Bill Gates presented a lecture at Niti Aayog, on "Transforming India." The lecture was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior government officials. Gates spoke about how Technology could be one of the biggest drivers for social transformation. He touched upon the various possibilities of technology providing the improvements in education, sanitation, health care, agriculture and governance. Earlier in the day, Gates met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Gates asked India to prepare for a major technological shift. Over the course of the last few years, Artificial intelligence has improved enough to approach human like capabilities. Going forward, there are expected to be rapid improvements in artificial intelligences. Automation, cloud services and AI are poised to eliminate manufacturing jobs. This is an opportunity for the IT sector in India, and Gates called for India to embrace these new technologies, despite the fears that are naturally a part of rapid transformation. Retraining and adapting talent is necessary as innovation in AI accelerates.
In terms of health, gates signaled breakthroughs in vaccines for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Gates also outlined how technology can help transform agriculture in India. He gave the example rice crops that were infused with genes that made the plants resistant to floods. The new variety of crops is being used by farmers in South Asia. Gene editing is a new technology that can accelerate the process of trait creation in plant varieties. Satellites or drones could monitor crops for diseases, and to check if they had enough water or fertiliser.
The Startup India initiative has been important for cultivating enterpreneurship in India. Startups are booming in India, and there is more venture capital available than ever before.
Gates praised the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana scheme which extended comprehensive financial inclusion to the underserved in India. Getting a billion people on Adhaar was an effort unprecedented by any government worldwide. Now, Adhaar forms a basis for delivering all kinds of personally identifiable services. The rollout of Unified Payment Infrastructure has made financial transactions easier than ever before. Gates praised the recent demonetisation as well, saying its a step towards a more transparent economy, and a blow to the shadow economy.
Gates also praised the Digital India mission, and particularly the Mygov platform for increasing citizen participation in governance. It was a good way to get rid of paper forms, and prevent people from feeding in the same information multiple times. All of this allow for technology and services to be delivered easily and swiftly, where it is most required. Banking, eCommerce, healthcare and education are just some of the services that can now be delivered more easily, over technological platforms.
Gates said that India could become the most digitised economy in as little as seven years, not just by volume but also by percentage. He congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the various steps that have laid a strong foundation for the digital future of India.