Digitisation has permeated every urban household and workplace today. The services it provides in daily life make digitisation indispensable to people of all lifestyles. Higher the socio-economic status of the individual greater the reliance on digitisation and the associated paraphernalia. There is no doubt that digitisation is the most talked about and most sought after phenomenon today.
While the benefits of digitisation have become the way of life, the growing challenges of addiction to the digital world are under scrutiny. Primarily I would point out that it unwise to introduce anything “bang on” on the society and expect the next morning to see everyone transported to the digital world, performing digital operations and living happily ever after. The reality is the limitations have to be conceded. We should not allow ourselves to be carried away by its mighty sweep and the havoc it can do to the society. The challenges of digitisation are at various levels of the society:
2.Community and Nation.
- Individual challenges: Digitisation has come up with a new way to divide our society; based on the perception of whether people are tech-challenged or tech-savvy. Those who speak about their inability to use technology are considered obsolete and even irrelevant today. This is creating a gulf between individuals, especially in families where the communication gap between parents and children are widening.The technically smart individuals regard themselves as a superior class and the rest as inferior beings at their mercy. A large part of our society in India is illiterate in terms of technology especially our older citizens. They have lived a life of restricted spending, freedom, display of emotions, and access to many of the luxuries of life in order to provide for the families. They tried to save every bit to be able to build a house somewhere so that they could have a respectable old age and not be dependent on anybody. They aspired to be role models to their children and grandchildren. However, this digitisation has put a hard blow on their self-esteem. They tend to believe their life’s worth is redundant because they cannot use a smart phone or withdraw their own earnings at an ATM. I have seen people’s hand shiver when they are pressing the ATM buttons. I have myself helped many who are struggling. Their feel dejected because they cannot keep up with the pace of the world of their loved grand children. It is the same story in banks, reservation decks, hospitals, transportation or shopping centres. The digital world is merciless towards their incompetency. Does that mean we stop digitisation? Absolutely no. However, it is imperative to allow for a phase of transition that gradually allows people to move from traditional to a digital system especially in daily and frequently visited places by our senior citizens. Help desks in public places to help such people without passing a judgement on their ability to carry out simple tasks digitally will go a long way in creating a willingness towards accepting the change. The people in general also have the onus to accept that things are changing and they have to flow with the tide and they are more likely to do so when they do not feel like an outcast or a leftout part of the society.
- Community and Nation: In India, vast majority of the population has been historically living in small communities. However, with digitisation penetrating into these quiet, serene habitats, the community values are under attack because the younger demographic is getting addicted to the digital world. Thus, the compact form of lives move towards scattered, highly populated, competitive towns where the sense of community diminishes. This poses number of problems. The temptations of city life force the villagers to live in slums, work hard to earn their living and be perpetually haunted by insecurities, and, at times, their ignorance leads to their exploitation by antisocial elements. They spend more of their earnings in procuring smart phones, amazon prime, Netflix and other connections etc. No facility is free. All conveniences for ease of doing work have a price. A very heavy cost a person pays as he logs on to a digital platform is that he loses individuality, his personal data is shared by all and he feels his fate is being determined by huge forces beyond his control. You are being watched. Another important challenge is the mammoth budget and expenses on digitisation being incurred by the Government. Huge amounts are then spent on upgradation of technologies, which in itself is an unending process. We have to create a balance on spending especially in a country like India where poverty is on the increase, housing, farm, education and medical sectors are in need of great chunks of money as well. Further, the manufacturing or assembly of some of the basic components are the monopoly of a few organisations in the world and thus the whole activity has become an import based system leading to growing international debt along with international dependence. The massive procurement of latest armaments are also a part of digitisation where a press of button can lead to destruction of an entire colony of enemy by surgical strikes. People make heavy sacrifices by way of taxes in the name of national security.
All said and done, digitisation cannot be stopped but keeping in view the high cost incurred on it we must take into account what benefits have been specifically envisaged for the public living far away in our distant villages or small towns. Probably none major to date. Except for using WhatsApp, Facebook for personal jokes, seeing movies or sharing selfies. Banking has the digitized presence but lots need to be done. The challenge ahead is thus to use the digitization not to drive youth to the already overcrowded cities, but to create employment opportunities and social security for the populations in villages and stay back there and contribute to the economic activity in- situ.
The first step therefore may be to not allow megaprojects near the metropolitans. New industrial townships may be formed near the villages and small towns. Employment of local, eligible youth may be encouraged. This might need giving proper training to these youth but the expenditure would seem to be well spent. Even administrative decentral-ization can take place. Tendency to concentrate all administrative offices in the capital and spend lavishly on its beauty and modern facilities thereby neglecting other areas must be reduced. The lure of big cities can be checked if life in villages and small towns is also made attractive digitally. Full utilization or nearest fulfillment to it can be achieved if Govt. starts public works in rural areas on big scale to build community assets, digitization of agriculture especially consultation of farmers with agricultural experts for crop production and later sale of agricultural produce thus can make e agriculture remunerative. Village industries and crafts need to be given a boost by linking artisans to the buyers thus enabling them to have access to markets and get good bargains for their products.
The major role can be played by premium educational institutions if they can have students enrolled in online courses of equal weightage as the campus courses so that worthy students are not left out of the mainstream. They can have part of their education online and for practical training can join their counterparts in the Institutions. It is in the interest of the nation that rural labour should be absorbed in villages or neighbouring towns where there is no overcrowding and civic amenities need to be made self-sufficient and ample. Mahatma Gandhi rightly said that villages must be made autonomous and self-sufficient as far as possible.
Digitisation in the field of medicine is of utmost importance. This would enable a villager to consult a doctor of premium hospital and get his primary treatment at the village itself. They would be needed to go to the city hospitals only for major disorders or highly specialised treatments thereby reducing their expenditure .
A community becomes only a conglomeration of individuals if the basic condition of civilised existence cannot be provided because the market mechanism does not ensure them. It is within the power of man to create a healthy environment for the human race. What is needed is readjustment of social and moral values and to align it in an orderly way with the technical advances like digitisation.
Nevertheless, the limitations of any new technology also need to be kept in mind and not allow ourselves to be carried away by its mighty sweep. We need to have smart cities, smart villages but more important we need to have smart individuals who know when to use digitisation and when to just value the beauty of sunrise or sunset, or of a captivating rainbow or a lovely rose!
Otherwise, we will end up creating robots…able to handle errands from home with a touch of button but not enjoy and value the essence of life.