A man using a computer

View from India: Human-centric approach to technology

This decade, technology will undergo an evolution. It will evolve from being an enabler to that of a solid foundation for enterprises. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has indicated that the coming decade will be India's 'techade'.

To put things in perspective, the 2010-2020 decade has witnessed a massive digital transformation; India has emerged as a powerful force to reckon with in terms of digital services. So much so, that even the pandemic’s impact was somewhat negligible and could not stagger progress. A case in point is the tech industry, which ended the fiscal year 2021 with success. “We massively increased jobs and strengthened our startup ecosystem. The IT industry is projected to add $30bn to last year’s revenue. IT accounts for 51 per cent of India’s service exports,” said Rekha M Menon, chairperson at NASSCOM and chairperson and senior managing director at Accenture, India, at the 30th Edition of the NASSCOM Technology and Leadership Forum 2022.

The IT industry created an additional 450,000 jobs last year, of which 45 per cent are represented by women. India is home to over 25,000 tech startups. Now we move to the next level: the pandemic has fast tracked techade, and technology has become the single biggest driver of change. The fiscal year 2023 points to three trends that could shape the techade. “The first trend indicates that IT will form the basis of every business. A new era in technology will emerge, whose pace and scale of growth was unknown until now," said Menon. "The second trend would be about the agenda to make the company sustainable; the broad consensus would focus on inclusion, purpose and profitability. The third aspect may be about the work culture that blends the virtual and physical environment." People and processes will have to adapt to the new realities.

It is believed that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. The key focus area would be about building a technology foundation by strengthening the core and deep tech areas. It’s also crucial to exponentially evolve talent; innovation could be the core DNA of all enterprises. And this needs to be backed by human potential; tech may play a transformative role in protecting the planet. “The IT industry is estimated to reach $227bn [this year] ... it took nearly 30 years to add the first $100bn; the next $150bn is projected to be added in the next five years. This could happen by focusing on trust, talent and the creation of new value proposition,” explained Debjani Ghosh, the president of NASSCOM. The effort could be on maximising the impact of innovation and to build capacity to take innovation forward. This needs to be backed by regulatory measures.

A key takeaway is that the role of technology should be human centric – this is fundamental to improve the livelihoods of the masses and will bring about a transformation which could accelerate the growth of the industry. “India has shown that technology and inclusion can go hand in hand and be used to transform governance and democracy. The digital frameworks need to be flexible, evolvable, continually learning, while also being trusted, accountable and safe,” observed Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Union Minister of state for electronics and information technology.

Technology has the power to be inclusive. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision is to bring technology to the grassroots by making internet and mobile apps accessible to all. The idea is to connect 1.2 billion Indians with online public services. Of course, computers and the internet require speed and connectivity; this needs to be followed by citizen safety. “We need a new digital law for the internet as the IT act is 20 years old. Trust is the most important aspect of the digital era. Globally, the country should be viewed as a safe destination for investments in the cyber space,” reasoned Chandrasekhar.

When we look at the talent scenario, the IT industry has a workforce of five million people, of which nearly 1.6 million are prolific in digital skills. The country has scripted its IT story. Given these numbers, the digital-skilled community could probably meet the demand-supply gap at the global level. The demand for more and more people to be skilled digitally is anticipated to increase and it’s necessary to meet this growing demand. A realistic approach could be to align the education system with the new generation of learners; the curriculum should be relevant and engaging.

The PM’s Skill India programme has produced over 50 million white collar workers employed in tech companies. While these numbers are expected to grow, it’s perhaps time to zoom into the post-Covid environment. As everything goes digital, skilling needs to be customised accordingly. For professionals to keep pace, they need to scale-up the value chain. It’s time for them to skill, re-skill and upskill themselves for a better tomorrow.

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