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PM Modi’s app innovation challenge: Step towards AatmaNirbhar Bharat

The AatmaNirbhar app challenge introduced last month became an opportunity to showcase the long due talent of Indian tech developers, entrepreneurs and companies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought technology to the forefront of our lives. Right from office tools, entertainment to online education, digital tools are becoming the mainstay of how we operate and live our lives even more so than before. App downloads have grown by 20.3% as compared to last year, and Indians have accounted for more than 5bn downloads out of the 33.6bn app downloads in Q1 of 2020.
When we look at the data, Indian tech developers do not rank anywhere on the leader board of the top countries developing apps. With Facebook and Google, ByteDance, the Chinese internet company which developed the now banned video-sharing social network, Tik Tok, is amongst the top 3 companies worldwide. However, the Indian Government has found enormous underlying opportunity and potential in the developers. Amidst this sharp intake in the usage of online/digital tools, PM Modi has announced the new Digital India AatmaNirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge. This project is launched by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in partnership with Atal Innovation Mission– Niti Ayog.

“AatmaNirbhar Bharat is a launchpad for fostering entrepreneurship, nurturing innovation and creation of an ecosystem for rural-urban symbiotic development” –
VP, M Venkaiah Naidu

The press releases related to the challenge outlines that this program will be run in 2 tracks. Track 1 will focus on identifying the best Indian apps that are already being used in the market and have the potential to scale in 8 broad categories namely office productivity & work from home, social networking, e-Learning, entertainment, health & wellness, business including Agritech and Fintech, news and games.

Track 1 will promote existing tech entrepreneurs who have working prototypes of their apps live in the ecosystem to give them the needed support to scale up and potentially become world-class apps. In track 1, cash awards will be awarded to the top 3 winners in each of the categories. The cash awards are planned as follows; Rs. 24L for the 1st place followed by Rs. 15L & Rs. 10L for 2nd and 3rd place respectively. In addition to these, the evaluators might create sub-categories in each of the broad categories.

Track 2 will seek to “identify Indian start-ups/entrepreneurs/companies and encourage them with ideation, incubation, prototyping, and roll out of applications.” Track 2 will gain momentum in a couple of months and we will learn more about it with time. This initiative is a welcome move to manifest the vision PM Modi had when he announced the need of AatmaNirbhar Bharat in early May with COVID relief package worth Rs. 20 lakh crores.

Abhishek Singh, CEO, MyGov & President NeGD, wrote in a blogpost on the MyGov website

“in the last few years, India has shown to the world that it is second to none when it comes to building tech solutions at a very large scale. And this App innovation challenge will further give an opportunity to start-ups and entrepreneurs across India to contribute to building these apps and get rewarded as well as feature on the leader boards”.

Indian Govt. had increased the outlay of the budget for Digital India by 23% to Rs 3,958 CR for 2020-2021. PM Modi’s app innovation challenge seems to be one of the benefactors of this budgetary allocation and the right step toward bringing innovation to the forefront for various start-ups and established tech companies. A strong push from the Government in the form of sustained capital flow and policy decisions will ensure that this vision is taken to fruition.

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