Just the other day, while scrolling through my newsfeed what cracked me up was a real epic post from the official facebook page of the Assam Police. It was humorous yet a solid warning to some anti-social elements. Forever in my life, I have seen people intimidated by men in uniform as these men are often portrayed as rough, angry and stern or maybe because they have a lathi or gun or handcuffs with them. Jokes apart, going through the facebook page made me realize that they can be actually very much approachable and with their online portal at times very easily approachable too. This led me to think about the enormous potential that digitization is. In 1991 when the World Wide Web went into the world, the world actually had no idea where this new technology would take us. Now three decades later it has become almost impossible to visualize a world without the internet. It has connected the world in unimaginable ways and has made communication with any part of the world seem like a child’s play.
In our small state of Assam where the pace of development seems to be a step behind not only from the rest of the world but the rest of the country too, it is good to see so many online government facilities to make the life of the common man easier. In today’s ever busy world it is a relief that instead of wasting one whole day queuing up in some government office to get a particular work done, one can get it done in a few minutes from anywhere just by having access to a smartphone and internet.
If we look around we can see that technology is in the air, water, food, education, business, office, electricity, marketing, data storage, communication, cars, parking, traveling, foods, shopping, and banks, etc. It’s almost everywhere and in everything that is involved in our daily life. Sitting in a small work-cabin in a small town of Assam, while writing this, as I look at the people surrounding me, I see someone connecting with a dear one over the phone, someone talking about a business deal while the other person is in some other remote corner of the country, someone filling up some application form online, one paying his monthly bills sitting right next to me or someone simply ordering food through their smartphone. That much we have become dependent on technology that life without the internet and smartphone will make us feel like living in medieval ages.
Our northeast is rich in terms of manpower and natural resources and has a huge potential for development in all sectors. The government has a huge role to play in the development and betterment of not only individuals belonging to this area but the whole region as a whole. And Digitization is one of the primary steps in this journey towards progress. The Government of India initiatives to improve digital communication can be seen in the form of various schemes like STPI, Bharat Net, Jan Dhan Adhar, State Data Centers, UMANG, Digital locker, NLEIT centers, National Knowledge Networks and so many more which can be seen to benefit the public in unimaginable ways.
The digitization of our state is reflected in every sector. I have visited many educational institutions where students freely use the internet for study material. People now have the luxury to learn a lot of new courses by sitting at home through online portals like MOOCs. Even in a lot of schools by using smart classrooms, study is no longer confined to books but made interesting by YouTube videos and other study portals. Engineering students who could not make it to IIT can access lectures of IIT professors through NPTEL videos.
Technology has changed our daily business. One can measure the quality of your products and services. One can speed up the production process. One can reduce your marketing cost by using online marketing automation applications. One can sell products on the internet and can get money from the bank directly. One can research the market, analyze your competitors and learn about technological equipments. Many young entrepreneurs of the state can be seen actively using digital platforms for the smooth running of their businesses. The Act East policy has huge potential to start e-commerce and trade with neighboring states and countries too. Moreover, Hackathons are held to solve real-life problems, various centers of excellence, start up and innovation labs are also seen to be buzzing with activity in the past few years.
In order to properly digitalize this area government must ensure proper implementation of various schemes. For this high-speed internet, affordable data and popularization of the digital world among laymen is very essential. Digitalization will also help to restore, conserve and popularize our rich cultural heritage whether it is our language and the dialects or our ancient practices and trades.
There are platforms like ‘Mygov’ which are increasing more awareness among the general public about their government. Allowing improved interaction between the government and the public is very important as citizens get to believe that the government is indeed not only for the people and by the people but of the people too.
The dirtier side of digitization is that people may become even more exposed to the unsavory elements on the internet. The advent of Reliance Jio has brought the internet to many millions of people across India at a very affordable price. The recent emphasis on digital payments has made many scams and fraudsters move into the digital transactions bandwagon. Unfortunately, this user growth has not been accompanied by user literacy. That primes them to be vulnerable to any number of attacks, starting with malware to phishing. Not only that but cases of cyberbullying and online harassment are also on rise. Digitization is a boon but only when optimally and wisely used.
The digital transformation of a government can be challenging, but with the proper handling, implementation and use it is ultimately immensely rewarding and can prove to be a major factor in the progress of a country.