Digital skilling and literacy coupled with academic curriculum revision needed for a 'Digitally Intelligent' India

The distinction between policies for cyber world and physical world will gradually diminish.

Dr Lovneesh Chanana is the vice president, Digital Government (Asia-Pacific and Japan) at SAP. He has worked with IBM, TCS, Ernst & Young and NPC in the past.

Chanana spoke to tech2 (Firstpost) on emerging technologies and the achievements of the government in a range of projects.

Digital skilling and literacy coupled with academic curriculum revision needed for a Digitally Intelligent India


Dr Lovneesh Chanana, Vice President - Digital Government (Asia Pacific and Japan) at SAP

Edited excerpts from the interview:

tech2: Where does India stand in the field of evolving technologies like Blockchain, IoT, Artificial Intelligence and cryptocurrency?

Lovneesh Chanana (LC): The importance of emerging technologies and the creation of a ‘Digitally Intelligent India’ are increasingly gaining acceptance. An important aspect is the expectation of huge benefits that can drive the country’s socio-economic growth. It is vital to approach the implementation systematically with a focus on infrastructure, research and development, regulatory framework, skilling and reskilling, work organisations, redesign, standards and interoperability. We have made reasonable progress on creating the foundations of the regulatory ecosystem for adoption of emerging technologies.

tech2: What new policies do you expect the government to come up with in these evolving areas?

LC: As a country that’s on a growth curve, we believe the focus should be more on*how* than *what*. The distinction between policies for the cyber world and the physical world is expected to gradually diminish. The policy-making process needs to become integrated across ministries. For example, the policies on cybersecurity, public safety, aviation and disaster management should get integrated to offer seamless service. Similarly, the policies on education, skilling, reskilling and employment may also need to get integrated. That’s from a policy perspective. From an operational perspective, the policies on ensuring a unified government interface may assume importance and also need to evolve soon.

tech2: What is your opinion about data protection bill which is in the pipeline?

LC: The need to secure personal data is evident in the light of technologies giving systemic control to machines to learn and share the decision-making based on the data captured through user interactions. It would be interesting to assess, analyse and work on the changes in the business models for IT industry and also that of user industries. This is an evolving discipline, and we will soon deep dive into device data as well.

tech2: Can you share some innovative projects SAP is working on with the government?

LC: Both Central and State Governments across the country are harnessing the power of technology and constantly leveraging its efficacy in achieving its governance objectives. For over two decades, SAP has had the privilege in working with more than 10,000 customer organisations, across categories and industries including government and public-sector undertakings. Our recent work with the government of Andhra Pradesh where SAP supported it in building a comprehensive financial management system is a strident step towards the integration of state-run service delivery. Indian Railways, various refineries, etc. are some of the government-run sectors that we have penetrated successfully.

tech2: The government is pushing hard for data localisation. What is your take on the same?

LC: There is a need for both the government and industry to realign their governance models to become increasingly dynamic. We need to focus on the evolving discipline of data protection where everyone is learning to cope up with fast-changing and complex requirements.

tech2: You take care of multiple countries as a part of your role. How is e-governance implementation different in other countries vis-à-vis India?

LC: Governments, across regions, face similar challenges in terms of the need to offer a unified service delivery platform, skilling and capacity building etc. I am happy to drive the Intelligent Nations initiative for Asia-Pacific and Japan region for SAP. However, we need to give ourselves credit in terms of the unique initiatives being driven. We have developed the world’s largest unique identification system. There are various other programmes that are pioneered by India including having the world’s largest rural bank network, a digital literacy drive, etc. Our models and their complexities can be used as a benchmark and we surely are on a journey in achieving excellence.

tech2: Which country/geography should India benchmark to implement e-governance?

LC: I believe, horizontal transfer of knowledge and experience among states and Central ministries should be mandated to avoid reinvention of the wheel. I believe, for a state government, Estonia would be a very good reference point of offering a 100 percent digital services. At a national-level, Singapore and the United Kingdom can be good case studies. Similarly, for strategic dashboards, Boston could be a very good reference. However, every country’s requirements are unique. Therefore, these examples are purely indicative and by no means based on any assessment that they are the best fit for our kind of requirements.

tech2: Do you think India needs procurement reforms with e-procurement and government e-marketplace (GeM) already in the picture?

LC: Procurement reforms are a cyclical and continuous process with general financial rules (GFR) revision being an indicator of the same. With each wave of new products, services and technologies, the procurement reform is bound to take place. GeM, is a procurement reform in itself that is moving to a marketplace concept. It offers excellent potential in terms of offering convenience, speed and most importantly the power of applying analytics to a huge set of transactional data.

tech2: Can you suggest to what level the government has fared on the Digital India programme?

LC: We need to take pride in projects such as Passport Seva, Income Tax, MCA21 and GST rollout, as they are clear examples of collective efforts by various stakeholder groups. As far as digital technology usage is concerned, we need to move from capacity building to culture building. From a government service delivery perspective, the backend government processes need to be prioritised to embrace digitalisation. Besides, digital skilling and literacy coupled with academic curriculum revision will propel our efforts further.

tech2: Do you think Digital India programme needs some course correction?

LC: The programme could benefit from an emphasis on skills, capacity building, standardisation and separation of IT procurement.

tech2: Your PhD was on mobile governance. Can you share the pros and cons of shifting to m-governance rather than e-governance?

LC: Multiple channels for service delivery add on to convenience and mobile offers one such channel. Government has already taken this up and UMANG is a classical reference in this area. My recommendation would be for every citizen to have the UMANG app on their smartphone.

tech2: What should be the road ahead from NeGP/Digital India?

LC: Well, it is the road ahead to move from Digital India to Digitally Intelligent India.

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