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Digital India: Government to set up payment banks in every district, says Ravi Shankar Prasad

The Narendra Modi-led NDA government is trying hard to improve the digital economy of the country with the aim to create a trillion dollar economy in a few years, the Minister for Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said.

Prasad was delivering the inaugural address at the three-day India conference on Internet Governance and Cyber Security, organised every year by Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in New Delhi.

Arguably the most promising internet market in the world, India has attracted over $20 billion (nearly Rs ​1.33 lakh crore) of global venture capital, primarily from Silicon Valley. The Chinese are expected to add billions more to this pool.

With over 4,000 startups, India is the third hottest startup nation in the world, just behind the US and the UK. India also has the largest user base for Facebook, Google and WhatsApp.

The minister, who is spearheading Digital India, one of the dream projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said the mobile penetration has already crossed the billion (1.03) mark.

“We’ve got 270 million smartphones, and it is growing rapidly”, the Minister said, adding that 60% of India’s 400 million internet connections are through smartphones.

He said the government is of the firm view that Digital India can empower the poor and underprivileged in a big way, helping them in their overall economic growth.

Prasad said the government is planning to create Digital India Payment Banks in every district of the country, making use of the wide reach of the country’s post offices.

While India is already on the forefront in the IT software area, the government is also working on to strengthen the IT hardware industry, as many mobile manufacturers are setting up manufacturing units in the country. Last year, nearly 40 million phones were manufactured in India, he added.

Prasad also said that the government is committed to see that India does not miss out in the Digital Revolution, considering how the country had lost out on the Industrial Revolution.

“The Prime Minister is very keen India lead the revolution this time,” the Minister said.

He lauded the focus given to Asia in this year’s conference with the theme ‘Digital Asia Scripting the New Governance Order’, and said he is looking forward to the inputs from the gathering of experts from all over the world.

Earlier, delivering the keynote address, Lt. Gen. A.R. Prasad, the Signals Officer-in-Chief of the India Army, stressed the need for better coordination among various agencies to see that the independence and sovereignty of internment is not misused by few misguided individuals.

He also impressed on the need to speed up important decisions and update procurement policies to catch up with the speed of progress in the cyber space so that the agencies tasked with security of the people, nation and the medium itself, can perform their duties efficiently.

Prasad said the policy makers are finding it very difficult to keep pace with the speed of developments on internet and are unable to frame effective policies.

Delivering the opening address, ORF Director Sunjoy Joshi said the conference is in fact not a standalone effort but part of an initiative with series of meetings and discussions in India and abroad organised over the year.

He stressed the importance of ‘trust’ in the governance of this powerful and borderless medium, as commerce and conflict are two sides of this coin of global commons created by the human mind.

US Department of State’s Special Representative to Muslim Communities, Shaarik Zafar, in conversation with CyFy chair and ORF Vice President Samir Saran, reminded the audience of the presence of non-state actors (of cyber terrorism), online too and the need to guard against them.

He pointed out how the ISIS is leveraging the cyber advancements to its advantage for the propagation of their ideology.

US Department of State Coordinator for Cyber Issues, Chris Painter, underlined the need for better coordination among various agencies, governments and nations to secure the cyber space from any possible misuse as is being done by terrorist and fundamentalists organisations.

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