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To put India on the top, focus on digitalisation, democracy and demography

The Development momentum initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi Is sustainable if India leverages the 3Ds – Digitalisation, Democracy, Demography, and fulfils the ‘Sankalp Se Siddhi’ pledge

opinion Updated: Aug 21, 2017 17:57 IST
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has started generating the development momentum to fulfil our potential. It comes from executing a vision focused on enhancing productivity and employability, placing a premium on entrepreneurship, and empowering the poor with long-denied opportunities(Arun Sharma/HT)

India started its “tryst with destiny” on August 15, 1947. The 2047 centennial will be time to take stock of where we have reached. Will we be a world economic leader — not just in size, and will Indians be significantly better off?

However, to reach that “destiny” in 2047 is not easy. We must reduce poverty and inequality, ensure adequate food, and generate employment. India must compete successfully in a world transformed by technology – not just with countries but even MNCs, like Google, which alone has more than 25,000 researchers – the pick of international talent.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has started generating the development momentum to fulfil our potential. It comes from executing a vision focused on enhancing productivity and employability, placing a premium on entrepreneurship, and empowering the poor with long-denied opportunities. It has broken from claustrophobic, centralised planning, which since the 1970’s had throttled growth and created an ecosystem of corruption.

Is this momentum sustainable? Yes it is sustainable by leveraging India’s 3Ds – Digitalisation, Democracy, Demography, and fulfilling the ‘Sankalp Se Siddhi’ pledge as a country.

Digitalisation and technological developments will transform our lives. At its core will be ‘customisation within networks’ i.e. allowing vast numbers of people to work together and cooperate, on a scale unimagined today, while maintaining individual preferences and information. Democracy remains the best political system for this new era – giving individuals a voice but also checking monopolistic behaviour. Demographics will yield dividends when we skill our youth for the new age and use these skills to create an entrepreneur driven economy.

Some of the ways in which we can put India’s 3Ds to work are:

National Digital Strategy — We need to create a national digital strategy detailing a proactive, future-focused approach to leveraging technology in education, employment, administrative reform, inclusion, etc.

Build a ‘Cooperation Economy’ —Shift the focus away from individual, large-scale ventures and institutions. Instead use technology to create networks of individuals sharing information, research, common resources — effectively creating ‘virtual’ scale through technology.

Open ‘distributed’ architecture of economy — Build a seamless ‘plug and play’ environment that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship across sectors and even social activity. Change knowledge acquisition and delivery in education, allow people to access others’ research and share their own work easily. Encourage distributed manufacturing, thus creating multiple industrial centres spread across India rather than few unmanageable hubs.

Distributed manufacturing also fits well with advances in renewable energy that are making smaller scale generation efficient. Explore substituting tightly integrated industrial processes with smaller ancillary suppliers that can cater to multiple production ‘chains’ — allowing more efficient capacity utilisation and potentially reducing cyclical swings.

Agriculture that’s not focused on size – We continuously lament fragmented farm holdings. What we need is an agricultural revolution that uses technology to improve the returns for farmers. ‘Uberisation’ of capital intensive machinery, micro and precision agriculture to name some, are measures that can lead to quantum leaps in productivity and income.

‘Wiki’ governance and decentralised democracy — Our administrative structure needs retooling to enjoy the democracy dividend. This implies making local government institutions fiscally strong. It means real administrative power delegated down from Lutyens’ Delhi and state capitals to local governments — where decision-makers are accountable to the communities. It entails using technology, transparent and dynamic law-making and reduced ‘exceptionalism’ ‘to evolve from a large enforcement behemoth into a self-regulation enabling regime.

Technology-driven delivery of welfare initiatives — Technology, as Aadhaar has shown, will significantly reduce leakages in welfare. That is not enough. We need to use feedback from welfare schemes to dynamically determine real support needs. This means effective, not reduced, funding. The most underprivileged often need more support, and their needs must be determined on an ongoing and timely manner.

Smart citizens —Smart citizens make smart institutions. Citizens need to be educated for a technology driven world, equal access to opportunity and protection of individual rights. Education is the most important ingredient. The UGC and relevant ministries must redesign curricula, focusing on using and harnessing technology to create solutions. This will help develop entrepreneurship. A ‘pipeline’ of new entrepreneurs is needed to benefit from the demographic dividend.

Moral governance —We need a government that is doing what is ‘right’. First we should attack the cancer of corruption afflicting our lives, and we should ensure that the “the poorest and weakest”, as Mahatma Gandhi described, are included in the opportunities that India offers.

These ideas should provide directional hints for action over the next three decades—till 2047. The 3 Ds are a lucky coincidence of strength that can fuel India’s journey to the long-awaited tryst with destiny.

Saket Misra is Delhi-based fund manager

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Aug 21, 2017 17:57 IST