The Gram Marg Project became very important to us because we could see the immediate benefit to villages with underserved and rural populations.
Cisco is celebrating its 25th anniversary in India and is bullish about the opportunities thrown up by the digitisation drive in the Indian market. Guy Diedrich, vice-president & global innovation officer, Cisco Systems, who is heading the Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) initiative globally, says that Cisco has now transitioned from being a technology box-seller to being a trusted technology partner and adviser to India and select countries around the world. In an interaction with BV Mahalakshmi, he says that the appetite in India is tremendous for learning, connectivity and digitalisation. Excerpts:
Can you explain Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) and the perspectives of the newly-released Silicon One architecture?
The CDA programme started as a result of world leaders and government officials with a robust national digital agenda coming together. Cisco developed a process to extract value from national digital agendas and create an innovation ecosystem. We build the architecture for digitisation for an entire nation, budget, and then develop specific execution plans. The result of this ended up being a proof-of-concept. So, Cisco invests directly in the country. We will invest in this proof-of-concept with pilots in everything from research, education, business, innovation, infrastructure, education, healthcare, transportation and we will work with the government, industry, and academia to pull together these projects.
Silicon One is fundamentally going to change the economics of the internet. It is programmable silicon and there will be no difference between routers and switches. They will be seamless and connected to the internet. As per a study in 2017, we had 27 billion connected things, by 2030, it is estimated that the number will reach 500 billion connected things. The demand for internet bandwidth will be profound. It is at the heart of autonomous vehicles, autonomous shipping, 5G, IoT, machine learning, Artificial Intelligence and all of these things Cisco saw coming on board in 2014. We have invested billions of dollars over the last five years in R&D in preparing the next generation of products, services and our customers for the future of the internet. Silicon One is one step towards that; it is the merging of silicon, optics, and software. We are partnering over 40 service providers around the world, getting them ready for the next generation of things to come.
As part of digitisation drive in India, what are the projects undertaken and its status?
We started end of 2016 when we shook hands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and agreed that Cisco would invest in digitalisation in India. We started our investment with our first CDA round of programmes and completed 60 individual programmes associated with what we call CDA 1.0. The 60 programmes were created around the national digital agenda that the Indian government had developed and promoted, like Skill India and Digital India. We have completed various smart city projects with many more to come.
The Gram Marg Project became very important to us because we could see the immediate benefit to villages with underserved and rural populations. For CDA 2.0 with new round of investment, we have identified 27 new focused projects.
We are working with one of the top three airports in India to digitise operations and reduce aircraft turnaround time. As work progresses at Bengaluru International Airport, which is underway, we have learned if you can take three minutes off of an aircraft turnaround time, you can have 10% more landings and take-offs at that airport.
We are also looking at inland waterways because right now, approximately 9% of the traffic, is from waterways.One of the projects under CDA 2.0 is to make sure that the entire country has access to clean water. That can be fixed through technology, digitisation, IoT, and monitoring.Again, 40% of India’s piped water is lost to leakage. We can monitor that, put sensors there that will give you indications of when there is a break or a leak. There are many other environmental factors that are going to be the real focus of our CDA 2.0 programmes.
We have an agriculture programme where we are placing sensors and giving information on weather patterns, growth of plants, growth of animals, yield, soil chemistry, moisture, asset location. We are working with the Kerala Village Knowledge Centre as our partner, covering 15 villages in Kannur for agriculture and aquaculture.
How do you see the investments and commitments from India, especially with the 5G era?
We made a commitment under the CDA 1.0. After completing 60 projects, we decided to start on CDA 2.0. The appetite in India is so tremendous for learning, connectivity and digitalisation that it is more of a full-time job. In September 2018, we announced to increase our investments for the second phase of the CDA programme in India. For our engagements, we don’t like to look beyond three years because, in our world, it is two technology generations.
There is going to be a fundamental change with 5G and Wi-Fi 6. It is going to take off when you see the business adoption, the enterprise adoption of 5G, impact on AI in the workplace and machine learning in the factory and in autonomous vehicles. One example of autonomy is we are digitising Port Rotterdam. It will be the first port to receive an autonomous ship. Once we get Rotterdam, every other port in the world is going to have the same, if not similar, technology and be able to receive an autonomous ship. That requires new technologies, evolution, and 5G. We are the core of the 5G network.