Digital Governance in India.

Understanding India’s Grand Vision in the New Evolving World.

Rahi Mallick


Digital governance, popularly known as, E-governance, describes government that uses information and communication technology (ICT) to more effectively and efficiently deliver existing government services to citizens and businesses. India has witnessed a change in the ways of governance since the Modi government came to power in 2014. By incorporating ICT and adopting digital governance as one of its key agenda the Government of India has proven time and again, its commitment to create a user friendly, people centric, good governance environment in the whole country.

Key Word: Digital, Governance, Government, Technology, People

Research Article

Digital governance, popularly known as, E-governance, describes government that uses information and communication technology (ICT) to more effectively and efficiently deliver existing government services to citizens and businesses. India has witnessed a change in the ways of governance since the Modi government came to power in 2014. By incorporating ICT and adopting digital governance as one of its key agenda the Government of India has proven time and again, its commitment to create a user friendly, people centric, good governance environment in the whole country.

Here, we are going to understand the era of Digital governance in India by looking at some of the game changing ambitious plans which will shape India in the ‘Amrit Kaal’.

  1. PM GatiShakti – National Master Plan
PM Gati Shakti logo |

Announced during the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on the 75th Independence Day from Red Fort, PM GatiShakti focuses on India’s citizens, industries, manufacturers, farmers, villages among others. PM GatiShakti is supposed to break departmental silos and institutionalize holistic planning for stakeholders across major infrastructure projects. The PM GatiShakti will ensure that India of the 21st century does not waste money or time due to lack of coordination in infrastructure projects. Under the PM GatiShakti National Master Plan, everything, from roads to railways, from aviation to agriculture, various ministries and departments would be linked. A technology platform has also been prepared for every mega project so that every department has accurate information on time. PM Gati Shakti shall bring in various stakeholders together and help integrate different modes of transportation. It will give new energy to the present and future generations of the country to build India of 21st century and lay the foundation of Aatmanirbharta for the next 25 years.

Let’s look at an example to understand it better.

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw last year informed Parliament that his ministry has given its nod to prepare detailed project reports (DPRs) for Dedicated Freight Corridors on three new routes — the north-south corridor, the east-west sub-corridor and the east coast corridor. A decision on the projects will be taken based on the DPRs and financing options. There is, however, a little-known behind-the-scenes story to this move that illustrates the growing synergy among ministries and departments — based on the use of technology for governance.

The rail ministry first mapped the proposed alignments — developed through a standard process by its consultants — of the three corridors. Then it mapped the same alignments on the PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan (NMP), a 100 lakh-crore project for developing infrastructure in the country.

And the result was different. The NMP is a digital platform that has mapped details of all infrastructure and logistic facilities in the country on a geographic information system (GIS) map, including data of the forest/habitation/other assets they are passing through.

When the alignment was superimposed on the NMP, it was found that the original alignment was passing through forest, mining areas and industrial parks. That would have meant long-drawn and costly clearance processes.

To avoid this, the alignment was modified to ensure minimal disruption by not passing through any of these infra assets.

It’s the modified alignment that has been adopted by the railway ministry, and will go into the making of the DPRs. If approved, the corridors would go a long way in cutting time and cost overruns.

This is an example of how the GIS-based Gati Shakti master plan, launched in September 2021, is helping infra ministries plan their project better.

How Gati Shakti NMP is aiding governance?

So far, over 600 layers of data of different infra ministries have been mapped on the NMP, according to government data.

For instance, the rail ministry has mapped its entire rail line network, status of projects including widening, electrification, gauge conversion, development of cargo terminals, among others, into the NMP.

Similarly, for highways, the entire database of the national highways, the Bharat Mala greenfield corridors, the proposed multimodal logistics hub, besides the network of state highways, district roads, etc. is now available on the NMP. 

The telecom ministry has also mapped all its infra including the network of towers and optical fibres. Almost all central infra ministries have mapped their data layers — data with respect to forest, water sources, mines, etc. — that are required for planning and getting clearances for the projects. The NMP portal is already being used for pre-feasibility assessment and DPR planning by railways, roads and telecom ministries. 

