The BJP’s Manifesto 2014 laid the foundation of how innovation research & technology can transform India into a super-power by empowering, connecting and binding all stake holders. The decisive mandate given to BJP led NDA, under the leadership of Narendra Modi, has been a paradigm shift in the Indian political landscape and the people of India have reposed their complete faith in Prime Minister Modi and his team. The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and his team must be complimented for taking forward the visionary BJP manifesto and turning into actionable budget proposals and giving ample direction for Digital India where Innovation, Research & Technology will play a major role.
Rural Broadband and e-highways
A pan India Programme called “Digital India” has been proposed in the Budget 2014 to bridge the divide between digital “haves” and “have-nots”. This would ensure Broadband connectivity at village level, improved access to services through IT enabled platforms, greater transparency in Government processes, consumption of local content and host of other services. The Rail Budget proposes to provide Wi-Fi on stations, premium trains and “Office on Wheels”. An ambitious plan to integrate all government departments through e-platform will create a business and investor friendly ecosystem in India by making all business and investment related clearances and compliances available on a 24×7 single portal, with an integrated payment gateway.
An Ecosystem for Innovation: For ‘Sell in India’ to ‘Made in India’ India since beginning of civilization has been a leader in science and technology. Lack of favorable ecosystem for spurring innovation, however, has dented its position post-independence. Today, India produces around 2% of IT products that we consume. This is also adversely impacting India’s economy. The need of the hour is to make India an Innovation driven manufacturing hub from a consumption market by creating an enabling ecosystem for nurturing product startups. Entrepreneurship needs to become part of the national culture instead of being success story of a few. The new government has recognized the need to create an ecosystem for fundamental research and innovation for India to become a global manufacturing giant with specific programs for Small Entrepreneurs, Startup Villages, and Incubation Centers. The nationwide “District level Incubation and Accelerator Programme” can promote ground up frugal innovation. New growth drivers as well. Global Indians educated in Indian universities like IITs and IIMs have used foreign soil to make inventions and innovations that have benefited the world. With the right impetus it is quite possible to create the next Google, Facebook, and WhatsApp out of India. The budget makes a big start by starting a fund for promoting product led startups, a much desired innovation in the thinking of government.
E-Healthcare and e-Education Much of real India – Bharat – still lives in villages. Unfortunately, the past government’s average spent on healthcare and education so far has been 1% and 3%, respectively, of the GDP. As a result the basic health and education infrastructure is in a bad shape. The budget does a great job in recognizing the enormous opportunity that lies in improving healthcare and basic education access by using information technology. Use of telemedicine, virtual classrooms, Massive Open Online Courses and e-education can be the kick-starter to achieve size and scale to improve the primary healthcare network and basic education standards.
Localization and Digitization India has more internet users than English language speakers; as a result regional language keyboards are vital for deeper internet penetration. Local language content needs to get digitized. China has already successfully developed and standardized local language keyboards. Government can help by providing the standard templates for every language that can then be commercialized by using PPP model.
Now it’s time to deliver. Technology, needless to say, will play an important role in effective delivery of services, monitoring performance, managing projects and improving governance. An Integrated Office of Innovation & Technology to achieve the same, and for problem solving, sharing applications and knowledge management will be the key to rapid results, given that most departments work in their own silos. Tracking and managing the projects assumes significance because India has been busy spending money in buying technology that we have not used effectively or in some cases not even reached implementation stage. Sharing learning’s and best practices across departments needs to be driven by this Office of Technology. We need interventions across sectors for India to become a global knowledge hub by 2022. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a very technology savvy leader and the country looks forward to his leadership to drive this next phase of revolution in innovation and technology with a renewed vision and vigor.