Perspectives on Digital India
India and the United Kingdom share a modern partnership bound by strong historical ties. During the last visit of PM Modi to UK, the relationship was given a boost with renewed focus on technology and increasing cooperation in trade, investment and finance. UK is India’s 15th largest goods trading partner and the 4th largest investor in India, while India is the third largest investor in the UK and emerged as the second largest international job creator with Indian companies having created over 110,000 jobs in the UK in recent months. Education is an important plank of the India-UK bilateral relationship, while Science and Technology sector is the fastest growing element of our bilateral relationship.
We share old cultural and historical links and value democratic principles. Indian culture is now mainstream in UK and the Indian origin community here is an integral part of the new multi-cultural Britain numbering approximately 1.5 million - almost 1.8 percent of the population and contributing 6% of the country’s GDP.
It is most appropriate that I speak about a new Digital India today at the Asia House- the veritable centre of Asian studies in UK. The old India represented resources and business opportunities for the old Britain. A new India again beckons UK with a host of business opportunities, especially in the digital arena. UK and the world at large need to understand the transformations that technology is bringing about in India and the ways it will change the commerce, security and the entire global governance system.
This was a new paradigm of technology led growth for sustainable development of an economy powered by 1.3 billion people and reinforced by demographic dividend where 65% of them are below the age of 35.
From this vision was born the Digital India Programme to transform India through the power of technology and bridge the digital divide. Other programmes like Start-up India, Stand-up India and Skill India were designed to become an important adjunct to this larger narrative.
Digital India has enabled us to build holistic capabilities across the entire ICT spectrum- infrastructure, electronics manufacturing, software services and delivery platforms, IT skill sets and job creation, which in turn are transforming India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. The focus is on providing easy access to services to the citizens anytime from anywhere. A few key development aspects of Digital India include the following:
Four years down the line, empirical evidence suggests that Digital India is not only creating empowerment but also generating employment opportunities and promoting entrepreneurship. Laying down of 2,74,246 km of optic fibre connecting 117,000 gram panchayats under BharatNet, speaks volumes about the speed with which we have created digital infrastructure that is reflected inIndia’s digital profile today
Access to technology is the first key step for its adoption and eventual empowerment. Access must be easy and affordable. India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has understood this. We under took some path-breaking initiatives to provide easy and affordable access to technology to 1.3 billion people of India:
Not only easy and affordable access was important but also simple services tailor made to the needs of the diverse population was critical for the success of Digital India. India’s young and innovative minds have played a key role in this. India being the third largest Startup ecosystem of the world is creating innovative solutions to some of its unique problems. This necessitated the government to come up with innovative digital solutions for citizens such as:
The winds of digital change sweeping across India are changing not only the way Indian access and consume information, but the very way we live, study, do business and work.
The size and scope of India’s Digital Sector is now well established. It is a matter of great pride that 200 IT companies of India are working in 80 countries of the world and providing service to one third of the Fortune 500 companies. It is a matter of great assurance that despite global uncertainties, India’s IT exports are growing.
Electronics Manufacturing- As part of the larger Make in India vision, my ministry has actively promoted electronics manufacturing. Mobile phone manufacturing units in the country increased from just 2 in 2014 to 120 in 2018. In the same period, annual production of mobile handsets increased from 60 million units to 225 million units. It has created 100,000 direct and 350,000 indirect jobs. Similarly, TV and LED products manufacturing have grown significantly, with more than 50 units set up in the last 4 years.
Another area of strong growth is the e-commerce sector, which grew at 19% year-on-year in 2017-18, mainly driven by growing rural aspirations and increasing digital penetration. Apart from generating employment in direct activities related to e-commerce platforms, this growth has a positive impact on the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and has a favourable cascading effect on other industries, creating increased employment opportunities.
Innovative India- nurturing the Startup culture- Since 2014, our Government has encouraged startups through concerted policy measures. Prime Minister Modi saw the potential of startups and took a comprehensive policy initiative to promote the startup through Startup India. Today, India is world’s third largest startup ecosystem in the world after USA and UK. More than 5000 startups have come up in last four years. Nearly 10 startups have acquired unicorn status having worth more than $ 1 billion. Average funding per startup in India touched $ 6.2 million.
Future Drivers of Growth- With such an extensive digital profile India is uniquely poised to take a leap into the next era of digital growth and development by tapping the potential of emerging technologies like Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Robotics.
Technologies like AI to Augment Jobs and Not to Replace Jobs- Every new technology brings about changes in the job market. Computers are the biggest example of this. When computers came in India, many conventional jobs gave way to new jobs. There were apprehensions that computers will take away jobs but today computers have become the biggest job creators. I see Artificial Intelligence in the same way. It is true that AI will alter job nature on many fronts but it is equally true that it will open up opportunities for new type of jobs. Therefore, India’s approach will be augment jobs using Artificial Intelligence rather than merely replacing human beings from job space. Only this will create a sustainable job market in future.
Policies to manage change- We have instituted a comprehensive policy to anticipate and encourage technological changes in India.
We have also undertaken steps for skilling and re-skilling of our technical workforce.
Respect for Data Accuracy and Data Privacy- Data is essential for growth of new technologies.
Attractive destination- India offers a great promise for investors. The future is very promising because India’s digital economy, large size of our market, demographic dividend and passion for technology is creating enormous demand. Our digital economy also includes emerging areas like AI and IoT, the growing start-up movement and low cost, effective cyber security solutions. While we work out the details, no one doubts the potential to make India’s digital economy worth $1 trillion, employing 5-7 million people in the next 5-7 years.
It has been said that economic growth will be underwritten for the next generation by both green innovation and secure digital networks. India offers massive scope in both the areas for investors from UK.
The Digital future of the world- inclusive, affordable, transformative and growth oriented is being written in India today. No firm that has a stake in the future can afford to sit out the digital revolution taking place in India. Digital India beckons- make it a part of your digital future.
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