From partnerships to better Gurugram’s infrastructure to helping central and state government entities with business continuity during pandemic, Cisco is at the forefront to streamline governance in India.
Cisco’s MD of Public Sector and Commercial Sales—for India and SAARC region—Ashish Wattal begins the conversation by reiterating Cisco’s commitment toward digitization at scale and speed in India. Wattal says Cisco is collaborating with various state governments to “enable smart governance and drive growth” and “address nation's most significant challenges through advanced innovation across sectors.”
Wattal throws light on various initiatives of Cisco to streamline governance and business practices, role of DeepTech in ensuring transparent and efficient governance and action points for policymakers with respect to smart governance.
How is Cisco helping India adopt Smart Governance to streamline both its governance and business practices?
We have partnered with the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) to support its futuristic Integrated Command and Control Center (ICCC), which offers a unified management experience for Gurugram's infrastructure, simplifies control room operation, and system integration, and boosts operational efficiency, thereby lowering operating costs.
The platform also allows city administrators to collect and integrate data from multiple sensors and sources, enabling them to use data analytics to optimize city operations, improve governance, and accelerate decision-making. We have also set up an Urban Observatory with the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA) in New Delhi. The observatory helps data analytics to optimize city operations, improve governance and enhance the economic performance of cities across India.
During the pandemic, we enabled business continuity for over 200 government organizations across 26 state and central government entities and helped them stay connected and collaborate securely and seamlessly. We set up an Integrated Command & Control Center (War room) in New Delhi with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW).
The first-of-its-kind war room leverages Cisco's data analytics platform and cutting-edge communications and collaboration tools to monitor, measure and analyze COVID-19 related data that can assist the MoHFW to make necessary assessments and take preventive or corrective containment actions. The digital dashboarding efforts were replicated in Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, and Telangana states and 20 other cities of India for managing lockdown protocols, density monitoring, agency coordination, etc.
What technologies will play a major role in efficient and transparent governance?
Cities are growing at an unprecedented rate. In fact, according to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, 40% of India's population will be living in its cities by 2030. Digitally enhancing our cities is a major step towards empowering India's citizens and laying a robust knowledge economy foundation. Emerging technologies such as data analytics, AI/ML, cloud, etc., can enrich decision-making and deliver a better quality of life. It can assist IoT devices to provide unbiased information to the government, providing an inclusive, efficient, and transparent governance.
Data Analytics – Data has now become the biggest asset globally. Today citizen-generated data includes sensitive information such as medical records, personally identifiable information, banking details, and digital body data from wireless health devices, etc. With data analytics, city resources for public safety, economic reports, and other key services can be monitored and targeted more effectively in a timely manner.
AI/ML – Automation, enhanced experience the benefits of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are many. AI/ML can automate repetitive tasks and help minimize errors and costs. It can be used for effective crowd monitoring, asset utilization, parking space monitoring, traffic analysis, and pedestrian safety.
Cloud technology – One of the biggest impediments while implementing smart city solutions is the ability to design, deploy, manage and fund cutting-edge technologies. Cloud-based technology will enable cities to leverage managed services to scale and reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) for smart city solutions. It will provide a storage and analysis system for the data collected and used in everything from autonomous vehicles to agricultural farms.
The government's large-scale initiatives such as Aadhaar, HealthID, MyGov, FastTag are prime examples of how the digitization of critical services can simplify and enhance day-to-day activities. Most importantly, at Cisco, we believe smart city technologies must be secure, scalable, and interoperable — not just to meet today's needs but also to enable cities to undergo a sustainable journey towards digital transformation.
How should enterprises and startups participate?
While India has been on a digital-first path for a few years, we have experienced the power of technology in an entirely new way in the last two years. However, the innovation ecosystem in any economy is underpinned by its industry, government, startups, and universities working in tandem with each other. I truly believe that startups are best positioned to effect change where it is needed the most. They have the ability to build and work on business models that are innovative, disruptive, and have the potential to address the pressing challenges we face as a society.
At Cisco, we've been committed to giving DeepTech startups a leg up to build out and scale their solutions. Our accelerator program – Cisco Launchpad, believes in nurturing the true potential of startups and recognizes the importance of giving back to the startup community by creating a vibrant environment to connect, collaborate and conquer. Through the Launchpad, startups can leverage Cisco's technologies, mentorship programs, tech integration, investor connections, and ecosystem enabling events. By establishing an environment where innovation centres bring together the brightest minds to co-innovate and scale their solutions, cities can create lasting legacies of innovation that help communities thrive for generations to come.
What should be the action points for government and policymakers with respect to the technologies of smart governance implemented?
I consider the three largest pieces of the puzzle in India's transformation are technology, talent, and teamwork. If we get them right, everything else will fall into place.
First, when it comes to technology, it encompasses smart internet, smart infrastructure, and smart industry. We know that the internet is the foundation of Digital India. So, there is a rising preparedness for next-generation networks like 5G that promise new capabilities. And when it comes to smart infrastructure, our cities should be reimagined through digital technologies. This also means strengthening digital infrastructure because as we digitize and generate enormous volumes of data, we need infrastructure like data centers to store the generated data. Additionally, in terms of the smart industry, it's about businesses leveraging digital technologies to become more agile and hybrid in every way – from adopting digitally-enabled workplace and business models and accelerating their transition to the cloud.
Moving onto the second piece of the puzzle – talent. A recent report by NASSCOM and Zinnov says that India could face a shortage of up to 1.9 million techies by 2026, with a majority of the gap in emerging technology. This means we need no less than a skilling revolution to make India a 'Digital Talent Nation' – especially in security, 5G, IoT, AI/ ML, analytics, etc. Third and most importantly is teamwork. Underpinning all these is a conducive policy framework that encourages investments and innovation and makes it easy for businesses to experiment with digital solutions and use cases. Hence an ecosystem approach to solve all of this is critical. Startups, government, technology companies, industry bodies, etc., must work together to harness the full potential of digitalization and build smart, inclusive, and sustainable communities. It's inspiring to see India's government leading this from the front, rolling out favourable policies, and proactively building competitive industries. I believe these practices will constitute impactful governance in the new decade, which will help empower every citizen, leading to equal opportunity, inclusion, and prosperity.
How will this transform India's economy?
Today, we have the tools and technology to turn some of our long-standing challenges into our greatest opportunities. Firstly, technology can foster economic growth that is more inclusive and balanced across the country. We have now moved into a more versatile, borderless age where we can work and collaborate from anywhere. This means small businesses can reach a larger, more diverse customer base, and the growing affinity towards a hybrid work model will bring more women into the workforce. In short, the rising gig economy has the potential to create 90M jobs and add up to 1.25% to India's GDP, according to Boston Consulting Group.
Secondly, from a citizen welfare perspective, smart technology can improve the delivery of services like healthcare, insurance, banking, education, effectively bridging the digital and socio-economic divide between rural and urban India.
Lastly, technology can truly make a difference and make our cities more liveable and sustainable. It can help reinvent how we design buildings and homes – make them smarter, more self-sufficient, and more efficient. According to McKinsey, cities can use smart technologies to enhance key quality-of-life indicators by 30% —meaning more lives saved, fewer crime incidents, shorter commutes, a reduced health burden, and carbon emissions averted.