COVID-19 has accelerated India’s digital reset

new delhi 2020

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Ankita Sharma, Senior researcher, Invest India & Hindol Sengupta, Vice-President, Invest India


  • Coronavirus propelled the use of contactless digital technology across India.
  • The digital-first reset has set the foundations for improving governance.
  • Indian states have increased the use of robots and drones.

Since the beginning of its COVID-19 lockdown in late March, India has distributed around $5 billion in cash benefits to its citizens who need assistance the most, entirely through payments made via digital platforms.

The country was already on a digital-first trajectory with one of the highest volumes of digital transactions in the world when the pandemic struck, and further propelled the use of contactless digital technology.

Data from the apex Reserve Bank of India (RBI) show that India is now clocking around 100 million digital transactions a day with a volume of 5 trillion rupees ($67 billion), about a five-times jump from 2016. RBI expects this to further grow five-fold to 1.5 billion transactions a day worth 15 trillion rupees ($200 billion). Much of this is powered by the United Payment Interface (UPI), a real-time payment system developed by the National Payments Corporation of India and monitored by RBI.

This digital-first reset of a country of 1.3 billion people is not only technological advancement but, more importantly, it is the foundation of a new mechanism for the deliverance of goods of governance. Embedded in this programmatic use of technology by the state are two promises which have historically been difficult to fulfil in India – speed and the plugging of leakages. The use of digital technology led to savings of nearly $23 billion, 98% of this by eliminating erroneous beneficiaries.

Estimated Savings/Benefits from India's digital first strategy
Estimated Savings/Benefits from India’s digital first strategy
Image: Invest India

The digital reset of the Indian economy has seeped into almost every aspect of life. Almost every Indian now has the digitally authenticated Aadhar identification number. The connection of Aadhar with bank accounts (under a financial inclusion scheme called Jan Dhan), and mobile phones (India has more than a billion mobile phone subscriptions), or what has been called JAM, is the bedrock of much of this reset.

With the lockdown placing immense strain on the household budgets of several sections of society, JAM played the role of a safety net and helping millions who need immediate monetary aid through ubiquitous direct transfer of state benefits. Aadhar is also the base for India Stack, a set of open APIs (Application Programme Interface) which developers can use as the foundations for their applications.

And that is not all. To effectively track and monitor the spread of COVID-19, India’s National Informatics Centre created the Aarogya Setu app, which has been downloaded more than 127 million times. Its citizen participation and feedback platform MyGov.in has around 9.5 million users and gets 10,000 posts per week.

Aarogya Setu and other allied initiatives like the National e-Health Authority and new tele-medicine guidelines are coalescing towards a National Health Stack which is aimed to be completed by 2022. From filling healthcare needs in remote areas to building data-driven public policy on health, the use of technology fulfills many roles and most importantly in some of the most remote areas of the country.

Indian states used the COVID-19 opportunity to further spread the use of technology – whether it is use of Collaborative Robots (Co-Bot) by the government in the eastern state of Jharkhand or the municipal corporation of Bengaluru, India’s tech hub, using drones to spray disinfectants, survey areas, monitor containment zones and make public announcements.

Several other Indian states like Telangana, Karnataka, Gujarat and cities like Varanasi are using similar measures to combat issues arising from the pandemic. By using technology, the state governments are also managing the demand, availability and use of equipment like ventilators, as well as essential medical items, including N95 masks and personal protective equipment (PPE).

The use of technology is decentralizing decision-making, bridging communities with local governments across cities and towns. Using technology and digital tools, these innovative solutions are having an impact across various spheres of life, be it livelihoods, access to services or education. For instance, using aggregator apps, hyper-local vendors like those selling vegetables in neighbourhoods or plying e-rickshaws are now able to provide door-to-door services while receiving consolidated payments on a monthly basis – thus providing a stable source of income. Similarly, in education, many schools have shifted to online classrooms while students and educators with limited internet connectivity are also learning via mobile phones.

This rapid roll-out of state technological infrastructure, has triggered an equal response in private business. As the Indian government promotes DIKSHA, a platform for school education, and introduces training in coding at middle school level, the country has the world’s highest funded educated app, Bjyu’s, which has raised nearly a billion dollars, and Jio, an all-services tech platform, from Reliance, India’s most valuable company by market capitalisation, has raised $15 billion during the pandemic from a clutch of investors including Facebook, with the promise of delivering a digital lifestyle to every Indian.

coronavirus, health, COVID19, pandemic

What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

The first global pandemic in more than 100 years, COVID-19 has spread throughout the world at an unprecedented speed. At the time of writing, 4.5 million cases have been confirmed and more than 300,000 people have died due to the virus.

As countries seek to recover, some of the more long-term economic, business, environmental, societal and technological challenges and opportunities are just beginning to become visible.

To help all stakeholders – communities, governments, businesses and individuals understand the emerging risks and follow-on effects generated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, has launched its COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications – a companion for decision-makers, building on the Forum’s annual Global Risks Report.

Companies are invited to join the Forum’s work to help manage the identified emerging risks of COVID-19 across industries to shape a better future. Read the full COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications report here, and our impact story with further information.

