The recent demonetization drive was a proof that digitization of currency / cashless society is still a distant dream. People switched over to the digital mode of transactions as it was the only option available considering the fact that cash flow was restricted. The statistics provided could be considered incorrect as the figures were based on the previous digital transactions but were never comparative with the cash transactions in nature.
Across the world, people prefer to hold some cash as a measure of comfort against potential emergencies. The move towards a more cashless system is a longer-term goal. There are practical problems on the way. Although it is much hyped, the ground reality is far worse than what is being portrayed and to make the matters worse, the apps which allow these transactions require smart-phones who are power guzzlers. Devices require electricity and load shedding is bad when we speak of providing electricity to entire India, which shouldn’t be limited to simply lighting of light bulbs for a limited period of time. The most important factor is electricity, which powers the networking equipment, cash dispensing systems and card machines.
As India aspires to be a digital and cashless society, Internet shutdowns are counterproductive. Internet disruptions have a significant economic impact as a cashless economy cannot be sustained in a disproportionate connectivity environment. The digital or cashless economy cannot function without the Internet. Reliance Jio in an effort to encourage digitization launched Jio Money and will now sell Jio mobile phones with internet facility. The government has also associated with Google to provide free Wi-Fi facilities at public places like railway stations. The major challenges faced here are the high cost of internet connectivity, cybersecurity vulnerability, lack of infrastructure, etc.
History has taught us that Mother Nature has the ultimate say in everything we do. Even organizations alike have recognized its power which can be the only reason for the indemnity clause which comes with every contract – “Force Majeure / Acts of God” and events like earthquakes, storms, computer glitches etc. have always caused major disruptions to the technology. So far, 29 incidents of states blocking Internet services were reported in the country this year.
When an enterprise in Mumbai has its network down it should have a disaster recovery to ensure business continuity. Every enterprise, irrespective of their profits has to be geared up for this. Cloud could be the answer, but then it also comes at a cost and is not free.
Natural Disasters / Acts of God have time and again proved to us beyond doubt that dependency on technology should be limited and the dream of cashless society should be achieved only when we as humans have had success in either controlling Nature or when we are 100% sure that we have found the solution to all the issues which govern technology and the economics of running it. India lacks the infrastructure for a cashless economy and there is a long way to go before we completely go cashless.
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