres will be set up in villages and towns as also use information technology to build smart cities. We want to turn our villages into smart economic hubs and connect our farmers better to markets and makes them less vulnerable to the whims of weather", he said.
Stating that access means content being made available in local languages, he said that affordability of products and services is critical for success. "We will promote manufacture of quality and affordable products in India. That is part of our vision of Make in India, Digital India and Design in India", he said.
"Since my government came to office last year, we have attacked poverty by using the power of networks and mobile phones to launch a new era of empowerment and inclusion: 180 million new bank accounts in a few months; direct transfer of benefits to the poor; funds for the unbanked; insurance within the reach of the poorest; and, pension for the sunset years for all", he said.
Stating that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the neighbourhoods of the new world, he said if Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populous one and the most connected.
"Google today has made teachers less awe-inspiring and grandparents more idle. Twitter has turned everyone into a reporter. The traffic lights that need to work the best are on CISCO routers", he said.
"Technology is helping a mother in a distant hill village save her new born infant and giving a child in a remote village better access to education", he added.
"A small farmer is more confident about his land holding and getting better market price. A fisherman on the sea has a better catch. And, a young professional in San Francisco can Skype daily to comfort her sick grandmother in India", Modi added.
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