Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad delivers keynote address at TechSparks 2020; recognises YourStory’s role in sparking change

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad delivers keynote address at TechSparks 2020, spotlighting the role of startups in Aatmanirbhar Bharat, the potential of new-age economy, and future of Digital India, while commending YourStory’s role in igniting change through positive and inspirational storytelling.
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Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Law and Justice, Communications, Electronics & Information Technology, delivered the keynote address at YourStory's flagship event, TechSparks 2020, as India’s largest tech-startup conference goes completely virtual and global for the first time ever.

“This is the 11th TechSparks event and I'm told that nearly 70,000 people from close to 15 countries have registered in this extraordinary event. I'm indeed very happy that YourStory initiated by (its Founder and CEO) Shradha Sharma is giving great resonance to its own story,” the IT Minister said in his address to the global audience.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad at TechSparks 2020

The five-day-long TechSparks 2020 conference, which spotlights ‘Building from India for the world’, went live on Monday, October 26, 2020, and boasts a spectacular line-up of speakers, not just from India, but from all over the world. The event has seen over 70,000 global users, a larger majority of whom are technologists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and innovators. 

“The field of technology, we always believe, empowers people, encourages them to innovate, and they’re very keen to tell their own story. I wish to commend Shradha that she rightly named her platform, YourStory, so that those who are excelling, those who are accomplishing, and those who the achievement is required to be told must get a platform, and that is why YourStory is important. And this event is also important,” Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

In his address, the minister highlighted the role of India’s startup ecosystem and the new age economy in powering the country’s move to an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, or a self-reliant India. He also emphasised the importance of Digital India and the need for homegrown technological advancements and innovations

The minister also expressed great hope in India’s youth and the startup community in propelling the country forward to a global superpower.

“Many of the friends who are listening to me and going to participate in this great conference will also be young. So is the founder Shradha (Sharma). There’s a great pool of India’s demographic dividend and we see great potential that India should become a big economy as a supplement to the global economy (and) also become a very robust part of the global supply chain. And that’s what our wish is,” he said. 

In his keynote address, the minister also recognised the role of YourStory and its flagship event TechSparks in delivering change and impact for millions of Indians by igniting the spark of innovation amongst Indian innovators, entrepreneurs, and changemakers.

“I’m quite sure that TechSparks will surely ignite a lot of exciting minds to find solutions,” the minister said.

Over the past decade, TechSparks has been instrumental in creating over 1.5 million connections, over 2.5 million jobs, and has helped startups raise over $1 billion in funding. 

On a closing note, the Union Law Minister said: “My greetings to you all once again. Shradha’s story is by itself a powerful statement of YourStory. The way this TechSparks has become such a robust global platform is a matter of great assurance.”

Ravi Shankar Prasad

Read his full message at TechSparks 2020 below or watch the full virtual keynote at TechSparks 2020.


Keynote Address by Ravi Shankar Prasad, IT and Telecommunication Minister of India - Full message:

Founder and CEO of YourStory, Shradha Sharma, distinguished leaders in the field of technology from across the globe, ladies and gentlemen.

This is the 11th TechSparks event and I'm told that nearly 70,000 people from close to 15 countries have registered in this extraordinary event. I'm indeed very happy that YourStory initiated by Shradha Sharma is giving great resonance to its own story. 

The field of technology, we always believe, empowers people, encourages them to innovate, and they’re very keen to tell their own story. I wish to commend Shradha that she rightly named her platform YourStory, so that those who are excelling, those who are accomplishing, and those who the achievement is required to be told must get a platform, and that is why YourStory is important. And this event is also important. 

My compliments and greetings to all the participants. TechSparks is happening digitally because the COVID-19 pandemic does not make it possible for us to meet physically. The digital world should also interact digitally, effectively. It is a global challenge, a global concern. We in India, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while responding effectively like lockdown at the earliest stage, saving the life of the people, also used the digital technology for maximum benefit of the people of India.

Now, as the IT and Telecommunication Minister of India, I'm very happy that the two instruments I head, played a very crucial role in causing least disruption during these very challenging times. India's IT professionals are known globally, India's IT service industries are known globally and we liberalise the entire regime of work from home and nearly 500 companies and their staff kept on working without interruption from their home and this has become the new normal in our digital interaction and digital discourse.

