A utopian vision of digital democracy

What needs to be done

Over the past two decades, the proliferation of new and developing technologies in India has greatly expanded the authorities of domination and social control, accelerating development towards the pursuit of digital democracy and social change in India.

While modern technology projects, namely the Digital India program, according to the huge body of literature available, have the potential to improve democratic principles and foster social change, many challenges need to be addressed in terms of monitoring and evaluation of services, quality and accountability, participation, basic digital infrastructure, digital education, security, etc.

Relevantly, tech companies must act as neutral actors and as mere service providers so as not to suppress the circulation of content, not to promote hate speech, and to take unprecedented steps to advance the cause of digital democracy.

However, India has taken many significant and diverse steps to digitally empower Indian citizens but it has yet to decide whether tackling digital repression is a core policy priority or not.

Indeed, there is still a long way to go, even though India has made great strides in internet accessibility, with 658 million active internet users over the age of five in January 2022 (according to an IAMAI report -Nielsen) and the huge success of the Digital India program.

The National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), contact tracing software Aarogya Setu, government e-services app Umang and other efforts have all been launched by the Indian government in response to the pandemic.

There have been countless district and panchayat-specific digital projects in addition to them. While helping and enabling millions of Indians, these programs failed to address issues of literacy and universal access. The term “Digital Divide” made its appearance.

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