The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR, is the fourth major industrial era since the initial Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. While previous revolutions liberated humans by mechanizing animal power, enabling mass production and bringing in a digital revolution, the Fourth IR is fundamentally different. It can be described as a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, and impacting all disciplines, economies and industries and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.
Central to this revolution are emerging technological breakthroughs in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, quantum computing and nanotechnology. These are fundamentally changing the way we live, work, cultivate our skills, nurture relationships and associate with one another.
India’s Digital Economy - “PPP” Model
India has “People” power based on its technical education and demographic dividend, and today comprises of more than 40% of the global technology workforce. India’s digital ‘Platforms” are coming to life, with a combination of “Policy” and technological innovation playing an important role. To further the multi-stakeholder model, a people-centric approach is being taken to shape a future that works for all. It is disrupting every industry in the country by advancing on to almost 400 million smartphone users of the country, each consuming, creating knowledge and utilizing technology.
The country is moving rapidly toward a digital-first economy. Consider, for example, a government payment system created in 2016 that was processing 100,000 transactions per month in October of that year, prior to the sudden demonetization. A year later, after demonetization, the same system is processing 106 million transactions per month.
The name for the digital platform which holds India’s growth potential is the Aadhaar-based “India Stack”. India Stack comprises of multiple layers of Digital Identity, Cloud Storage, Payments systems and Data Consent layer. Evolving on the people-centric approach to policy, and using technology for mass impact, Government of India launched the biggest financial inclusion programme of all times, the Jan Dhan Yojna, through which free, zero balance accounts and accident insurance coverage of 100,000 rupees is provided.
Empowering India: The JAM trinity
Having a biometric verifiable identity number and a bank account created the potential for adding another layer to the service stack: mobile payments. With an identity to create a bank account, and a bank account to receive funds, the hundreds of millions of people eligible for the receipt of government services in India suddenly had a way to access those services digitally, from beginning to end, by using the digital infrastructure nicknamed as the “JAM” trinity, referring to innovative interlinking of Jan Dhan (low-cost bank accounts), Aadhaar (identity), and Mobile numbers.
Futuristic Outlook of Digital India
India is leapfrogging to a “Mobile First” country, and has been adding over 110 million new smartphones every year, with lowest data costs and one of the highest data consumptions in the world. The BharatNet project has already connect over 100,000 Gram panchayats and will reach another 150,000 in the next few quarters. India is on its path to leapfrogging into a socio-economically digitally empowered society with a vision of digital solutions to problems of financial inclusion, access to healthcare, and quality education amongst others.
India is also on the verge of launching Aadhaar-compliant devices with biometric authentication built into phones and tablets. The power of the JAM trinity will come into full force when transactions are enabled using Aadhaar and biometric authentication, creating a system that is not only cashless but cardless. India’s Digital Platforms are nothing short of a revolution which in a short span of four years has transformed the nature of economy and has reset the clock of development at a more equitable point by the virtue of suddenly implemented policies.
"India’s Digital Platforms are nothing short of a revolution which in a short span of four years has transformed the nature of economy and has reset the clock of development at a more equitable point by the virtue of suddenly implemented policies"
India is embracing the fourth industrial revolution which has the potential to raise income levels and improve the quality of life for the population. It will lead to long-term gains in efficiency and productivity by reducing the communication cost both for the government and the citizens, all of which will open new markets and drive economic growth. Also this rapid acceptance and adoption of technology in the daily lives will result in a net increase in safe and rewarding jobs.
In business perspectives, digital platforms are creating entirely new methods of serving existing needs and is disrupting existing supply chains in a much faster way than ever. Product innovations enhanced with digital capabilities provided by Fourth Industrial Revolution, data and analytics are being used to transform how the services are being consumed.
Overall, the implacable shift from simple digitization (the Third Industrial Revolution) to innovation based on combinations of technologies (The Fourth Industrial Revolution) is transforming the business and society at large. But there remains one of the greatest challenges posed by new technologies - data security, data ownership and data authentication, circumscribing the space around data privacy. Similarly, the revolutions occurring in the fields of biotechnology, AI and genetics, which are redefining what it means to be human by pushing back the current thresholds of lifespan, health, cognition, and capabilities, are redefining our moral and ethical boundaries.
The process of digital disruption — whether led by government or not — creates numerous social challenges. Rather than seeking to slow that process to reduce those societal challenges, India has taken the opposite approach: to not only embrace but accelerate digital disruption, to ensure its full potential for economic and social inclusion. India is on its course to lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution and provide innovative solutions for its own consumers; but also to the next six billion of global population not being served by the current digital platforms.
The author is the co-founder of Botworx.ai. He is an active member of NASSCOM, and founder-member of iSPIRT, and Head - Digital India Foundation
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