Technological advancements and global telecommunication have greatly contributed to economic growth in the world over the past decades. However, not all regions, countries and people in the world have benefited equally from the opportunities that information and communication technologies (ICT) offer. Especially rich industrialized countries and several countries in transition have profited from the information age and attained high economic growth figures. The advantages of the information era have been significantly less for developing countries, which generally lack favourable conditions for deployment of new technologies. This difference in access to ICT between the poor and the rich is referred to as the digital divide.
Innovation including in the area of the Internet economy plays a central role for development. A challenge many governments face, however, is to ensure that innovation is inclusive, i.e. to ensure that the benefits are shared more evenly across different societal groups and different geographical regions to improve overall social wellbeing. Concerns of widening inequalities are at the top of many governments’ agendas, with poverty more acute in developing countries. So far, policies to support innovation have not been sufficiently connected to debates on addressing resulting social challenges and welfare.
The Case of India
India wish to reap the Internet’s potential for social and economic gains must continue to invest in infrastructure and the broader ecosystem for innovation. Two key pillars provide the basis for a well-functioning Internet economy: “core infrastructure” and “conditions for usage.” Core infrastructure includes aspects of the enabling environment – both physical infrastructure and characteristics of the business environment, such as mobile and Internet coverage, electricity, availability of skills, education levels, and perceptions of corruption. Conditions for usage include those that influence access, awareness, availability and attractiveness. They include a range of drivers, from the cost of devices and price of packages to factors affecting citizen awareness, such as education levels, usage and relevance of services.
Who are the ‘connected’ in India?
Prof. Kenneth Keniston, Professor of Human Development, Massachusetts Institute of Technology writes in his book –“The Four Digital Divides”: For all of its ancient cultural wealth, despite the persistence of old elites and the emergence of new elites, India remains one of the world’s poorest societies. Details are known to all Indians and are available in any almanac: hundreds of millions go to bed hungry; more than 40% of the population are illiterate; tens of millions of children are not in school; as many as 50% of all Indian newborns are born below ideal birth weight; preventable diseases cause millions of deaths; and in many regions, corruption is widespread and stands in the way of well intentioned programs reaching their intended beneficiaries.
What should be done
Indian leaders should seek to drive clear mandates in healthcare, education and governance service delivery with the executive authority to speed the rollout of services. Initiatives appear most effective when implementation responsibility is assigned to an agency with executive authority to drive implementation.
The impact of information and communications technologies (ICTs) on health systems could be substantial or even revolutionary.Health information systems based on mobile phone-based system could track the disease through text messaging. These tools are widely regarded to improve the introduction of data transfer via mobile phones and personal data assistants.Such models of healthcare delivery should be implemented in the whole country.
- India Policymakers and other stakeholders should promote access to ICT in development process. Getting the population online to access government services requires a parallel programme of ICT education, both within government and for new users.
Link the creation of an enabling ICT environment to national planning and strategic frameworks, including performance monitoring and dialogue processes.
Policymakers must make clear but careful decision about data collection and publication. Open data initiatives require making hard decisions about how much data to publish and require clear processes and procedures for data collection, management and use. But the reward is great because access to larger and stronger datasets can also spur innovation in solution development.