India is at crossroads. With more than a million-strong new entrants being added to workforce every year, there’s the overarching question - Where are the jobs and what vision will take the country forward? Luckily, most of the infrastructure needed is yet to be built. And that’s the opportunity of the century which lies ahead. As a young India finds its wings, it grapples with tough choices and a long arduous road ahead.
Amongst the essential ingredients required for India to realize it’s true potential, is the use and emergence of Digital Technologies that promises a bright future ahead. Intel with its #DigitalIndia, ‘Digital Skills for India’ and ‘Innovate for India’ initiatives, is eager to contribute to be part of this build up. The reason I chose the word build up, instead of transformation, is because for most of such frameworks are completely non-existent in the current state of things. This post is on different aspects which India faces towards realizing its Digital-Vision.
Governance for Digital-Vision
Governance continues to be the key, and anything in governance which doesn’t scale has no place in our roadmap. All manual and non-scalable efforts won’t move the system at all, simply because of the sheer size and scale of the items to be dealt with.
Lets look at some numbers. Below is a chart of GDP per capita, comparing India vs. China (from year 2000). It’s clear that China continued it’s momentum despite pressure and rising costs of doing business. Such precise execution by our neighbour is commendable and an indicator for us to replicate some of their successful recipe. It is critical for India at this juncture to aggressively use digital technologies to help the government make the right decisions at the right time. Its also not restricted to decision making, but use of technology can enhance true uderstanding of the scale and nature of the challenges that lie ahead of India.
The below chart shows per-capita electricity consumption comparison, between India, China and USA. It’s clear that India is finding it’s feet and is in the right direction, however significantly more hands-on-deck are required on the infrastructure front. There are many areas where E-Governance, Technology and innovation can make big impact in relatively short amount of time. (Chart: Data taken from World Bank Database, Chart made using Google Chart APIs)
There needs to be a delicate balance for assistance given to those facing extreme bottom end of the spectrum. India needs to double down these efforts to ensure that government is able to serve those who need the most. Digital initiatives are already proving to be a key force-multiplier in many areas such as direct financial assistance by cash-transfer schemes. They provide control, visibility and significantly boost the effectiveness of such programs. To begin on Digital-Vision path, big focus should be on developing Digital-Skills in the workforce. These skills are critical transform the country into a digitally empowered and connected knowledge economy. A good example is newly launched Andriod app by Intel for Digital-Skills training, covering areas such as digital literacy, financial inclusion, healthcare and cleanliness.
Partner, Build and Innovate
At the end of the day, it’ll be private enterprises who will shoulder the responsibility of the actual work done on ground. In an ideal environment, entrepreneurs want government to be completely invisible (transparent), so they can confidently build next generation of business’. To fulfil the Digital-Vision, it’s imperative that Government, Entrepreneurs and Technology companies collaborate and apply latest solutions to our most pressing issues.
Example Sector: Tourism
How is Digital-India vision and Tourism related? Well, technology touches all sectors today, and increasingly in tourism. As India builds up the infrastructure, tourism infrastructure also improves. Better Airports, Hotels and transportation in general. Below is a chart of number of arrivals/departures from India. Both numbers are increasing, however this same data also serves as a critical indicator of progress on improving infrastructure. There are many areas which impact tourism, such as cleanliness of cities, ease of transportation and a wider array of services in vibrant set of cities. The current Government has a framework for ‘Smart Cities’ by Ministry of Urban Development. The key stress there is again on Digital-technologies and modern communication systems to make the city a better place to live, attracting more interest from the world and hence lead to stronger growth in tourism.
At the end of the day, the more of the governance systems which are brought onto digital backend, the more impact those systems will have. We have witnessed a communications transformation in India in the last decade, the need of the hour is to leverage that to full extent and continue to the next level.
I haven’t gone into specific details of technologies that are going to win. Mobile will be there. Then there is Internet of Things (IOT), Big Data, Financial Systems, Land Management Systems, Rural Health, Renewable’s and many more. The sheer scope of learning and growth is immense. Let me know your thoughts on Digital India and what are key challenges you foresee ahead of us.