Millennium Post

Catalysing India's e-economy

With a strong foundation of digital infrastructure and expanded digital access, India’s IT sector can add tremendous value to the Indian economy while also empowering its citizens

India is shifting quickly to become digital on the backdrop of a robust foundation of IT industry and swiftly moving on the cusp of a data revolution. An average Indian today consumes approximately 8.3 GB data per month, a 92 per cent increase compared to the data consumption four years ago, and by 2022 the per capita data consumption is expected to touch 14 GB.

By 2022, the next half billion Indians will come online for the first time through their mobile phones. The immense digital presence of Indians in terms of 1.25 billion Aadhaar, 1.2 billion mobile phones and 1 billion bank accounts requires colossal digital infrastructure for storage and processing of data. This massive amount of data appetite of a digital-first nation has opened magnificent avenues for businesses and government alike.

Data provides a golden opportunity for India to become a global data hub as a billion-plus populous country is poised to reduce the digital divide between rural and urban population by connecting the entire country through broadband. India's digital consumer base is the second largest in the world and growing at the second-fastest rate amongst major economies. India's inclusive digital model is narrowing the digital divide within the country and bringing benefits of technology to all segments of people. To leverage this opportunity, India needs to develop a chain of data centres across the country to store, process and analyse data.

Let's have a closer look at the data dynamics of India. IndiaStack, the paperless layer that leverages Aadhaar, is reported to have powered around 17 billion e-KYCs (know your customer) and saved more than $7 billion in authentication services for the Government of India. This stack offers endless opportunities to fintech companies, healthcare providers and others to understand customers better and provide value-added services.

Similarly, the deployment of Unified Payment Interface (UPI) has enabled financial inclusion of millions of unbanked citizens while the online Goods & Service network has brought in transparency in the flow of funds across states. Since the inception of UPI by the end of December 2019, India has captured 149.65 billion transactions. Given the volume of digital transactions happens daily on various platforms such as GSTN, GeMin addition to IndiaStack and UPI, and many others, it demands pertinent use cases for building further layers of technology to harness the power of data.

The emergence of deep techs such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data will further fuel the growth of the data economy in India. What's needed now are essentially various frameworks and technology interventions that can govern all the dimensions of data, encompassing generation, processing, storage, utilisation and application.

Technology interventions are empowering citizens digitally. The availability of vast resources across the country enabling Indian IT industry to scout for business models through which the resources can be aggregated and optimised so that the same can be available to everyone at an affordable price and the timely technology intervention will disrupt the transformation of traditional businesses into a technology-led shared economic model. With the rapid digitisation, the ambit of the sharing economy is expanding further.

From mobility to hospitality and asset sharing to equipment rental, the sharing economy is becoming a new normal for millennials. According to a report by EY, the global sharing economy can reach $335 billion by 2025 and during the same period, India's shared economy will touch $20 billion.

On the premise of data-driven economy, in the current budget, the government's thrust on further easing of business norms and incentivising startups; embracing emerging technologies such as AI, ML, IoT, 3D Printing, Drones and Quantum Computing; building required digital infrastructure in terms of connectivity to public institutions at Gram Panchayat level and also to create data centres pan India will definitely build the necessary ecosystem needed for inventing and creating cost-effective solutions and services to citizens in a seamless manner for their inclusion in the mainstream of the society.

Such initiatives/policy interventions will also ensure the growth of the industry verticals and the startup ecosystem exists in the country. These initiatives will certainly disrupt and ignite the youth of the country to empower them to become job creators and contribute towards the social upliftment.

Empowering citizens with technology enablement is the key to success for a nation. To serve this mandate, the government is timely focusing on all the core areas such as data connectivity, secured data storage, adoption of technologies and empowering startup ecosystem to further catalyse economy, bring more FDI, help build low-cost solutions for resolving the wider challenges of various sectors while propelling the economy of the country to achieve $5 trillion by 2025. As connectivity becomes omnipresent with advancing digital capabilities, quick and radical changes across every sector of the Indian economy can also be expected.

The writer is the Director-General of Software Technology Parks of India. Views expressed are strictly personal

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