This article was first published in The Print on February 23, 2018.
India largely lives in an analogue space. Our thinking is brick and mortar.
Our announcements, manifestos and headlines may suggest that we are at the forefront of a digital revolution. But the logistics, policy and framework that is required to adopt digital tools and technology are hardly being adapted among our drivers of policy.
Digital India is not only about the quality of connectivity but also about the functionality of the entire digital movement- connectivity as infrastructure and connectivity as usability. We try to do the formality more than the real job. History shows India is fast in creating infrastructure but not in using it.
Look at BSNL itself. If we look at users and functionality, there is statistical proof that people don’t use the internet even though most of rural India is covered by it.
Our ministers tell us that BharatNet is successful as it has laid several thousand kilometres of fibre, whereas they should have been telling us how many people in our panchayats and villages are using BharatNet fibre to connect the internet. It doesn’t say how many panchayats use this internet, it only talks about how many it has reached.
We are a country of linesmen who only know how to lay the telephone lines and do not bother if the telephone works. Our primary health centres, schools and panchayats cannot be seen as a temple of learning just because the building is there; we have to make our digital buildings, digital blocks and digital infrastructure work for the people and not just for announcements that grab headlines.
India still lives in an analogue world, the digital world is interactive, it is accountable and responsive. Thus, our approach and policies should track level and quality of usage rather than number of kilometres of fibre laid.