I’m very proud to say that because of the liberal regime of work from home which we promoted, companies work, Indian or global, having their operations in India and they continued their global operations also, while working from India. 

BHIM UPI digital transaction had a record of 1.8 billion transactions in September 2020. And as you all know, India is one of the fastest growing fintech ecosystems in the world. 

Digital India was a great initiative conceived by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, designed to empower ordinary Indians with the power of technology. As you may have known, India is home to 1.21 billion plus mobile phones, 1.26 billion Aadhaar cards - the digital identity to supplement the physical identity, and nearly 700 million internet users. How we leverage this technology to really help the quality of life of the people of India. 

We opened 370 million bank account for the poor, linked that with Aadhaar, the digital identity, and all the government welfare measures, central or state, in more than 400 welfare schemes were started being delivered directly to the bank account, what we call DBT. 

In the last five and a half years, we have sent close to $172 billion in the welfare measure entitlement directly to the bank account of the poor and we have saved close to $23 billion, which used to be pocketed by the middlemen and fictitious claimants.  

Based upon this resounding success of direct benefit transfer (DBT), we also took up the great challenge of COVID, and we sent direct benefit transfer to nearly 420 million poor people in the country. During the lockdown, there was no ATM, the banks were closed. Through the Aadhaar enable payment, we have dispersed $664 million at the doorstep of the people through this unique fintech innovation of India. 

We also invoked technology for contact tracing, so that people who are afflicted or worn and those who have come in contact with them are cautioned. Then, the Aarogya Setu platform was created developed by Indian scientists, technology experts, which is completely privacy compliant and is being downloaded by millions of people. 

I also wear the hat of the Law Minister of India, and I’m very happy to tell you that the Supreme Court conducted close to 9,000 digital hearings in the apex court of India, and nearly 2.50 million hearings were done in the high courts and district courts of India. 

Therefore, from direct benefit transfer to cash received at the doorstep of the poor where there is no ATM or bank accounts or banks, to work from home to a whole range of other initiatives, helped to make life easier during one of the most challenging times in our existence. 

I am very happy to tell you that our economy was under severe impact because of obvious reasons due to the COVID-19 challenge. But in spite of the downturn, the telecom and IT sector registered a 7.1 percent growth even during these challenging times. And during COVID-19 in April 2020, we came up with a production link incentive designed to attract some of the best global companies and also Indian companies in the field of mobile manufacturing and also equipments as pairs. 

As you know, we had come to power when India was home to only two mobile factories. Now we have about 250; we have become the second biggest mobile manufacturer in the world. Based upon this positive experience, we decided to invite big global players, which was the production link incentive, both for mobile and also components. 

I am very happy to tell you, the 31st of July 2020 was the last date again during the height of COVID. And nearly all the top mobile and equipment manufacturers of the world - five global companies and five Indian companies have jointly committed to invest 1.50 billion and they are committed to make mobile phones worth $154 billion in the coming five years and give direct jobs to 300,000 people and indirect jobs to three times the same number. 

What is important is even during the severe challenge of COVID, the trust of the global community in India’s digital ecosystem and India’s electronic manufacturing capacity has not dimmed at all. 

The Prime Minister recently announced on the Independence Day on the 15th of August of a national digital health mission - Ayushman Bharat, which is designed to give half a million rupees to those who are needy is again being managed digitally. And now, this national digital health mission is going to supplement all people across the country to avail digital platform for greater healthcare. 

Our Prime Minister also called off Aatmanirbhar Bharat, which in simple terms means self-reliant India. But self-reliant India does not mean India in isolation. India is a huge country, with a population of 1.3 billion plus people who have great innovation, enterprise, and also hardworking. And we have the great dividend of demography young people. 

Many of the friends who are listening to me are going to participate in this great conference will also be young. So is the founder Shradha. There’s great pool of India’s demographic dividend and we see great potential that India should become a big economy as a supplement to the global economy, also becoming a very robust part of the global supply chain. And that’s what our wish is. 

