Hemant Joshi, Partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP.
The IMF World Economic Outlook forecasts Indian economy to grow at a rate of 7-7.5 percent during FY2016-17, which makes it the fastest-growing economy in the world. The socio-economic landscape of Asia's third-largest economy has seen many ups and downs post-colonial rule. The economic growth has accelerated significantly in the last two decades to reach a GDP of USD 2.1 trillion and the foreign exchange reserves have touched the record high of USD 363.46 billion enabling India to face external shocks. Amidst all these positive developments, there is one factor, i.e., corruption which is posing a major challenge for growth. The global corruption index 2015 puts India in the 76th position out of 168 countries in the survey.
Trust is a fundamental element while doing business and though India provides a favorable platform, still it ranks 130 among 189 companies surveyed in the World Bank's ease-of-doing business rankings 2016 because of lack of trust and transparency in financial transactions, government spending, banking policies, credit policies, tax and trading, etc. Transparency is widely recognized as a core principle of good governance. Access to information is an important parameter to promote transparency and the information must be timely, relevant, accurate, and complete for it to be used effectively.
The evolving digital and communication technologies are providing innovative ways to counter many legacy problems - corruption, intermediaries, black money, money laundering, etc., faced by the country on a large scale. The government through Digital India program has set an ambitious goal of addressing these challenges using ICT and SMAC technologies.
Vision Areas of Digital India
The e-governance platforms such as Aadhaar, e-KYC, digilocker, e-sign, e-hospital, e-file Income Tax Returns, unified payment interface, etc., harness the power of technology for betterment of lives of citizens. Aadhaar has provided a gateway for millions to avail formal financial services in a hassle-free manner and is a one-stop solution to almost all the domestic authentication requirements. Financial inclusion through Jan Dhan project (22.82 crore accounts) is a major step to bring millions of citizens into the banking ecosystem, to remove pilferages, leakages, and bribes and thus provide subsidies directly to the beneficiaries by eliminating intermediaries. The government is increasingly promoting the use of 1 billion mobile connections to provide easy access to governance, payment, financial, and other services.
In another successful development, the Right to Information portal is helping in curbing corruption, promoting transparency, and accountability of public departments and making true sense of democracy. Social media channels (Twitter, Instagram), mobile apps (myGov, narendramodi), and web portals (Digital India, PM India, UIDAI) are empowering the citizens to engage with the government for ideas, queries, information, and feedback. Connected government organizations are replacing manual to digital data recording, which ultimately reduces chances of scams, errors, and scandals. Government data is increasingly being made accessible to the public.
Online payments account for just 14 percent of all transactions in India while 50 percent transactions were cash-based. Lack of transparency, security, and trust of the intermediaries prevents online and card-based transactions in India. The digital currency and blockchain technology has been an efficient replacement to counter the inefficiencies in the financial sector and has the potential to make wider social impact and foster transparency through single instance of truth. Most of the manual public ledgers like land records and databases are relatively easy to manipulate and it is difficult to trace changes. Blockchain technology seems almost tailor-made to tackle such issues as the distributed ledger provides a way for information to be recorded and shared by a community as per permission. The entries in the blockchain are immutable, reliable, secure, transparent, and easy to search, which makes it possible to view transaction history in its entirety, thus leaving easy audit trail.
Today, countries across the world are depending on technology to provide good and efficient governance. Like the Chitragupta of Hindu Mythology used to keep complete records of human beings on earth, technology is making every transaction immortal ensuring an audit trail and one view of the truth.
Perhaps we are moving into Satya Yuga very quickly, much faster than we had imagined.