Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Monday announced an investment of Rs 75,000 crore in India over the next 5-7 years through 'Google for India Digitisation Fund'. Addressing Google for India event, Pichai asserted that the latest move is a reflecion of the company's confidence in future of India and its digital economy. Investments will focus on four key areas of India's digitisation. This includes, enabling affordable access and information to every Indian in their own language, building new products and services relevant to India's unique needs, empowering businesses as they continue to embark in digital transformation, and leveraging technology and Artificial Intelligence for social good in areas like healthcare, education and agriculture. Meanwhile, Reuters quoting sources said Foxconn plans to invest up to $1 billion to expand a factory in southern India where the Taiwanese contract manufacturer assembles Apple iPhones.
Google for India Digitization Fund (GIDF)
It focuses on digitizing the economy and building India-first products and services.The plan is in line with big-tech’s bullish outlook on India.
Investments will focus on four key areas of India’s Digitization which includes:
Enabling affordable access and information to every Indian in their own language
Building new products and services relevant to India’s unique needs
Empowering businesses as they continue to embark on digital transformation and
Leveraging technology and artificial intelligence for social good and in areas like healthcare, education and agriculture.
How India is the golden destination for all these investments to come in?
The new age industrial revolution i.e. the 4th Industrial Revolution is data and digital industrial revolution and India is leading from the front, leapfrogging into this, we have right leadership, right consumer, right demand.
In the last 6 years, India’s internet penetration has almost gone up by 4 time (15 crores to 65 crores). The people who used to spend in digital world like buying, selling, transacting online has increased almost twice. So, the opportunities India present is very strong.
Most of the platforms that we have today are either incubated in free and democratic countries and other democratic countries are seeing the value in India as a consumer based and where they can operate more freely. Many of our neighbouring countries don’t allow free digital economy and free digital platforms to flourish. This makes India the golden destination for local as well as global companies to prosper.
The investment in India is coming basically in 3 areas:-
Affordable Digital Ecosystem: India has the highest amount of data consumption per person and India has the most affordable internet access in the world which makes it the most affordable ecosystem in the world.
Affordable hardware: Very high end affordable manufacturing is there which companies like Foxxcon are planning to manufacture and Samsung already has it.
Destination i.e. startup ecosystem: Roads, Cars, pipelines, etc. needs destinations and that is where statrtup ecosystem comes into place. India has multiple startup ecosystem in place which makes it the most promising destination.
That’s where the promise of India’s digital economy is. It’s a new age economy, it’s an economy of the future and that’s why people are rightly so investing in the biggest free economy of the world.
What are the new product and services that we can expect in the near future as far as the digital ecosystem is concerned?
We can build services which are cutting edge and not going through the slow process which may be the other economies has gone through. For example: building the whole banking system contactless, 3-minute banking, etc.
Similar innovation can be done in the field of education, health, etc.
What is the kind of digital transformation that has happened and what we aspire to see?
We are still at about 50% of internet penetration so, there is still a large market to be addressed which is being done through the Digital India Programme.
The ecosystem of making the hardware, software, the interface with the work etc. that has steadily grown in the country and these are the indicators that give the confidence.
The steady growth of software is one of the biggest confidence building measures that we have demonstrated in the digital space all across the world we have expanded our footprints in ever geography and our service level agreement inspite of not having a date privacy law, has been phenomenal.
While the whole world is concerned at what goes in China and newer market are explored, India is being credibly thought of because of demonstration of how we look at this space, what is the skill set available and how we have moved ahead with what is required.
In the last few years, the growth of Hardware Industry has been phenomenal. The extent of electronic manufacturing happening in the country has steadily grown over the years.
The possibilities around usage of digital technology for the domestic and international market, online education, tele-health consolations are the arear where we can energise our youth.
What is the kind of economic scope and how do we push it forward?
Digital India is more of a Digital Bharat now which has moved beyond cities and it gone to villages, the reverse migration due to COVID-19 has caused people who are using smartphones in metro cities to return back to villages. So, there is a whole new consumer who is digitally literate and not proficient in English and that’s where local languages will come into play.
India is innovation bottom-up. Our technologies can work in town, small cities and even villages. The bit sizing of transactions whether its education, health, fintech is happening in India and in this space India has leapfrogged innovation at scale.
The accessibility and affordability of the digital innovation of India has already reached towns, villages. Local languages and voice are the way to go and companies are investing in that potential and this potential innovation is not limited to India.
Step Forward for Data Protection
The companies need to realise that information security is critical and it is something that is required by the Information Technology Act.
At the management level, the companies need to take responsibility to make sure that the information security certifications (like PCIDSS, ISO-27001-ISMS) are secured, the data is locked down, setup information security practices, etc.
Even the MSMEs can think about the Information Security Services like web conferencing softwares, firewall services, etc. at the right price point.
The data protection law is also going to be a significant step forward where it clearly identifies data controller, its responsibility and consents. The law needs to provide a common law that everyone needs to comply with and has consequences for what needs to be done.
Would this become a stumbling block in our digital push?
At this point a whole lot of policy changes are on the anvil. The e-commerce laws, the IT Act, the role of intermediaries are being looked at. All of that offers a likely framework where we are updated on all counts and ensure possibilities are enables from a legal point of view.
From the technological point of view, the focus on AI, Blockchain and all enabling parameters are being harnessed and NITI Aayog is also doing a good job
Most importantly our consumers are becoming far more aware and oriented in terms of what are best and secured practices.
A kind of a mature scenario is emerging where the laws are there, the technologies are there and in top of that the law enforcement mechanism is also getting alerted and working.
The home-grown cyber-security solutions, ensuring citizen safety, preventing cyber-attacks is both an employment opportunity as well as a technology opportunity.
The government keeps organising hackathons from a video conferencing solution to now apps in multiple category which gives initial push and recognition to startup community.
Since the mandate and motivation is very clear, there is no reason to think that this should become a stumbling block in the forward march.
What support do we need?
Certain regulatory changes to allow the consumers to use the latest technology.
Having taken care of information security and privacy, we need some support for faster adoption of these technologies.
We need to go in for an extra rural push.
The dialogue between industry and the government needs to be enhanced.
A lot of investment is to be done in this sector so the capital that is lying unused can be used in this sector.
During the last 3 months of COVID-19, it is clear that this sector is going to stay, the global investments has amplified further, so there needs to be a collective effort to further enhance opportunities in this sector.
The digital and data economy is the future and India is very well placed in this. India has been very fast in lawmaking, COVID has accelerated certain policy making like the legality of tele-medicine, consultations, e-pharmacies etc. and similar agility will keep happening. One thing that needs to be understood is that rules and regulations lag behind innovation. Innovation is always going to be ahead.
India is a great economy, the demand that is coming from all across India is what is attracting this investment. We have a very reliable digital infrastructure today which is at scale to the soft infrastructure what is called as the IndiaStack or the Aadhar Stack and on top of that, we have great innovators who are solving problems for the world who are now looking inwards and solving problems for India.