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When the setting itself becomes the protagonist
As we step into the digital economy, the role of technology is shifting from supporting society to becoming its lifeblood.

The power of technology in creating a stronger, unified India is unlimited. And these technologies are already within our reach.


In translating the vision of “One India” into reality, technology is clearly the single most important driver and facilitator.

 

IT IS NO Ordinary disruption: the Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends, an incisive peek by experts at the McKinsey Global Institute into the disruptive forces that are redrawing the contours of the global economy, the setting itself becomes the protagonist.

The four disruptions — accelerating  urbanisation, technological change, challenges posed by a greying population and global flows of trade, people, finance and data — no longer form a mere backdrop to the unfolding saga of breathless change, but have become the central characters in upending long-held assumptions, intuitions and practices.

Evidently, the new normal in business life is turning out to be an interplay of the shifting centre of gravity of world economic growth and dynamism to Asia, the influx of technology in all spheres of human activity, demographic dividends and the increasingly interconnected and networked world, constituting an enormous global market.

India poised to gain the most

India, as one of the few countries at the crossroads of these disruptions, appears poised to gain the most from them. For this to happen, it is imperative for India to unify its atomised market into a massive, integrated entity untethered by obsolete barriers, fiscal and otherwise, which have held it back from realising its full potential. 

For me, of the above disruptions, it is technology which will be the killer disrupter that will unify India into a large single market characterised by the free movement of goods, services, talent and capital. And the real story goes far beyond the productivity gains ushered in by breakthroughs in ICT, electronic payments and funds transfer, e-commerce and logistics to name a few which are popular knowledge today.

Think: when all vehicles are registered only once and free to go anywhere!

Think of a scenario where all the country’s vehicles are registered only once and are then free to go about anywhere in the country, unencumbered by payments at state borders.  Or imagine a situation where any vehicle can be tracked anywhere with the help of number plate-reading and IoT (the Internet of Things) technologies. That’s the power of technology.

I am not shooting in the dark. DigiLocker,

India’s cloud-based platform that enables digital issuance and verification of documents and certificates, allowing us to access, share and attest documents with unprecedented ease, is a step towards this. The need to carry physical copies of vehicle registration documents or driving licences may become a thing of the past. That said, we may have just scratched the surface of its potential to bring about greater transparency and cut down on red tape. For example, how about using a single database of all vehicle registration certificates to not only track, intercept and penalise violations, ensure they have valid insurance (today nearly half the vehicles on road do not have the mandatory third party insurance!) but also incentivise safe and proper transportation throughout India? If we can use railways as a national resource, why can’t the same status be accorded to roadways?

Imagine electricity being traded in high volumes in an Exchange, so that industry could buy power at the best price and from the cleanest source anywhere in India. Imagine touching hitherto unseen levels of efficiency in tracking and billing of water by using smart technologies. Imagine using leveraging mapping and GIS technologies to help eliminate the clutter of growth and dispatch economic activity to the most efficient locations, appropriate both regarding the ecosystem and environment.

Limitless power of technology...

The power of technology in creating a stronger, unified India is unlimited. And these technologies are already within our reach. The new GST regime, which eradicates a medley of taxes to make way for a unified, value-based taxation system, marks a giant step towards turning India into the world’s largest and most attractive market. While improving tax and revenue efficiencies and transparency, it also makes free movement of goods and people even more crucial. And technology alone can bring about the cohesion.

The writing is on the wall: a unified “One India” holds far greater potential for inclusive growth. While the concept has taken root over several years, it is time to push the envelope of innovation in bringing in more areas of vital social and economic importance under its fold.  To industrially unify the states we need planned and sustained investments in technology solutions. 

In translating the vision of “One India” into reality, technology is clearly the single most important driver and facilitator.

 

 

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