For the first time in 20 years, India’s presence was felt at the 48th World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland when Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered the keynote presentation at the plenary session on January 23rd. Speaking in Hindi, the PM showcased ease of doing business in India and called for global unity to combat the three major challenges: “Climate change, terrorism, and a threat to globalization, with powers of protectionism rising.” He went on to speak about the opportunities and dangers of technology, India’s plan to fight income inequality, job creation, and how the country is “cutting the red tape and rolling out the red carpet” to international trade and investment. “A predictable, stable, transparent and progressive India will continue to be the good news in an otherwise state of uncertainty and influx,” said Mr. Modi. My perspective is that it is clear that a technology-driven transformation is taking place in India.
What he spoke resonated well with the Forum’s theme - Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World. The global context today has changed dramatically: geostrategic fissures have resurfaced on multiple fronts with political, economic and social ramifications. Consensus was that these fractures must not foster intolerance, indecision, and inaction. The aim is to rededicate leaders from all walks of life to develop a shared narrative to improve the state of the world. The Forum comprised 400 sessions and live telecasts.
Quoting ancient Indian philosophers, Mr. Modi said that we believe in "Vasudhaiva kutumbakam" - means the whole world is one family. In essence, we all have been joined with each other like a family and our destiny links us with a common thread. Today, this concept is even more relevant in bridging the gaps and distances.
Mr. Modi spoke about how technology-driven transformation has a ripple effect; at one level it deeply impacts our everyday lives and conversations, and at the next it influences politics and economy. In this context he spoke about social media and how data is the biggest asset. The global flow of data creates huge opportunities, offset by huge challenges too. There is surfeit of data, and whoever can control that will control the world, he said.
On the other side, the rapidly advancing technologies and expansion of destructive forces in the areas of cybersecurity and nuclear security have made the existing challenges much graver. These fractures and divisive barriers are caused by lack of development, poverty, unemployment, lack of opportunities, etc.Mr. Modi opined that these fractures and rifts can be seen across:
Human relationships (technology connects us, but there is no integration)
Within the nation (lack of understanding between groups and communities)
International (disharmony and distrust)
There is also a fracture between the present and future - a divide between the requirements of today and the needs of conservation for the future.
Present Day India
In India today, technology is being used to transform governance and deliver public entitlements and services; e-governance is easy and effective governance. An increasing number of departments and state governments are deploying technology and ensuring time-bound decision and delivery. According to Mr. Modi, the government is promoting an ecosystem of creativity and innovation in every field; yet maintaining speed and scale of things being implemented.
India’s structural reforms – demonetization, digitalization, introduction of GST, bold FDI reforms etc. have put the country on a stable footing. This comes a few days ahead of the announcement of India’s annual Budget; and with all the attention that the India story garnered at Davos, it is time for the government to go beyond the blueprint and deliver on its promises.