Investments in technology crucial for Digital India dream

  • John Chambers
  • Updated: Jun 18, 2015 03:23 IST

Last May, the people of India put faith in a new leader to bring about the change needed to accelerate the country’s goals and expand its role in the global economy. Now that a year has passed, they are eager to see results, and the world is watching.

The government understands that millions of Indians are looking to it to deliver on its promises and meet the expectations for India to take a position as one of the fastest-growing global economies. With the spotlight on India, there is a national sense of urgency for action, and strategic investments in technology will be critical to creating a new path for the future.

The work that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already done to lay the groundwork for transformation with the Digital India initiative, which calls for the creation of large-scale digital infrastructure, digitally-enabled government services and increased digital literacy among the Indian people, is commendable.

While a programme of this scale is unprecedented, I believe that it is a risk worth taking, as the opportunities that it will bring about will also be immense. With the right technological investments, India can completely transform how citizens, businesses and the government interact, potentially adding $550 billion to $1 trillion in economic value for the country.

With Digital India Week approaching, the time is now to take the initiative on transformational projects that harness the power of digitisation. The people of India are ready for meaningful change and I believe that the government can truly deliver on the promises of Digital India through the following:

1) Supporting the startup ecosystem: The startup ecosystem will be a significant growth driver for India and we’re already seeing its influence. With the government’s support, the country is creating an environment conducive to innovation, which will also create jobs.

With over 3,100 startups, India is currently the fourth-largest startup community in the world, and these numbers will only increase. By 2020, India will have more than 10,000 startups, which, in turn, will create 250,000 to 300,000 jobs.

With continued support and investment, this flourishing ecosystem has the potential to bring about many more
opportunities for India to compete on the global stage.

2) Transforming industries: Companies across every industry and geography are realising the value that comes with going digital, and in India, there is tremendous value that has yet to be unlocked. By using the Internet to connect, businesses can increase efficiency, productivity and quality, in turn boosting GDP growth.

Across industries in India’s private sector, digitisation has the potential to create $394.4 billion in value over the next decade.

The manufacturing industry is particularly ripe for transformation. With the sector making up only 15% of overall GDP, India needs to overcome its challenges to keep up with peers like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. The government hopes to boost manufacturing’s share of India’s overall GDP to 25%, but in order to do so, it must rethink everything — from how factories are run and products are created, to how machines are operated and serviced.

Through connectivity, manufacturers can increase productivity, speed up their product cycles and improve quality standards. For instance, when a machine is fitted with sensors that are connected to the Internet, it can predict and prevent potential problems, reducing downtime and errors. Enabling manufacturers to do business better and faster will drive new opportunities for India and help manufacturers to increase competitiveness and achieve their growth goals.

3) Creating smart cities: The UN expects India’s urban population to grow to 404 million people by 2050 and the government must prepare for this influx. Technology will be essential to providing the urban services that citizens need and improving quality of life, while also creating an environment that is more favourable for business investments.

The government in India has announced a budget for the development of 100 smart cities, which, if invested in the right ways, could have a tremendous impact.

By connecting household water-meters with a network that enables remote monitoring, for instance, India could help solve one of the most pressing problems faced by its cities - Water management.

According to McKinsey, 140 litres of water are needed per capita per day, yet only 105 litres are supplied. Digitising the water system could eliminate waste and help citizens get the water that they need. This is just one example of how technology can transform India’s cities — by implementing additional solutions like smart lighting, waste management, transportation, etc, the daily lives of citizens can be improved immensely, jobs can be created and costs can be reduced.

Today, I see technology at an inflection point, in which it can drive forward Modi’s vision of a Digital India, transform the nation into a digital empowered society and knowledge economy, and improve the standard of living for the millions of citizens who are not currently having their most basic needs met. I’m betting on India.

John Chambers is chairman and CEO, Cisco. The views expressed are personal.

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