India at the Cusp of Data Revolution

By Oliver Rice

Innovations from cancer-detecting machines to electricity generating roads brought the Fourth Industrial Revolution to life at the India-UK FutureTech Festival, in Delhi, last week.

This was a unique gathering where participants witnessed first-hand, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, regulators, and experts thrashing out insights on technologies of the future.

No matter the application or opportunity, data is consistently at the heart of new technologies from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to the cloud and analytics. These technologies are currently transforming far more than just how we do business. Embedding data-central technologies in the very fabric of society creates advances across far wider sectors than first suspected, from genomics to virtualisation in real estate. Quite simply, the potential for India, now the world’s richest country in data, is massive.

The FutureTech Festival underlined the fact that this opportunity cannot be seized alone. The UK and India both share an ambition in striving to become intelligent economies that deliver immense improvements to quality of life and economic productivity. Already we see substantial efforts with Innovate UK, a government body, funding SMEs that develop actively disruptive ideas whilst on the Indian side, Government think tank, NITI Aayog, is facilitating partnerships that use technology to enable the remotest of healthcare access.

During the festival Sir Malcom Grant, Chair of NHS England, observed that in the UK, AI is markedly improving the quality and pace of the existing healthcare system, which India could harness to accelerate the creation of their entirely new healthcare system, the Ayushman Bharat scheme, announced by the Government this year promising to expand healthcare insurance to all 1.3 billion Indians. Whilst the UK has a wealth of leading research in deep learning algorithms, India will require 7.4 million healthcare professionals by 2022, more than double the existing workforce, to meet its ambition to cater for the health needs of all citizens. The AI being developed in the UK healthcare system is sorely needed and already this technology is being deployed in India under the new Healthcare AI catalyst, accessible even in the remotest of areas.

From regulation to innovation, this tremendous scope for India-UK collaboration was a recurring theme. Indeed, the complementarities are striking. The UK has the expertise, knowledge, and track record in delivering innovation, and India has an unrivalled data wealth with an ambition to match in delivering social and economic transformation.

Beyond trade and business however, this was a festival conscious of the implications of big data use, but also big data misuse, with potentially profound consequences across security, education, and democracy itself. As such, it was brought into sharp focus why it is important for India to ensure data security. Indeed, Elizabeth Denham, UK Information Commissioner, said:

“When we’re talking about personal data, we are really talking about people — not ones and zeros in binary code.”

This topic was central to the UK India Business Council’s televised roundtable event ‘Data the Foundation of Intelligent Economies’. As Richard Heald, CEO of UKIBC, outlined, data protection legislation does not just stop at striking the balance between maximising opportunity whilst minimising misuse – a significant challenge in an off itself. In the long-term it must also ensure a strong, independent regulator is in place that is globally connected and understands how businesses deliver innovation.

But when done right, it can deliver.

If India manages to strike this regulatory balance, the opportunities across countries and sectors are boundless for both countries. How will the UK and India ride the wave of Industry 4.0? Watch this space to find out…

This is a blog written in collaboration between Apurva Kadam from Magenta Communications, and Oliver Rice from the UKIBC after attending the India-UK FutureTech Festival 2018.

 


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