Ladies and Gentlemen!
It is a matter of great pleasure for me to address the India Leadership Forum of NASSCOM. I would have been happy to come there personally. But for want of time, I could not make it. But your technology has enabled me to reach to you. I have also received a number of questions from you. I will try to cover them in my talk itself.
Let me congratulate NASSCOM on completing 25 years of its fruitful activities. The India Leadership Forum has been organized at a time when the whole country is thinking of the roadmap for speedy and all-round development of India. We are faced with demographic, fiscal and technological challenges. However, I have always believed that these challenges can be converted into golden opportunities. We can, we should and we will put the country on the road to faster and inclusive development. Information Technology can be a great enabler in this process. I hope and wish that your deliberations will show us the way.
Friends! We are one of the youngest nations in the world. Nearly 65% of our population is below the age of 35 years. Just imagine the energy and potential of this Talent Pool. It can write a new history for our Nation. In fact for the whole world. We just need to empower our youth with skills so that they can ensure their own development and growth of India. NASSCOM can play a very big role in this process. Our IT industry and IT manpower have enhanced the image of the country in the world. Now, it is time the IT revolution takes place in India.
NASSCOM, as the leader of the Industry should engage actively in this process. This can be done as your CSR activity. We have all the basics available. We have 85 crore mobile phones in the country. Almost one fourth of the population is already connected with internet. However, people don’t have the necessary applications or knowledge which can help in their day-to-day life. If you make IT work in people’s lives, the market size of your industry goes up automatically. To start this process, training in the field of ICT is a major requirement. In Gujarat, we have launched a programme called eMPOWER for this purpose.
You will be happy to know that in the very first year, over one lakh youth have registered. This includes the women and youth from rural areas. The Government, the institutions and IT industry will have to create stronger ties to bring the results on ground.
I see the role of IT as a change agent. It empowers. It connects.
- IT can bind isolated parts of a country;
- IT can create harmony in society;
- IT can join people with Governments;
- IT can converge schemes and programmes ;
- IT can reduce the gap between demand and supply
- IT can bring us closer to precious knowledge;
- IT can help us monitor what is critical;
So, what is lacking is the necessary skills and systems to empower us. I request NASSCOM to focus on this on its Silver Jubilee. After eight years, India will be celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of its Independence. By that time, we must be a different Nation.
Information Technology can be the Growth Engine of this New India. My vision is that by that time, India should become ‘DIGITAL INDIA’. We must be a knowledge based society and economy.
Our Markets should become Knowledge Markets where every seller and purchaser knows everything. Our Villages will be Knowledge Villages. Our workers will be Knowledge Workers. Our farmers will be Knowledge farmers. Use of Satellite Technology can further enhance grass root information and services. That is why I keep saying: IT + IT = IT (INDIAN TALENT + INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY = INDIA TOMORROW). Thus, internally and globally, our IT sector can become the shining light of Brand India.
Friends! Good Governance has become a very heavy subject today. People don’t know how to get the information and services. The road to grievance redressal is quite unknown. We don’t know the relation between outlay, output and outcome. We don’t know how to track a child for his education or health. Unfortunately, we have leaders who, instead of bringing solutions, are further confusing the issues.
I have always said that e-governance is the most easy, effective and economical governance. It is one of the most useful fields of information technology.
E-Governance has the potential to become the greatest problem solver for the people. It brings about Empowerment, Equity, Efficiency and is Economic. It has the ability to deliver the desired goal of ‘Minimum Government and Maximum Governance’.
We have been talking of the DIGITAL DIVIDE. What does it mean? Is it relevant only for seminars and conferences? To my mind, Digital Divide means that what a person can get through IT in a city is not available to the person in a remote village.
For this, the software is as responsible as the hardware. We have marketed hardware a lot. From phones to laptops. We see strength in that. But real strength lies in software utility. What are we doing about that?
Why can’t the parents get information of their children dropping out from a school? It comes to knowledge after six months. We can make it instant. Similarly, in health sector a pregnant woman can be alerted through SMS about the necessary periodical check- up.
In Gujarat, we have found ways to partly bridge this digital divide. Our 14,000 e-Gram Centres provide a basket of services to the rural citizens. Our One day Governance centers give the experience of a VISA office. You deposit the documents in the morning and get the certificates by evening. We are using IT for delivering value in areas like education, health-care, public distribution system and agriculture.
The ease with which information can be published over internet allows for more transparent, democratic and participatory processes. Social Media has further enhanced this. We have to bring the features and feelings of ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ in governance. Social Media can be used effectively to ensure that every citizen is engaged in policy making. That he is duly heard and responded to. NASSCOM and the Indian IT industry have taken some leaps which are noteworthy. A recent example is the Green IT Initiative.
So far, software and internet had been limited to people. When it reaches to things and activities, the digital divide will truly go away. The IT industry will flourish. Your market will expand. Our country will progress.
Friends! Today, security has become an equally important issue. Those who don’t know IT, don’t know its security hazards. But those who know, they know that Cyber security is a very important matter. We are living in a time where wars will be fought in the Cyber Space. Your pocket will be picked through cyber mediums. Your homes may be broken in through the same. We have to work on this.
Our cities, roads, societies and banks can be equipped with cheaper and higher resolution CCTV cameras. This will be yet another way to bridge the Digital Divide, and take IT to the people.
Some of your questions relate to Manufacturing in electronics. This is very important. Already our electronics imports are a big share in the import basket. In a few years from now, it is estimated that their import bill will become bigger than even Oil. The hunger for electronics goods is going up. Thus, you can understand the challenge. We must focus on manufacturing.
We have to particularly hurry up on manufacturing in strategic sectors like defence. We cannot afford to keep importing for all our needs.
Friends! To conclude, I would like to say that I am personally a great advocate of Technology. I know that IT can and will transform our lives. It is an inevitable force in the modern world. The sooner we adopt it; the better. The sooner we deploy it; the better. The sooner we master it; the better.
Once again, I wish you the very best.