The digital master plan of infra assets isn’t just allowing ministries to align better, and, if required, modify projects before implementation. It is also helping in synchronised planning.

Take the over 1,300-km Delhi-Mumbai expressway that is under construction, for instance.

Now, after checking on the NMP, the telecom ministry is also laying some 1,300 km of its optical fibre cable network on this stretch. Without acquiring any additional land for the purpose, within the right of way (RoW) of the highway, the cable is being laid. It will not only save cost but more importantly not require any redigging for the purpose.

In another similar instance, the petroleum ministry has suggested to align the Mundra Panipat Crude Oil Pipeline project along the Amritsar-Jamnagar expressway, as the road ministry has already procured the RoW. 

Since the NMP’s launch, around 80 projects have been discussed by the Gati Shakti Mission and line ministries have been given suggestions to take necessary measures to expedite projects.

After having seen the NMP evolve, many states are also finding it useful for their planning purpose and are replicating the model. Eight states — Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — have started the process to develop their respective state master plans.

  1. National Logistics Policy and Unified Logistics Interface Platform (ULIP)

While development of integrated infrastructure and network planning is envisaged to be addressed through the PM GatiShakti National Master Plan, for efficiency in services (processes, digital systems, regulatory framework) and human resource, the National Logistics Policy is the logical next step. This will provide a comprehensive agenda for development of entire logistics ecosystem.

The National Logistics Policy 2022 will establish a single-window e-logistics market and put an emphasis on developing skills, competitiveness, and employment for MSMEs.

The National Logistics Policy’s objective is to create a trusted, robust, cost-effective, technologically enabled, integrated, and integrated logistics ecosystem in the nation for rapid and equitable growth.

The National Logistics Policy developed by the Commerce and Industry Ministry will increase India’s ability to compete internationally, generate more jobs, boost its standing in international rankings, and open the door for India to develop into a logistics powerhouse.

Aims of the National Logistics Policy:

The goal of the National Logistics Policy is to lower the cost of logistics from its current 14% of GDP to less than 10% by 2022 despite the highly fragmented nature of India’s logistics industry.

The policy aims to make Indian goods more competitive while also promoting economic growth and expanding job possibilities. The Policy establishes a broad, multi-jurisdictional, cross-sectoral framework for the growth of the entire logistics ecosystem in an effort to address concerns of high cost and inefficiency. The introduction of the National Logistics Policy will give PM GatiShakti an additional impetus and complementarity.

What are the targets set under NLP?

By 2030, India’s logistics costs should be equivalent to global benchmarks.

Be among the top 25 countries by 2030 according to the Logistics Performance Index ranking.

Create a decision-support system that is data-driven for a successful logistics ecosystem.

As part of NLP, the government will also develop the Unified Logistics Interface Platform (ULIP).

What are the focus areas?

The Policy will be implemented through a Comprehensive Logistics Action Plan (CLAP). The interventions proposed are divided into eight key action areas:

1) Integrated Digital Logistics Systems

2) Standardisation of physical assets and benchmarking of service quality standard

3) Logistics Human Resources Development and Capacity Building

4) State Engagement

5) EXIM (Export-Import) Logistics

6) Service Improvement framework

7) Sectoral Plan for Efficient Logistics

8) Facilitation of Development of Logistics Parks

Why is NLP needed?

The country spends between 13 and 14 percent of its GDP on logistical costs. While countries like Germany and Japan, which are renowned for their highly developed infrastructure and systems for logistics, spend just about 8% to 9% of their GDP on logistics.

In addition, the logistics industry is worth $200 billion and is supported by over 20 government agencies, 40 Partner Government Agencies (PGA), 37 export promotion councils, 500 certifications, over 10,000 commodities, and a large number of certificates. Additionally, it involves 50 IT ecosystems, banks, and insurance companies, together with 200 shipping companies, 36 logistics services, 129 inland container depots (ICD), and 166 container freight stations (CFS).

