In the previous issue, we examined how various stakeholders are doing their part in building the information superhighway under the Digital India rollout. Anil Valluri, President, India & SAARC Operations at NetApp, speaks on what Digital India might augur for the country in the coming years.
Will India be able to optimally benefit from the expected growth in cloud computing?
Cloud computing is absolutely the right fit for the Indian economy, purely because a large part of our businesses are in the micro, small and medium service enterprises (MSME) space. They don´t have the wherewithal to set up their own infrastructure, train manpower and manage things on their own. So the cloud is an absolute natural fit as far as the Indian industry is concerned. The highest end of enterprises will have their own infrastructure, expertise and means & resources to conduct it themselves. However, a substantial part will definitely adopt cloud. Even among large enterprises, they are looking at non-mission critical, non-core applications to migrate to cloud-based solutions for their marketing campaigns, test and development environments and rapid development prototypes. I have no doubt in my mind that we are still in the development or early stages of cloud adoption. We will see that progressively grow big time over the next two years. The ramp-up is pretty steep, and I think it will become solidly mainstream in a couple of years´ time.
Do you further see a very ripe - yet untapped - potential for cloud computing in small town and village India?
Yes, since now the network is ubiquitous. Wherever there is a cell phone signal, even the last mile of a mofussil village has Internet access. Some of it is through wire-based and some of it through wireless access. So there is no dearth of access or points of presence as you may like to call them. For instance, when you are accessing your Gmail on your mobile phone, it´s actually on cloud. Similarly, when you are using WhatsApp, it´s on cloud. Nothing is stored on your device. So I think device independence and storage of data at backend is the model. We might not be aware in terms of the operator, but we are transparently using the services provide by it. The adoption is more on the rural side than it is in metros, since the latter have had all the access for some time. The ones who are really keen to adopt cloud are upcountry places and rural markets.
How critical is the success of the Digital India initiative, which also happens to be one of the most ambitious exercises undertaken by any government globally?
Digital India is not an option. It is essential and it is mandatory. The whole world is moving towards digital. Digital transformation is part of the evolutionary process today. The way markets and economies are shaping, everything is going digital. Your data in terms of visuals, communication, entertainment, archival, storage, citizen services, etc., is digital. Digital is also a great leveller for then you don´t have to approach people for your papers or records. Digital India is the right thing to do as that´s one of the ways we can alleviate the lot of a large section of our population which lives below the poverty line, by enabling them digitally. Take the case of subsidies, direct benefit transfers and provision of cooking gas connections. All of that has been made possible by the digital push. Imagine doing all that manually! There is a possibility of huge leakages and misuse. We have experienced that before. So this is the best way to do it. Similarly, once land records are digitised, very little scope is left for dubious transactions. There are a ton of other things that can also be done. In my view, the government is absolutely doing the right thing by embracing transformation.
What are those other things that can be worked upon simultaneously?
To my mind, digital is infinite in terms of possibilities. We have been slow in terms of embracing it on the healthcare side. Crime is another area, where although a lot has been achieved, we still need to integrate our systems better so that lawbreakers don´t remain scot free by simply moving to another area. It´s about integrating data from all the states into a single database. The way bank accounts are now linked to a person´s income-tax account allows raising of red flags in the eventuality of extravagant credit card spending, foreign holidays, etc. That´s the right way to go about it. A lot of black money or cash transactions that were previously going on unnoticed, all of that will get eliminated once you go digital. Electronic transactions ensure there is an authenticated record and trail. Therefore, it´ not easy to get away with a lot of things now.
What do you see as the key challenges in the implementation of the programme?
The programme might get delayed if there is lack of commitment from the people or institutions. There is a possibility that traditional mindsets might resist adopting digital on the grounds that they have been successfully doing things the traditional way. However, I don´t think that will be too much of a challenge because the new millennials or the younger lot of people coming into the system are all digitally enabled. They live, breathe and eat digital. The old guard might resist for a while, but I think that´s part of any transition. The younger generation will help us take off.
In this backdrop, where do you see India ten years from now?
Ten years from now, India will be a completely developed nation. It will be free of a lot of ills that we have today such as corruption, taking advantage of someone else´s lack of knowledge, disappearance of records or rampant crimes being committed with impunity. Lot of that will dissipate. We will be a lot safer, agile and efficient. A number of people living below the poverty line would have moved up. But for that, we as a nation have to change our mindset. We can´t go on proclaiming that since ´we are like that only´, we won´t change. We have a long way to go, but I think we are on the right track.