Digital India ready to go to the next stage

Many of the building blocks of Digital India had already been laid out in the last few years. During the pandemic, you had to do everything digitally.

Sunil Rajguru
New Update
Nandan Nilekani

Edited excerpts from an exhaustive video interview with Nandan Nilekani, Chairman & Co-founder, Infosys & Founding Chairman, UIDAI (Aadhaar)...


“Many of the building blocks of Digital India had already been laid out in the last few years. During the pandemic, you had to do everything digitally. You met people digitally, you did your work digitally, you ordered products digitally, you got your food delivery done digitally, and so on. What the pandemic did was accelerate existing trends. Digital India has really been a spectacular success. For the first time, we have things like the JAM trinity (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile). The mobile phone's success is well known. We have over a billion phones and maybe 600-700 million smartphones. We have the cheapest data rates in the world that have allowed people to use unlimited bandwidth on their devices.

But we also had the Aadhaar project which I led for 5 years and today we have 1.3 billion people on Aadhaar. That’s also the basis for linking bank accounts. There are more than 700 million Aadhaar-linked bank accounts. That provided the fundamentals for the largest cash transfer in the world. All these pieces of the puzzle had been laid in place. What the pandemic did was show the power of these kinds of tools. For example, the government was able to use the DBT (Direct Bank Transfer) to give funding to vulnerable populations running into hundreds of millions. Essentially Digital India came in very useful and was strategic when the pandemic struck.

The 3 facets of Digital India


When you look at Digital India, there are three facets to it. The first facet is what we just talked about, that India is building a large set of digital public goods, be it Aadhaar, UPI, account aggregator, FASTag, Cowin, etc that are enabling the largescale implementation of technology.

The second is the growth of the IT sector. It took about 30 years to reach $100 billion in revenue, it took only 10 years to reach $200 billion and it will take only four years to reach $300 billion. So you can see the pace has gone up. It took 40 years to reach an employee size of 4.5 million. That is going to double in a decade.

The third leg of this is the startup world. I think there were more startups last year that became unicorns than all the unicorns in the years preceding that. Startups are going to be a huge source of innovation, job creation, and solving India’s pain points.


That’s why we call it the Techade, or the Tech Decade. I am convinced that by 2030, a significant part of India’s economic growth, social improvements, and per capita improvements will all be driven by technology.”

These are excerpts from a video chat with Editor Sunil Rajguru and part of our PCQuest 35 Years Series on the Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow of Technology.

Check out the complete interview...