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“We owe India a digital revolution”- Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister of IT, Law and Justice

Tarush Bhalla
8th Jul 2016
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“India is sitting at the cusp of a big revolution. We missed the industrial revolution, and the IT initiative started on its own. We are also aware that entrepreneurship have been suppressed in the past, but the Digital India initiative is what we owe to the people of India,” said Union Minister for IT, at the launch of India’s first Centre of Excellence for Internet of Things, at NASSCOM Warehouse in Bengaluru.

On July 6, Prasad had been moved out from the Telecom ministry and made the new Law minister. He laughed off the shuffle saying that just like disruptions in technology, some disruptions do happen in politics too. However, he was glad that the Prime Minister didn’t disrupt him from the IT portfolio.

Ravi Shankar Prasad
Ravi Shankar Prasad

At the event, Prasad also spoke about how he sees a confident India full of opportunity and hope for the future. He added,

Healthcare, education and agriculture are three priority areas in terms of technology, where the government can provide long term benefits to people of India. But we need to scale up this entrepreneurial activity and exercise, while replicating the same to other geographies as well.

So, what’s the government doing?

Prasad claimed that in the last two years, the government has laid optical fibre running 1.23 lakh kilometres, connecting gram panchayats.

It has also scaled up the common service centres from 80,000 to 2,00,000 and will further aim at reach 2,50,000 centres by the end of this year, he said.

Prasad noted that the government is also tapping on the network of more than 1,50,000 post offices and has equipped more than 25,000 offices with core banking solutions. So the postman of the future can facilitate Internet banking and issue insurance online.

But, where’s the disruption?  

Prasad put the impetus on the necessity for disruption.

“Personally, I’m extremely happy with the growth metrics of the IT industry. The industry is the biggest recipient of FDI, gets $108 billion worth of export, employs three million people directly and 10 million indirectly while contributing 145 billion annually in revenues. These metrics seem great but what is missing is the extraordinary disruption by Indian IT players, which will make Indian products to be used by the world. That will be the true calling of Indian IT services,” he opined.

He highlighted that Indian IT seem to follow the same pattern and footsteps of IT players worldwide. According to him the power of innovation will be unleashed through initiative ideas and partnerships with all players (trade bodies, industries, startups and government) coming together.

The skill game

While concluding his talk, Prasad stated the importance of skill, saying that the country required higher human resources in the field of research. He urged industry bodies to include a PhD scheme to fund research in the field of Internet of Things (IoT) and others, under these different centres of excellence.

“There is a need of higher human resource in research. Therefore, in these centres of excellence we should promote and fund research and PhDs likewise. Another sector which needs attention with IoT coming into play is cyber security. We need to strengthen the infrastructure of IoT, so that some cannot abuse the technology.”

The Centre of Excellence

Being India’s first Centre of Excellence (CoE) for IoT, the 1250sqft facility has demo rooms and physical tools and equipment to save time and quickly help startups take their product to the market.

It is a joint initiative between Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Education and Research Network (ERNET), industry body NASSCOM and the Central and State government.

The CoE is also supported by multinationals like Accenture, CISCO, Cyient, EMC, Intel, HCL Technologies, Qualcomm, Tata Consultancy Services, L&T Technology Services, Robert Bosch, VM Ware, IBM and Microsoft amongst other partners.

It aims to provide incubation infrastructure, prototype development, system integration and testing facilities, technology research and standardisation and skill development and employment.

A total of Rs 22 crore has been invested in this facility, with half the amount pitched in by the Central government and the rest by the Government of Karnataka and industry body NASSCOM.

A brainchild of Ajay Kumar, IAS, Additional Secretary, DeitY, the project took a little over a year to be formalised and made reality. On the idea behind the facility, Kumar said,

“The world’s moving really fast in terms of technology with the contention being that we were being left behind in the movement. CoE will help us to catch up in the race. In the past, there have been some CoEs which have been set up, for flexible electronics in IIT Kanpur and security for IIT Bombay. However, with IoT being a dynamic and upcoming sector, requiring vision, partnering with an industry body was thought to be the best way to take the project forward. The bigger vision is to replicate this model of industry with State and Central government, to other geographies.”

Speaking on the occasion was also Priyank Kharge, Minister for Information and Broadcast Technology, Government of Karnataka added,

We were the first in the country to envision the IT boom and this same vision has accelerated Bengaluru to be the second largest technology ecosystem in the world. To maintain the same lead we will be launching newer versions to the existing IT policies and will also be putting more funds for developing the startup ecosystem. We have close to Rs 250 crore in funds and plan to raise another Rs 2,000 crore over the next few years.
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