Home / Opinion / John Chambers | Using the Internet to power India’s next transition

The world’s largest democracy has spoken and just elected a new leader focused on creating a future filled with jobs, development and economic growth. As India begins this new journey with the mantra of “minimum government and maximum governance through technology", strategic investments in technology will be critical to building the platform to accelerate the country’s goals and its position on the global stage.

Technology—especially the Internet—education and healthcare are the greatest equalizers and have the potential to transform the world. I believe that the next phase of the Internet—the Internet of Everything (IoE)—which helps connect people, process, data and things—has the potential to power Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of growth and prosperity. For an emerging country such as India, with great opportunities and abundance of talent, technology will play a quintessential role to leapfrog the country into the next era of growth and development.

The opportunities the IoE creates will determine which countries will get ahead in the global economy and which ones fall behind. Cisco predicts that over the next decade, 1.12 trillion (around $19 billion) of Economic Value will be created in the private and public sector, with over 29.59 trillion (half a trillion dollars) on the table for India alone. Change is on the horizon and the time for India to act is now.

India, as one of the fastest growing economies in the world today, is positioned for a breakthrough. The IoE, combined with public-private partnerships, where costs, risks and success are shared, will be key to solving infrastructure challenges which, when resolved have the potential to help realize the vision of creating 100 new vibrant, high-tech cities across India, a target set by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The first step has been taken through the 5.3 trillion (around $90 billion) Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project which will help create 24 new cities across the country and enrich the lives of more than 180 million citizens thereby creating a centre for global manufacturing and trade. DMIC and its partners will leverage the IoE to create a new digital urban infrastructure that will improve the management of operations, create new jobs and deliver new services to citizens. This new connected infrastructure is expected to triple industrial output, quadruple exports from the region, and double employment potential over the next five years.

As important as urban infrastructure, is revitalizing India’s education sector. This is again an important area in which the IoE can enable progress. By leveraging the IoE to connect the unconnected, India’s education system can be completely transformed. With the increased availability of broadband, students and teachers can share knowledge across geographies as if they are in the same classroom. This will allow rural students to access the best courses without leaving their villages. This technology is currently enabling students in the small village of Thalassery in Kerala to virtually communicate with english and mathematics teachers in a nearby city. A similar effort has enabled students in the villages of Bichali, Talmari and Tungabhadra in Raichur district to learn English.

This is just the beginning; improved access and quality of education means that more skilled employees will enter the Indian workforce, increasing the pace of development of the Indian economy. Cisco is playing its part in skills development with Cisco’s 207 Networking Academies across the country helping to provide courses for the future IoE.

For a developing country such as India, along with education, affordable healthcare is of utmost importance because it acts as a catalyst to accelerate the nation’s social and economic growth.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the desirable doctor-to-patient is 1:1000. Against this requirement, there is only one doctor per 1,700 citizens in India, and the country is short of 600,000 doctors. Technology, especially the Internet, can act as an enabler to help bridge this gap. Internet and collaboration technology, supported by faster data, voice and video transfer, can help doctors connect with patients living miles away and provide remote consultation in a cost-effective manner. Using these tools, connected to different healthcare centres patients’ vitals can be monitored and recorded in a secure and collaborative manner.

Clearly, IoE has the power to change the fate of millions of Indians. A glance at the next decade provides insights into the upcoming technology transitions; a view into a connected nation fostered by steady growth in innovation.

I believe, that the next few years will be transformative for India. Technology partnerships between the government and private sector will help solve complex challenges in education, healthcare and infrastructure. I believe the IoE will be an important vehicle for change and will provide the opportunity for India to dramatically expand its role in the global economy and vastly improve the lives of its citizens.

John Chambers is chairman and chief executive officer of Cisco.

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