Alumnus Shanti Kumar explores Digital India and open digital ecosystems in virtual lecture
University of Texas at Austin professor Shanti Kumar, PhD’98, gave a virtual lecture Thursday examining India’s 2015 initiative to create a digital ecosystem.
The lecture, co-hosted by the Dhar India Studies Program and The Media School, was titled “Open Digital Ecosystems: The Transformation of Communities, Governance and Platforms in 21st Century India.”
The lecture focused on the idea of openness within Digital India — a campaign launched by the government of India — and its digital ecosystem.
“An open digital ecosystem is a modular network of open and secure interoperable digital platforms that enable government agencies, private corporations and civic organizations to access a range of public goods and services,” Kumar said.
Kumar first examined the different aspects of openness in India’s digital ecosystem, then he analyzed the concept of the National Open Digital Ecosystem and looked at how political groups and corporations are working together to create a harmonious relationship between the digital ecosystem and the people of India. To conclude his presentation, Kumar offered his thoughts on the non-traditional opinions of openness in the digital ecosystem.
India’s National Open Digital Ecosystem consists of three key components: community, governance and delivery platform. Kumar explained that in order to achieve openness within the ecosystem, each of the three aspects must work in harmony, or jugalbandi — a Hindi word that often is used to describe a duet.
“The concept of jugalbandi has been used in Digital India as a way to describe the ways in which the stakeholders have to go back and forth, compete and complement each other to create a harmonious all,” Kumar said.
After exploring how jugalbandi reflects the ideals of Digital India, Kumar analyzed citizen responses to a white paper report put out by the government of India about the National Open Digital Ecosystems project.
In this report, Indian citizens were given the opportunity to submit commentary and replies to the document that was released by the Indian government. The purpose of the report was for the Indian government to better understand the sentiment around the National Open Digital Ecosystem.
There were over 5,000 responses, and Kumar said there was no distinct categorization of response types. In trying to make sense of the responses, Kumar argued that respondents used a different set of criteria compared to the government and corporations’ use of jugalbandi when they provided their opinions on the digital ecosystem.
To conclude his lecture, Kumar applied concepts from the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, to the digital ecosystem and Digital India. Heidegger believed that technology is created as a “standing reserve” so that it can be useful now and in the future. Kumar argued that there are parallels between this concept and what is currently happening in India.
“Cultural diversity emerges in digital ecosystems because of local variations in technology and its adaption by its communities and users,” Kumar said.