There was a panel discussion on the digital economy at the ongoing Dataquest Digital Leadership Conclave 2021.
Sukanta Dey, CEO, SDELA Consulting, was the moderator. He said, necessity drives innovation! India is a country where people bring the mobile to good usage. What is the government doing to boost the digital economy? Dey said digitizing a country like India has many challenges. It is not easy for a country our size to digitize. We have achieved a lot of things so far. The technology network is an enabler.
Ms. Neeta Verma, Director General, National Informatics Centre, said there are over 700 million smartphones and nearly 700 million Internet subscribers. Technology has been at the center of deliberations during the pandemic. Covid-19 has digitized the core sectors. There are many teleconsultation and telemedicine portals have come up. We always preferred going to the doctor. Today, everyone prefers over online. So, there has been lot of adoption.
We are talking about propelling the digital economy. Our digital payments journey has been inspiring. All the benefits were migrated to rural workers. Aatmanirbhar Bharat, Make in India, and other initiatives will give us a new level of confidence. There is lot of thrust. Apps and policies of data are under consideration. We will have skilled people for new-age technologies. The startup ecosystem is bringing solutions for different needs. There are emerging technologies too, where startups play a lead role. Digital transformation is moving at fast pace. With AI/ML, we will see new apps. We also need to look at the ethics of AI.
Yugal Kishore Sharma, CEO, One Broadband, said India has fast adapted to the new big change. We have crossed 700,000 for fixed line broadband. The world is now moving towards after coronavirus. It has been the dividing line, as a new era has started. The world has adapted to technology globally. We had announced last year that we need to stay home and stay safe. People have to adapt to the cultural change. All apps are now happening from homes. Today, schools have leveled the playing field with display devices and robust Internet connectivity. Almost every part of our life is online. India will excel in the e-sports space. In e-commerce, there are many good e-platforms available. We can go to BigBasket and choose vegetables, etc. We don’t have to get exposed.
The economy will definitely bounce back. The digital economy will fill the gap, and play a much more important role. The government machinery has taken this head on. Connecting 600,000 villages on high-speed Internet is ongoing. The real transformation at multiplier level will happen. We hope the transformation will go to the last man standing. In Koo, we have an Indian equivalent of Twitter now.
Use cases handled by 5G
Vinish Bawa, Head of Emerging Business, India Market, Nokia, said that the government is helping adapt to the changing environment. Technology is a critical piece in all of this. How much usage of home broadband has increased today. Everybody is using data. Data usage has increased substantially. Today, everybody is talking about Tbps. Technology was always there. It is the right time for 5G to come into the country.
Another important thing is the digital economy and how it is changing lives. There is a long way to go. Economies and societies have to adjust to the digitized era. Now, gym trainers are doing online classes. People are also learning new recipes online. India needs to get there very fast. That’s where 5G comes in. Most of the use cases will be handled by 5G and more simpler. It will also help us grow.
Move towards digital society
Golok K. Simili, Chief of Technology, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, noted the digital economy at large is very important. India is a digitally empowered nation. The first pillar is the digital economy. We need to create a digital environment. We need to move towards a digital society. Last, we need to have an environment for trusted use of data and trusted data flow. We need to work on these four pillars.
We now need to focus on 5G network. We also need to focus on hyperscale DCs. Digitization work being taken up by India needs hyperscale DCs. There will be big MNCs and large OTT players will need hyperscale DCs. We also need to focus on emerging technologies such as AI, cloud-based, etc. The last area we need to focus on is to adopt a cloud-first approach. Be it services, skills, etc., there has to be an angle of sustainability and efficiency.
We need larger industry participation. We will create an intelligent transformation across all the other sectors. The potential looks enormous. In agriculture, we can improve by 70 times. In retail, we can improve by 11 times. Imagine the other core sectors. Digital economy is all about how do you bring all these sectors together. All the initiatives taken by Government of India are praiseworthy. In passport seva alone, we can calculate the paper savings. Digital has enough potential in saving cost and manpower.
Ms. Verma added that we need to change the culture. We need to code faster, and have secure-by-design as a principle. We need to have SOCs and also as a service available. It becomes more vital with all data protection bills coming in. The culture of sharing and openness will make the country very strong. We also need to have a robust incident response team. We have a challenge in cyber security skills. We need participation of industry and government in this. We are having the national cyber security laws released any time. ITU said that India has moved up from 47 to 12 in global cyber security rank.
Yugal Kishore Sharma noted that back in 2003-09, he was MD of Polycom. Every possible transformational acts were done. We needed an IT team for pan-India VC services. Adaptation has happened very fast on the app side for consumers. All kinds of connectivity and collaboration has been happening. India has leap frogged lots of Gs (generations). Today, we are starving for robust fixed line broadband. Voice is sorted. We need to sort out mobility and Internet. Government is doing the BharatNet. It needs to reach the level of USA. India also adapts technology very fast. We will also be building a robust fiber network. The democratization of digital services is the key for our country. We need digital inclusion that is crucial. We are poised to expand into 1,500 cities. The time has come to have the second wire connectivity in the home. FTTH networks are there. It brings future to the home.
Vinish Bawa said you can connect any device with smartphones today. We need each device to be secure. Data is going on the cloud. Everything has to be secure. Devices also have to adapt to different environments. Eg., in factories, spare parts can be controlled with 4G or even 5G, and moved to the shop floor. This is a basic use case. Another area is smart agriculture. Devices are adapting to the new technologies and at home, today. 5G will connect the unconnected.
Regarding technological innovations being done by the government, Golok K. Simili said there is adaptability, resilience, agility, and sustainability. You must understand the 5 Ws, workload, workforce, work content, workspace, etc. We need to secure ourselves. Security has to be intrinsic across the digital layer. It has to be 360 degrees, 24×7 scenario. We need to create a convergence. That is missing right now. We also need to create a connected intelligence. Whatever we do to create the digital foundation, if the last person is not getting the scheme, it will be a lesson. We have to create the wow factor for the last person.