Five major initiatives and 10 digital channels are facilitating the country’s urgent and long-overdue efforts to stamp out corruption and fraud.
The Digital India campaign in my country, launched five years ago, has marked a tectonic shift from traditional payment options to electronic payments.
It has also facilitated the majority of government-related transactions, including tax payments, bill settlements and certificates processing, through to electronic channels.
Thanks to the pandemic, the actual vision of our Union government is getting closer to reality. As it turned out, the Indian economy is switching to cashless mode in most of the daily transactions. The reason: cashless initiatives like RuPay and Unified Payment Interface (UPI) have proved to be ingenious, yet simple payment modes for the common man during these times of distress and contactless transactions.
The primary requirements for a cashless economy are broadband Internet connectivity and smartphone availability across the length and breadth of the country. In more ways than one, the Digital India initiative has made our economy more transparent and less corrupt. This is bound to reduce black money, something every common citizen dreams about. The ease of use assured by personal devices will encourage more users to be on-boarded to digital platforms for their day-to-day transactions.
A major challenge, however, is the security in cashless transactions, since these are carried out through personal devices. Currently, a multitude of digital platforms employ security codes to safeguard users from hacker attacks. The efficacy of these efforts, nevertheless, remains a work in progress.
Against the grim backdrop of the current pandemic situation, India and the rest of the world are gearing up to move towards a 100% cashless economy. Some major initiatives of our government that will expedite the digital transformation in this regard are:
- GeM – Government ePortal
Government procurements were done based on the Directorate General Of Supplies And Goods (DGS&D) rate contract without much transparency. With GeM, the Union government has introduced an online portal for government procurements, similar to private e-commerce portals like Amazon or Flipkart. All vendors can register on the portal, and the government then invites online tenders from authorized vendors. This process has reduced corruption and brought more transparency to bear on the system.
- UMANG – App for government services
In order to avail themselves of government services, citizens used to have to approach the respective departments physically and apply for them. This initiative introduced a mobile app that simplifies the process of obtaining government services by paying actual service charges and receiving and using services within stipulated timelines.
- RAISE 2020 – Global summit on AI
The Indian government has successfully conducted a global summit on AI with participation from major countries. AI is the ultimate tool to analyze consumer behavior and for future prediction through big data. Through this initiative, valuable consumer data can be analyzed and used in all walks of life to leverage more predictability in planning and execution.
- DigiLocker – Paperless document management for citizens
A major initiative by government in the document management domain, this is a vault for storing all government documents for verification and reuse. This used to be a major pain point for citizens and corporates.
- Aarogya Setu – App for essential health services
This initiative is much needed during the pandemic to trace and track patients, and ensure safety of citizens. Our government’s swift action helped track actual patients and monitored them until recovery. This app is mandatory during travel and enables citizens to perform self-assessment of their health status.
Digital push from 10 channels
Even as we discuss Digital India, digital transactions other than the government initiatives also play an important role in bridging the divide. We have seen a major change in such transactions on a daily basis because of the following digital channels:
- Banking cards – Primarily, debit/credit/cash/travel/other cards. These played a major role in introducing cashless transactions in the country
- USSD – Unstructured Supplementary Service Data. This is widely-used for transactions using mobile phones without Internet connectivity
- AEPS – Aadhaar-Enabled Payment Systems. Enable banking transactions through Point of Sale (PoS) devices and micro ATMs. AEPS also facilitates biometric verification for digital transactions
- UPI – Unified Payments Interface. This helps us to carry out multiple bank account transactions under a single mobile application
- Mobile wallets – A digital way to carry cash and transact digitally through mobile phones
- Bank prepaid cards – These are pre-loaded cards from banks with transactions limits
- Point of Sale – Physical, mobile and virtual PoS devices facilitate sales transactions in retail outlets
- Internet banking – These are virtual banking channels, including the National Electronic Fund Transfer (NEFT), Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS), Electronic Clearing System (ECS) and Immediate Payment Service (IMPS)
- Mobile banking – An app for Android, iOS and Windows platforms for banking applications
- Micro ATMs – Mass business agents, such as retail stores, can conduct basic bank transactions through this channel
Indian citizens and corporate entities in the country have benefited immensely from these initiatives over the last few years. The future roadmap of a digitalized economy has already been laid out by the Indian government and other stakeholders. Now, it is the turn of citizens to ensure the success of Digital India and other such initiatives.