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry stated that more than 22 million people in India depend on the logistics industry for their livelihood. Improving the sector will enable a 10% reduction in indirect logistics costs, which will result in an increase of 5 to 8% in exports.

India falls significantly behind countries such as the United States and China, which are placed 14th and 26th, respectively, in the 2018 World Bank Logistics Index for logistics costs. The Logistics Performance Index places Germany at the top and India at the 44th rank.

What is Unified Logistics Interface Platform?

Unified Logistics Interface Platform (ULIP) has been identified as a promising initiative that has been conceptualized to provide an integrated platform that can be used effectively by stakeholders to enhance efficiency, utilize technology, and lower the cost of logistics in India. This initiative aims to achieve an “Atmanirbhar Bharat” in the logistics sector.

ULIP was chosen as one of the seven initiatives under the “Technology Commons” initiative, which leverages technology in specifically identified priority areas by developing world-class products and services.

Three levels make up the ULIP platform as a whole: the Integration layer, the Governance layer, and the Presentation layer. The goal is to develop a UPI-like framework that will allow the logistic department’s transactions to be authorized.

ULIP would bring together seven ministries on a single platform to give logistics companies details about the flow of cargo around the country. Additionally, the 17 digital platforms from the seven ministries will be integrated by the government into ULIP.

Data on cargo movement across the nation would be made available to logistics firms, importers, and exporters through ULIP, which will also assist in granting approvals for cargo transportation.

If it got too complicated, let’s try to understand it through a simple explanation.

Those veggies you see at the supermarket. That car you just test-drove last weekend. The clothes you are about to order online. They’re all ready and stocked up thanks to the modern marvel of logistics. Lumbering trucks, long trains, massive ships, and booming planes carrying cargo - they’re the bedrock of this world.

But the logistics business is extremely complicated, especially in India. It’s a $200 billion industry, but one that isn’t very streamlined. Needless to say, things don’t always go smoothly. And when things don’t go smoothly, it gets expensive to deal with it.

If the logistical cost involved in moving a product from Point A to Point B adds up to ₹100, you could attribute about ₹12 to customs, paperwork, and administration costs. And this is a bit too much. So, the objective was to cut it down and institute an overarching policy to achieve this grand objective. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi did just that. He unveiled a spanking new National Logistics Plan in a bid to cut the cost of logistics — from 13–14% of the GDP to around 8%.

How’s this going to work, you ask?

Well, The focus is on digitization. Creating a platform to get everyone together. We are talking freight companies, ministries, businesses —all in one place. Think of it as a one-stop shop for everything logistics. Like tracking. Suppose a truck heads to a factory to pick up something. They get there only to find the product isn’t ready. Or a cargo arriving at a port. They’re there waiting for someone to unload the goods. But nobody has any information on what to do with it. This is valuable time wasted. But if everyone could easily track real-time movements, these inefficiencies would disappear and we could save money.

And then there’s paperwork for clearance. They keep going back and forth between agencies. However, if everything were digitized and available online, “paper-pushing” becomes faster. Scan, view, stamp, and do whatever is needed to get a move on.

There’s also this plan to set up massive logistic parks. They’ll have warehousing facilities and effective distribution — all under one roof. It could help people quickly track spare capacity in warehouses. Store their products when needed. And then move them whenever needed using transport that’s readily available.

It’s a win-win for everyone and a step to build the future ready Bharat.

  1. Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission and the Unified Healthcare Interface (UHI)

Today, making a payment in India is as easy as scanning a QR code. From a five-star restaurant to a street vendor, UPI has permeated into all strata of society and has made B2C transactions seamless. Now, the government is looking to replicate the concept’s success in healthcare with the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (or the ABDM). A key project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, the ABDM aims to be a health information superhighway that consensually connects everyone associated with your care. So, if you are consulting a doctor, you can access a patient’s lab history with just a click.

