AI and drones will rapidly transform India’s economy: WEF C4IR
From the first industrial revolution of the assembly line and mass manufacturing that unveiled new socio-economic paradigms and scientific breakthroughs, to the invention of semiconductors that redefined innovation and spawned the era of electronics and computing, seismic industrial transformations have had a profound impact on everything.
The forthcoming fourth industrial revolution will be more ambitious than all its precursors due to the power of technological convergence, precise analytics, AI and unparalleled connectivity.
The World Economic Forum has a dedicated center to analyze the disruptive potential of these technologies and enable a smooth socio-economic transition through collaborations, research and innovation.
Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR), World Economic Forum, India has partnerships between industries, startups, multilateral institutions, industry associations, professional service organizations, citizen and farmer organizations, social entrepreneurs and NGO. It has also partnered with NITI Aayog, Ministry of Agriculture, Smart Cities Mission, as well as state governments of Telangana, MP, Karnataka and Arunachal Pradesh.
“The main initiatives of the WEF C4IR in India are agriculture, health, urban transformation, education and circular economy. Going forward, we will explore energy and advanced manufacturing as additional priorities,” said Purushottam Kaushik, Head, Center for Fourth Industrial Revolution, World Economic Forum, India, in an exclusive interview.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution would be both an evolutionary transition and a revolutionary disruption, making it distinct and more radical than any previous industrial era. How do you see its impact on India and how do you foresee India’s readiness for this upcoming transition?
4e The Industrial Revolution is a portfolio of breakthrough technologies like AI, Blockchain, IOT, Drones, Synthetic Biology, Quantum Computing, Space Technologies and Advanced Energy that are already shaping the future for us and create a revolutionary impact in our lives.
These technologies offer a huge opportunity for India to leapfrog and harness them to transform our food systems, urban ecosystem, health, education, mobility, manufacturing and energy systems. The current resource constraints and emerging needs of our nation will be hugely balanced by improving efficiency and enhancing sustainability.
However, given that over 60% of the population depends on agriculture and a significant proportion is urban poor, inclusiveness must be a high priority with a goal of 4IR for all.
What do you think are the key technology trends in India that will help drive greater innovation and can make the country’s economy more vibrant and dynamic, paving the way for the 4IR?
While the key technologies that will transform India’s economy and social sector would be AI, Drones, IOT and Big Data which are already inclusive in most sectors. It is certain that 5G, Quantum, synthetic biology and space technology are integrated in most key areas and the economic benefits will be felt in the coming years.
In a recent report by MIETY, leveraging 4IR technologies can help generate an additional $1T in GDP by 2025. $65 billion, financial services would be another big opportunity by leveraging technology. generating another ~$120 billion.
There is a large potential impact on health care, education and the future of energy, which will be a great opportunity generating another additional economic benefit of $90-100 billion.
What are the Centre’s main projects for the 4IR in South Asia, and do you see any inconsistencies in the goals, alignments and priorities of different Asian countries towards the 4IR?
The main initiatives in India are agriculture, health, urban transformation, education and circular economy. Going forward, we will explore energy and advanced manufacturing as additional priorities that will help shape the broader social benefits agenda using multi-stakeholder alignment and enabling public-private partnerships across the ecosystem.
There is not much inconsistency in goals and alignments between different Asian economies, as the challenges and opportunities are most similar. There is huge potential for various Asian economies to collaborate and learn from how various countries are dealing with technology governance challenges and some of the unique case studies on healthcare, education and urban transformation can be shared for cross-learning.
The center in India is actively collaborating with 15 other centers in South America, Africa, the Middle East and Europe and is already sharing best practices in agriculture and health initiatives.
What is WEF India’s post-pandemic vision, and how do you think we can become more resilient to future disruption and sustainability-oriented in times of severe ecological crisis?
The pandemic has disrupted many ecosystems, social fabric, economic structure and livelihoods. Some of the greatest impacts are visible in the education and health systems.
The need for multi-stakeholder collaboration and the role of 4 IR technologies is more than ever felt and the World Economic Forum plays an important role in enabling collaboration and partnerships between public, private and social institutions while stimulating technological governance and sector impact dialogues.
There is a need for sustainability in food systems, education, manufacturing and urban systems and all of our initiatives have sustainability and inclusiveness as fundamental pillars.
4IR is about technological convergence and unlocking innovation to fuel digital transformation, but perhaps some technologies are more equal than others. Which technologies do you think are at the heart of 4IR and which are on the periphery?
AI, IOT, Big data, Block chain, 5G are already converging in almost every sector and transforming livelihoods and economic benefits are coming to fruition. C4IR India’s role has been to help expand the positive impact of these technologies and ensure that the benefits are more equal across all sections of society and inclusive.
We have also focused on the responsible use of technology and our state partnerships like Karnataka where we established the Center for Internet for Ethical Things and Telangana – Center for Responsible Deployment of Emerging Technologies are driving the agenda forward. in that direction.
Some advanced technologies continue to evolve and will go through a maturity curve cycle before becoming visible across all industries. Quantum, synthetic biology, space technologies, autonomous driving, nuclear fusion are in the initial stages and are being integrated on a small scale in a few sectors.
When it comes to any technological transformation, there are behavioral and institutional forces resistant to change that exert inertia and impede progress. What do you think these forces might be in the Indian context?
Technology transformation will always happen in phases and any resistance to change must be managed through multi-stakeholder conversations. Some of the resistance is due to perceived negative impacts like the irresponsible use of AI which can impact due to inexplicable false positives or false negatives.
There are also big concerns about data privacy and security breaches and the creation of new monopolies. There is also a lot of resistance to inclusiveness that needs to be addressed through conversations with stakeholders.
Another big challenge on the need for new skills and the gaps for emerging technologies. These issues cannot be ignored and must be fully addressed to realize the full potential of 4IR technologies.
The digital divide is a glaring issue that has widened post-pandemic and has the potential to roll back progress in connectivity, financial inclusion and equitable access to services. What can be done to reduce it?
The digital divide is a major challenge to realizing the full potential of emerging technologies and we enable diverse stakeholders to come together and help solve.
In our recent FIRST (Fourth Industrial Revolution for Sustainable Transformation) cancer care initiative, we are exploring a framework for leveraging AI and IoT devices to enable early detection of cancer in remote areas that don’t do not have access to cancer facilities.
Similarly, in our initiative on education (KINDLE), we are exploring how connectivity and devices can help solve health problems. Challenges related to digital infrastructure and cost-effective devices will be addressed as advanced technologies become more inherent in these solutions.