Building an Inclusive Digital Future: Lessons from India

Young Bites. Dated: 3/4/2024 11:40:36 AM

BY DEBJANI GHOSH, PRESIDENT, NASSCOM In an era marked by swift changes and shifting global narratives, India's trajectory offers a fascinating insight into innovation, advancement, and potential. Today, the path of ‘Inevitable India’ extends beyond its growing economy and technological strides, reaching into the essence of a nation that is reshaping its place in the global hierarchy. A journey that is fueled by creativity, strategic alliances, and a continuous drive for inclusive progress. India is increasingly seen as a key player in forming strategic partnerships and alliances. This perception is backed by projections from Goldman Sachs, anticipating India to become the world's second-largest economy by 2075, and the Financial Times, predicting India's purchasing power to surpass the United States by 30% by 2050. From its roots in the "Incredible India" campaign to its current status as a pivotal player on the world stage, India's journey is marked by a series of transformative shifts across various sectors. Our journey began with the Aadhaar project, providing a unique national ID to over a billion citizens. While many European nations struggled with issues of identity verification taking up to 18 months, India’s JAM trinity led to one of the biggest social benefit distribution plans across the world.With digital IDs now in the hands of 1.3 billion Indians, who use it daily for around 80 million transactions, India has established a formidable foundation for a genuinely inclusive digital economy. At the heart of this revolutionary journey is the India Stack, an innovative integration of digital identification, seamless digital payment protocols, and a consentoriented data sharing framework, facilitating secure data exchange based on individual preferences. This stack has become the cornerstone of India's Digital Public Infrastructure, fueling an array of services from financial dealings to a national-scale vaccine rollout, achieving a level of scale unparalleled globally. India’s DPI is built on the foundational principles of inclusivity, security, and ecosystem-centric growth, paving the way for an economic development model that ensures no individual is left behind. Our approach of fostering innovation from the grassroots level upwards, contrasting with the traditional top-down innovation models prevalent in the West, positions India as a unique example of a country actualizing a truly inclusive, people-first digital economy on an extraordinary scale. It is fascinating to observe that India is applying the same foundational principles to smoothly transition into the era of Artificial Intelligence. According to the most recent AI index by Tufts University’s Fletcher School, India ranks 15th amongst the top 25 nations that are leading the artificial intelligence race. The research ranked the top AI nations mapped in the emerging geography of AI leadership across four main drivers: data, rules, capital, and innovation. What was interesting to see is that in terms of human, financial, diversity and digital foundations for building AI, India was ranked 6th behind the US, China, Japan, South Korea and Germany, even though in terms of rules around the new and emerging technology, India ranked lowest in the list of 25 nations. We are now tasked with advancing beyond preliminary proof of concepts to scaling AI solutions, assessing their real-world implications, fortifying security measures, and upholding a human- centric ethos in AI development and deployment.AI's contribution to economic growth is both significant and undeniable. Initiated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2022, Bhashini is rapidly demonstrating its versatility across various domains. The AskDISHA chatbot, developed by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, is now harnessing the power of Bhashini's advanced capabilities. In a period where many nations face the headwinds of slowing economic expansion, exacerbated by labor growth stagnation and productivity declines due to an aging population, the adoption of AI transcends mere choice—it becomes imperative for survival. For example, how can we leverage AI to understand customer needs more deeply, innovate product designs, and personalize product recommendations for the manufacturing sector? Or how the tech SME sector in India can utilize AI to revamp legacy systems and infrastructures, enabling them to compete not just locally but on a global scale. At the foundation lies a unique blend of factors: a vast pool of talent, advanced technological capabilities, visionary leadership, and a pervasive can-do attitude within the Indian startup ecosystem. With 17.5% of the world's population and almost half this population below the age of 30, India will be the only large economy that will add 90 million workers to the global labor force by 2030. While India ranks 1st in terms of AI skill penetration as per OECD and has also recently secured the 1stand 5th ranks in AI talent concentration and AI scientific publications, we need to shift the conversation from AI talent to fostering a 'Generation AI'. Can we transform India's inherent affinity for technology adoption into a population of over a billion AIliterate individuals who responsibly wield this transformative technology? The time has come for India to engineer a transformative watershed moment in its talent strategy. Can we harness this resource more effectively and elevate our efforts to transform into a nation where AI literacy is not a privilege but a norm? As we witness the unfolding of 'Inevitable India,' it becomes clear that India's story is not just about technological prowess or economic growth. It is about setting a global example of how technology, when aligned with inclusive and sustainable principles, can transform societies and economies. India's journey from "Incredible" to "Inevitable" is a beacon of hope and innovation, promising not only national success but also contributing to a positive global impact. In this new era of progress and interconnectedness, 'Inevitable India' stands as a symbol of what is possible when a nation combines its cultural heritage with forward-thinking innovation and strategic global engagement. The essence of 'Inevitable India' resonates across the world, signaling the dawn of an event where India's contributions are integral to our shared future. As India continues to navigate the digital age and beyond, its story remains a compelling study of innovation, progress, and the promise of a


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