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#DigitalIndia: The need for change in mindset to bring a vision to fruition

#DigitalIndia: As we celebrate the Indian Republic Day today, being someone who is passionately connected with the #DigitalIndia dream, a vision set out by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and spoken of at every forum where a Minister of the Government of India is present in, I cannot help but think of the tough road ahead. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am a resident of Delhi, the Capital of India and arguably the centre where it will all begin or at least see early manifestation in. The small experiences around reiterates the need for a Digital India but it also begs many questions on when will the top brass vision become a ground reality, and whether we have adopted the right approach towards it.

We have heard several instances of how government bodies function, and as unpleasant as it may sound, many Indians have attuned themselves to the problems that they will face in a Government office. The starting point is ‘Keep Calm and Get Your Work Done’. But with the various conversations around #DigitalIndia, many reported by the editorial team of Digital Market Asia itself in the form of companies that are now investing in the dream, I wanted my starting point to not be as compromising as that. With that new found streak of positivity, I geared up for a government interaction to register my marriage.

As per new rules, one has to register marriage within 60 days of solemnising. The first setback for me was the lack of any coherent information on the web and the challenge of securing a date online for the registration. It took us a month to get an appointment so the 60-day limit was gone and we were now bound to pay a penalty.

My husband and I took a day off from our respective offices. We reached the registration office, where we faced the first letdown – the infrastructure. The only thing I was thinking of by then was how do government officials spend a full day here, day after day. I probably should have expected what ensued. My #DigitalIndia mindset had already flown off the nearest half-shattered window and well, so had the District Magistrate “sahib” for the day. Everyone was left flabbergast. Yes, there were other unfortunates who had to register their marriages too, and everyone had taken day offs, from what we gathered. We had to take another appointment and the office told us this time just come physically to the office to secure a date. The #DigitalIndia dream in my head cried a bit that night. We secured a date nearly two months later in November of last year, and I approached it this time with the “Stay Calm &…” attitude.

All done, life was back to air-conditioned offices, suave business meetings, email communications and the five-star culture. In a similar five-star setting, earlier this month, on January 14, 2015 I had the good fortune of hearing Union Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad, at the IAMAI Digital Summit. His words ‘#DigitalIndia karna hai’ stayed with me. He shared examples of some of the changes in the system that are realising this vision. Some may argue that the new government has come into power only now. Fair enough, but India is a nation of young minds and Millennials, impatient enough to not just witness the change but be the change themselves. I sat there agreeing, and applauding, and rebuilding my #DigitalIndia dream, which I had not known then was about to be challenged again.

As luck would have it, I had an appointment at the Passport office this time, on January 16, 2015. This was to change my name to add my newly acquired married surname in the legal document. Confidence was back in my approach. The passport office is definitely a lot more organised and it was easier to maintain the confident stance for a while. I moved from counter to counter only to be hit by another government official who made it very clear that one trip doesn’t suffice in exercises such as these, and that unless you have been thoroughly hassled you do not deserve to get the work done. If this is the plight in the Capital of India, what would the situation be in other relatively smaller cities.

Unlike the scenario in the marriage registrar’s office, my question this time was more to me. There are those who are serious about this dream. There are people like me who can play a part in realising and benefitting from this dream. But there is a lot in between that must change. I am not sure what my role can be in that change. It is a given that future ready technology, internet penetration, bandwidth availabilities, connectivity matters in realising Digital India. But there is a bigger problem at hand here. The solution, as tough as it may sound, is to rewire the thinking pattern of the spokespeople and representatives of the government, of the legal and regulatory ecosystem who can sell or shatter the dream in seconds.

And that is going to be my question the next time I hear the likes of Minister R S Prasad – what can we do to realise the #DigitalIndia dream from ground up than top down so that the mindset of the nation changes.

Swati Gauba

The author, Swati Gauba, is the General Manager of Digital Market Asia