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Digital Readiness No Longer Optional: Nivruti Rai, Country Head, Intel India & VP, Data Platforms Group, Intel Corporation

'Be ready for a future defined by an unprecedented reliance on technology,' cautions the Country Head, Intel India & Vice President, Data Platforms Group of Intel Corporation. Excerpts:

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As the pandemic challenges just about everything, what is the responsibility it puts on business leaders?
Businesses will need to look at the evolving consumer needs in the post-Covid-19 world and this calls for leaders to revisit their strategy and innovate with agility and resiliency. Organisations will adopt changes arising from these times in the long-term. For one, some percentage of the workforce may remain remote and the rest would also see increased flexibility.

Leading virtual teams and enabling them with the right technology and tools will be the norm. Inclusion will be more important, and leaders should further nurture an empathic and compassionate approach to connecting with and motivating their teams.

From an ecosystem perspective, we need to apply our learnings to refocus and reinvent the way we work together and enable innovation. It has become imperative for organisations to adopt a collaborative approach to solve the world's greatest challenges. This is especially true for technology companies as data and information play a crucial role in transforming key sectors like healthcare, education, manufacturing, retail, transportation and agriculture among others.

Would you agree the pandemic has accelerated existing technologies rather than birthed something unprecedented?
The pandemic has pushed both the development and deployment of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, cloud and automation in key sectors. For example, as part of a multi-disciplinary initiative, Intel India is working with Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Hyderabad to help achieve faster and less expensive Covid-19 testing and coronavirus genome sequencing to understand epidemiology and AI-based risk stratification for patients with comorbidities.  

In another tech ecosystem initiative, a NASSCOM taskforce that I am leading built a technology-driven vision of a Pandemic Response Platform for India - a platform that we architected as an open API-based locally hosted, privacy preserving, multi-cloud infrastructure that enables a multitude of citizen-centric apps. This Pandemic Response Platform is designed to augment the central and state governments' efforts with a robust set of population scale Covid-19 indicators that help predict outbreaks and improve medical care administration. This end-to-end platform was delivered to the governments of Telangana and Karnataka recently. Along with NASSCOM and Intel, the project taskforce for the development and delivery of this platform included participation from NASSCOM members and other companies such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Fractal, Infosys, Mapbox, Microsoft, Mindtree, SAP, Sprinklr, and Wipro.

What are some of the changes Intel had to undertake from a business continuity perspective? 
The pandemic propelled us overnight into a scenario that had almost our entire workforce working remotely, along with our contingent workers and ecosystem partners. Intel IT had to quickly embrace creative solutions that would enable scaling rapidly. 

To pivot our workforce while maintaining business operations, we made changes across design site operations, supply chain, sales and marketing, human resources and finance. We worked closely with the government to safely enable critical and essential work at Intel sites with a smaller number of essential personnel. We had to quickly adapt our formal processes in many areas to accelerate response such as making exceptions to our procurement processes, modifying on-boarding/off-boarding processes allowing employees to be virtual, etc. Our sales and marketing people had to shift to working with our customers and industry partners through virtual engagements and events. To provide a seamless and consistent experience, we had to fine-tune multiple platforms to both enable and accelerate collaboration. 

What are some of the predictions of the changes in the Indian business and economy landscape from here, especially in the context of the technological changes?
Business continuity will need increased automation, safe manufacturing, and social distancing - all of which will require transformational technology to execute. Customer experiences will have to be re-imagined for a contactless environment. The proliferation of internet and cloud will continue to be the most efficient service delivery model across different sectors. 

For example, in the healthcare space, telemedicine will gain prominence while technology will also play a role in predicting and managing outbreaks using population-scale data and analytics. 

In retail, social distancing practices will drive innovation in both e-commerce and brick and mortar stores, increasing the use of augmented reality, virtual reality, computer vision and internet of things (IoT) technologies. 

In education, the pandemic has highlighted the need for access to computers and the internet. The e-learning ecosystem will become mainstream and empower the masses with access to quality content and instructors.

The need of the hour is to collaborate with the ecosystem and work together to develop solutions to unleash the potential of data-driven technology and transform business and society for the better. Intel is fortunate to be deeply engaged with these ecosystems in providing the tools and services that people around the world depend upon in their daily lives ­- and in putting technology to work towards understanding and fighting this virus.

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technology transformation Nivruti Rai Intel Corporation