by March 20, 2012 0 comments

Change has been the hallmark of the year gone by. People across the globe have joined hands to support initiatives which yield great benefit to the society at large. Everywhere there are signs of collaboration that have facilitated designing of better products, researches that have created superior drugs helping save more lives and exchange of information that has enriched lives of millions. We have also witnessed a more concerted effort by the state and the private sector alike towards pursuing growth in a sustainable manner. The key enabler or the real backbone of these changes has been the mass availability and consumption of technology. Technology has not only touched lives, but also transformed them!

The last 25 years have been significant in making technology ubiquitous, moving it beyond labs and offices into our homes. Evolution over this period has focused on understanding the needs and aspirations of a variety of consumers and developing products and functionalities that allow them to fulfil this in an easy and affordable manner.

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Digitally connected

We live today in a seamless, inter-connected world. In the list of top 50 inventions by mankind, Internet is at the top. In fact, the growth of an economy today, to a very large extent, is dependent on its ability to make technology all-pervasive, easy to access and use. Education, trade and commerce, tourism, infrastructure all thrive in an environment of exchange and a 10% increase in Internet penetration has the potential of improving GDP of nations by around 1%. That is serious progress, especially when you consider that penetration levels in India are as low as 8% whereas in China it stands at around 35% and in some of the developed economies as high as 80%.

Inclusive growth

One of the key challenges facing India is that of bridging the divide between the haves and the have nots. Providing a certain basic level of sustenance to all its citizens is a big priority. Improvements in the living standards of the masses help bolster the overall economic growth rate of the nation. We have made tremendous progress in our efforts to integrate the masses and ensure that they can enjoy the fruits of progress, but there is much ground to be covered.

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Technology for a long time was almost synonymous with making things efficient, improving productivity and profitability. However some of the biggest gains of technology adoption will be witnessed in improved governance and delivery of public services, especially for emerging economies like India where the mandate is to achieve the much desired inclusive growth. The Unique Identification (UID) scheme rolled out by the government is a great example. Every citizen will be provided with a unique national identity which can then be used to administer a variety of beneficial schemes to them like opening a bank account, securing an insurance cover, access to food guarantees, education enrolment, rural employment generation, etc. Through one single endeavour the government wishes to improve connection with its citizens and ensure fairness and transparency in the manner in which its welfare schemes are delivered. The transformation potential is almost limitless and each one of the 1.2 billion Indians will be included -more than 200 million have already been covered and received their identity numbers. In a way, this is a classic case of alleviating the plight of the masses through intelligent usage of technology. And there are many such examples available to us.

Indian Railways is one of the largest networks in the world and the preferred mode of transport for most of the common people in this country. Computerisation of the railway passenger reservation was conceptualised almost a quarter century ago and has been a shining success story of efficiency and mass convenience. The simplified process touches the lives of people across the length and breadth of India and now that you can make your bookings online as well, there is manifold improvement in efficiency.

We have all faced challenges in obtaining birth certificates, death documents, proof of educational qualifications, registration of property, time taken to obtain passport documents, inconvenience of filing an income tax return, etc. The list can go on and on. Government service delivery initiatives towards improving citizen services in each of these areas have been extremely commendable and have considerably eased our individual and collective pain. All such initiatives have technology as the backbone, complex to set up but very easy to use and benefit from.

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Apart from service delivery, there have been a number of areas where smart people—educated or otherwise—have taken the help of technology to assist in trade and expansion of business. Farmers have access to real time competitive pricing related information to improve remuneration of their produce under the e-Choupal scheme. Painters from small obscure villages of Orissa, Bihar and many other states use the facilities of trading on the net to reach a global market place and improve recognition and maximise gains for their expertise. Even as you read this article, companies across India are developing products and services hinged on technology which will transform the lives of people in ways which we can’t imagine right now. And there is a solid business model backing these initiatives.

One field that is witnessing a huge amount of activity is that of health services. Thanks to advances in information and communication technology, remote and immediate delivery of quality health services is a reality at a very affordable price. Age of IT

What manufacturing was to the industrial revolution, information technology is to the twenty first century. It is redefining how we live and interact socially, our work environment, the skills required to earn a livelihood, the way services are delivered and how we are governed. And the transformation is happening in a very visible, positive manner at great speed. Over the last decade, we have seen governments and companies work towards using technology to overcome challenges which were once feared to be insurmountable or difficult to tide over. Health services, quality education, reduction or elimination of poverty, access to information are among the basic things which every country must provide to their citizens. And the core that will enable all of it is technology.

India has made tremendous progress over the last two and a half decades in almost every sphere. Just that a lot more needs to be done to get us to the pride of place we deserve on the world stage.

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