View from India: Policy changes open up new avenues in the tech world

This year, the Government of India (GoI) has introduced new policies on digital communications, electronics and the defence sector, among others. These policies are disruptive, as they open out new vistas. As diverse verticals whet upcoming opportunities they will enhance the economic growth of the tech landscape.

National Digital Communications Policy rings in a change

With a telecom subscriber base of over one billion, India has the world’s second largest telephone network. Its digital profile and footprint is among the world’s fastest growing, as outlined in the National Digital Communications Policy 2018. With over a billion mobile phones and digital identities and half a billion internet users, India’s mobile data consumption is the world’s highest.

Over 200 million Indians have regularly used social media last year. Mobile banking and digital payments are a choice of over 200 million Indians. At the current pace of digitisation and digitalisation. it’s estimated that India’s digital economy has the potential to reach one trillion US dollars by 2025. There’s a rapid and unprecedented proliferation of mobile phones, internet and social media platforms, along with digital payments, data consumption and generation. Clearly the data economy, digital technologies and services are no longer the prerogative of the privileged few. They have evolved into widespread instruments of access and empowerment for more than a billion Indians.

The National Digital Communications Policy has laid out an ambitious plan to be accomplished by 2022. It is envisioned to provide broadband for everyone, apart from Digital Sovereignty. The digital communications sector is estimated to attract investments of US$100bn. The contribution to India’s GDP (gross domestic product) is expected to increase from 6 per cent in 2017 to 8 per cent in 2022.

The desired outcome is the creation of a workforce comprising one million professionals. They will be trained or re-skilled to handle new-age skills, expand the IoT ecosystem to five billion connected devices and accelerate the transition to Industry 4.0.

The telecom sector continues to ring in a transformation.

Merger of mergers

Telecom giants Vodafone India Ltd and Idea Cellular Ltd have set the ball rolling as the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has approved the merger. It is by far, the telecom sector’s biggest merger, and the combined operations of both companies is said to be worth of over $23bn or over Rs 1.5 lakh crore. Together the merged capital accounts for about 35 per cent customer market share.

Mergers and acquisitions always impact the market. Vodafone Idea Ltd, the merger company, is estimated to herald a robust ecosystem.

With a consolidated network, the benefit of better digital services is expected to be passed on to consumers, who will also benefit from plans by India’s largest telecom operators to expand the network of fourth-generation (4G) mobile tower sites. As of November 2018, the monthly minimum recharge plans has a new strategy. In total consumers can choose from five plans.

Considering India is a mobile-first country with over 460 million smartphone users, this merger will hopefully bring in a positive synergy. Telecom infrastructure expansion and network are eagerly awaited.

Better connectivity and bandwidth

With around 500 million internet users, globally India comes second to China in the internet user base. However, our country is ranked 109th in mobile internet speed.

The need of the hour is increased bandwidth at the national level. Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) the primary space agency of the Indian government has launched four heavy-duty communication satellites that carry the promise of high-speed internet. These are expected to provide broadband connectivity of over 100Gbit/s by next year.

Seen futuristically, improved broadband connectivity will connect the dots between metrics around challenges like industrially and economically backward areas.

ISRO has also made news in November, as its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C43) successfully launched 31 satellites from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

The PSLV-C43 lifted off at 9:57:30 (IST) from the First Launch Pad and injected India’s Hyper-Spectral Imaging Satellite (HysIS) into the 645km sun-synchronous polar orbit, 17 minutes and 19 seconds after the lift-off. Later, 30 foreign satellites were injected into their intended orbit after restarting the vehicles fourth stage engines twice. The last satellite was injected into its designated orbit 1 hour and 49 minutes after the lift-off.

HysIS is an earth observation satellite built around ISRO’s Mini Satellite-2 (IMS-2) bus weighing about 380kg. With a mission life of five years, HysIS will study the earth’s surface in the visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The satellite data will be leveraged for diverse applications including agriculture, forestry, soil or geological environments, coastal zones and inland waters.

This spectacular event marks the 45th flight of PSLV and the 13th in the Core Alone configuration. So far, the PSLV has launched 44 Indian satellites and nine built by students from Indian universities. The vehicle has also launched 269 international customer satellites.

Electronics, world’s fastest growing industry

The electronics industry has a key role to play in the fulfilment of the national government’s Make in India and Digital India initiatives. Globally, electronics is largest and fastest growing industry, increasingly finding applications in all sectors of the economy. Hence, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has formulated a draft National Policy on Electronics 2018 (NPE 2018) for the electronics system design and manufacturing (ESDM) sector.

As security is a growing concern, it’s essential to focus on the electronics hardware manufacturing process right down to the chip level. As of now, cellular mobile handset manufacturing has emerged as a flagship sector in the electronics manufacturing space. However, the policy aims to promote domestic manufacturing in the entire value-chain of ESDM, including core components and materials to increase the domestic value addition and reduce dependence on import of electronic goods by focusing on scale, skill and technology.

The thrust is to support a comprehensive start-up ecosystem in technologies like 5G, IoT, artificial intelligence and machine learning and their application in defence, agriculture, health, smart cities and automation to solve real-life problems. The policy will also encourage R&D and concept-to-market innovation for next generation solid-state batteries and power electronics for electric vehicles, drones, intelligent transport systems, personal safety devices and automation.

Check mail and get on to Facebook while flying

This year, domestic and foreign airlines have heaved a sigh of relief as the Telecom Commission has approved the proposal made by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for in-flight connectivity. Which means passengers can check mail, make phone calls and watch videos thanks to in-flight mobile and internet services. Internet services are being provided through on board Wi-Fi facilities and flyers can use the service when electronic devices are in flight mode.

