Interview with DIF on Solve4India Challenge

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Recently, The Dialogue caught up with the Digital India Foundation’s project team for the Solve4India challenge, comprising of Vasudha Thirani, Senior Policy Associate and Nipun Jain, Policy Associate with DIF.

Here are the excerpts:

What are the challenges and opportunities for the growth of Digital India?

An amazing transformation has occurred in the course of a few years. In half a decade, India has transformed into a Digital India – 1.2 billion citizens have a unique biometric identity, 2 out of 5 have smartphone access and as a result, government services are being e-delivered in remote corners with 0% leakage. We have transformed our way of living from cash to cashless e-payments, from papers to paperless e-records and from mandatory physical presence to presence-less remotely accessible services. India’s digital disruption has allowed it to leapfrog the difficulties faced by other developing countries and set the path for egalitarian growth.

The challenges faced by Digital India are really just opportunities. Over 20 crore rural Indians have broadband access and the government has created provisions to bring five more crores into the digital fold. The opportunity is in creating a Digital India which is 100% connected so the most vulnerable sections of our society can benefit from technology backed social and financial inclusion. We have already succeeded in bringing Tier 1 & 2 cities under the digital umbrella, it is the time we make this growth even more inclusive.

How important is skill development to create highly-skilled professionals towards realizing the dream of Digital India?

There are three pillars that are supporting our dream of Digital India – Platform, Policies and People. A skilled demography is integral to the Digital economy, we can’t move forward unless our people do. The Skill India Mission was launched in this backdrop, in a situation where we had the highest number of graduates but with very limited industry-specific skills, making them unsuitable for employment. 40 crore individuals are now being trained in diverse and relevant skills so we can utilize our rich demography in nation-building. These individuals not only benefit from job opportunities, but they will also use their newfound skills to train their peers – creating a positive ripple effect in our knowledge economy.

How can the demographic dividend be capitalized on to further our digital economy?

Our government is a strong believer in using the digital push to sustain our knowledge economy and use our demographic dividend to our advantage. The Prime Minister has recently announced the Prime Minister’s Research Fellows, bright young B.Tech students who will be given the opportunity to do their Ph.D. and will voluntarily teach in higher educational institutions. Village Level Entrepreneurs, of which women form a large percentage, across the nation have been extremely resourceful in setting up and managing CSCs or Common Service Centres where they are providing e-governance facilities and encouraging new entrants into digital literacy simultaneously. Our demographic dividend is our bigger strength and we need to utilize these bright minds.

What role do you think challenges such as Solve 4 India can play towards bringing in innovation at solving complex, social challenges?

The combination of technology and innovative ideas have led to transformational societal impact across the world. We want to make sure, however, that even those without a technological educational background have the ability to think, ideate and build for India’s future. Solving some of our nation’s most critical problems shouldn’t just be an engineer’s domain.

So instead of a traditional hackathon, Solve4India is an ideathon, which encourages more inclusive participation. The platform is a unique way to crowdsource ideas in fields such as health, sanitation, and agriculture from across the country.The journey doesn’t end at the award ceremony though, our aim is to grow these powerful ideas and start a movement of social change backed by technology. We will help the winning teams conduct market research and feasibility analysis of their ideas, and help them implement their platforms.