Data regulations, risk-taking and up-skilling the goals for next decade: IBM CEO Arvind Krishna

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on February 17, 2021 Published on February 17, 2021

‘Underlying data standards are crucial to encourage the ability to innovate on a global scale’

Data regulations, a culture of innovation and risk-taking, and up-skilling in relevant technologies can help India leverage the opportunity created for the IT industry post the Covid-19 crisis, according to Arvind Krishna, Chairman and CEO, IBM.

Talking to Debjani Ghosh, President, Nasscom, at the Nasscom Technology & Leadership Forum 2021, here on Wednesday, Krishna said: “A health crisis led to an economic crisis. But in crisis comes opportunity. Over the next one-three years, you will get an alignment of ecosystems. This is the moment where you can step that up by an order of magnitude.

“The question becomes, ‘What role does India want to play?’ It’s obvious that the aspiration is massive. But now what role do we want to play precisely.”

According to Krishna, India will require to focus on “regulations and policy, risk-taking, and really massive up-skilling in the relevant technologies, which I think are AI and cloud for the next decade.”

Data standards

According to the IBM CEO, underlying data standards are crucial in order to encourage the ability to innovate on a global scale.

“You have to enable it in a way that is not just good for the local economy...,” but also “allows export of services and software. And that’s a much more complicated and subtle topic than just doing it for the local economy.”

His sentiments were echoed by Ghosh: “We have to do more when it comes to changing the culture, and changing and ensuring that we get a progressive regulatory framework in place for the country.”

Krishna added: “You got to then unlock the culture to say, ‘how do you leverage this moment’, when your end users are willing to do new things, when you can deliver new things in a new way that you previously would say, okay, it’s too risky. I don’t want to take the six months and do it. The only thing I would add is, you got to do it fast.”

Talking about up-skilling through digital education, he further said: “We can use this moment to also do digital education, not to displace or replace colleges and schools, but to augment them so that people come up with the right skills.”

Implementation of technology and digitisation can also benefit the analogue sectors of the economy such as banking, agriculture and manufacturing. “There are a lot of places where you can begin to apply these technologies. And I’m convinced that is what will bring an easy 10-20 per cent improvement to the analogue sectors of the economy.”

Moving forward, companies must engage in smarter risk-taking, build on small successes and learn from small failures, as per the tech mogul.

“It’s really important to be able to point at the future, but the future within two-three years, not the 10-20-year aspiration. Then align your skills, your people, your strategy of portfolio for that, and keep in mind how to provide value to your clients,” Krishna said.

Increased focus on partnerships

Another area that companies will require to focus on is partnerships. According to Krishna, clients will now need innovation from multiple innovators. IT companies will require to build an ecosystem which has to be a “win-win-win.”

“The client has to get a victory because we work together, then the both of us have to get a benefit,” he said, citing examples of partnerships with Red Hat, Microsoft, Amazon and Palantir, among others.

‘The risk of the decade’

The accelerated digital transformation brought about by the pandemic has also brought about new risks with cybersecurity at the centre. “Cybersecurity, I think, is the risk of this decade.”.

Despite the challenges and risks, the IBM CEO expressed optimism for the year. “We are predicting growth in 2021. The growth will only improve as we keep going forward.”

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Published on February 17, 2021
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