Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 27 July 2023
- India’s Digital Transformation: PM-WANI and Digital Connectivity
- SCO: A Success with Room for Improvement
In today’s environment, digital connectivity is a crucial requirement for anything digital.
The Shifting Digital Connectivity Landscape in India
- GS Paper 2 – Government Policies & Interventions
- GS Paper 3 – Infrastructure ( Digital ) & Awareness in the fields of IT
The PM-WANI programme intends to fill in the gaps in India’s data supply and advance internet accessibility. Examine how PM-WANI might improve internet connectivity, encourage local business growth, and expand digital inclusion in rural areas. (250 Words)
The Shifting Digital Connectivity Landscape in India
India’s digital connectivity landscape has changed dramatically in recent years as a result of a number of important causes. With more than a billion mobile connections in use nationwide, the growth of mobile telephony has been a significant catalyst. Additionally, millions of Indians now have substantially better access to the internet because to the widespread availability of 4G coverage. Additionally, the significant drop in data rates—from Rs 300 per GB to roughly Rs 7 per GB—has increased the affordability and accessibility of internet use for a wider range of people. The widespread use of smartphones has improved digital connectivity and increased access to a variety of online resources and opportunities. In addition to this, the government’s focus on developing Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), particularly digital ID and UPI, and the implementation of supporting legislation like Net Neutrality have led to the rise in digital transactions across various areas.
Vision and Objectives of India’s “Digital India” Programme
- With the goal of transforming India into a knowledge-based economy and digitally enabled society, the Digital India programme was established. The objectives of the programme centre on achieving digital inclusion, empowerment, and closing the digital divide. It focuses on three main aspects of vision:
- Governance and services on demand, ensuring seamless access to digital services and information for every person;
- Digital platforms for easy access and effective delivery of government services.
- The digital empowerment of citizens, which provides people with the information and skills they need to succeed in the digital age.
- The main goals are to use digital technology to enrich the lives of all citizens, promote the development of India’s digital economy, open up investment and job prospects, and strengthen the nation’s technological strengths in this area.
the Digital India Program’s results
The Digital India program’s execution has produced noteworthy results. Notably, it has significantly shortened the gap between the government and its constituents, improving service delivery’s openness and accountability. By providing services directly to recipients, the programme has reduced corruption and increased effectiveness. India has consequently become a world leader in transforming its residents’ lives through the use of technology. The program’s emphasis on digital empowerment has given people the information and skills they need to engage more fully in the online world. Additionally, the expansion of digital transactions across numerous industries has aided India’s digital economy.
Data Demand and Gaps Challenge
Digital connectivity’s explosive development has resulted in an unparalleled increase in data demand. Particularly, video consumption has emerged as the main force behind this demand. India now consumes an astounding 19.5 GB of data per person per month. India’s mobile networks have even outperformed China’s and the US’s mobile networks in terms of total data volume carried. Nevertheless, despite the extensive use of data, there is still a sizable affordability gap between demand and supply, particularly for poorer households and rural areas.
Bridging the Data Supply Gaps with PM-WANI
• The government launched the PM-WANI (Wi-Fi Access Network Interface) programme to alleviate the data supply shortages and expand internet accessibility in a practical manner.
Public Data Offices (PDOs), which are interoperable Wi-Fi hotspots for the general public, are the goal of PM-WANI. These PDOs would act as last-mile broadband internet distribution points, providing cost-effective sachet-sized data packages priced between Rs 5 and 10.
• PM-WANI aims to make it easier for more people to use the internet by offering community content without clogging up the network bandwidth.One of PM-WANI’s main benefits is the lucrative commercial potential it provides to aggregators because it does away with the necessity for additional licencing costs. This in turn promotes the development of neighbourhood nanobusinesses that can create Wi-Fi hotspots and provide internet access to others, increasing their monthly income.
PM-WANI, the Wi-Fi Access Network Interface, understanding
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) first suggested the idea of WANI in 2017. WANI plans to build millions of interoperable Wi-Fi hotspots or Public Data Offices (PDOs), which are analogous to the old idea of PCOs (Public Call Offices). These PDOs would provide last-mile broadband internet delivery to the general public in reasonably priced sachet-sized bundles.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI): What is it?
