Readying India for 2010

Author: Naresh Wadhwa
President and Country Manager, Cisco - India & SAARC
Though India was largely cushioned from the effects of the global recession it did affect businesses in nearly every industry. As the economy shows signs of recovery it is important for companies and the country at large, to take decisive action and reprioritize. We still remain one of the fastest growing economies in the world. And with one of the largest and youngest pool of skilled and English speaking talent, we are on the threshold of being recognized as a R&D destination.

India has to showcase its workforce competence and not just the cost advantage. We need to shape our population towards a knowledge-based society and ubiquitous broadband access is the key. By investing in the development and acceleration of a national broadband infrastructure, we can provide Internet access to all citizens and this translates to job creation, better access to health care and education, connecting small business owners to new customers, and even creation of a middle class that will raise the standard of living and the national GDP. By providing the means for people everywhere to access broadband— from the most remote villages to the densest urban centers, we can have the potential to experience a truly connected economy.

Several IT majors along with the State Government of Rajasthan have already come together through the Rajasthan Education Initiative (REI) to accelerate IT education for both teachers and students. Various financial institutions like the State Bank of India, Union Bank of India and Bank of India have also made a significant difference to lives in rural India by setting up Internet kiosks as banking outlets in villages, thereby encouraging banking habits among the rural masses. In the area of health, telemedicine has made available video and high speed data transfers that allow patients to consult a specialist doctor who is miles away. Such initiatives have proven instrumental for enabling developing and middle-income economies to leapfrog to higher stages of development by fostering economic and social transformation.

Yet it is clearly in traditional sectors like agriculture that the maximum difference needs to be made. Agro-industry and small rural industries are leveraging ICT to trade better as well as for knowledge and training. One should work towards building communication opportunities for the people living in poverty in both rural and urban communities, voicing the voiceless and enhancing social and livelihood opportunities for people at the grassroots.

Looking ahead, as the government focuses on development initiatives, we also need to track emerging technologies, strengthen current investments, adopt best practices and look to further build strong public–private partnerships. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is hailed as a vital component of the “new economy”. The positive transformations that can take place if we connect villages with broadband technologies can only be imagined. The use of ICT will make people more information inclusive and an information revolution can transform the way we work, live, play and learn. Let’s rise to the challenge, and in doing so, raise the quality of life—and our economic prosperity, for generations to come.

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