The year 2018 has seen the government partner companies and universities to explore AI, IoT, and Big Data based solutions.
By Sameer Garde
India’s growth story is hard to ignore. Looking back at the year gone by, we see that India has not just leapfrogged but pole-vaulted in the technology space—and this can be put down to India’s success in navigating the road from digital transformation to digital innovation.
From building smart cities to developing a smart nation
India is clearly on the path of achieving success on the digitalisation front, and the most vibrant example that stands out is the government’s Smart Cities Mission. Designed to redefine affordable housing, multi-modal transport, waste and traffic management, etc., through technology, the Smart Cities Mission has impacted 99.5 million people till date. In line with the developments, the Andhra Pradesh government in collaboration with Cisco developed India’s longest smart street in Vijayawada with 35 Wi-Fi hotspots and 240 smart street lights. According to Cisco IDC report, a city-wide smart initiative such as smart lighting could help Vijayawada Municipal corporation save up to Rs 35 crore per year (approximately $5.22 million). However, for digital innovation to prosper, rural India will have to be equally invested in—resulting in the building of a smart nation.
With a smart nation connected by secure internet highways, citizens—irrespective of their location—will benefit from the creation of new jobs, increased connectivity and better opportunities.
Innovations fueled by new technologies
While technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain and robotics are being used as the driving forces behind digital transformation, India in 2018 took a step further by pursuing bespoke innovations using cutting-edge technology. The Andhra Pradesh government is the first state in the country to introduce Blockchain in land records, with states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, Assam, Kerala, and Rajasthan developing their own pilot projects. India is also partnering with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to create a Blockchain-based mechanism that recognises the qualifications of Indian migrant workers.
Digital innovation in automation across diverse sectors including automobiles, pharma, information technology (IT),Information technology-enabled services (ITeS), and banking and financial services industry (BFSI) is propelling ‘Make in India’ to new heights. For instance, automation plays a key role in deploying, scaling, and managing a network of the size of Reliance Jio. The Cisco Jio Automate initiative created a faster time-to-market, onboarding 160 million subscribers and managing traffic of more than 2.5 exabytes.
Healthcare, education and agriculture get an upgrade
Innovation in AI is not being limited to manufacturing, finance and IT but is making its presence felt in healthcare, education, and agriculture. From leveraging Machine Learning (ML) models to predict (and therefore prevent) student dropout rates to using Virtual Reality (VR) modules to explain complicated science and math concepts, Indian education is being positively impacted. In healthcare, AI is innovatively being used for screening, monitoring, and diagnostic assistance, with examples ranging from reading and analysing chest X-rays, radiology images, and electrocardiography (ECG), to automatically scanning pathology slides and assessing images for signs of retinopathy.
The year 2018 has seen the government in partnership with companies and universities explore AI, IoT, and Big Data to seek out solutions to problems in India’s agriculture sector. A pilot project on precision agriculture powered by AI was launched in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. By ensuring that the crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity, NITI Aayog’s pilot project will aim at improving yields of small landholders. AI technologies are also impacting areas such as pest surveillance, climate control, controlled irrigation, and warehouse management.
Greater prosperity through technology
Indian innovations in the technology space have opened up the employment landscape. Industry body Nasscom’s July 2018 report stated that around 1.4 lakh jobs were currently vacant in AI and Big Data analytics segment. The association also predicts the number to rise to 2.3 lakh by 2021.
Technology has also increased financial inclusion. EY’s FinTech Adoption Index indicated that 52% of the digitally active in India are fintech users. The ease-of-use of technology-backed payment banks and mobile wallets has attracted both urban and rural Indians.
A strong presence of global R&D companies, a large base of science and engineering graduates, innovative startups and an increase in the scale of the domestic market has propelled India to the 57th position in the innovative index. The rise in innovation is also one of the many reasons behind India’s 77th spot in the World Bank’s ease-of-doing-business global rankings and 58th spot on the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness index for 2018.
Digital Innovation is India’s way forward
India has embraced digital technologies and is reaping the ensuing benefits especially in the areas of broadband expansion, electronics manufacturing and e-governance. We believe there is a huge opportunity for the industry and the government to partner further to transform the life experiences of 1.3 billion Indians and empower people in ways that we never imagined before.
(The writer is president, Cisco India & SAARC)