It is easy to confuse what is happening to technology stocks worldwide in the markets with a supposedly lessening of the impact of technology in our lives. That would be a mistake. The technology stock price bubble has burst, but in no way means that technology is going to be any less important. If anything, the next few years will see an even greater influence of technology – with the building out of the infrastructure for the ubiquitous Internet (combining wireless, broadband and devices), and the progress being made in the area of biotechnology and life sciences, following the mapping of the Human Genome.
What does it take for India to be a leader in the development and deployment of new technologies worldwide? In this context, it is imperative for India – corporates, educational and research institutions, citizens and government – to understand the impact of technology, and put in place an agenda to ensure that we can leverage it appropriately. The revolution being wrought by technology is disrupting many industries, even as the actual economies and spends on technology slow. This can offer significant opportunities provided we can come together with a vision of how we want the future to be, and can work together to accomplish that.
For example, if we need to make a mark internationally in IT beyond the offshore services model, it is important to build a deeper domestic industry. We need more companies to start adopting technology across the enterprise. We need government to start using it a lot more. We need to make computing much more affordable for the mass market. We need to nurture entrepreneurship. We need to improve the quality of teaching at the educational institutions, encouraging innovation and research. We need to be able attract overseas Indians not only to return back but also invest in and contribute their expertise back in India.
We need to learn some of the lessons from the way countries like Japan, South Korea and Singapore built up their economies on the basis of export-led growth. We need to take some of those learnings and fit them for knowledge and technology-led growth to power India in the next decade. This will not come just by setting export targets or by offering tax incentives. Changes are required across many entrenches practices if we are to make India a real technology superpower in the next 10 years. The opportunity is there. The game is ours to lose. In the past, we have managed to easily fritter away advantages. But just as 2001 is shaping up to be the year Indian sport comes of age, perhaps this decade can shape up to the one in which India can capitalize on its strengths to truly make a difference globally.