Published on Digital Development

Keeping momentum toward India's digital future

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The Government of India has recently announced the Digital India program, which aims to transform the country into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. In addition, the Government has an ambitious plan to upgrade 100 cities into Smart Cities by 2014, and the Swachh Bharata Abhiyan national initiative is focusing on a green and clean India by 2019.

The emphasis of all these programs is on leveraging the innovative potential of ICT, mobile and new media Technologies to achieve these visionary activities. In addition, the Neeti Ayog (Erstwhile Planning Commission) is working on a framework to set up a state-of-the-art data mining center and develop ICT tools that can help make use of Open Data for national planning purposes.

Teams from World Bank’s Transport & ICT and Urban Development teams are closely partnering with the Government of India (both at the federal and state levels) to help achieve these goals. The World Bank plans to be the key knowledge partner in both the Smart Cities project and the Open Data initiative. Bank specialists have been actively supporting these activities through knowledge events and workshops that are focused on sharing global best practices and technology trends.

We recently participated in a national conference called “Smart Republic 2015” to deliberate on the key challenges in realizing India’s digital goals and frameworks for citizen engagement. This conference was jointly organized by The Society for Promotion of e-Governance, the National Institute for Smart Government and the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA).

Smart Republic was envisaged as a collaborative forum to bring together government practitioners, global technology experts, civil society representatives, academia and various industries to address key issues through regular interactions, as well as to aid the government in achieving their mission of making India a Smart Republic by 2020.

The Ministry of Urban Development, Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Election Commission of India and Department of Social Welfare participated as discussants and many government agencies and civil society organizations attended the conference.

World Bank experts played a leading role in formulating the agenda for the conference, as well as chairing panel discussions on Smart Cities and Open Government Data. We chaired sessions on New Media and Technology Tools, and Strategic Frameworks for Smart Cities. Other key thematic tracks included Knowledge-Based Governance and Governance Tools for Better Environment.

The Smart Republic 2015 conference identified and articulated each of these overarching issues, as well as many others of importance. It became a forum for the discussion and sharing of both visionary and practical ideas, lessons and solutions between all participants, regardless of their geographic background and area of interest.

The conference showed, beyond doubt, that the time is now ripe to vigorously pursue joint initiatives in all areas of governance, and that the ultimate success of the forum will depend upon whether or not it can assist in launching and strengthening such activities for the benefit of the citizens of India. The World Bank team reiterated their commitment to partner with the Government of India and provide both knowledge and financial support to make Digital India vision a reality in the near future.

The outcomes from the deliberations during the conference are being finalized in consultation with all the participating ministries, government agencies, industry and academic institutions. World Bank specialists are contributing to the final recommendations, which focus on the way forward for ‘green growth-centered’ Smart Cities, Open Government Data for planning and innovations in ICT for comprehensive Smart City solutions., Many of the key recommendations and solutions from the conference will be outlined in an upcoming book to be published by its organizing agencies.  

There is definite momentum toward India’s digital future, and we are both hopeful and proud to be part of the way forward.


Deepak Bhatia

Lead e-Government Specialist

Shashank Ojha

Senior e-Government Specialist

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