Technology is becoming increasingly disruptive. Its rapid innovation significantly alters the way in which Consumers, Industries or Businesses conduct themselves, industries, or businesses conduct themselves. Any innovation earns the tag of disruptive technology when it forces the established system and habits to be replaced due to its superior attributes to conduct the same operations more efficiently. The recent examples of disruptive technology are e-commerce, online news portals, share a ride apps, GPS, etc. The policy makers have long since realised that technology plays the fulcrum that will revolutionise governance. Technology then is an important aspect in Policy framing, implementation and ascertaining the impact of the same. Thus, they have made a conscious effort to come out of the dogma alleged by the British scientist CP Snow that Technologists and Policymakers inhibit two separate environments in his essay “The Two Cultures” published in the year 1959. With the passage of time, things have improved. But, the gap remains. In this information age, data is the new oil of international politics. Government agencies place utmost importance on collection and utilisation of data. In their zest to collect data, privacy invasion becomes a collateral damage. However, that topic is for another day. To effectively harness the information wave that is gripping the entire world, Central Government, launched its Digital India Campaign in 2015. While this has been a great stride in bridging the gap between Technology and Policy, several roadblocks are observed. This was observed when Government launched its very ambitious “One Nation – One Tax” as Goods and Services Tax (GST) on 1st July 2017. It was a very courageous and land breaking decision. We professionals and many critics are of the view the staggered implementation of the same would have saved the taxpayers, tax professionals and tax administration several problems which persist even now.
Similarly, on 24th February 2021, a Bug disrupted NSE Trading and the servers were down for almost 4 hours disrupting critical trading activity. On March 8th, 2021, TRAI came up with a regulation for ‘Bulk SMS service provider registration on DLT platform’, implementation of which impacted OTP services, SMS services from banking, e-commerce and other payment platforms adversely. When GST was implemented, though the Act/policy had a beautiful flow of system on paper, the portal and its implementation had a significant headroom for improvement and delayed to deliver on functionality and experience.
The recent endeavour of the Finance Ministry to revamp the Income-tax portal has been a much talked about topic. The idea is to consolidate and facilitate the exchange of taxpayer data which is scattered over various platforms like Stock Markets, NSDL, CDSL, State/Central Registrars, MCA/ROC, GSTN, Banks etc and make it available at a single place. The site also promises ease of use and simplification of filing returns and collation of various data points, pre-filled Income tax forms. However, as is the norm with most government digital platforms, probably due to its sheer size or sub-optimal planning, the portal is now having hiccups and teething troubles with various features not available upon launch. User-Experience is significantly under-delivered.
India is amongst one of the advanced and progressive states when it comes to ideas, policy drafting and legislation. Case in point being Personal Data Protection Bill of 2019, National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence of 2018, Digital Currency Bill of 2021 etc. which are some of the early, innovative and comprehensive frameworks in the world. However, the execution of these policies lacks the quality of seamless implementation, which denotes the quality of advanced technologies. The results are abysmal.
The government has multiple agencies like NITI Ayog, the National Informatics Center (NIC) and various centres of excellence for emerging technologies. It also partners with private Technology players like Infosys and TCS and others. And despite all this, when it comes to delivering a great end to end User experience on any government service platform, there is always a backlash.
Now if one considers the way these emerging technologies change every few months. Add to this, India’s huge population across a vast polity with varied demographics, poor internet penetration, etc. successfully implementing a system over a few cycles of trial and error is also a huge win. Policies are in the right place, Technology is advanced and available, Implementation will catch up!
As Henery Miller in Cosmological Eye says ‘The struggle is to synchronize the potential being with the actual being, to make a fruitful liaison between the process of growth which is painful, but unavoidable. We either grow or we die, and to die while alive is a thousand times worse than to “shuffle off this mortal coil”. The CBDT has come up with a Press Release on 15th June, 2021 inviting all stakeholders including the professionals to participate in an interactive session with the vendor INFOSYS to be held on 22nd June, 2021 to highlight the issues faced by all while using the newly launched portal. Though this effort should have been made at the time of inception of the idea itself, nevertheless it is better late than never.
This issue of the AIFTP Journal carries very important articles on current and important topics. I thank all the esteemed professionals for sharing their valuable time to contribute to the present issue. I thank my colleague and friend Ms Maitri Chheda for helping me with her inputs for the editorial.