India and USA – The Digital Divide

A couple of days back there was a buzz on Twitter about Mr. Nandan Nilekani, Co-Founder of Infosys mentioning about his digital vaccine certificate. He downloaded his certificate in a few seconds while his friend in Seattle, USA, got a paper certificate !! Talk of the digital divide :).

I Googled and found the article – I got my vaccination certificate digitally. My friend in Seattle got it on a piece of paper: Nandan Nilekani

Digital Divide

Not just Mr. Nilekani, but my mother, Krishnan and some of our friends who got their first dose of the vaccine also got their certificates digitally within seconds. The registration process is again digital, using the Aadhar card and getting a message on the mobile phone. Lets not start whining about how the poor can’t afford smart phones. They don’t but they also don’t travel outside the country !

The online certificate clearly shows that only the first shot has been taken so the person is partially vaccinated.

Here are two slides from CNBC, detailing how the CoWIN platform is equipped to deal with the massive amounts of data.

Digital Divide
Digital Divide

Hey please smile, its all good news and something to feel proud of !! India is managing the World’s largest vaccination drive really well.

In Mr. Nandan Nilekani’s words –

“I met the Prime Minister (Modi) on July 1st, 2014. He is very, very sharp, attentive and understands technology. He and his government are now the biggest supporters of Aadhaar, while the party that supported me then is now opposing it. So, one needs to focus on making sure ideas are compelling enough to overcome political differences. America is much more polarised and has receded from the public sector, whereas India has chosen to build”, he said.

This is an excerpt from the article that I have pasted at the beginning of the blog. Sorry HMVs, this ain’t your day.

The Digital Divide – EVMs Vs Paper Ballots

The world witnessed the drama that unfolded during the recently concluded US Presidential elections. Many of us in India were surprised with the delay in counting. Clearly paper ballots aren’t working !!!

Just some numbers for the sake of comparison – In 2019, when India conducted the general elections, more than 614 million citizens cast their votes. In comparison, about 160 million Americans cast their vote in the 2020 US presidential election. Our election results were declared on the day of counting, May 23, 2019. It took much longer for the US to declare the results.

Do read this article by Dr. Shamika Ravi – How electronic voting machines have improved India’s democracy.

EVM and VVPAT - Digital Divide

In early 90’s I remember my cousin who worked with ECIL then talking about the electronic voting machine. They were introduced in 1998 and have truly made elections in India almost error free. The improvements made to the EVMs have helped in making the process trustworthy. The days of “booth capturing” and one party trying to stamp all the ballot papers are thankfully gone.

The Digital Divide

India is far from being fully digitised !! During the pandemic, we were conducting online mentoring sessions for several scholars of ShikshaDaan. We learnt first hand the challenges and some of the massive developments in the digital space. For instance, every Indian can be reached over “a” phone, not a smart phone but “a” phone.

Almost everyone has access to the internet. There are WiFi hotspots at railway stations, airports etc and access to WiFi is improving by leaps and bounds. Internet speeds are a challenge. Video calls that require bigger bandwidths are a challenge. But are we moving towards a fully digital world? The answer is a big YES.

I pay for my groceries and vegetables using GPay ! The Jan Dhan Yojana has ensured nearly everyone has a bank account. I can go on..

It is a matter of pride that India is leading the way in terms of adopting new technology and building the digital infrastructure for the future.

C’Mon USA, buck up and close in on the digital divide between our two great nations :):).


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