Title: Rebooting India: Realising a billion aspirations; Authors: Nandan Nilekani and Viral Shah; Publisher: Penguin Books/Allen Lane; Pages: 337; Price:Rs.799. There can be no denial that a country like India has grown by leaps and bounds when we start to think of demographic dividend but we have always found ourselves wanting in crucial aras to become the next developed economy or a super power.
Nandan Nilekani and Viral Shah's "Rebooting India.." goes on to explore the potholes in India's road to efficient governance and envisions patching these problems with technology and learning gathered from the days of researching and shaping the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) that has given a new identity to every Indian.
The authors' logic in the book, which explores Aadhaar, Digital India, e-KYC and the role of government in an innovation economy among others, seems to be that while technology is disrupting everything from music to manufacturing, why not the government itself? Especially if it puts the country in much better economical health.
Every chapter in the book starts with what is wrong with the system which is demonstrated with real life-like characters under present day conditions. Then the authors point out the fallacy, compare it with other economies and then point out a tech-oriented solution to it which sounds really simple.
One of the highlights of the book is when the authors justify the need for efficient governance by saying that though India is sitting on a demographic dividend and is expected to become the world's youngest country by 2020 with 64 percent of its population, roughly 800 million people, of working age, the government cannot provide them with work opportunities.
They have claimed that the challenge before the country is to enable every one of India's 1.2 billion citizens to realise their aspirations and they say that the only way to do this is by using technology to radically reimagine government itself.
Shah and Nilekani also say that not only will these tech-based solutions help the economy evolve, it will save money for the government. In their book, they say that a dozen initiatives with a series of citizen-friendly, high-tech public institutions can deliver low-cost solutions and could save the government a minimum of Rs 100,000 crore annually which is about 1 per cent of India's GDP - enough to fund 200 Mangalyaan missions a year.
It doesn't take 10,000 people or even a thousand, say Nilekani and Shah. The solutions in the book in some ways are too similar to the moves and strategies of the current central government and at times reads like a new circular from the government which has the letter 'e' added to the front of any other word. The authors have also gone ahead to say that all the solutions could be achieved with the help of a small focused team of highly skilled, enterprising individuals, and a supportive prime minister.
In 2009, Nilekani wrote a book called "Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation" in which he had shared his ideas for a better India before joining the UPA government to implement the unique identification project. The book was released in New Delhi on Thursday evening.