General Assembly General Assembly

UN High-Level Thematic Debate on

Digital Cooperation and Connectivity:

Whole-of-Society Approaches to End the Digital Divide



By H.E. Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad
Hon'ble Minister of Electronics & Information Technology


27 April 2021


President of the General Assembly,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,


In 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world embraced digital transformation at a pace never witnessed before. The pandemic has resulted in societies reimagining technology’s critical role in how we work, learn and live. The pandemic has not only laid thread bare the issue of digital divide, but more importantly recast our view of digital access as a critical component to an equitable society.


Technology is meant to be the great equalizer, not a source of division. Almost half the world’s population does not have access to high-speed broadband and is hence deprived of the access to virtual platforms, tele-medicine, distance education and e-payments. Technology is neutral but its impact will depend on choices that we make today in its application, access and governance. Hence it becomes critical that we make the digital revolution inclusive by creating an environment where nobody is left behind.


In India we took a concerted decision to adopt a whole-of-society approach to digital technology and improved public services, citizen engagement and accountability. In 2015 we launched the Digital India with the aim to bring digital inclusion and empower ordinary citizens with technology-based solutions that are affordable and easy to use.


Today, India has the second largest internet user base, we are the second largest mobile manufacturer and offer cheapest internet data tariffs in the world. We aim to develop India as $1 trillion digital economy by 2025.


Digitalization has helped us in accelerating financial inclusion and bridging the gender divide. This has been made possible by linking bank accounts, digital identity and mobile phones in India which has ensured a near-universal access to bank accounts. We have propelled the poor, especially over 200 million Indian women, into the mainstream financial system, accelerating their economic empowerment through Direct Benefit Transfers.


In the last six years, nearly 400 thousand common service centres have been set up in rural areas of India. These digital service delivery Kiosks to help those who cannot access digital services on their own.


The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought to the forefront the critical need of cutting-edge technology tools and innovation in the areas of tele-education and tele-medicine. The expedited development of contact and tracing application called ‘AarogyaSetu’ (Heath Bridge) and CoWINapp for rollout of vaccines are outcomes of India’s efforts. In the spirit of South-South cooperation, we have launched the Pan Africa E-Network which aims to provide free tele-education and tele-medicine services to developing countries.


Digitalization can support waves of change that could dramatically shift to a more efficient governance system. We need to make technology an enabler for sustainable development, economic growth, social inclusion and environment sustainability.  We need to develop a more equitable and effective digital ecosystem by continuous skill development, increased access and affordability of digital technology. This will enable us to correct the structural injustices and ensure that the digital revolution is inclusive and empowering.


I Thank You.