Hyperloop corridors across Karnataka? That’s on Priyank Kharge’s agenda

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The Karnataka government is working on a feasibility study with Virgin Hyperloop One; launches COE for AI and Data Sciences in partnership with IBM, Intel, and Nasscom.

Did you know people in Bengaluru lose 60 crore hours and Rs 3,700 crore a year to road congestion?

That’s what the Karnataka government believes. And in a bid to try and solve this productivity problem, the government - in an unprecedented move - brought in Virgin Hyperloop One to study how bottlenecks in transportation can be freed up to increase productivity.

Priyank Kharge with Nick Earle, SVP Operations of the Virgin Hyperloop 1.

YourStory cannot verify these numbers but believes that there is an enormous need to free up this congested city where infrastructure simply collapses during the rains. The traffic jams can be grueling; sometimes, commuters have taken three hours to traverse 30 km.

Enter Hyperloop, which uses magnetic technology to move tubes at high speed.

“We are doing a feasibility study with the company, which will be ready soon and after that we will decide how to set up hyperloop corridors across the State,” said Priyank Kharge, Minister, IT and BT, Sci-tech and Tourism, Government of Karnataka.

He was speaking at the Bengaluru Tech Summit, being billed as the biggest in India. More than 100 startups along with 200 large and medium-sized technology companies are exhibiting at the event.

Hyperloop will make it possible to travel from Chennai to Bangalore in 23 minutes. The hyperloop concept was introduced by Elon Musk, and Hyperloop One is working to commercialise the idea to move passengers/cargo at airline speeds at a fraction of the cost of air travel.

“We will bring enormous economic benefits to the state at two-thirds of the cost of normal rail,” said Nick Earle, Senior VP of Operations at Virgin Hyperloop 1.

The feasibility study will be ready in six weeks. The company, on receiving a contract from the government, will ensure that it outsources manufacturing of the loop infrastructure to local companies.

“This will create local jobs,” Nick said.

The Karnataka government did not stop there. It also went ahead and signed an MoU for a centre of excellence for Data Sciences and AI.

The government of Karnataka has earmarked Rs 40 crore for this centre, which will based in Bengaluru. It signed an MoU with Nasscom, IBM, and Intel to reskill at least 35,000 engineers in these technologies.

“This centre and its reskilling programme will be determined by the industry. The industry will train and employ these people,” Priyank Kharge said. He added that the startup ecosystem would benefit from such a centre of excellence with the right talent.

Supporting ideation, innovation, and invention

The government is also looking at various technologies to differentiate governance.

“We are also looking at blockchain in the revenue department. This was a suggestion from my team to ensure that the government digitises all records,” Priyank Kharge said.

The Karnataka government has tied up with Intel to work on driverless cars and is also working with IBM on its Watson platform for digital governance and using real-time data.

“The reason we are making these big moves is because Karnataka has to support ideation, innovation, and invention in new tech to be a leading state. We also need to create an affordable skill base for industry and to make our engineers employable,” Priyank Kharge said.

Karnataka had, 18 months, ago set up a Centre of Excellence in IoT along with Nasscom. The state is looking at setting up centres of excellence in aerospace, space, and gaming to make engineers employable and globally competitive.

R Chandrasekhar, President of Nasscom, said: “AI and Data Sciences are critical technologies. India is a dominant player in the IT space and new technologies are dominating the industry. It is important for the industry to have these deep capabilities and we need to invest in the future.”

He added that the government and Nasscom are also looking at building capabilities in blockchain, AR, and VR.

“The Karnataka government has done a great job on developing the innovation ecosystem in the country. There is a push from the state government to establish these things fast and ensure that its talent remains the top in the world,” Chandrasekhar said.

The new centre will build new APIs and expects to skill data science and AI professionals. The industry will decide how to create these skills and how to make people relevant.

“MNCs can use talent from this ecosystem,” said Chandrasekhar, adding that the industry will find solutions in key problems areas based on their verticals with this centre.

Vanitha Narayanan, MD of IBM India, said: “We will train people on skills of the future. However, Data Sciences and AI is such a broad area that we need to plan how to approach these subjects and make it relevant for talent.”

Next up, Priyank Kharge is said to be considering a centre of excellence for security.

Karnataka is continuing to bet on tech and is prepping for the future with relevant skills.

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