A significant organisation known as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was founded on February 20th, 1997, as a result of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997. Its main goals are to promote the development of telecommunications in the nation, regulate telecom services, including tariff fixation and revision (previously under the control of the Central Government), and establish an environment of fair and open policy that promotes competitive fairness and level playing fields. The TRAI’s main office is in New Delhi.
PM-WANI’s Contribution to Increasing Internet Access
In order to increase internet access nationwide, PM-WANI is of utmost importance. It offers a distinctive method for last-mile internet distribution that promotes accessibility and affordability. The programme invites more players to engage in offering Wi-Fi hotspots by eliminating unnecessary licencing fees, assuring increased coverage and reach. This can therefore result in a rapid rise in the number of people with internet connection, particularly in underdeveloped areas.
Sachet Internet: Giving Customers Access to Reasonably Priced Plans
Sachet-sized internet bundles with prices ranging from Rs 5 to 10 were introduced, and this was a game-changer for encouraging widespread internet use. These cost-effective programmes, in particular for students, have emerged as an advantageous substitute for using their pocket money to buy other consumables like chips or soft beverages. The availability of sachet internet services has democratised access to knowledge and learning materials, facilitating the use of the internet for learning and personal development by people from all walks of life.
PM-WANI Implementation Challenges
Although PM-WANI has a lot of potential, there are some issues that must be resolved. The idea that bandwidth is already inexpensive and that almost everyone has access to 4G connectivity is a typical argument against the effort. This oversimplification, however, fails to take into account the fact that availability and affordability continue to be major problems, particularly in rural and economically underdeveloped areas. Additionally, the lack of a legal mandate specifying the functions, roles, and responsibilities of several existing platforms, such as Aadhaar, Aarogya Setu, CoWIN, and Government E-Marketplace (GEM), raises questions regarding data collecting and potential breaches of personal information.
The Future of PM-WANI
PM-WANI needs the active promotion and support of all stakeholders, including governments, civil society, and startups, to be successful and widely adopted. It has a sizable and important potential for bridging the digital divide and empowering communities through improved internet access. PM-WANI has the potential to be just as successful as UPI and other DPIs thanks to its distinctive approach to interoperability, openness, and scalability in DPI.
Conclusion: Digital connectivity will empower India.
The government’s Digital India programme and other factors have helped India’s digital connection environment advance significantly in recent years. The need for more data and the affordability gap, however, continue to be problems that need to be solved. By encouraging the use of Wi-Fi hotspots to provide inexpensive and accessible internet access, the PM-WANI programme offers a possible option. India can further close the digital gap and give its people more power by adopting and supporting PM-WANI. This would increase access to digital technology, promote economic growth, and improve people’s lives.
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) just held its 23rd Council of Heads of State meeting, which took place in New Delhi on July 4, 2023, and marked yet another important turning point for the organisation.
- The inclusion of Iran as a full SCO member and the memorandum of obligations of Belarus to become a member state further strengthened the organization’s vitality.
- During the summit, leaders of the SCO member-states signed the New Delhi Declaration and discussed cooperation in countering radicalization and digital transformation.
GS Paper 2 – Bilateral relations, regional cooperation, and global governance
Analyse the importance of the 23rd SCO summit’s decisions, particularly Iran’s full membership and the SCO’s plan for economic growth. Describe how the SCO promotes regional stability and addresses geopolitical concerns. (150 Words)
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: What is it?
A permanent intergovernmental international organisation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was established in 2001. The SCO Charter was adopted in 2003 after being signed in 2002. China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are the current eight members of the SCO.
- Fostering mutual trust and good neighbourliness among member states is one of the objectives.
- Encourage productive collaboration in politics, business and the economy, science and technology, and culture.
- Strengthen cooperation in fields like environmental protection, energy, transportation, and tourism.
- Ensure and uphold stability, security, and peace in the area.
- Work to create a new world political and economic system that is democratic, equitable, and logical.
Various Obstacles in a Changing World
- Geopolitical conflicts, economic difficulties, energy crises, food shortages, and climate change are all present issues facing our planet. All countries must act as one to address these complicated concerns.
- The international community faces crucial questions about unity or division, peace or conflict, cooperation or confrontation, necessitating careful responses.
- The major risks to world peace and development are power politics, economic coercion, technology decoupling, and ideological contestations.
