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Is Digital India building Bharat or destroying it, inadvertently?

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Internet and mobile adoption is transforming the country in a big way. Sundar (name changed) an office boy lives 12 km from his office, takes a local bus to and from office every day. The 35-40 minute journey is his time for entertainment. He watches videos or does TikTok, Helo, Sharechat, Youtube, reads jokes, looks up Whatsapp and Facebook. Well before he’s through with his digital entertainment, his journey ends. He shyly admits to watching some porn on his phone when no one is looking. Life is good. In fact he also manages to keep up with his online entertainment while at office. The world has changed much since Jio. 4G has transformed the country, 5G will be even more wonderful.

Sundar also has a complaint. His children are spending too much time on mobile, are less focused on studies, losing grades in school. He’s even more scared because they too are on Tiktok, Whatsapp, Youtube etc and are probably watching some porn. He loves it when he does it himself but knows that this dirt will spoil his children’s future. Sundar is a confused and worried man, doesn’t know what to do.

Apart from the omnipresent connectivity, low cost high speed bandwidth, this revolution has been brought about by Indian language content on Internet by companies peddling social media, chat, video, jokes and porn. Over 500 million Indians, nearly 50% of the population, are on Internet. Large percentage of these people jumped onto Internet when content became available in Indian languages. Indic Internet is a big game changer.

Internet is world’s largest repository of knowledge and information. More and more commerce is moving to Internet. Govt is promoting digital payments in a big way. Anything digital is considered good for the country. Govt also promotes Indic Internet to help bridge the digital divide. People will access information, knowledge, services, products, eGovernance on Internet and country will sprint its way into the global digital economy to become a superpower.

Curiously, when I started browsing to experience the Indic Internet I came across following data points.

Wikipedia: 5.9 million articles in English. 132,000 in Hindi. 24,000 in KannadaFlipkart: Not available in any Indian languageeGovernace: Not one single eGov application available in all official Indian languages. Most of the Govt websites had a few Hindi pages but not updated, unlike their English pagesBanking: Not one single Bank was available in all official Indian languages. SBI and other major banks have a few pages in HindiScience and technology: Could not find a single credible science and technology website in Indian languagesNewspapers: It was a pleasure to see that most newspapers across the country have an online presence in their respective languageGoogle says that over 90% of Indian language users access chat apps and digital entertainment

Knowledge and information can empower people and can take countries forward. Bharat is not connected to knowledge, information, commerce and finance due to linguistic divide. We’re doing TikTok, Sharechat in local languages, not Wikipedia, scientific American, Banking, eCommerce or even eGovernance. Plenty of online dirt is available in Indian languages on internet but very little knowledge. Knowledge speeds up progress, dirt keeps people unproductively busy. We need large amounts of technology, management, science, Banking and finance information in Indic. English speaking people are busy doing business, are developing technology and are magnanimously spending their CSR budgets on Bharat. While Bharat is busy on chat, porn and jokes while waiting for charity and reservation and Govt to alleviate them from poverty.

Is there a systematic attempt of keeping a large portion of our next generation occupied with dirt? Is it that businesses and Govt don’t care so long as they’re making enough money getting people addicted this new form of drug? Is Indic Internet building Bharat or is it systematically destroying it, because of a few people’s greed. It may be time for Govt to ponder over these questions, step in and not remain indifferent.

India needs to promote online knowledge, commerce, Banking, legal system and eGov in Indian languages on par with English. Indians are intelligent, ambitious and are willing to work hard. Empower them with right tools and they will help themselves. You either teach them English or convert Internet content to Indic. Any of the two will do the job. It’s probably best is to promote both and let people choose their own path. Let’s do it before Bharat goes further down the path of digital destruction. Is this how PM Modi envisioned Digital India

Impact of social media, fake news, online child porn has been wrecking havoc across the world. Even large and respectable companies like Google and Facebook have been facing anti-trust suits across the world. Over 85% of India is not English literate, is new to the digital world and is gullible. Govt needs to find ways to protect their interests and future; else the great Digital India dream could turn into a nightmare.