How Technology can help achieve the Vision of Developed India

‘The vision is great, and the tools are “anek” ’

This was evident from the inspiring speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the Independence Day ceremony from ramparts of Red Fort. Attributing the progress made so far to the hard work of ‘Team India’, the Prime Minister highlighted facets of improvement for development of the nation. Progress is, indeed, the result of multiple factors, and efforts, made through various tools – including policy, guidelines, processes, systems, technology and above all human behavior.

In this article, I would like to pinpoint key areas where technology, particularly emerging technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Machine to Machine (M2M), Digital Payments, Collaborative Intelligence and others can be leveraged to solve some of the existing issues. Technology by no means, is the single anchor for development, however, it definitely enables the other elements to perform well and deliver their best, thus empowering every person to play a role in the movement.

Firstly, let’s focus on the concept of ‘Team India’. When the torchbearers of the country said that progress is achievable only with the efforts of 125 crore Indians, it is indeed a great responsibility on each of us, to participate in the development of the nation at various levels and capacities. Technology here promises to provide a platform – a unique citizen engagement platform through which citizens can submit ideas, discuss and prioritise those ideas and decide which ones to implement, and collaboratively work towards implementation. It also triggers other advantages such as sharing resources, disseminating information and understanding others’ perspectives. Such platforms are based on collaborative intelligence characterized by multi-agent, distributed systems where each agent, human or machine, is uniquely positioned, with autonomy to contribute to a problem-solving network.

Second aspect that the PM talked about was strengthening the base of the growth pyramid with financial inclusion, i.e. providing bank access to each and every citizen. This would definitely go a long way in the progress of nation by increasing the buying power of every Indian, hence making the economy move ahead. This would also help eradicate corruption by alleviating middlemen in the payments value chain. Technology is playing a vital role in achieving this goal of ‘Banking for the Unbanked’, right from smartening the banks in their processes and systems to increasing their operational capacity and enabling efficient management. It has even gone a step further with smart cards, prepaid wallets, digital payments, that allow micro-transactions to be done in the split of a second, thus saving a lot on time and transactional cost.

The third focus area for Team India is to build a cleaner India. The ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ (SBM) which is a multi-fold operation with key objectives of eliminating open defecation, eradicating manual scavenging, managing solid waste, and inculcating behavioural change regarding healthy sanitation practices. Technology provides numerous tools for this – safe sanitation with smart-toilets that track their own usage and send alerts when cleaning activity is due, smart garbage bins for solid waste management and mobile apps to locate nearest toilets in public places, to name a few. These technologies help realize the full benefits of SBM by solving the issue at hand, say open defecation, and also pre-emptively solving the associated issues such as solid waste management etc. It ensures that smartness is inculcated end-to-end in the process, right from tracking to collecting waste to disposing it, thus building a fail-safe system. In other words, it is a multi-pronged approach of attacking a problem from various angles with different tools, thus leaving no chance for failure due to incapability of one link in the chain or blame-game tactics.

The fourth aspect widely talked about was of fighting corruption, which in turn is linked to many other aspects. Technology definitely has a pandora of tools to eradicate corruption, including – cashless payments with smart cards, digitized processes and technologically-enabled systems to reduce manual intervention, dashboards and analytics engines that churn tonnes of data to produce reports of cash used and burnt, portals that present these reports to the citizens and provide a platform for citizens to monitor the progress of various government missions and raise concern wherever things fall out of line.

The fifth anchor for development goals is efficient management of resources, mainly water, power and gas. Each one of us does understand how vital this is for the growth of Indian economy, however here I would briefly point out the technology enablement in this area. Right from smart grids monitoring network availability and efficiency, and managing load curves, to demand-side management, streamlined billing, reduced theft/pilferage, reduced equipment failure and improvement in KPIs, to generating and feeding solar and wind power back into the grid, are some of the tools through which technology enhances the capability of current power transmission and distribution systems.

The last anchor that we discuss here is ‘Start-Up India, Stand-Up India’, which focuses on promoting the entrepreneur culture in the country. Entrepreneurship could be envisaged in multiple domains – manufacturing, retail, technology and medical care, to name a few. We discuss the role played by technology here. On one hand, it builds platforms and opens up an immense opportunity area for entrepreneurs to work upon. To give an example, IoT is capable of connecting the entire country with a network of sensors, and build an open platform to interact with these sensors, but what to do with these sensors, which all applications to build, which solutions and services to provide – is an open field, waiting to be explored by individuals trying to solve problems. Therefore, technology itself is generating 'demand' for entrepreneurship. On the other hand, technology plays a vital role in educating and training people to equip them with requisite skill set. Right from e-learning to virtual classrooms to remote education to learning via apps and gaming, technology has made learning affordable and digestible for every individual. In this way, technology is providing the ‘right supply' of skilled resources to the economy, which is indeed an important enabler to achieve our vision of ‘Make in India’ and ‘Global HR Hub’.

Most of the points discussed above are integral to the tenet of a smart ecosystem. Smart cities, smart citizens, smart businesses and smart governance are the key areas that encompass holistic development across all above anchors, and technologies such as IoT in collaboration with others, have the capability to drive this transformation towards smartness.

I would end by saying that this, by no means, is an exhaustive list of our goals as a nation or the possibilities of technology. It is just a pointer whose tail end emerges from the vision that our revered Prime Minister manifested in his Independence Day speech, which is the vision of every Indian in some sense, and whose head-end points towards the keys that open the locks of the potential of emerging technologies to achieve this vision.