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Blueprint For A USD 5 Trillion Indian Economy

India is currently the fastest growing major economy in the world – a position the World Bank predicts it will continue to hold for up to another decade

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This month the Indian government introduced yet another series of updates to the country’s economic architecture. Among the changes to the 2018 national budget -- a pledge to double farmers’ incomes by 2022, major boosts in infrastructure spending, and a plan to give half a billion poor Indians free access to healthcare. It’s all part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “New India” vision to improve quality of life and transform India into a $5 trillion economy, a formidable goal that requires India to nearly double the size of its current economy over the next eight years.

While these moves represent meaningful progress, ultimately, India’s ability to achieve its new target will hinge on the country transforming itself into a fully connected knowledge economy. To its credit, the government understands this strategy well and has made “Digital India” an integral part of its economic agenda. In fact, the new budget doubles the allocation to “Digital India” programs to total Rs 3073 core in 2018-2019.

As the leader for Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration program, I have the unique privilege of collaborating with the Indian government to advance the country’s ambitious digital strategy. Here are three ways I believe India’s digital strategy will help turn its economic goals into reality:

Preparing the workforce for 21st-century jobs:

India is currently the fastest growing major economy in the world – a position the World Bank predicts it will continue to hold for up to another decade. As the economy expands, so does the demand for workers with the skills necessary to compete in the new digital economy: It’s estimated that India will need 700 million skilled workers by 2022 to fill positions across the country.

The country is committed to addressing this gap and in July 2015 launched the Skill India campaign, which aims to train over 400 million Indians in different skills by 2022. It is also partnering with Cisco to train more than 250,000 individuals by 2020 through Cisco Networking Academies. This is incredible progress, but much work remains to ensure all Indians have the skills needed for jobs of the future.

Fueling the innovation ecosystem:

India is now home to one of the fastest growing startup ecosystem in the world, thanks in large part to government efforts to remove barriers to entrepreneurship and extend support for tech startups. Cisco alone has invested directly and indirectly in more than 25 companies and created Cisco LaunchPad, a local incubator initiative which has graduated 18 startups since September 2016 with eight in the current cohort. As the government’s economic reforms continue to materialize, we can expect many more companies to make the same type of commitment in India’s business community.

To ensure these startups continue to scale up, India will need to continue promoting a favorable business environment where startups can afford to innovate and access capital. Recently, a group of prominent Indian investors started a campaign to build a multi-billion dollar startup fund to bridge the local funding gap in the Indian startup ecosystem. These types of public and private efforts will play a critical role in positioning India as a leading global innovator.  

Bridging the digital divide:

Only 17 percent of rural India has access to the internet. The creation of national digital infrastructure has the power to connect underserved populations, providing those who live in India’s villages access to online education, the ability to work remotely at jobs unavailable to them previously, and use of online healthcare resources from specialists. Not only will expanded broadband availability improve living conditions in rural areas, it will also unleash huge amounts of untapped talent in these regions, inviting those who currently lack the opportunity to capitalize on their skills to participate in the digital economy.

Through the “Digital India” program, India has committed to connecting 250,000 villages to the internet by 2019. Reaching this goal was made further possible by India’s budget announcement, which allocated funds to create a test bed for 5G technology. The state of Andhra Pradesh has also partnered with Cisco to design and implement AP Fiber Net, the first statewide broadband project in the country. At less than Rs 149 a month, this is one of the most affordable broadband networks in the world. These unprecedented investments in bridging the digital divide will undoubtedly have a transformative effect on the economy.  

As these efforts to accelerate the country’s digital agenda continue to take root, the future is brighter than ever in India -- I am thrilled to be a part of it.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Guy Diedrich

Guy Diedrich is the Chief Innovation Officer of Cisco.

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