Digital India has to be a PPP like never before: Debjani Ghosh, MD, Intel, South Asia

By: | Published: December 8, 2014 12:24 AM

Intel believes that the government’s Digital India vision is going to be imperative to propel the country into its next phase of growth...

Intel believes that the government’s Digital India vision is going to be imperative to propel the country into its next phase of growth. “Skill development and innovation are needed for realising the Digital India vision and these are the two areas in which Intel will begin working with the government to digitally empower the citizens of India,”  Debjani Ghosh, vice-president, Sales and Marketing Group, managing director, Intel South Asia, tells Sudhir Chowdhary. Excerpts:

What will be the role played by the private sector in achieving the Digital India vision?

I think getting India connected is an extremely bold and bodacious task and if you set out on such a challenge or task, you need to have a more bold and bodacious goal out there which will enable you to get through that path. I think Digital India provides you with that. As the IT secretary RS Sharma said, it is a vision not a programme; which says that we need every citizen in India connected to technology and thereby connected to services and education which is needed if you are going to talk about inclusive growth.

What I think the government has done brilliantly is really set a vision that inspires the industry, that inspires the people and now everyone will start thinking about it as a clever strategy. You have set the goal and you are telling the industry, you figure out how you are going to enable us to reach that goal. So everyone is now thinking of what we can do or what should we do. It has to be a public private partnership like never before. Whatever we come up with has to scale from day one and it has to really enable or make a difference to the whole Digital India journey so that we can accelerate the pace. That’s what every company has to do. Now the ball is in the industry’s court.

The objectives of the Digital India programme are quite ambitious. Can they be achieved?

Absolutely, if the people or the industry get together to really work on this and without competition because there is enough room out there. I strongly believe it is not just achievable but it has to be achievable. I don’t think there is an option. You just have to do it; you have to make India digital. So  yes it is achievable, but it needs the industry to make a focused commitment to India and this is not just saying I will do it. This is bringing in the investment, this is bringing in the focus, this is coming out with customised programmes that will actually help you do that. It is going to be critical.

From the government’s part, I think they have to make it easy for the industry to work on this; from a policy perspective, make it easy for us to contribute. They should have a transparent process and have a very high level of visibility. In short, make it transparent, make it easy and encourage the industry to come in and do their best.

What will be the role played by Intel in this direction?

From Intel’s standpoint, we have two core areas of strength. One is innovation without doubt. The second is that as a company, we have invested a lot in education and it is something we are passionate about. When I was looking at the Digital India blueprint and where can Intel make a difference, I said these are the two areas that we will focus on because I think we have what it takes to really make a difference here.

What could be some of the challenges towards having an inter-connected India?

The first challenge is, India needs to have and I think with the new government we are going to have one strong national agenda and political will with respect to information technology. Earlier it was very fragmented; there was no one strong voice. For this kind of an initiative to be successful, you need everyone to be aligned with that one vision and one voice. We cannot have states saying no this is not what we want, we want something different. You have to have one voice across, because India is all about states. You really need this vision to be percolated down to the states and the states to be committed to this vision.

The second challenge is the focus on execution. We are excellent in terms of talking about big plans. What we have to do is make a strong commitment to execution. The time for debate on Digital India has gone.

What will the future landscape look like 5 years down the line?

I think the Digital India plan will take longer than 5 years. I think 60% will be done by 2020, as we have so many people to connect and train. For me, the key milestone will be to see a local ecosystem that is actually investing and developing localised solutions for India. For example, ensuring that on a device you have biometric recognition so that you can get your Aadhaar verification done there itself and you don’t have to go to a centre, which will be a huge difference for the country’s farmer community.

I would love to see something like, when I went to a village in Rajasthan and all the farmers there wear a bangle. Today we wear fashionable bands, I would love to see something that the farmers can use basically through voice recognition, that is able to give them access to the latest information, from weather to fertilisers, crop price etc, that will allow them to make decisions on the spot. I think if we can create a culture of innovation for India and create an ecosystem for local players who are able to drive it along with the big guys—it is a win-win for everyone.

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