India e-Governance 2.0
Earlier this year, Bill Gates visited Bengaluru. He got to know about India’s efforts to take e-governance to the masses. The Microsoft Founder and Technology Advisor was impressed. He said few countries can boast of a digital infrastructure as sophisticated and solid as the one India was building.
India is ready to leapfrog into the next level of digitisation. Once it does, there will be many more opportunities for IT companies. The industry bigwigs are all here to take part in the India growth story. But the biggest gainers could be the local start-ups. The digitisation project would need broadband infrastructure, identity solutions, and payment systems. The possibilities are limitless for tech companies. Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani has been a key architect in driving the digital India initiative. He has been rooting for Indian start-ups to make the most of this wave. Many spaces have opened up under the digital India initiative. These tech companies need to spot these spaces and plug in.
Commerce and banking are going online and mobile. So, the threat of data leaks and hacks is sure to increase. That is why cyber security could be one area of concern. Healthcare is undergoing digital transformation globally. In India, telemedicine and remote health will play a huge role in driving access to quality healthcare.
The government’s thrust on creating 100 Smart Cities is another big opportunity. The Smart Cities will need new infrastructure. The various public sector departments will have to go online. Tech companies will also need to provide a bouquet of services to citizens. All this holds significant potential for technology companies to work with the government.
There are also emerging technologies like 3D printing, robotics, and artificial intelligence. The digital India initiative offers a solid platform for preparing citizens andbusinesses to benefit from them.
Open API policy and India Stack
The digital India initiative is a revolutionary programme. It seeks to involve the innovation talent of the nation to take government services to the masses. Besides, the government has rolled out an open API policy. This is a publicly available application programming interface (API). It provides programmers with access to a propriety software application. This set of open API is the India Stack. It should ease up integration of mobile applications with the data securely stored and provided by the government to authenticated apps.
Stage set for programmers
India Stack is a complete set of API for developers. It includes:
Aadhaar for authentication,e-KYC documents (safe deposit locker for issue, storage, and use of documents),e-Sign (digital signature acceptable under the laws),a unified payment interface (for financial transactions), andprivacy-protected data sharing within the stack of API.
The India Stack could open up many opportunities in financial services, healthcare, and education. With India Stack, developers and tech start-ups can build software and create businesses around the readily available infrastructure. That would open up a huge potential to tap into the booming smartphone market in the country. The consumer market in India is huge. So, these start-ups could get institutional funding and gain from the early mover advantage.
Got a brainwave? Bingo!
India Stack creates a user base of over a billion people readily available through its API. Start-ups and tech companies can build over this to integrate various functions for their businesses or for larger enterprises. Banks or telecom operators scan tons of paperwork every day. They need to verify customers and generate KYC documents. What if you could digitise this? An application could integrate India Stack and the user base of over a billion Indians. The opportunity is right here.
There are so many digitized elements now. You have the e-KYC, e-Sign, digitized Aadhaar information, and digital locker. The entire ecosystem has become a presence-less, paperless, and cashless system. A digital locker enables users to preserve all legal documents in a digitized format. You store these documents online and can access them from any part of the country. The e-Sign makes it easy to sign deals, contracts, and legal documents through smartphones. Meanwhile, the Unified Payment Interface lets people make payments through their smartphones from anywhere.
Time to act is now
The documentation and sample code have arrived. Tech entrepreneurs and start-ups can start innovating, prototyping, and building India Stack-enabled applications. The commercial applications are endless with multiple opportunities. The large user base opened up by India Stack is nascent. It is solution-hungry and largely untouched by technology.
Now even a local vegetable trader can get an instant intra-day loan through his mobile phone. He can pay it back the same or the next day without physically visiting the bank. There is no need to waste any time with their e-KYC documents and digital signatures. Loan processing happens in minutes. The money is transferred through the Unified Payment Interface. Long queues at banks, telecom offices, and government and non-governmental processes could soon disappear.
Word of advice
But the Infosys co-founder has some advice for tech companies, especially start-ups. The man behind Aadhaar says that not every entrepreneur will succeed. But they will gain tremendous experience and can found another startup, if they fail.
There might be some challenges on follow-on funding for very large firms, says Nilekani. It is an exciting time if you look at the bigger picture. The future looks promising as many start-ups set up shop. Their quality is also increasing with several doing interesting things. Techcompanies at one point were trying to replicate in India business models that succeeded in other markets. But they have changed their stance, which is heartening. The effort is now on developing India-specific products.
The government is doing what it can to support the ecosystem in the next phase of digital India. It is now up to the tech companies and investors to make the most of the digital boom in India.