How does India use technology as a weapon in the fight against poverty?

Munna, a tea seller who runs a small shop in a lively area near the IT hub of Nagpur, has gone digital in his business and no longer relies on cash transactions. Not only does he pay, he arranges his procurement and makes the necessary purchases online. He has an online health card and access to medical records and important documents via a smartphone. Technology has helped Munna become digitally empowered and helped him to enjoy various benefits with one click.

Technology and India are not distant terms; India has consistently used technology to improve citizens’ lives and put India on a global pedestal. Be it AGNI, DNA fingerprinting, Pokhran II nuclear test, or the Chandrayaan I mission to the moon, India has achieved notable successes. But for the past eight years, India has used technology to solve problems that affect ordinary people. As a result, we are witnessing a digital revolution in India. The crux of this revolution is: how does India use technology as a weapon in the war on poverty?

India’s Growing Digital Capabilities

The backbone of India’s digital revolution is low data costs and improved connectivity. The price of mobile data in India is among the cheapest with the average cost of 1GB of mobile data in India costing around Rs. 14. Low data costs and affordable smartphones have increased the number of smartphones from 150 million to 750 million. In the last eight years, programs like BharatNet have reduced it urban-rural divide and supplemented broadband connections; In 2014 India had around 60 million broadband connections, and by 2022 the number will have risen to 810 million.

Direct Transfer of Benefits

With low data costs and cellular access, building a digital ecosystem was the next step. To achieve the following, the JAM trinity was envisioned. JAM (Jan Dhan – Aadhaar – Mobile) was a game changer for India; JAM enabled DBT and other seamless payment options. DBT has played a crucial role in enabling government to reach the last mile and support the most disadvantaged sections of society. DBT has improved financial inclusion and enabled accurate targeting of beneficiaries. Around 310 programs from 54 ministries/departments are implemented under DBT. More than Rs 36,659 million was transferred to about with DBT 16.01 crore beneficiaries during the Covid-19 lockdown (2019).

Digital transactions are pioneering

JAM has paved the way to a seamless digital payments ecosystem. In the early stages, a year after UPI’s launch, the total number of payments was 6% compared to 36% for card payments. However, in fiscal 2021, UPI’s share rose to 63% while card payments’ percentage shrank to 9%. The continued evolution of UPI has not only created an efficient payment tool, but connected millions on an inclusive and well-structured digital platform. For the third straight month, UPI transaction volume has surpassed the six billion mark.

Digital and inclusive health

The digital reach of healthcare institutions is one of the ways to distribute and provide inclusive and equitable resources. Like the success of India’s digital finance ecosystem, the digital health ecosystem has not lagged behind. Tech is the backbone of India’s Covid vaccination drive. From making an appointment to receiving the vaccination card, CoWin is a one stop platform for all Covid related documents. Similar, Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission aims to build a national digital health ecosystem committed to universal health coverage in a digital, inclusive, affordable, efficient, safe and accessible way.

GeM is the one-stop marketplace for MSMEs

With solid fintech and investment in digital systems, launching an online marketplace would create a 360 degree ecosystem. The Government of India launched the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) on August 9, 2016. GeM has the potential to benefit more than 8.54 million registered cooperatives and their 27 million members. It’s transparent and efficient; It helps in quick procurement. GeM has replaced the lengthy procurement process and made the companies/departments more efficient.

Numerous other technological interventions improve and facilitate the lives of citizens. Technology should not only be accessible to a niche segment; it should be accessible to the masses. India is an example of how technology, when used for good, can be a case study for the globe. Investing in technology is a merit asset that will have compound interest in the near future. India has laid the foundation for an inclusive, connected and accessible society; How India uses technology as a weapon in the fight against poverty.

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Disclaimer

The views expressed above are the author’s own.



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