A Silicon Valley view of India high on digital path

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A Silicon Valley view of India high on digital path

Wednesday, 21 September 2022 | Chet Kapoor

Digital India is driving technology incubation and growth all around and the ecosystem is buzzing with new energy

Not only was I born and raised in India, but my passion for technology started there too. I was wandering through the British Council Library in Calcutta when I came across a book called ‘The Little Kingdom’. It was a true story about Apple’s founders, and I was immediately interested. I thought, “This is going to change the way we live and the way we work.” From then on, I knew two things: I wanted a career in tech and I had to work for Steve Jobs.

I moved to Silicon Valley, worked for NeXT, the company that Steve Jobs started after Apple, ran a few startups, took a company through acquisition, and did a stint at Google.

Now, I find myself at this awesome place called DataStax. We help enterprises and developers build high-growth, real-time applications and experiences. Recently, I headed back to India to meet with our team, get an update on the technology landscape and discover ways we can work together to build the future. After meeting with government officials and private sector technology leaders, I came away not only with a lot of great new connections, but also a strong impression of India’s tech-forward mindset.

The public sector is all-in on India’s digital transformation, which is key to India’s journey to becoming a $5 trillion economy. We all know about India’s stature as a software development powerhouse, and IT service providers like Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services are leaders in helping their clients around the world become digital leaders.

But I was surprised by the level of commitment the public sector has for moving India forward with technology. I saw and heard examples of this over and over. The Delhi Police is investing significant resources into AI and machine learning, for use in cases, including improved traffic flows. The federal government is making census data available via application programming interfaces (APIs), enabling developers to have simplified access to this data to build powerful applications (In 2021, census data was collected digitally, with a mobile app, for the first time ever in India).

The global leadership that India has shown by making government payments (Unified Payments Service, or UPI) accessible in real time to so many citizens is impressive, too — particularly in light of the challenges that other countries have faced in making this a reality. As Rajeev Chandrasekhar, India’s Minister of State for Electronics and IT, said recently, “India leads digital, and digital leads India.”

Private sector technology leadership is strong. I always enjoy speaking with technology leaders to learn how they scale their businesses, inspire their teams, overcome challenges, and celebrate innovation. On my trip, I met with several leaders who worked in a variety of fields, from healthcare to ecommerce to fintech — and the innovation that’s happening there blew me away.

Consider VerSe, the company’s technology enables more than 300 million users to consume content in their local language, driving creativity and connection through digital empowerment (not to mention a healthy valuation nearing $5 billion). It’s the platform behind India’s fastest-growing short video app, Josh. This kind of success is enabled by an environment that promotes innovation and high sustainable growth.

As part of its quest to build a multi-trillion dollar digital economy, India is moving quickly to set up digital infrastructure. The goal is to provide internet and 5G service and ubiquitous access to data. This access to data and services via the applications they serve will be unprecedented. The Digital India initiative is focused on making data a critical asset to improve the lives of Indian citizens and modernise the way many governmental and state agencies function.

When it comes to data, especially in government agencies and citizen services, it’s easy to think about data warehouses and analytics. Understanding data after it’s been gathered and stored is important, but the digital civilization India is building calls for more than just “data at rest”.

Citizens expect from the government and agencies a digital experience that’s in-the-moment—instant and valuable. Government agencies are often involved in situations requiring instant and timely information from massive data sets to make critical decisions that ensure their mission, including citizen safety, continuity of service, a secured platform, and the optimized use of its resources.

Access to real-time data, whether for agencies and citizens to have real-time information in emergencies or for developers to build applications with, will play a key role in the success of the Digital India initiative. DataStax is excited to partner with the wide range of developers and enterprises who call this country their home.

(The author is Chairman & CEO of DataStax)

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