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The following five issues are pivotal for the success of Digital India:
i. First, the delays in the laying out of the National Optic Fibre Network need to be addressed. The NOFN is the backbone of Digital India -- it creates the infrastructural framework upon which Internet connectivity (and all its allied benefits,) shall be made available to everyone of India’s 250,000 panchayats.
ii. Second, the government needs to examine the validity of claims from the industry on spectrum shortage. Spectrum is a scarce resource, but measurements reveal that several licensed frequency bands are underutilised most of the time. The government could consider introducing emerging technologies such as cognitive radio that could allow spectrum to be used more efficiently.
iii. Third, and most importantly, the government needs to create an enabling policy ecosystem to ensure that legislation and regulations bolster e-innovation and the design of Indian applications. This can only happen if the Internet is neutral -- ie, open, fair, accessible and has no gatekeepers. This is crucial for new entrants to have the ability to create applications and services that enable Digital India to improve the efficiency of the government and other services. To this extent, the government’s official policy on Net Neutrality shall be crucial.
iv. Fourth, the government needs to create a unified and efficient technological platform for the entire government machinery so as to ensure that all tasks, both government-government and government-citizen, are automated. This shall require a good chief technology officer within the government to lead the process of creating and embedding such a platform -- the platform that allows it to operate with consistent standards of efficiency, transparency and responsiveness. The creation of this platform is essential to realising the vision of 'Maximum Governance Minimum Government'.
v. Fifth is the issue of Privacy and Cyber security. As Digital India accelerates towards its vision for Universal Access, there is also a need for the government to create a robust Internet safety architecture. There are major gaps in the present-day skill situation concerning IT security, which can impact the handling of cyber threats in industries such as banking, defence, healthcare, information and energy among others. Cyber security, therefore, remains a huge gap in India’s Internet policy ecosystem and must be at the very top of the MoCIT’s (ministry of communication and information technology) list of policy priorities.
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