Fuelling India’s journey to the trillion-dollar digital economy, using innovation as a force multiplier

India’s information technology (IT) sector, expected to triple its current annual revenue to reach US $350 billion by FY 2025

India’s information technology (IT) sector, expected to triple its current annual revenue to reach US $350 billion by FY 2025, is a key pillar of the Indian economy, and the largest private sector employer. It has provided employment to almost six lakh people over the last six years and is likely to create 2.5-3 million new jobs by 2025. Cognizant of this, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology recently held a roundtable, calling upon the nation’s technology brainpower to put forth its vision for a transformation of an unprecedented scale, powered by the technology engine.

 Fuelling India’s journey to the trillion-dollar digital economy, using innovation as a force multiplier


I had the privilege of being a part of this panel to discuss how effective implementation of technology in healthcare, agriculture, education, e-commerce, and banking should be the key areas of focus for the government to realise its $1 trillion digital economy dream by 2020. And while we have a unique opportunity to address the emerging local and global market opportunities through technology use cases across hardware, software, design, and manufacturing, an efficient and effective partnership between government and the private sector, and a bustling innovation ecosystem are critical to achieve this feat.

Industry and government partnership
Globally, there are some excellent examples of public-private collaborations that demonstrate how collective thinking can bridge the worldwide estimated US$3 trillion gap in infrastructure projects. The United Kingdom's National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (NISP) exemplifies how the government and private sector together can help industry cut costs associated with waste, transportation, and storage. The NISP network consists of both large MNCs and small local businesses seeking new markets for unwanted materials that otherwise would end up in a landfill.

Over the years, India has also been at the forefront of successful collaborations between the public and private sectors, across healthcare, waste management, transportation and energy. However, as the world’s fourth fastest growing economy, there are some key areas that need the government’s intervention in order to minimise the roadblocks in the journey of public private partnerships (PPP). These include prioritising better dispute resolution mechanisms for PPP projects, endorsing emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G, cloud, big data and GIS through industry collaboration, and bolstering the policy and legal framework for data security. This, in turn, necessitates creating or modifying laws, policies, and providing infrastructure to promote digital ecosystem such as privacy laws around data and accessibility, special grants for research and development in the area of new technologies, as well as network and data accessibility at low rates.

But this is not a one-sided play. The industry must complement the government’s effort by providing its expertise, resources, and guidance. Together we must strategise and prepare for an ecosystem where these next-gen technologies are mainstream, where connectivity is seamless, and designed to improve the quality of life via e-governance, education, smart healthcare, and even precision agriculture, amongst other things.

Spurring the spirit of innovation
Another key contributor to the nation’s development is the startup ecosystem. Startups can make a strong contribution in the last-mile connectivity, changing the business models and reshaping the country. Leveraging India’s startup intellect via government and corporate-aided opportunities are a pre-requisite to stop the brain drain among the youth, and to integrate innovation into the fabric of the nation while working towards the $1 trillion economy.

Local makers and innovators need to be engaged through mentoring and market access based initiatives so that our country moves faster to solve real social issues through technology implementation, catapulting India as one of the top nations, among the Innovating Economies list.

In addition, these startups are creating 80,000-100,000 new jobs annually, cementing the fact that this spirit of entrepreneurship will not only solve issues but also translate into numerous employment opportunities, helping turn around the nation’s economic status.

Apart from empowering entrepreneurship, the industry needs to look at re-skilling its workforce. The pace of change brought upon by automation has accelerated significantly in recent times, necessitating new job roles and skills requirements. Training programs and engagement models for scientists, developers, analysts, and engineers on subjects such as AI, including machine and deep learning, are critical because there is a dearth of talent in such booming technology segments, which are important for economic transformation.

A step-by-step approach
It is critical that the way forward is clearly defined, and milestones set to move from where we are to where we want to be. We need a strong set of policies and solutions that reach the entire population and promote broader and richer set of solutions – phones for quick access to information; personal computers for creating, learning and managing knowledge; the Internet of Things for mass automation and intelligence; and servers for speed and scalability.

India can no longer choose to be just an app creator or user, but instead take full advantage of current and future technologies for itself, and the world.

Taskforces comprising of leading technology companies, government bureaucrats, as well as industry experts must be created to develop and implement projects that transform the healthcare, agriculture, education, e-commerce, and banking sectors, to begin with. With this defined, the target of $1 trillion, though ambitious, is attainable.

The author is Managing Director, Sales & Marketing Group India, Intel Technology India Pvt Ltd.

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