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Goa’s Google-Powered Long Jump in Digital Pit

CHIEF Minister Laxmikant Parsekar’s statement that Goa should be known as an IT state instead of a tourist state might not be very appropriate, as the statement makes IT and tourism contradictory to or incompatible with each other. It is not that when Goa develops as a digital state, tourism will pale into insignificance. When IT develops it will encompass tourism too, like it will do other sectors. After all IT is an enabling technology that makes work in any field fastest, safest, cheapest and cleanest. With greater use of IT the tourist industry will enjoy these advantages and realize its unrealized potential.
The Chief Minister made that statement at the signing of technology partnership between Google and the Goa government on Tuesday. IT has been growing in the state in various sectors, including the public sector, but in a very slow, erratic and uneven pattern. Government departments have websites but they do not function properly. Internet is not uninterrupted despite broadband connectivity. Businesses face problems in putting themselves online. Public service delivery is yet to become mobile-friendly. Google has promised to make investments in creating a sound environment for digitization in the state. Google will promote digital literacy and help Goa become digitally empowered by providing its services to IT start-ups and helping businesses go online, apart from putting the state’s rich cultural heritage on the global map. Google will also promote android developer education and make all government sites mobile-friendly. For the past one year, Google has been working to provide internet safety education in schools in the state, and has prepared a curriculum for internet safety education for school students and initiated teacher training for 460 schools, covering 80,000 students.
The technology partnership with Google will help Goa catch up with other states in the IT race. The primary purpose is to bring the maximum number of Goans online. Once that happens, Goa can take a technology leap with innovation on how to reach and serve the hundreds of thousands of Goans online. So far the government departments, the public sector undertakings, the quasi-government institutions, the university, colleges and schools and the businesses in trade and industry have been trying to come up digitally with individual efforts and resources. With Google partnership, there will be a powerful and resourceful giant to provide inter-connecting and overarching assistance in the digital development of all the players, big, medium or small.
Digital development will improve access to the internet, support entrepreneurs and remove barriers to doing business online, foster a transparent regulatory environment and make life easier for people. Improved delivery of public services and fast procurement process are essential to economic growth. Google would help the Goa government deliver services on time with a comprehensive government services portal. Technology will thus become a leveller for all citizens across Goa – whether they are in villages or towns or capital of the state. A strong digital connection between the government agencies and the citizens would make a positive difference in addressing not only social welfare issues but also problems of economic development. Governance will become interactive and more responsive to feedback from citizens. Citizens would be empowered with information that the government departments will have to put online. Hopefully, Google will take care to provide assistance in facilitating interaction not only in English but also in Konkani and Marathi in order to empower the entire community. Information and knowledge cannot be disseminated without scope for the medium of local languages. Then only can Goa become a vibrant knowledge society.
The Goa government can play an important role in improving lives of citizens by providing timely access to healthcare information that can save lives. Some states have set up an online portal for interactive information on basic healthcare that can be communicated through mobile phones. The site can provide information on epidemics and lifestyle diseases. It can provide information on sexual health, emotional wellness, cardiac health, fitness and other things. With a model medical insurance scheme covering the entire population, Goa has taken a big leap in providing healthcare. It needs to make it better by setting up an interactive portal to provide up-to-date information on health issues. At the time of signing of the partnership agreement with Goa, Google vice president in charge of Southeast Asia and India Rajan Anandan said that “Any individual who is android certified is guaranteed to get a job” in digital Goa. In IT, human capital is most important. A digital Goa will unleash the extraordinary employment potential of the internet. The partnership with Google is therefore a step in the right direction.

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