The Centre’s focus on new-gen tech such as machine learning, robotics, Artificial Intelligence, digital manufacturing, IoT and analytics, to reskill, shows the government’s efforts to make India future ready but would need increased support from the private sector.
Three years after it laid out the blue print for Digital India, the government has decided to double the allocation on one of the Prime Minister’s pet projects. The latest proposal to invest ₹3,073 crore in research, training and skilling in the above mentioned areas comes at a time when society as a whole is transforming into a digital economy, led by the influx of technology in daily lives.
While on the one hand, it has opened new vistas for job creation, on the other hand it is making large swathes of India’s 4 million IT workforce redundant. It is in this context that the government’s efforts can be lauded as it creates a chain reaction amongst stakeholders. “When the focus comes from the authorities, it gives confidence to the industry and they would be open to participate in these initiatives,” Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder Infosys told BusinessLine . Unlike the West, which has strong Research & Development facilities, backed by capital and industry-academia partnerships, India is still putting in place strong systems that can build on the $155-billion IT industry and fuel more job creation.
However, the move to embrace modern technologies has evoked mixed reactions amongst technolgy titans. Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk have openly said that artificial intelligence should be used in conjunction with humans and have questioned whether giants like Facebook know what they are doing. The general concern seem to be around job losses as machines develop the ability to learn themselves and make some jobs redundant, especially in countries like India which has a large informal economy, where millions of people are not equipped to adapt to changing work requirements.
“We cannot afford to not embrace modern technologies with a fear that they will take away jobs but instead need to maintain a balance,” said Kamal Bali, chairman, CII Karnataka and MD, Volvo India.
While one pathway gets closed, industry watchers say automation opens the door for new job opportunities. “It can directly impact the lives of farmers, enhance industrial output and it has metamorphosised from science to politics,” said Ashu Sinha, MD, Asia Pacific, RobonomicsAI.
Some in the industry also believe that the allocated budgets in specified areas would bring technologies mainstream. “With some amount of tweaking tech to local needs can result in larger adoption,” said P N Sudarshan, partner, Deloitte India. This could create new job opportunities such as process engineers and robot managers, implementation and infrastructure staff and complex management positions.
A recent Zinnov report said that 40 per cent of the enterprises have already made investments in AI, RPA, IoT, and 20 per cent of the enterprises surveyed are well under way in their digital transformation journey.
In the final analysis, the ball has been set rolling to ensure that India continues to stay on the knowledge economy path. The focus on education and digital connectivity to aid India’s transformation to become a digitally empowered, knowledge economy is laudable, said Albinder Dhindsa, Co-Founder and CEO, Grofers.
Some industry watchers opined that the government should have leveraged the existing centres instead of setting up new centres. Biocon CMD, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said that ramping up existing institutions would be faster and can avoid the gestation lag, which is the time taken by new institutions to come into full effect.