Tata Group’s flagship creates history

As the country’s largest software exporter, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is leveraging its ‘Business 4.0’ strategy to generate revenue to the sum of over $5bn this year. Growth is expected to come from technologies like automation, cloud and Internet of Things (IoT). TCS, the flagship company of the Tata Group, has created history in the equities vertical as it became the first listed Indian company to hit $100bn market capitalisation earlier in the year.

Investors, members of the National Stock Exchange and the country at large were ecstatic as the IT major reached the $100bn (Rs 6,80,912.10 crore) landmark. Clearly the TCS stock was the biggest gainer on benchmark indices viz. Bombay Stock Exchange (Asia’s oldest) and National Stock Exchange. Banking, financial services and insurance sector are among the verticals that have contributed towards its success.

DProP 2018 to boost MSMEs and Startups

Defence production is all set to get an impetus under the new Draft Defence Production Policy 2018 (DProP 2018). The policy underpins an ambitious mission of making India a global leader in defence production under the Make in India initiative.  It aims to achieve a turnover of Rs 1,70,000 crore ($2bn approx) in defence goods and services by 2025.

Employment opportunities are expected to unfold for two to three million people. Besides that, the policy facilitates ease of doing business and boosts MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) and start-ups. The thrust is to encourage the design and production of aircraft and helicopters. As a long-term perspective, the policy has been envisioned to go beyond domestic production and expand the country’s defence exports.

India continues to be world’s third largest ecosystem for start-ups

India has a vibrant start-up culture. Disruptive innovation and tech-driven solutions have bolstered the Make in India Initiative. ‘Indian Start-up Ecosystem,’ a Nasscom Zinnov 2018 edition, indicates that India continues to be the world’s third largest start-up ecosystem. Eight ‘unicorns’ have been added in 2018. Adoption of advanced tech is increasing rapidly with 50 per cent year-on-year growth. Data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT start-ups are witnessing fastest adoption across industry verticals.

In a nutshell, 2018 has been a year of big funding rounds. The top five deals have garnered 50 per cent of the total funding. The top verticals by way of deals are fintech, healthtech, marketplace and enterprise software.

Data Protection Report, essential for Digital Economy

Justice BN Srikrishna, an Indian jurist and a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, has headed a panel of experts and together they have submitted the Report on Data Protection as well as a draft of the Personal Data Protection Bill to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY).  This report along with the bill have come after the Constitution of India declared Right to Privacy as a fundamental right in 2017.

The report and bill lay out a framework for making this right a reality. This is also in sync with Digital India, a GoI initiative which has led to the initiation of a pro-digital government. Consequently, new services that harness tons of data are being rolled out. Data generation and data exchange happen digitally, which has raised security concerns. Hence, as per the Data Protection Report, there is a need for a law that protects personal data in order to ensure that a free and fair digital economy can become a reality in India.

The Supreme Court Judgment that advocated privacy as a fundamental right for the country is the premise of the report. A framework has been laid out for stakeholders to be responsible while dealing with personal data.

Close on the heels of the data protection bill, Ravi Shankar Prasad, our IT Minister, has urged Facebook-owned social messaging platform Whatsapp to find a technology solution to tackle fake messages, many of which have been doing the rounds. GoI has urged Whatsapp to co-ordinate with regulators and set up a local entity.

GDPR heralds a new data and privacy protection regime

Ever since the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect in May 2018, it has opened out a new data and privacy protection regime. The most obvious is that GDPR gives a right to rectify data and allows individuals to port data with the click of a button. We in India are waiting for the Indian Data Protection Regulation (IDPR) to come into effect. The data regulation legislation has made a sweeping change.

An immediate impact is that scores of companies have sent out a barrage of emails to their customers and vendors stating that they have updated their privacy policies. When these privacy policies align with the norms laid out by GDPR, it means that businesses in the country working with global countries are complying with GDPR standards and procedures.

GDPR is viewed by many industries as a business opportunity. Indian companies are in the process of training their employees in data privacy. Those companies that have readied their workforce can also train professionals in various parts of the world to be GDPR-compliant, focusing on services like data discovery and data-breach notification.

First engine-less train on trial

Trials for Train 18, India's first ‘engine-less’ main-line train have begun. As the name suggests, it is a self-propelled train, somewhat on the lines of the metro trains, and doesn’t require a locomotive to haul the coaches. It relies instead on distributed electric traction. As planned, the existing intercity express trains including the three-decade old Shatabdi Express will be replaced by Train 18.

A Make in India product, a prototype of this semi-high-speed train has been developed by Chennai’s Integral Coach Factory to travel up to a speed of 160km/h (100mph), while the Shatabdi in comparison runs at 130km/h (80mph). Tech upgrades come in the form of diffused lighting and automatic doors, along with a GPS-based passenger information system. Modular toilets with a bio-vacuum system, Wi-Fi connectivity and infotainment are other attractions that passengers can look forward to.  

Sea planes to propel water connectivity

Connectivity is paramount for economic growth and progress. The Minstry of Civil Aviation has made a move in this direction with a proposal for water aerodromes. The project will be piloted in tourist locations as well as places of religious importance. Chilika Lake in Odisha, Sardar Sarovar Dam and Sabarmati River Front in Gujarat are among the locations identified for the first phase of the mega-project. These will open out channels of air connectivity as they will be positioned as amphibian planes that ply both in land and water.

And the Drone Descends…

The year end signals the civilian use of drones. The new set of regulations that was announced in August has finally come into effect from 1 December. An announcement for remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) or drones has been made by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The classification of remotely piloted aircraft comprises nano, micro, small, medium and large drones. There’s also a detailed guide, operation regulations and dos and don’ts of flying drones have been outlined in the policy. A new digital sky platform is being launched on the DGCA website for granting permission for the civilian use of drones.

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