The idea of a 'Digital India' while delectable, poses several threats to privacy, integration, and national security. As the pros of digitalisation increase, the possibilities of hijacking information are parallelly multiplied. Speaking at the Global Conference of Cyber Space, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the stage to discuss India's progress in the field of making digitalisation a holistic possibility while also highlighting the challenges that must be met in the path of fulfilling this ambitious project. The Narendra Modi government, since coming to power, has declared its firm goal of digitalising the entire country by bringing in the use of the internet, not only for the citizens but across departments of the government. This would allow for equal access to all benefactors while paving the way for smooth governance which is often shackled in the barriers of time and distance. Emphasising on the 'Pragati' app introduced by the government to ease communication across departments, the PM said that the path of digitalisation if proactively adopted with necessary security measures, would propel India to achieve enviable heights that have only been envisioned for developed nations.
The internet has probably revolutionised this century like no other innovation. The possibilities it opens up are manifold, yet, the challenges it posits are equally formidable. The fruits of the success of a Digital India can only be borne if the challenges are actively dealt with. The Aadhaar system for one has been brought under repeated scanner as it aims to house details of citizens across the country irrespective of their prowess or economic standing. While it may have eased the path for effective governance, it leaves unanswered how secure the data is on the internet, given that technology is fallible and prone to mal attack. As Modi also said, nations must act proactively to ensure that the cyberspace is protected and doesn't become a free playground for the dark forces of terrorist organisations and radical agencies. The government has been very efficient in pressing for the Aadhaar system, which is now a mandatory requirement. Complementing this digitisation, what is also as important is building up an efficient backbone that would support the data online. Between 2016 and June 2017, 50 cases of cyber attacks were reported across 19 financial organisations.
This glaring number spells ill for the future of digitisation as it is also allowing integral information to be hijacked by those who intend to disrupt individual sovereignty. With linking of the Aadhaar card to bank accounts and phone numbers, a most sensitive aspect of citizen's information is relayed to the World Wide Web. Undoubtedly then, there have been protests that have resisted this digital transformation in the fear of invasion of privacy. Digitalisation has surely borne many fruits, as Modi put forth; $10 billion has been saved in subsidies by the elimination of middlemen. However, besides the challenge of disrupting private space, India is a democracy still marked by the rampant prevalence of poverty and therefore, faces the uphill task of bringing internet into the homes of people across sections of society. While towers are being put up and connectivity is being extended to even the most remote locations, the barrier of illiteracy and lack of awareness cannot be easily undone.
Generations of individuals living in rural India have been plagued by the vicious cycle of poverty, illiteracy, over-population, disease, debt and poverty again. Digitalisation is an essential departure from this aspect of poverty, as the simple process of providing technology doesn't attend the question of affordability and knowledge to use the same. India's literacy rate continues to stand at 74.04 per cent, with over 25 per cent of the population still remaining illiterate. India has the second highest number of people using the internet today. While this is a great achievement in converging the society by providing a unified platform, it also opens up the possibility for the most number of people being affected by malpractices on the internet. To flourish in a Digital India, we must simultaneously uplift our population from the shackles of poverty, while deliberating on the idea of creating an effective backbone that protects the sovereignty of citizen's information. As we move to greater heights of worldwide development we mustn't fall in the web of scavengers who are willfully threatening the virtual space that now houses the most sensitive information.