21:56 GMT05 August 2021
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    Digital India is the Indian Government's ambitious $16.9 billion flagship programme with a vision to transform the country into a digitally enabled society and a knowledge economy. It was launched on 1 July 2015 and is designed to make people from all walks of life digitally connected and empowered, especially in rural areas.

    India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday that the country is ready to embrace 5G technology and the changes it will bring.

    He also said that India is ready to play a central role in what the world calls industry 4.0 (the fourth industrial revolution). 

    Modi's remarks came during a meeting with those who have benefited from the Digital India Programme that is credited with dragging the largely offline nation into the 21st century and online communications over the past six years. 

    It is estimated that dozens of Indian technological companies will be among the unicorns of the world, he said.

    "We have witnessed Digital India's power during the COVID-19 crisis. CoWin has really helped the nation during vaccination," he added, referring to the national online vaccine registration service.

    Digital India envisages high-speed internet which is available to everyone as a core utility, such as water and electricity, for the delivery of services. It also focuses on giving shareable private space on the public Cloud, safe cyber-space and easy access to Common Service Centres that deliver public services. 

    The Prime Minister said the ideal of a cyberspace which enjoys the twin benefits of minimum interference and maximum security can only be realised with Digital India.

    "The Digi Locker initiative has helped millions of Indians during the pandemic as it enables online storage of personal documents, school certificates, driving licences, ration cards, medical documents," he said.  

    Apart from developing a secure and stable digital infrastructure, the programme also aims to deliver government services digitally and achieve universal digital literacy. Within three years of Digital India's launch, out of a national population of 1.3 billion, 1.23 billion had an Aadhaar (digital biometric identity) card, there were 1.2 billion mobile phones, 446 million smartphones, 560 million internet users and a 51 percent growth in e-Commerce.

    As the programme celebrates its sixth birthday, the federal government on Wednesday approved extending high-speed internet broadband services to 361,000 villages across 16 of the country's 28 states. The roll-out of broadband in rural areas will bridge the divide between the countryside and the the city, the federal Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said.   

    India will soon invite global businesses to bid as the roll-out will be done via a public-private partnership, he added. Th federal government's entity Bharat Broadband Network Limited, which is the custodian of Digital India project in the country, also provides facilities like e-education, e-health, e-shopping and national scholarship portal. 

    Speaking about what lies ahead for Digital India, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the Cabinet's plan to extend broadband connectivity to rural areas shows what the government plans for the future.  

    "This was unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day speech on 15 August 2020 when he announced that all villages in the country will be connected with broadband in 1000 days," she said, adding that the government has allocated a $2.8 billion fund for the project.


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