The implications of truly connected digital healthcare are immense—better quality of care, superior patient experience, cheaper and faster insurance processing, and ultimately, universal health coverage. A glimpse of an ABDM-like infrastructure can be seen in how Southeast Asian countries handled COVID-19. While the pandemic tested India’s health infrastructure, countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan learned from the lessons of epidemics like SARS, H1N1, and MERS and set up specialised agencies. These institutions have advanced technological systems involving nationwide public health networks that centralise information, carry out surveillance, and offer diagnostics.

Building an interoperable system:

ABDM has three components that streamline the healthcare delivery process:

1) Central systems such as the health ID, UHI (Unified Healthcare Interface), and healthcare registries,

2) Patient-facing systems or apps,

3) Provider-facing systems used by hospitals, labs, clinics, etc.

UHI is envisioned as an interoperable digital health network which will enable patients to book and avail health services through any application of their choice. The current health ecosystem demands that the patient and provider be on the same platform for a patient to avail a service. Through UHI, patients will be able to book appointments, teleconsultations and other services regardless of the application chosen by the provider. This paradigm shift in healthcare delivery will give rise to a sea of opportunities for the emerging health-tech ecosystem.

Understanding the use case:

The first use case of ABDM is the faster OPD registration service that has recently been launched at a few public hospitals in Delhi, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh. The service allows old as well as new patients to simply scan a QR Code and share their demographic details like name, father name, age, gender, address, mobile number etc with the hospital. This helps to reduce the time taken at the OPD registration counter and gives hospitals accurate data about the patient.

Further, the National Health Authority plans to launch more layers on the ABDM. These include:

Unified Healthcare Interface (UHI):

It is a network of open protocols that enable interoperability and focuses on the discoverability and delivery of health services. While the current ABDM building blocks enable the interoperable exchange of personal health data and provide registries for doctors, patients, and health facilities, UHI leverages that to provide a seamless end-to-end experience for users. Through UHI-enabled applications, patients can discover, book, conduct, and pay for services offered by a variety of participating providers from any application of their choice.

Health Claims Exchange (HCX):

A digital platform for settling health claims, HCX envisions transforming the way health insurance claims are processed by reducing cost and waiting time, and enabling new use cases like OPD insurance, etc.


Though there are numerous other initiatives that are strengthening India in the sphere digital governance like UPI and E-Rupee, I have talked about these three particular plans because of two reasons. First, I’m sure that the PM Gati Shakti NMP, the NLP and the ABDM are going to be the pillars on which our country will stand in a totally digitized future and second, that these plans show us the reality that just a paradigm shift is not enough to build a future ready Bharat.

For example, At the launch of NLP, our PM said, “We want our logistics to move at the speed as the cheetah.”

But the question is — can we?

Well, it’s complicated. We’ve always known that our logistics sector needed work. In the past 5 years, we’ve pumped in nearly ₹15 lakh crores to improve roads, rail, ports and airports — critical links for logistics. But digitization alone cannot solve our problem. We need basic infrastructure.

You see, the logistics sector is heavily dependent on roads. The congested roadways have a 65% share (compared to 25% globally) while railways and waterways only account for around 35%.

So yes, the National Logistics Plan is definitely a welcome introduction. But if we truly intended to overhaul the logistics sector in India, then we definitely need to focus on basic infrastructure. Maybe then, we can move like a cheetah!

Likewise, there are several other challenges associated with e-governance in India. Lack of Digital Infrastructure, Digital Illiteracy, Challenges in Interoperability, Linguistic Barriers, Privacy Issues, Lack of Effective Grievance Redressal Mechanism are some of them.

By combating these challenges effectively in this 25-year period of ‘Amrit Kaal’, there is a clear hope that our beloved Bharat can become the “Vishwaguru” once again.


  1. Think School (YouTube)
  2. E-Book on launch of NLP, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, GoI
  3. PIB, Ministry of I&B, GoI
  4. Finshots
  5. The Print
  6. Consultation Paper on UHI, National Health Authority, GoI
  7. Asia Pathways, ADBI

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