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How can India fully emerge as a new technology leader

Technology-led governance and hi-tech manufacturing infrastructure are two of the essential pillars on which India’s 2030 vision should stand. This can be achieved only by emancipating education, research and entrepreneurship.

C K Prahalad, India’s celebrated visionary, collaborated with the Confederation of Indian Industry in the year 2007, to outline a vision for India@75. “India at 75 should be defined by its Economic Strength, Technological Vitality and Moral Leadership,” he said. Corporate India has taken this up as a war cry and is now closer to this destination than ever before.

ECONOMIC STRENGTH

Our economic strength comes from our growth, demographics and stability. We are already among the top seven nations in GDP. Our consumption-driven markets, propelled by a young population, are attractive for both domestic and global players. Our financial institutions are strong, led by an independent and focused Reserve Bank of India. While the tax administration is still painful, tax compliance is at its best now. Digitisation is driving transparency, efficiency, and consumption. We are at ease with the oil price fluctuations. Thankfully, we are now in a strong position to manage fiscal deficit, forex reserves, currency stability and current account deficit.

MORAL LEADERSHIP

With our leaders talking about eliminating corruption in all walks of life and steps taken towards achieving this, the citizens have now the pride, courage and support to stand up against corruption in high places. Zero tolerance for corruption is continuing to reverberate through the corridors of power. Our relationship with other nations is based on sound and consistent (not opportunistic) principles and our non-violence credo is something we continue to showcase with dignity. Commitment to sustainability and standing shoulder to shoulder with global leaders in the Paris Climate accord is a show of our leadership.

SOCIETAL SUPPORT SYSTEMS…

Societal support systems based on family and extended family support to each other is our social security. This system is built on our heritage, belief systems and values and above all, examples set by our leaders. Family, local community and the Panchayati format are the basic building blocks for a caring and sharing society. The network of NGOs, the CSR commitment of corporates, the skills mission and the digital systems that include Aadhar and Direct Benefits Transfer help us fulfill our moral obligations to equity and opportunity for one and all.
Finally, we have built on our IT strength to become a pioneer in various realms of technology. In space programmes and
satellite launches, we are placed in the top 5 globally. Our investments in telecommunications have positioned us to connect the billion plus people in our country effortlessly. Investments in the digital mission have made our financial systems one of the most robust ones globally and our technological vitality is improving by the day, shaping up into an area with a high potential to dominate.
Today, maybe, is the right time to feel good about making C K Prahalad’s legacy proud. Maybe, is also the appropriate time to re-invigorate towards a 2030 goal that is even more ambitious.

UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO LEAD…

In the last decade, technology and reforms have played a vital role in all aspects of India’s growth story. Technology will continue to dominate our progress to a broader vision. However, in the sphere of reforms, there is much scope for improvement. If our technological vitality has to lead us to a dominance we have to move from reforms to liberation.
For us to be a nation that can realise its intellectual potential, we should liberate education and liberate entrepreneurship. We ought to set our sights on becoming one among top 3 in the world in technology and innovation by 2030. We now have the primary infrastructural and institutional strength to be a global leader in technology research and application. India continues to enjoy the demographic advantage of having an impressive army of millennial, which can turn into a force to be reckoned with when liberated. Yes, we have the unique opportunity to lead.

HEALTHCARE HITECHS

Dr K M Cherian, the renowned cardiac surgeon, predicts that by 2030 Bio-Economics will be a large part of the Global GDP. Three areas that are high-technology-dependent ones in which India enjoys a significant advantage are (a) Genomics and Research in Gene Therapy, (b) Medical Devices and Robotics in Medicine and Clinical Trials, and (c) Vaccine discovery and disease eradication.
Use of Data Science, Algorithms and Complex computing are an integral part of research and innovation in the field of Biotechnology and Medicine. Tele-Medicine and Robotic surgery offer considerable scope for Indian talent to emerge as the global centre for medical imaging, diagnostics and intervention. Funding our research in Biological Sciences and empowering the Pharma and Bio-Tech industry to collaborate with global leaders and creating large data systems and AI in Clinical trials in India are opportunities that will help India be a world leader in medical prevention and care by 2030.

AVIATION, DEFENCE AND SPACE RESEARCH

India’s capability in this sector is profound and is all set to be tapped for higher commercialisation. ISRO has made giant strides in satellite launches. The extraordinary fact about the Mars Mission was that it cost us just $74 million. In contrast, the budget for the film Gravity was about $100 million!
Despite these developments reflected in Chandrayan and Mangalyan and our avowed mastery over missile technology, we are still dependent on the external world for our defence and aviation requirements. This dependence can change with adequate investments in manufacturing and research. Well-funded defence outfits like DRDO and encouragement to the private sector in building defence manufacturing capability, for example, areas of immense potential for employment generation and also vital for national security.
The faster we move and invest in electronic design, engineering and manufacturing, the quicker will our dependence on electronic imports come down. While the core sector investment in power, steel and cement has to continue for nation building, the products that will be in high demand by 2030 are electronic products and pharma/genetic and bio-originals.
Investments in research and manufacturing in those sectors must be actively encouraged and unshackled.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SERVICES

India is a dominant player in this space. Every significant technology disruption has Indian professionals as part of its team. The capacity that we have built is quickly getting re-oriented to new areas of the digital world including Cyber security, Artificial Intelligence, Speech Recognition and Natural Language Processing. The three million workforce that is currently engaged in this sector is expected to double in the next 10 years and simultaneously all the firms and the individuals would have re-skilled and reinvented themselves into a strong cavalry of technology professionals.
What will make us emerge as a technology leader in all these new areas and many other areas like renewable energy and high-speed mobility? The answer lies in unbridled investment in electronic manufacturing, fully funded and empowered higher education and research institutions and a fully liberated entrepreneurial ecosystem.

GOVERNMENT RUNS ON TECHNOLOGY

We continue to talk only about our railway reservation systems, Aadhar, Digital payments infrastructure, e-Commerce and logistics companies of the last 10 years. Even cab-hailing services have gone totally hitech. The 64 million dollar question is: “When will the government use technology to deliver citizen services?”
In developed nations, the highest spend in technology has always been by the government and its departments. There is a unique opportunity for Central and state governments to use technology in land records, citizen services, digital receipts and payments, on public projects and programme management.
All this will lead to efficiency, improve productivity and above all promote clean and transparent governance. Technology-led governance and hi-tech manufacturing infrastructure are two of the essential pillars on which India’s 2030 vision should stand. This can be achieved only by emancipating education, research and entrepreneurship and by investing in education, research and hi-tech manufacturing.
If we accomplish these, then CK Prahalad’s vision of Economic, Technological and Moral Leadership will have all the required impetus for blossoming into reality. Will that happen? There is no reason why it should not.

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