Digital India – ICT as a Public Policy for Development?


Digital India, the government agenda to improve India’s ICT infrastructure on a national level, is a top-down approach for development or as the government website states:

Bildschirmfoto 2015-10-01 um 11.29.47

The program is meant to build a basic infrastructure across India as the following YouTube video implies:


Still, only implementing new ICTs and infrastructure won’t help the oppressed groups and women across the Indian society. Like the report by the GSMA shows, for every 3 men on Facebook, there is only one women (GSMA, 2015, p.30).

Without targeting the cultural influences and the social problems across the Indian society, especially when it comes to gender, structures of oppression and marginalization might be rather reproduced than “real social change” can occur.

The digital India agenda offers new ways for people to connect across the Indian nation. However, infrastructure improvement, without targeting the digital divide, will leave people behind, while a large part of the society might improve.

A real ICT4D approach, would rather target the human needs than simply implementing new ICT infrastructure. Here, the human rights and the improved capabilities would be in the focus of appropriating technology and implementing ICTs to the needs of the people across the Indian nation. Looking on Sen’s capabilities approach as citied by Kleine (2010) development needs to be about empowering people to make their own choices and increase their capabilities.

Looking back on Shirky (2010) it clearly shows that, with the enormous digital divide, especially when it comes to women and the gender divide, the potential of the participatory Web 2.0 cannot be used fully.

While the Internet is increasingly used for political participation as well, the top-down implementation of Digital India leaves little room for empowering people directly with the use of ICT4D.



Indian Government. (n.d.). About the Programme. Retrieved October 9, 2015, from

1 Comment to "Digital India – ICT as a Public Policy for Development?"

  1. Laura Saxer's Gravatar Laura Saxer
    October 19, 2015 - 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting article about the problem of ignoring the relationship between technology and social structures! Simply implementing ICTs without taking into account the social and political in society could create new structures of inequality.
    When talking about ICT4D projects that should empower people to make their own choices and increase their capabilities, it is interesting to discuss an article by Granqvist (2005). He suggests that there is a need to recognise that technology is socially embedded, and hence, one must not neglect the political nature of technological development and design. If and how people from marginalised communities, here in the case of India, use ICTs should be their decisions. In ICT4D projects it would therefore be participatory at all stages, for example involving people already in developing the project design. Also, there should be a focus on whether ICT efforts are actually giving room to voices that are commonly suppressed. This could then enable to address social and political issues in an efficient way.

Comments are closed.