New Delhi: India is likely to be under severe pressure for resources, given that the country’s population is projected to reach 1.47 billion by 2030, unless it utilizes information and communications technology (ICT) and transform cities into smarter cities, said a recent report by Accenture Plc.
To sustain its current gross domestic product (GDP) growth at roughly 5% per year, India—which has a population of 1.25 billion and current per capita GDP of around $1,500—will have to exert immense pressure on natural and human resources, the report said.
For instance, between 1990 and 2012, India’s emissions increased by 198%. Thirteen Indian cities have been identified as the world’s top 50 polluted cities by the World Health Organization. While India is the third-largest energy consumer in the world, after China and the US, infrastructure in India is limited, and traffic in the six major Indian cities is growing four times faster than their population. Also, it is estimated that within 20 years, the average travel speed in major cities will be reduced from 17-26km per hour to 6-8km per hour.
However, with smartphone proliferation, ICT can play a significant role in shaping sustainable growth in India, while addressing issues such as poverty, pollution, job creation and resource shortage. Nearly 78 out of 100 Indians have at least a basic mobile phone connection. Smartphone penetration reached 13% in 2014 and is expected to reach 70% by 2030.
“Providing education to a larger number of children can help raise literacy levels and reduce absolute poverty in the long term. E-Learning, the use of ICT in education, can make learning accessible at scale in an affordable way," the report said.
For institutions, e-learning could mean a saving of $150-175 billion as physical resources are freed up for alternative uses, the report found.
India’s deteriorating air quality, mostly due to road congestion, is another key challenge. “One of the easiest ways to reduce air pollution is reduction in miles travelled by road and our research shows that e-commerce solutions could save 0.07Gt of emissions in India by 2030 by reducing the need for people to travel to stores and shops," the report said. “Likewise, with the proliferation of smart devices, about 10% of the target population could benefit from traffic control and optimization platforms," the report said.
When it comes to energy distribution, smart grids could be the way forward to regulate energy demand and supply. “Today, only 3% of Indian buildings are equipped with smart technology. By 2030, roughly 20% of buildings will have smart metering infrastructure, allowing consumers and business alike to bring down emissions while saving on utility bills," the report observed.
In 2014 alone, India’s IT spend exceeded $71 billion, about 6% higher than forecasted by Gartner Inc. This creates a huge potential for jobs growth, with the overall ICT workforce in India coming in at 2.5 million workers, with around 400,000 ICT postgraduates joining every year, according to the report.