To hasten the process of last mile connectivity of tech right up to the last consumer, Google has announced an additional $10 billion of investment in India in the next five to seven years – to provide internet access in every Indian language, and use technology in agriculture, education and health.

This joint public-private push is making India a digital-first country, resetting the basic life experience and aspirations of more than a billion people.

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Comments

  1. samifr sardana says:

    Many in the West express genuine and artificial amazement at the India Economic Story, which is steered by the RBI, id.,est,the Robbers and Barons Of India.dindooohindoo

    The Job of the RBI is NOT to maintain price stability or peg the rupee or print the INR.INR is printed all over the world from BKK to Lagos.With 400 Billion USD anyone can peg the INR to anywhere they want.The Purpose of the RBI is to protect the Robbers and Barons of India, id.,est., Banias,Brahmins etc.,to enable them to loot the Indian People,on the pretext of new business ventures,to keep the wheels of commerce moving,and thus,ensure,a pittance of jobs and excess production capacities.

    Furthermore,there is no agri policy in India – except to ensure the disaster of over production,to depress agri farm gate prices, which is to ensure that the input costs for the Robbers and Barons of India and the food costs of the middle classes,are as low as possible – at the cost of the misery,pain and blood of millions of farmers.

    Since the Robbers and Barons of India,being bania and brahmin weasels and vermin, are INHERENTLY incompetent,they need various subsidies and protection in form of import duties and tax sops – and the biggest sop is the Indian Agri Policy, which is designed to kill farmers and REDUCE the costs of the Banias.

    How does the RBI protect the Robbers and Barons.The Indian Banking system does not do any commercial banking.It is a VC enterprise,which lends to ultra-high risk activities ,id.est FRAUD.

    Let us say Mr A starts a business B and then takes a bank loan from a Private Bank Say HDFC bank – and then steals the money.Then what ? Then The RBI gives him the key to the door of a lower tier Private Bank,like Axis Bank – say,for working capital funding (after sinking the term loan – by diversion and over- invoicing).This money is also eaten up by A.

    Then A goes to a 2nd tier state owned bank – but by now his name is flashed ONLY In the banking system.So he floats a new trading cum manufacturing company called D,and starts the entire process again.Within 1 year,he digests this money also. Then he targets the STCIL,MMMTC and MSTC and PEC to get merchant financing for transactions, as a trader or an associate and he rips them off also.

    Now,the beauty is that all these Banks and other agencies,have more than Rs 900000 crores of such OUTRIGHT FRAUDS and Mr A has positioned him at a scale and a type of fraud which is far less than the rest and so,Mr A is NOT a Priority for the bank or the legal system.Now Mr A has to be creative.So he taps his trusted suppliers and other participants in the supply and value chain of Business B and D, to raise working capital loans from new banks, based on bogus financial statements – and now Mr A has a cartel – of partners in crime.So Mr A is a seed VC, who has tried and tested the banking system, and placed his confidants in a position to loot money on his behalf – who will follow the same pattern as that of Mr A

    Then Mr A moves to the last tier of the Indian Banks,which is the Cooperative banks and Societies – a perpetual black hole.Here he has to just share the loot with the bank board and the local neta.The bank will be bailed out by the state – else,there will be civil war.

    The genius of the RBI is that the Indian Public does not know the names of the companies, shareholders and directors of these FRAUDULENT BORROWERS.The RBI says that it is a State Secret.The purpose is to ensure that these Robbers and Barons,can keep the Ponzi scheme working,y ripping off as many institutions,suppliers and public as possible.

    Now Mr A has invested the stolen 1 Billion USD, in land or gold or stocks and in 10 years, it is worth say USD 3-5 billion, and he now wants to “get back in the gane”.So what does he do ? He dials the banker and asks for a CDR/OTS,and the banker thinks that an angel has descended from the pole star.The entire bank staff stands in line with garlands and does bharatnatyam when Mt A descends in his Chariot.

    Mr A has the interest halved or waived,has the principal loan converted into equity and then uses his OWN 3 Billion USD to route it through some FII or entrepreneur (say USD 100 million) to be a partner in the CDR.He also secures some tax concessions for the old plant.

    People say ,Y did he wait for 10 years ? Simple – in 10 years, the demand of the products outstripped supply and the Indian economy and banking was busted and vulnerable.

    Next day,it is the top wired news across the world and a case study, for the WB and IMF and Harvard.

    But what of Company D ? Mr A says that he has redeemed his sins.So he lets the company be taken over by ARCIL, and uses his links with Netas to force some PSU to PURCHASE THE ASSETS OF CONPANY D, at the WDV and pay off the loans ! WONDERBAR !

    Now Mr A will get a Bharat Ratna and be the talk of the Robber Community for decades.

    But Mr A has to get back his 100 million USD in the CDR – and so,within a year he does an IPO,and his so called partner, exists his 100 Million at 150 Million,and pays 145 million in cash back to A,and Mr A sells of 5% of the entire equity of his company B,and then,he is off to a Greek Island with the female beaus of Adnan Orkut

    All the above,is a part of the Indian GDP.

    This is the Indian Economic story and the RBI – which is based on lies,cheating and fraud – and which was blown wide apart by COVID.

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