Digitalisation in India: The Class Agenda

India, according to the Government of India, is not only a global power, but a Vishwaguru (Global Teacher). This claim may not be borne out by the level of Indians’ median income, productive employment, farm output per hectare, manufacturing strength, technological base, educational status, nutrition, and health. Moreover, the distorted structure of India’s employment, the abysmal economic status of its women, and its overall lack of political and social freedoms further contradict the claims of Global Teacher status.

Nevertheless, in one sphere India’s achievement has won global recognition: its high-speed drive for digitalisation. In the view of the American billionaire Bill Gates, “No country has built a more comprehensive [digital] platform than India.” His claim is endorsed by international institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Arguing that “India’s digital journey” has brought in its train an extraordinary range of present and future benefits, a recent IMF study presents India as a development model.

However, a more careful examination reveals the class interests behind India’s digitalisation drive and its approbation. In this issue, a range of contributors, from various perspectives, look at specific aspects of that drive. Arun Kumar writes about digitalisation’s marginalising impact on India’s unorganised sector; Hussain Indorewala writes about India’s ‘Smart City’ mission; Indira Chakravarthi examines at the National Digital Health Mission; Manali Chakravarti and Rahul Varman dissect the digitalisation of education; Rajendran Narayanan shows how digitalisation can lead to exclusion in welfare programmes; and Anurag Mehra describes a system that continuously generates precarity for vast numbers. At the end, RUPE comments on the overall drive and agenda of digitalisation in India and its impact on various sectors and on the people working in them.

— Editor.