The Digital Superhighway: Navigating Societal Change Leveraging Technology
This blog documents an important conversation between Pramod Varma (Chief Technology Officer, EkStep Foundation) and K Giriprakash (Business Editor, The Federal) on accelerating societal change through collective action with technology being an enabler at InvokED 2.0.
From being an invisible thread that weaves through our routines and makes the complex appear seamless, to infusing our existence with unparalleled ease, technology is a silent architect. It has been shaping our interactions and adding a layer of comfort that resonates in every facet of our existence. It has not only become an essential force that brings immeasurable benefits to our lives but also serves as a gateway to boundless possibilities.
However, technology, at the end of the day, is merely a tool, a means to achieve diverse goals, rather than an end in itself. Transformations unfold only when individuals, at scale, leverage technology to solve problems. People adeptly learn to use technology when it unlocks value in their lives. They seek assistance from friends, family, or teach themselves.
How is technology an enabler
Technology is the only leveller that democratises. It has the transformative power of fostering inclusivity and equalising opportunities across diverse segments of society.
Technology allows humans to evolve faster than physical infrastructure. Its non-tedious nature motivates people to adapt to the ever changing needs of the world for smooth accessibility of information, services, and resources.
Since 2009, the AADHAAR – identity program has achieved remarkable success, with 1.6 billion people enrolled in just five years, showcasing the transformative power of technology in unblocking access. Prime Minister Modi emphasises that access is like a highway, vital for reaching opportunities, evident in initiatives like UPI and DigiLocker, benefitting 500 million users. The belief in leveraging technology extends to education, healthcare through Ayushman Bharat, and connectivity initiatives like BharatNet, demonstrating the potential to bridge divides and create inclusive opportunities with the right policy focus. The PM Vaani program and open architecture for wifi further emphasise the importance of an ecosystem-wide effort to harness the full potential of digital highways for transformative change.
Core concerns to drive societal transformations through technology
The undeniable presence of a digital divide signals disparities in technology access, emphasising the need for government policies to eradicate the gap. Bridging this divide is crucial for fostering inclusivity and ensuring equitable access to technological resources. Realising technology as a true leveller requires addressing the challenge.
Decentralisation, not centralisation, is crucial in harnessing the potential of technology,
as seen in the case of DIKSHA. When centralisation is adopted as a mental model, it poses a significant challenge to India’s diverse landscape. To truly celebrate diversity and empower grassroots decision-making, technology must be positioned as a tool, not a one-size-fits-all solution. Addressing information, tool, and capability asymmetries allows technology to facilitate decentralised decision-making. DIKSHA being open for content creation by teachers exemplifies this shift. While some solution references can be created centrally, the emphasis is on empowering local communities to craft solutions that resonate with their unique nuances. This approach aligns with the responsibility that accompanies the power of technology, fostering inclusivity and effective solutions through collective, informed decision-making at the decentralised level. It is crucial to strike a balance between technological innovation and ethical considerations in order to fully unlock its potential for inclusivity and democratisation.
Investing in digital infrastructure is just as crucial as investing in physical infrastructure
Digital infrastructure, which includes things like fast internet and advanced communication networks, is like a superhighway for information, driving economic growth and progress. The COVID-19 pandemic showed how important a strong digital foundation is. Countries with good digital setups easily adapted to changes, allowing businesses, schools, and healthcare to keep going even during lockdowns. Putting money into digital infrastructure not only improves how we connect online but also promotes innovation and makes us ready for whatever challenges come our way.
Ecosystem has to come together, government cannot work in isolation
Change and progress are integral for every citizen, regardless of sector or background. These initiatives are crafted to enhance and uplift conditions, necessitating a collective effort from the entire ecosystem for success. Recognising that the government cannot operate in isolation, a collaborative approach is imperative. This includes fostering awareness, engaging in dialogue about the benefits, and establishing a robust support system.