Building a Digital India

By: | Published: April 11, 2016 6:09 AM

US enterprise software maker Oracle is very optimistic about the government’s Digital India, Make in India and Startup India initiatives. It also sees bright prospects for its cloud solutions which give governments an opportunity to re-imagine technology as an affordable, operational expense

The Indian economy has been witnessing a positive sentiment over the last few years. Some of the government’s key programmes, such as Digital India, Make in India, Startup India, Skill India have generated a lot of excitement in industry circles. The US enterprise software maker Oracle reckons that India is at an exciting phase of growth, innovation and development. On the heels of Oracle CEO Safra Catz’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a series of investments announced as part of Oracle’s expansion in India, the company announced at Oracle CloudWorld Mumbai the setting up of its first incubation centre in Bengaluru last week.

Called the ‘Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator,” the centre was inaugurated by Oracle’s president of product development Thomas Kurian. Several more centres are slated to launch later in Chennai, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Noida, Pune, Trivandrum and Vijayawada.

“India is at an exciting phase of growth, innovation and development,” Thomas Kurian told FE. “Through the Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator and the growing popularity of cloud as an alternate computing model, we want to be the catalyst for new business ideas. We are committed to furthering the government of India’s ‘Startup India’ initiative. It matches our agenda of fostering entrepreneurship and promoting innovation by creating the right ecosystem for growth and development.”

With Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator, Oracle aims to help speed up a startup’s development through a
combination of technical and business mentoring. The initiative targets midsize firms, including MSMEs and startups. “We chose Bengaluru for our first centre, given that Bengaluru is the second best funded startup hub in the world, outside of USA,” added Kurian.

To kickstart Oracle CloudWorld Mumbai, the company introduced a new suite of offerings, called Oracle Cloud at Customer, that remove some of the biggest challenges organisations face when transitioning to the cloud. Oracle Cloud at Customer provides CIOs with new choices in where they deploy their enterprise software and a natural path to easily move business critical applications from on-premise to the cloud.

“While organisations in India are eager to move their enterprise workloads to the public cloud, many have been constrained by business, legislative and regulatory requirements, especially in tightly-controlled industries such as telecommunications, government, and banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI),” said Oracle’s senior vice-president of cloud, Shawn Price. “With our new offering, Oracle addresses these challenges so that organisations across industries can reap the performance, cost and innovation benefits of Oracle Public Cloud and run it wherever they want – in Oracle Cloud or in their own datacentre.”

Smart services, smart citizens

Can government service delivery can be transformed using digital infrastructure? The government summit at the Oracle CloudWorld 2016, Mumbai began with a presentation from Laura Ipsen, senior vice-president, Industries Solutions Group, Oracle, on how Oracle looks at the smart city concept. It was followed by a panel discussion on the topic, ‘Transform govenment service delivery: Digital Infrastructure as a utility to every citizen’. Besides Laura Ipsen, the panelists included J Satyanarayana, advisor to Andhra Pradesh chief minister, Ajoy Mehta, municipal commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and VK Gautam, principal secretary, DIT,
Maharashtra government.

Mehta stressed on the need for transparency in government service delivery, which in turn will establish trustworthiness about the government among the citizens. The second factor is of inclusiveness. The citizens with no resources to consume government services should be equally empowered as any other citizen having access to a laptop or a mobile phone. Maharashtra’s principal secretary, DIT, Gautam, informed about the trained 35,000 digital assistants, who were delivering G2C services to the citizens in rural areas in Maharashtra.

Satyanarayana raised a pertinent point of eliminating the frequent submission of the same documents by the citizens while availing for every other government service. “If the citizen has already submitted the data to one government agency, why is there a need for him to take the pain of submitting it all over again for any other government service,” he asked. Gautam pointed out that the CM of Maharashtra has challenged the IT department to build systems that would position the government to not ask the information from the citizens that the government already has. “For government jobs, there is no need to ask for the SSC, HSC exam certificates. The government already has that data,” Gautam said.

Managing digital priorities

The second panel discussion, titled ‘Smart City Project Priorities and Digital Expectations’ was moderated by Sunil Jain, managing editor, The Financial Express. Panelists included Nikhil Agarwal, CEO Innovation Society, government of Andhra Pradesh, E Ravindran, commissioner of the Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC), Rajiv Desai, founder & CEO,3Di and Laura Ipsen of Oracle.

Sunil Jain spoke on the importance of how badly the country was in need of smart cities. He shared a statistic that due to indiscriminate urbanisation, every year until 2030, India will have to create urban and commercial space that is equivalent to the space of two Mumbais. Nikhil Agarwal pointed out that Andhra Pradesh has 13 major cities on the new map after the separation from Telangana. None of them are smart. The state is working to create a smart layer on it. In the first smart cities list, Visakhapatnam and Kakinada were shortlisted for which no monetary allocations were made after the Telangana separation. Currently, AP is working on developing Amaravati as a capital city and a smart city. Agarwal said “By August 1, 2016, we plan to shift 27,000 government employees to the new secretariat under construction in Amaravati. In the next 10 years, 2 million people will start living in the city.”
E Ravindran, commissioner, KDMC, highlighted how the same infrastructure can be used for multiple purposes. “The plan is to have the same pole being used for signals, Wi-Fi and CCTVs.” Laura gave the example of San Franciso on how mobile apps (SFpark) can be used by citizens to park the car in a parking place nearest to the destination with the real time information on the space available.

For waste management, Rajiv Desai cited the example of Los Angeles. The city has envisioned to produce
zero waste by 2025. Citizens have to pay extra charges if the waste created surpasses a threshold set by the authorities. The panel also discussed the potential of Internet of Things (IoT). It’s already being used heavily in USA, Europe, and the Middle East. Minnesota in USA is using thousands of sensors to collect water related data to predict flood warning. The electricity sub stations can be fitted with IoT sensors for preventive maintenance.On how technology can play a role without any manual intervention, Nikhil cited the way AP has laid down their fibre optic cables, which will transform citizen service delivery. The state has taken a unique route. The cables are rolled out atop the electric wire poles at a cost of only R320 crore in the period of nine months. If the same was done the traditional way of laying the fibre underground, then it would have taken five years at a cost of R5,000 crore.

By June 2016, the goal is to give every citizen a 40 Gbps connectivity at $2 a month.

Written by: Sudhir Chowdhary & Avishek Raval.

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