This new-age economy is something we very strongly wish to leverage, from artificial intelligence, big data, robotics to data cleaning, data refinery - all these are having great potential, and India very aptly qualifies to leverage all these great opportunities. 

Let us not forget, today India’s digital story is being globally talked about. Indian IT professionals are being globally appreciated. India has become the third biggest startup movement in the world in the last five years. 

Now, policy is always favourable to all these initiatives. Let us take the case of mobile app economy. India is also the biggest consumer of mobile apps in the world. It ranks number one in the mobile download by users. We have recently launched an AppNirbhar Mobile App Innovation Challenge where some very interesting mobile apps innovation were recognised, appreciated, and encouraged. 

We want India’s digital story, the startup story to travel from big cities to small towns. And therefore we come with a ‘Chunauti Scheme’ whereby any innovative solutions in the field of digital education, agriculture, healthcare, skilling, technology, etc. would be recognised and given an encouragement of Rs 2.5 million. 

I'm very happy to share with you that we have received more than 1,800 applications and we have selected a good number of startups after scrutiny through a very, very robust jury. And we are going to encourage them, including venture funding from various legitimate sources and also mentorship. 

Gig economy is also a great area of growth. Now, we have recently seen the very successful experience of work from home. We have recently changed a lot of our labour laws and the particular focus of these labour law reforms is to promote the new economy. 

Next comes the data economy. With this robust number of nearly 700 million internet penetration in India, India’s huge population and the great propensity of ordinary Indians to use gadgets, including smartphones, obviously, there is enormous explosion of data in the country. 

We would very much like that this data resource is put to the best use by harnessing all its potential, and we are encouraging the establishment of data centres. Recently, I inaugurated the second largest data centre of Asia in Mumbai, and we are encouraging a policy of growth of data centres in the country. 

Obviously, if data is there, there must be a secure data framework. We have finalised the Data Protection Policy after the widest consultation possible. Presently, it is being scrutinised by the select committee, 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 important - data movement with consent, so that innovation and refinement is done on a very massive scale. 

Next is the issue of artificial intelligence (AI), as I initially commented. Our Prime Minister clearly stated that we have to leverage this new invasion of human mind to the maximum to help develop basic pillars of governance in the country. Agriculture, healthcare, finance and banking, education - AI has great potential in all these fields. And I'll be happy to get the feedback from your interaction as to what is your suggestion for the roadmap for a more robust use of this great instrument, which we call AI. 

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 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 founder member of global partnership on artificial intelligence. 

We have introduced future skills programme for online skill development of IT professionals in new technologies. While mentioning about Digital India, as I mentioned, 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 Aadhaar, but platforms like UPI, GSTN, Ayushman Bharat, digital courts, all are being managed to public digital platform. 

We have got a proper national judicial data grid, which I’m happy to share with you, contains the total decided and pending cases of nearly 10.5 million, again a public platform. Therefore, all this can be properly leveraged with a sound application of national mission of AI. 

But when I talk of AI, I must also mention one caveat. AI is good. But AI should not overtake us - the human mind, the human consciousness, the human emotions should not become subservient to AI. That is our very clear thought process. 

AI offers opportunity, AI offers a lot of scope for innovation and improvement, but AI also creates serious challenges or problems. As the IT minister, I’m very happy on this expansion of AI. But when I wear the hat of the law minister, I have some concerns. 

Driverless car is good, exciting. But if the driverless car causes the accident, who's responsible? The driverless car, or the owner who is somewhere else? These are the challenges whose solutions will have to be found. But as we always say, technology also has a very extraordinary attribute of finding solutions to the challenge, which it faces in its onward journey. 

I’m quite sure that TechSpark will surely ignite a lot of exciting minds to find solutions. But while we acknowledge the expansion of this new technology, it must also learn to respect privacy of individuals, and most important, should not lead to hegemony or monopoly. 

These are some of the ideas that I thought I must share with you. My greetings to you all once again. Shradha’s story is by itself a powerful statement of YourStory. The way this TechSparks has become such a robust global platform is a matter of great assurance. 

My greetings, good wishes to all of you!


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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