Digital India Initiative of Indian Government intends to transform India into digital empowered society and knowledge economy. It is a very wide and ambitious project that has been launched by Narendra Modi Government. It has many components and may be supplemented with related initiatives like Draft Internet of Things (IoT) Policy of India.
Digital India will be implemented in multiple phases from the year 2014 till 2018. The aim of Digital India is to ensure that Government services are available to citizens electronically and in an online environment. It also intends to bring in public accountability through mandated delivery of government’s services electronically, a Unique ID and e-Pramaan based on authentic and standard based interoperable and integrated government applications and data basis. The existing/ ongoing e-governance projects of India would be revamped to align them with the principles of Digital India.
Digital India initiative is praiseworthy and deserves full support of all stakeholders. However, the initiative also lacks many crucial components including lack of legal framework, absence of privacy and data protection laws (PDF), civil liberties abuse possibilities, lack of parliamentary oversight for e-surveillance in India, lack of intelligence related reforms in India, insecure Indian cyberspace, etc. These issues have to be managed first before introducing Digital India project in India.
Digital India cannot be successful till mandatory e-governance services in India are introduced. This seems to be logical as well as when even the National e-Governance Plan of India has not been implemented properly, expecting successful implementation of Digital India is hoping too much. India has poor regulations in the field of privacy protection, data protection, cyber law, telegraph, e-governance, e-commerce, etc. Further, e-governance and Digital India without cyber security is useless (PDF). The cyber security trends in India (PDF) have exposed the vulnerability of Indian cyberspace. Even the National Cyber Security Policy 2013 has not been implemented till now. In these circumstances, critical infrastructure protection (PDF) would be a real challenge for Indian government.
Initiatives like Digital India and IoT would be required to comply with the civil liberties requirements in general and civil liberties protection in cyberspace in particular. India has not given any importance to Privacy and Privacy law so far. Indian government is also indulging into Mass surveillance in India and projects like Aadhaar, Central Monitoring System, Netra, NATGRID, etc. are operating without any law and parliamentary oversight. Even the intelligence agencies of India like Intelligence Bureau and law enforcement agencies like Central Bureau of Investigation are operating for decades without any law and parliamentary scrutiny. Digital India and IoT would further strengthen the mass surveillance activities of Indian government if proper procedural safeguards are not put at place.
If properly implemented, Digital India initiative can transform the way public services would be delivered in India in near future. Despite its shortcomings, Digital India project is worth exploring and implementation.