Digital India: A Connected Country or a Corporate Charade?

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CARTOON BY MIKA AZIZI/CARAVAN DAILY
ILLUSTRATION BY MIKA AZIZI FOR CARAVAN DAILY

TAHMINA LASKAR | Special to Caravan Daily

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he gulf between India and Bharat is getting sharper by the day.  India indeed is not connected when it comes to economic and social disparities. In fact an overtly emotional launch of the so-called Digital India campaign on foreign soil promises to fix it all and bridge the gap. But I have a few questions to ask before we go any further in getting onto the bandwagon of the tri-color display pics on Facebook. Are we really a country whose first priority should be digitization? Does this mean we never were in the digital revolution race before? Does this really end disparity? Does it help in Net neutrality? Does it help protect privacy? Unfortunately, looking at it closely all the answers come in the negative.

India has added 52 million Internet users in the first six months of the year, taking the total user base to 352 million as on June 30, 2015 according to the industry body Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). This verily means we already have enough access to the internet and we are going steady.

If we are to believe the figures given by WaterAid (An International NGO), even if we achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving the population without access to drinking water and sanitation by 2015, 244 million people in rural India and 90 million in urban India will still not have access to safe, sustainable water supply and in such circumstances anyone with common sense definitely would realize that all this talk about Digital India and Information Superhighway definitely shouldn’t be our first priority.

There are other more issues too that would come before Digital India. And no, this is not definitely the first time we are heading the digital way. Does anyone remember a certain Rajiv Gandhi and his IT whizkid called Sam Pitroda, who is presently advising Prime Minister Narendra Modi on public information, infrastructure and innovations? Hello?

The point being that there is no need in fact for so much hullabaloo over Digital India. This is isn’t something unique or something which requires perpetual obsessing by the busy, travelling pants of a Prime Minister. The digital revolution has a momentum of its own. No, it does not end social or economic disparity.

It does not even create substantial, new employment opportunities in India. Well, Facebook’s internet.org is a compromise on net neutrality and this digitization drive supports it wholeheartedly. So much so that many experts think that Facebook conned people to vote against net neutrality in the guise of Digital India. And last but not the least in all likelihood it does not protect anyone’s privacy and gives a carte blanche, if you will, to all sorts of snooping by governments and all kinds of characters.

So at the risk of being declared an anti-national, I feel this whole grand, national obsession about India going digital is nothing but a corporate charade aimed at helping the big business.

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Views expressed by commentators are their own and do not necessarily represent the Caravan Daily’s editorial policy

 

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