India’s move towards its digital future began several decades ago however unprecedented acceleration in recent times has brought sharply into view both the enormity of the benefits that have already accrued and the immense opportunities that beckon. It is equally clear that the challenges that must be overcome while traversing this path are not trivial either. Today we stand at a confluence of several synergistic progressions both in India and globally, that have collectively created an incredible spring board for highly accelerated economic development as well as far more equitable growth. This endeavour is and will remain a key determinant of India’s future growth path.
Early efforts at digitization in government focused: how to improve efficiency, record keeping and data storage and processing especially in number crunching departments like finance(treasuries), taxation (commercial taxes, Income Tax, Excise), statistics, etc. Substantial efforts and progress were seen in departments that dealt with large numbers of beneficiaries like rural development, pds , etc. These efforts were largely spread over a couple of decades during 1976-1996 and almost entirely based on NIC support, barring a couple of states like AP where NIC efforts were augmented by state technology organization like APTS
It was in1997 that the first steps towards a citizen focused e-governance program were taken, initially in thanks to a strong push by the Central Government and the birth of the annual National E-Governance conference series the movement rapidly to several other states. The next decade saw the emergence of several e-governance initiatives in diverse areas like land records, transportation ,land registration ,urban local bodies ,PDS ,etc. at the state level and Income Tax, Excise and MCA at the National level. Towards the end of this period, State wide Area Networks were created under a scheme funded by the Central Government. Some of these projects were implemented in PPP mode there by drawing the country’s technology industry into the nation-wide effort and opening new approaches to rapid deployment of comprehensive e-governance solutions. These sporadic, but highly visible initiatives were widely appreciated and hailed as truly path breaking change in systems of governance in the country. The foundation for a comprehensive National e-governance plan had been laid through these efforts.
Approval of the SWAN project and early discussions ate the highest level of the government on the contours of a National e-Governance plan tool place in 2003 These efforts culminated in the approval of the National e-Governance plan and Game-Changing common Services Canters project in 2006 by the Union Cabinet. Thereafter, steady progress was made across the country: faster in some states and much more slowly in others. During this period (2014-2013) some of the more ambitious projects like UID (later renamed as Aadhar ), passport seva, MCA21,etc. were initiated.
Parallel developments in the telecom sector unfolded at a staggering, globally unprecedented pace. The country went from 100 to 1000 million telecom subscribers in a little over a decade, broadband coverage was expanding and the National Optical Fibre Network(NOF N-later named as Bharat Broadband) was launched. Smart coverage grew rapidly as did social media usage, especially by the young population.