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Is Success Of Digital Transformation At The Mercy Of Data & Governance?

Ostensibly India has all it needs to be a superpower by 2050, but have we really unleashed the potential of digital transformation to have India reach the Top of the Pyramid?

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Ever wondered when did you first hear the word Digitalization; a decade ago or maybe two? What if I tell you that it was back in 1703 that it was first conceptualized by Gottfried Wilhelm in his first publication on Binary Arithmetic.  The re-birth happened in 1990 with the World Wide Web, and now with Tesla car being sent in space, while AI has marked the beginning of a robot-ruling era, it's Digitization which is being talked about everywhere.

From where we stand today, IT teams are envisioned as true business partners driving innovation, data teams transforming the way marketers would acquire & retain customers, predicting the result in advance is part of all key business decisions like never before. Digital transformation today makes the base of everything, true that; but is it all?

Can Digitization accelerate India's growth?
Ostensibly India has all it needs to be a superpower by 2050, but have we really unleashed the potential of digital transformation to have India reach the Top of the Pyramid?

India today stands 6th with its current GDP of $2.4 trillion, it is envisioned by many respected authors, economists of the big 4s that by 2030 India could be 3rd, with GDP of around $6.8 trillion, surpassing Japan, and by 2050 we can be on the second spot, leaving behind the US.

By 2030 we could also be the most populous nation & may have 3rd biggest army of the world. Now that's the Top of Pyramid we want to achieve in next decade.

Now the bigger question is if Digitization alone is enough. Can we ever decouple Digitization & Governance?

Constituents for 'Digital India' alone pave the path to growth
Digitization & Governance are intermingled to form the very fabric, that acts as a foundation to support everything else and thereby, these 2 concepts can't be isolated.

Let me share an example about Delhi MCD, which took a small step on the road of governance through digitization, some 10 years ago. They introduced the concept of biometric attendance, which helped them identify 22,000 ghost employees and save Rs 204 crores annually that was going as their salaries.

Now consider this, the construction cost of a kilometre long flyover in Delhi is Rs.150 crores, which implies the MCD ghosts can sponsor a flyover every year, with some change to spare.

But unfortunately, till 2016, no strict action was taken as the door to door investigation could not get completed in all these years. Hence lack of adequate governance decided the fate for digitization.

Inevitable blind spots to watch for    
People's trust in our government will play the pivotal role in deciding the fate of many initiatives like 'Digital India' etc.

Clearly, the rural population doesn't understand the rationale behind government's aim to bring internet to their doorsteps, when they do not even have electricity. When the basic question for them is the guarantee of food and shelter, all this discussion about blue sky vision and data don't even make sense to them.  

There is another section of society, the uneducated-educated class, whose confidence can be won if we bring some transparency to these initiatives. Which will help break their belief that by linking products & services used by anyone to Adhaar, the government has a bigger motive to serve than to just know about their 'Not-so-hard earned money'

Along with transparency, someone sharing information as sensitive as their biometrics should trust the system that all the information integrity is not compromised due to any technical barriers. Incidents/ rumours like Adhaar data leak just add to their dilemma.

Altering the steer: Getting inspired from success stories across the Globe
With all Initiatives to take the leap using AI & the advanced technologies 'NITI Aayog' has already identified several areas where transformation can be brought. Rightfully, we are not talking about driverless cars but about bringing the power of AI where it would matter the most & can be seen to bring its impact by elevating the masses. Some of the areas are health, education & agriculture.

But the success of the AI solutions depends to a great extent not on technology but on the DATA on which it is trained. The accuracy, availability, relevance, volume, speed, the integrity of the data will play a crucial role irrespective of how big or how small is the problem that AI will address.

What India needs today is the right combination of advanced technologies not just to bring these AI based innovation to life but to ensure an extended, productive & harmless execution of these initiatives for years to come. Hence we can take inspiration in terms of ideas of digitalization from the world around at the same time some strict governance is equally crucial.

Estonia, a small country in Northern Europe has a population a little over the population of Gurgaon & GDP of $26 Billion. When Estonians started building towards the road of digitization, 20 years ago, there was no digital data being collected about their citizens. The general population did not even have the internet or even devices with which to use it. Today, e-Estonia, the information society formed by Estonians, is the most advanced digital society in the world.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is one of the most revolutionary topics globally, changing the way companies use consumer data. It is a regulation that aims to strengthen and unify data protection within the European Union. With India on the path of digitalization, we cannot undermine the need of such regulations.

Whether Estonia or India the road ahead is not easy. To ensure a successful journey on this road ahead, we would need a lot of perfect shots on the way, which is not possible without a tripod that is a combination of Technology, Data & Governance.

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.

Tags assigned to this article:
Digital Transformation Data governance

Aashima Kumar

The author is Manager, Marketing Strategy & Analysis, Publicis.Sapient

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