Modi’s plan to boost the digitisation of the economy is taking shape, with the government setting up a Digital India Task Force to help shape its strategy and identify areas that could benefit.
A team of experts has been appointed by the Prime Minister’s Office to examine the need for digitalisation and ensure that it is not a barrier to the growth of the country.
The team includes former Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft Rahul Nanda, former Chief Scientist at IBM Arun Srinivasan and digital technology experts who have been working with the prime minister.
“We have set up a team of digital experts to look at what the digital economy looks like in India, where the challenges lie,” said Nanda.
“This will include the potential of the digital infrastructure, as well as how we can build digital apps that can be used by millions of people.
We have to think big, and be bold.”
The Prime Minister has put forward a number of ideas to make India the digital leader in the world, from a ban on telecasting TV ads to creating an ‘internet of things’ that connects all devices, such as smart phones and cars.
Digital technology will also play a crucial role in the country’s infrastructure, said Nandan, whose team will work to ensure that all parts of the infrastructure are digital.
The task force will be led by Rajiv Bhushan, who headed the Digital India initiative.
Nanda told Vice News that India has “a great opportunity” to be the digital hub of the world in the next five to 10 years.
“India is a very different country than the US.
The US is more a ‘gig economy’, and that’s what India is, a micro-economy, a small economy.
The reason why India is the digital frontier is because of the nature of the government,” said Bhushans team.
“In India, the government is a giant, a very big government.
It’s a very large, and very powerful government.
So, you need a very clear vision of how we are going to run our economy.”
A key area in the digital revolution is healthcare, which is a major concern for Modi as he tries to woo the growing middle class, as it makes up 40 per cent of India’s population.
In recent months, the Prime Minster has launched a series of initiatives, including an online platform for the government to connect with patients, a digital education portal, a portal for people to find jobs and information about employment opportunities, and a portal that gives patients the option to use their health data to build their own healthcare apps.
“The healthcare space is a huge opportunity for India, because the healthcare sector is a large opportunity,” said Amit Gokhale, senior vice president and chief executive of healthcare services company ConnectHealth.
“It’s a massive opportunity.
We think India is in a great place to be able to be a digital leader, because of its infrastructure.
So it’s the right place for us to be.”
While healthcare is a key area of focus for Modi, it will take some time for the country to fully embrace digital technology, said Bhashan.
“India will take a few years to fully harness the digital possibilities,” he said.
“I think we will see a huge transformation, and we will be able [to] transform the healthcare infrastructure,” he added.
“I think you can see that in the coming five to ten years, India will be the most digitally-savvy country in the whole world.”
India is already moving forward with some big changes to its healthcare infrastructure.
A number of healthcare apps are now available on the platform, including one that helps patients to find medical services and to make appointments.
In August, the Government of India announced a plan to create a digital portal that will help healthcare providers connect with their patients and provide them with information about the quality of healthcare provided.
And in December, the Indian government announced a $5 billion funding plan to develop healthcare infrastructure in the form of a digital health hub.
In addition, a large number of hospitals in India have already opened their own websites, and some have launched new mobile apps that allow patients to schedule appointments and get health information.
Digital infrastructure will also be critical to the Indian economy, said Gokhe, as India has the third largest digital market in the region behind China and Vietnam.
“Digital economy is an important part of our economic growth,” he told Vice.
“We need to make sure we build digital infrastructure.
We need to be very clear on where we are in terms of digital infrastructure.”
The digital economy is the new economic engine, but the challenge lies in ensuring that it’s not a roadblock to the economic growth of India.
“The digital infrastructure is going to be one of the most important levers that we have,” said Gakhe.
“But it is going at a very slow pace.
We are still at a stage where the economy as a whole is still recovering, and this will take time.”