Today, India has over 750 million internet users and several little success stories that have a significant impact on people's lives, ranging from the kirana store, which has expanded its audience beyond its street, to textile weavers who sell through social media platforms. India is on the verge of a digital revolution that is already spawning the next big companies, democratising ideas, and promoting inclusiveness on a scale never seen before

India has progressed from being a call centre and software testing hotspot in the 1990s and 2000s to being a global leader in business process outsourcing. Today, India is powered by consumption by a burgeoning middle class (70% of total spending) supported by rising disposable incomes and affordable internet penetration (marked by Jio’s entry into the telecom space in 2016) across rural and urban areas. Post liberalisation, India has moved from being the business process outsourcing hub of the ’90s and 2000s—with call centres and software testing—to being at the frontier of innovation and cutting-edge technologies at a population scale.

During the 1990s, India saw a boom in the services sector—predominantly in Information Technology (IT), IT Enabled Services (ITeS), and financial services with the IT industry growing from US $150 million in 1991 to more than $5.7 billion in 2000—which, for the first time, created a new set of Indian-made companies, like Infosys, Wipro, and TCS, have become world beaters riding the 3rd Industrial Revolution Wave. This marked the start of a change in India’s perception of “Electronification and Information Technology’’.

Over the last decade, cyber-computing improvements have steadily narrowed the gap between the real and digital worlds accelerating the onset of Industrial Revolution 4.0 as we know it. India has been a major disruptor in this space taking giant strides in implementing unique, large-scale projects powered by public digital infrastructure.

India’s Century – Digital Innovation being India’s driving force

Unified Payments Interface (UPI): India’s real-time mobile payments system, which is universally interoperable, low-cost (replaces PoS), and mobile-first has seen incredible growth, clocking more than 4.5 billion transactions worth INR 8.26 lakh crores in just December 2021. In 18 months, we have seen more transactions per month in UPI than we have had in 40 years on credit and debit cards!

Aadhaar: The largest identity programme in the world with 1.29 billion individuals, has moved from being an identity marker to powering India’s Digital Stack with 410 million Jan Dhan Accounts (part of the JAM trinity of Jan Dhan accounts, Aadhar, and Mobile Number), INR 8 lakh crore Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) annually to beneficiaries, and 9.3 billion e-KYC transactions.

CoWIN: To tackle COVID-19, India’s open source, modular real-time vaccine monitoring platform has clocked more than 1.5 billion vaccine doses and, with open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), is becoming a key Indian export for global healthcare during the pandemic.

National Digital Health Mission Stack: This aims to create a unified network (remote, decentralised, coherent) to match people with resources across public and private sector services. This will cut costs, save time, and increase the ability to monitor health compliance for millions of Indians. With the right security infrastructure in place, it can help in timely interventions to check the course of a pandemic or in the long term for the nation at large.

Jan Dhan Yojana: With more than 44.3 crore beneficiaries banked, the scheme has enabled banking penetration, financial services usage and, more importantly, financial inclusion for a variety of demographics. This has been a true force multiplier when combined with Aadhaar and DBT to increase transparency, efficiency, and productivity of government delivery.

E-Shram: This is designed as a National Database of Unorganised Workers, which is the largest in the world. It currently has over 21.5 crore unique registrations in less than six months, seeded with Aadhaar along with details of occupation, skills and educational qualifications, amongst others. This unlocks huge opportunities for the Government to extend suitably tailored social security schemes, targeted skilling initiatives to increase employability and bring the large informal workforce into the digital fold. With a unique UAN number, we will gain unprecedented insight into movement of workers, and the demand-supply market marked against skills across varied geographies of India.

eNational Agriculture Market: With more than 2.1 lakh traders, 1 lakh+ commission agents, 1000 mandis and 17 million+ farmers, this pan India electronic trading portal aims to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities. More importantly, it aims to arm small farmers with the power of “choice” and “information”, increasing their bargaining power across India. With Jan Dhan (banking penetration, payments), and a unified logistics interface platform (transport), this is in line to be a true game-changer in the coming decade.

Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT): Focussing on maximum governance through technology, DBT has transformed the Government delivery system over the past eight years with over 311 schemes, spanning 54 ministries, and reaching more than 900 million citizens. Along with the JAM trinity, it has increased the productivity of Government spending with leakages coming down by more than 90%.

API Setu: To facilitate an open API policy, and build interoperable digital platforms for seamless government delivery, this platform by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) currently helps provide information from more than 300 central and state government departments by accessing 973 different data points including Driver’s License, vehicle registration, PAN, e-KYC, to name a few.

(This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in ORFOnline.com. The original article can be found at https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/indias-leap-embracing-ir-4-0-to-building-for-the-world/)