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New Report Claims Half of Bengaluru’s General Public Hasn’t Used Government Digital Infra In Past Year

Most of the respondents generally used private platforms over government ones. The most popular categories for the general public, which uses between three to four private platforms, were video and entertainment (95%), payments (70%), social media (70%), and e-commerce (68%).

Over half of Bengaluru’s general public has never used any of the government’s digital platforms or infrastructure projects in the last year, a new survey by thinktank Itihaasa Research and Digital observed. In the last year, these 1,640 randomly sampled respondents in India’s tech capital largely used government platforms like India’s national digital ID Aadhaar (32%), its online railway ticketing system via IRCTC (23%), and healthcare apps like Aarogya Setu and CoWIN (22%). Overall, this “general public” sample uses around one to two digital government platforms at most.

Itihaasa is a non-profit studying technology’s evolution in India, and was founded by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan.

On the flip side, an additional 200-odd “IT experts” surveyed (working in IT services, global capability centres, and startups in the city) used around 4 to 5 government digital infrastructure platforms. With at least 97% using one service in the last year, the top contenders were Aadhaar (81%), IRCTC (76%), and e-government services for the city provided via Bangalore One (74%).

For the general public pool, 53% were male and 47% were female, while for the IT experts, 84% were male and 16% were female.

Further, most of the respondents generally used private platforms over government ones. The most popular categories for the general public, which uses between three to four private platforms, were video and entertainment (95%), payments (70%), social media (70%), and e-commerce (68%). For IT experts, between five to six private platforms are used, with the most popular being e-commerce (92%) and email (92%). Compared to the general public, they are also 20 times more likely to use telehealth apps, and 5 times more likely to use gaming apps.

“There is an opportunity for the government to popularize their solutions, train the general public and augment usage of their platforms,” the report subsequently recommended. “Government should focus on platforms over which private players can provide services. Policy makers should employ this strategy as it develops digital public infrastructure / digital public goods (DPIs / DPGs) in various categories, such as Open Network Digital Commerce (ONDC) in retail and Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) in healthcare. Some of the basic services may be made free while premium services may be charged. This makes it affordable to all sections of Indian citizens.”

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Source: Digital Society in India report, Itihaasa.

Why it matters: While the Indian government pushes to digitise most aspects of governance for the “public good”, the realities of India’s digital divide, as well as the usefulness of these services also have to be accounted for. Otherwise, digital governance may only end up benefiting elite swathes of the population, as opposed to the general public, thus replicating socio-economic inequalities. As the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi’s Aaditeshwar Seth notes in the case of various popularised digital public infrastructure projects:

“Most DPG [digital public good] infrastructures in India projected as a huge success [like Aadhaar and others] have thus neither solved the problems of undemocratic and opaque governance processes, nor prevented the oppression and exploitation of marginalized groups by the elite. Rather, they have added new layers of technological complexity that the public now needs to navigate, without necessarily having made it easier for public demands to be met. This inevitably leads to an increase in inequality when the gains and losses from new technology infrastructures are not equitably distributed among the members of the public.”

What else did the report say?: Additionally, 84% of the general public favoured digital technologies for enabling access to government services without discrimination. Around 86% agreed to various degrees that India requires stronger government regulations to control digital technologies and protect citizen rights, while 83% largely agreed that they are not worried about their digital privacy as long as the apps in question are free to use. 84% concurred that they feared being left behind in the world because they were inadequately skilled in digital technologies.

The hopes, beliefs and concerns regarding digital technologies held by the IT experts. Source: Digital Society in India report, Itihaasa.

For the IT experts, 82% favoured digital technologies for enabling access to government services without discrimination. Around 89% agreed to various degrees that India requires stronger government regulations to control digital technologies and protect citizen rights, while 61% largely agreed that they are not worried about their digital privacy as long as the apps in question are free to use. 31% concurred that they feared being left behind in the world because they were inadequately skilled in digital technologies.

The hopes, beliefs and concerns regarding digital technologies held by the IT experts. Source: Digital Society in India report, Ihihaasa.

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