Particularly when you are on the Road
I was trying to make a mobile transaction through the Citibank app this morning. This is aligned with what I have been doing the last few years as using the laptop or desktop for that is more cumbersome. I typically make the phone transactions from home where the WiFi strength keeps the effort smooth.
But today I was trying to do it while on the road. Several timeouts and repeated re-signons later, I was still unable to complete the transaction. I just ended up with wasted time and frustration. I will just have to go through with it when I am indoors with a stable network.
And this is in high-tech Singapore, dreaming of becoming the world’s first Smart Nation. Connected devices alone cannot make a nation smart. It needs high-speed, fool-proof connectivity.
Modi Talking Through His Hat
While there are issues with digital transactions even in tiny Singapore with a 100% mobile penetration, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, prone to dabbling in populist theatrics, is talking through his hat about making the country a fully digital economy.
All to defend his disastrous demonetisation move aimed at crippling the opposition parties flush with unaccounted for cash.
Not that the BJP is a patron saint of ethics in politics – because the decision was made by Mr Modi’s government his party will have had the time to convert all black money into white prior to that.
RBI Governor’s Reliance Connection
There is also talk about industrial houses close to Mr Modi having benefited from early alerts to demonetisation.
Even the Reserve Bank of India Governor, Dr Urjit Patel, is not above board. He had served conglomerate Reliance Industries as President of Business Development during 1997-2006. He was missing in action for nearly three weeks after demonetisation and surfaced only yesterday to make some worthless statements.
The Reliance group is among businesses enjoying proximity to the ruling BJP.
Security concerns are a big inhibitor even in advanced economies, not excluding the U.S. There is always the risk about losing money through digital frauds. After all, it is a world where hackers thrive.
When issues abound in countries with tech-savvy people, it is clownish to expect digital transactions to become the norm in agrarian, rural and illiterate societies where multiple languages are spoken.
Importantly, familiarising people with digital transactions is not going to be as simple as Mr Modi’s loose talk. It will take ages for that to happen.
It’s People’s Money, Not Charity from Government
All talk of a cashless economy is just an afterthought given the massive inconveniences people are facing because of the ban on big notes, with around 70 people having already lost their lives standing in queues to withdraw their own money – not for charity from Mr Modi’s government!
I started hearing about how connected the world is a decade ago during my Cisco days. The hype was not just about a connected home or office, it was about connected bus, connected train and connected everything.
A Connected World
Technological and infrastructural changes have enabled a significantly better connected world now. And businesses have been able to take advantage of it all by monetising the devices they have developed for machine-to-machine communications, a phenomenon that we now identify with the Internet of Things (IoT).
But it will take decades more for complete fruition – that is in the ideal, future state now.
G Joslin Vethakumar