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Technology and digital developments in the recent years have created new possibilities and opportunities for users. The dependence on social networks for information and communication, for both professional and personal purposes, has changed the way we manage ourselves.

An inclusive growth not only fosters a high-employment economy, it also delivers social cohesion. Countries are now talking about moving towards “smart growth", which refers to an approach to develop an economy. India, being an emerging economy, has more to gain from this. As a country, we should look at leveraging technology consistently, to enable faster economic development. Simultaneously, this will also speed up knowledge and innovation in the country, thereby, ensuring sustainable growth and promoting employment and resource efficiency.

Technology can be a catalyst for social inclusion for people across India. Access to digital platforms and technology has made it easier for people to learn, adopt and upskill themselves with ease, thus helping them overcome some of the intellectual discrimination that has persisted in society for a long time. Availability and access to content, new skills, open universities and experience sharing has made education approachable and affordable. People in the rural areas or the financially challenged cadres of the society, who could not afford premium education earlier, are today able to avail of education and are not completely deprived thanks to the digital era. There are institutions, which have emerged in the past decade, who have dedicated their efforts and vision towards increasing the employability of the socially excluded sectors of our society, like the physically or mentally challenged, low economic and financial stature individuals, etc. Leveraging technology to its fullest potential, is a positive step and is the way forward to enable the successful integration of various diversities getting acceptance and social inclusion.

Bridging the gap

Digital social networks/platforms are also helping people become more socially active and engaged.

In the corporate scenario, inclusion requires skills and ability to perform a task or a job; and digital technology is helping bridge the gap and gain those skills. Organizations are readily adopting innovative and digitally driven learning and development interventions. Higher engagements are led through digital social networks and media. This, in turn, is leading to increased communication and reduction in formal boundaries to some extent. While there are two school of thoughts on its pros and cons, we must appreciate that employee engagement and work efficiency has increased by leaps and bounds.

The shift in the corporate environment and new ways of working is also making way for the future workforce. The future lies in the gig economy, that is, giving freedom to employees to work from where they want, when they wish to work and how they wish to work, thus breaking the barriers of age, creed, gender and disabilities. What matters is the end deliverable at a more economical rate. In my daily interactions, I hear more about organizations moving to new ways of working and being more aware of the future of the workforce. Organizations are investing more into technology and rediverting their focus on intellectual contribution from their employees. By adding the flexibility of workplace through leveraging technology the likes of virtual team, and work from home through online connectivity, organizations are saving on their real-estate fixed expenses as well. New open workplaces enabled with digital technology today are providing the freedom that employees are seeking while bringing in a more efficient way of working. This is allowing organizations to retain a much healthier diversity and inclusion ratios, as physical presence and appearance is not hampering business outcomes, where everyone is treated alike and measured on their deliverables and productivity, rather than unconscious human biases.

Lastly, the impact of social media, fake news and the rise of populism can generate existential threats to the very fabric of our social equality and inclusivity. While technology can provide the solutions and answers that we seek, it can also become the key source of new problems. Hence, it is equally important for us to understand how and where technology should be used to its fullest potential, so we can support and ensure higher social inclusion, participation and empowerment to bridge the existing gaps.

Vishalli Dongrie is partner and head (people and change), KPMG India.

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