The Promise of a Shared Future by SCO
- The SCO has made an effort to establish a community with a shared future for humanity throughout its existence. Its member governments have promoted good neighbourliness, supported one another’s fundamental interests, and formed alliances based on communication and collaboration.
- The organization’s activities have made a major difference in the peace, stability, and prosperity of the region. However, there remains room for the SCO to improve strategic communication, deepen practical cooperation, and promote one another’s progress as the globe enters a new century.
Opportunities for India under the SCO
- Regional Security: As a member of the Eurasian security alliance, India can work with the SCO to combat regional concerns like terrorism and religious extremism. For India to improve security and defence cooperation, strengthening relations with the SCO, notably its Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS), is a top priority.
- Connect With Central Asia: India’s participation in the SCO is consistent with its policy to “Connect Central Asia.” The platform enables India to establish new connections and deepen existing ties with a region that has cultural similarities and acts as India’s extended neighbourhood.
- Dealing With China and Pakistan: The SCO gives India the chance to effectively portray its security interests in the area while engaging both China and Pakistan in constructive dialogue.
- Promoting Stability in Afghanistan: The SCO acts as a different regional forum for addressing the changing circumstances in Afghanistan. With a $3 billion aid package, India has already finished 500 development projects in Afghanistan, promoting stability and advancement there.
- Strategic Importance: India is aware of the strategic importance of the SCO and the surrounding area. The foundational aspect of a “SECURE” Eurasia has been emphasised by the Indian Prime Minister, highlighting the significance of collaboration within the group.
Security and cooperation issues
- For common security, the SCO member nations must strengthen their bonds of friendship and trust. They must maintain their vigilance and thwart any plans to instigate a fresh Cold War or bloc conflict in the area.
- The fight against terrorism, separatism, and extremism as well as cooperation on digital, biological, and extraterrestrial security are crucial.In order to promote shared prosperity, the SCO should also place an emphasis on win-win collaboration, particularly in the areas of trade, investment, technology, climate action, infrastructure, and people-to-people engagement.
In favour of Multilateralism for a Common Goal
- Multilateralism is essential for determining a shared future. To defend the UN-centered international system and international law, the SCO should cooperate with observer governments, dialogue partners, and other regional and international organisations including the United Nations.
- The SCO and its allies can advance world peace, advance international order, and develop the planet collectively.
China’s Dedication and International Partnerships
- China is committed to cooperating with India, South Africa, and other countries as a SCO member in order to promote world peace, security, and development.
- The nation supports global, cooperative, and sustainable security while honouring the social and economic progress of every country. China supports for more equitable global governance that respects the rights and interests of developing countries and encourages for dialogue and diplomacy to resolve international problems.
- Given that Asia will rule the 21st century, it is crucial for China and India to forge an agreement that will allow for peaceful coexistence between the two countries. Both nations have a special opportunity to improve their relations and solve shared challenges via constructive conversation and collaboration as important members of the Shanghai collaboration Organisation (SCO).
- India and China may cooperate to promote stability and advancement, both inside the organisation and on a larger Asian scale, by realising the value of the SCO as a forum for regional interaction. India and China can map out a route towards improved ties that would have significant effects on regional peace, security, and economic growth by making use of the SCO’s framework.
- In light of the escalating terrorism in the area, the SCO’s emphasis on establishing a cooperative and long-lasting security framework is particularly pertinent. Member nations can intensify their joint efforts to address the common threat of extremism by cooperating within the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure.
- Furthermore, the SCO member states should build common institutional capacities that respect individual national sensitivities while fostering a spirit of collaboration in recognition of the significance of encouraging interaction and connectivity between people, societies, and nations. This shared commitment to building a safe, secure, and stable region will open the door for development and higher human development scores under the SCO’s purview.
The success of the SCO is an example of how rising markets and developing countries have grown together, functioning as a forward-thinking force for justice and fairness in the world. A unified, egalitarian, and inclusive global development partnership can form as China, India, South Africa, and other partners set an example. It is critical to reject illegitimate unilateral sanctions and take a stand against hegemony, unilateralism, and a Cold War mindset. The SCO can build on its history of achievement and make a positive impact on the world stage by pursuing shared objectives and principles.