Leveraging tech for inclusivity

Nov 13 2010, 02:29 IST
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SummaryAs India looks to scale up, its foremost challenge is making implementation more efficient. This article is the third in an FE series on ‘Implementing India’, the theme of the 26th India Economic Summit in the Capital.

As India looks to scale up, its foremost challenge is making implementation more efficient. This article is the third in an FE series on ‘Implementing India’, the theme of the 26th India Economic Summit in the Capital. The series chronicles first-hand accounts on India's implementation woes by corporate leaders.

The momentum of India’s economic progress is both a matter of celebration and a matter of concern. India’s progress stands threatened by a number of factors that business and government must note and address. Primary amongst these are: (1) The growth of the middle class and its implications (2) The need for higher standards of education and skill development (3) Infrastructure improvement and the availability of information (4) Food security, nutrition and the need to address the agricultural sector.

In each of these areas, technology can be called upon to play a critical role. It would be the role of an enabler that delivers equitable growth to all the players and actors involved.

The growth of the middle class and the need for better education are combined. The growth of the middle class presents an opportunity from a business point of view, but a nightmare from a governance perspective. Depending on whom you count in the middle class, the number for India varies from 30 million to 300 million. In 2005, the World Bank estimated the group at 264 million. This constitutes the single largest group in the country – but its significance lies in its rapid growth. It is estimated that India’s middle class has the consumption equivalent of Ireland and is expected to grow three times in the next 15 years.

This is good news. And businesses must prepare for the opportunity it presents. But the growth is going to bring inordinate pressure on the education system – and if the education system does not respond, the middle class will not be absorbed into the economy and will be unable to continue to contribute to the nation’s growth.

This is a problem of inclusivity at a national level that calls for urgent attention.

How can technology help match the needs of the growing Indian economy? Can technology impart the competitive skills required at a low cost and make them available across society and across geography? Education is not just required so that India’s growth continues to be fueled, but also to ensure that the growing population shows reduced

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