[TechSparks 2020] India well-positioned to leverage the 'great opportunities' that new and emerging tech presents, says IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

At the 11th edition of YourStory’s tech summit, TechSparks, the Union Minister for IT and Telecommunication, Ravi Shankar Prasad talked about the government initiatives to support India’s new age economy, particularly data and AI.
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“The new-age economy is something we very strongly wish to leverage, from artificial intelligence and big data to robotics, data cleaning, and data refinery - all these have great potential and India very aptly qualifies to leverage these great opportunities,” said Union Minister for IT and Telecommunication Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Speaking at the 11th edition of YourStory’s flagship tech-entrepreneurship summit, TechSparks, he said that India's digital story is being spoken about globally while Indian IT professionals are appreciated worldwide. “Our startup ecosystem has become the third biggest startup movement in the world in the last five years,” he said.  

“Our policy is always favourable to all the initiatives. Let us take the case of the mobile app economy. India is the biggest consumer of mobile apps in the world. It ranks number one in mobile app download by users. We have recently launched the Aatmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge where some very interesting mobile app innovations were recognised, appreciated and encouraged. “

He said that with India's huge population and the great propensity of ordinary Indians who use gadgets, including smartphones, there is no surprise in the enormous explosion of data in the country.

As per reports, with over 500 million internet users, India stands to be the second-largest online market in the world. But despite the large base of internet users, the internet penetration rate in the country stood at around 50 percent in 2020. This meant that around half of the 1.37 billion Indians had access to the internet  this year. 

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad speaking at TechSparks 2020

The Government of India also encourages data and technology usage in the country, and has introduced policies to support them. 

“We would like this data resource to be put to the best use by harnessing all its potential, and we are encouraging establishment of data centres. Recently, I inaugurated the biggest data centre in the country and the second largest data centre of Asia in Mumbai.”

He then spoke about the data protection policy, The Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, which is in the last stages of being finalised. Data protection is aimed at ensuring the growth of the digital economy while keeping personal data of citizens secure and protected.

“Presently, it is being scrutinised by the Select Committee, a joint committee of the Parliament. Our data law is very robust, where there is a very encouraging amalgam of privacy rights, element of consent, safety and security of data and most importantly, data movement with consent, so that innovation and refinement is done on a very massive scale.” 

The policy lays down provisions for thwarting misuse of personal data in the country. It mandates data processing activities like data protection, storage, and management. The bill gives consumers the right to access, correct, and erase their data. 

The minister also highlighted the issue of artificial intelligence or AI, attributing to how people need to leverage this new invasion of human mind to the maximum to help develop basic pillars of governance in the country. 

“There are estimates that data and artificial intelligence alone can contribute 400 to 500 billion to India's GDP by 2025. We already have a proper national AI strategy, that released in 2018, which we call the national AI strategy. We are setting up several centres of excellence in AI in collaboration with the industry. We have also developed a national portal for artificial intelligence and India recently became a founding member of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence.”

Union Minister for Electronics and IT, Law and Justice and Communications Ravi Shankar Prasad

In May this year, the government had launched a new national artificial intelligence (AI) portal to serve as a knowledge hub for all those who are engaged in this domain. Run by the National e-Governance Division of Ministry of Electronics and IT and NASSCOM from the IT industry, the portal will work as a one-stop digital platform for AI-related developments in India.

In addition to this, the government has introduced a future skills programme for online skill development of IT professionals in new technologies. 

“If we have to empower ordinary Indians with the power of technology, this technology should also be homegrown. This technology should also be developmental. Not only Aadhar, but platforms like UPI, GSTN, Ayushman Bharat, digital courts all are being managed as public digital platforms,” the Minister said.

He, however, warned the people to not let AI overtake them. “The human mind, the human consciousness, the human emotions should not become subservient to AI. That is our clear thought process. AI offers opportunity. AI offers a lot of scope for innovation and improvement, but AI also creates serious challenges or problems. But while we acknowledge the expansion of this new technology, we must also ensure it  respects the privacy of individuals, and most importantly, does not lead to hegemony, or monopoly.”

Watch IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's full keynote address at TechSparks 2020.

For more information on TechSparks 2020, check out our TechSparks 2020 website. Sign up here to join the event. 


TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020. 

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Edited by Anju Narayanan

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