While the UPA and the NDA battle it out over who gave India higher growth/lower inflation and as India prepares for the 21st century with more reservations and the Food Security Bill, the world is moving on. A McKinsey Global Institute report shows you just how fast. With the speed of sequencing a human genome doubling (in per dollar terms) over the last 10 months, we’re looking at sequencing of a human genome in just one hour, at a cost of $100. We can fool ourselves into believing this will have no impact in a country like India, but keep in mind there has been a 100-fold rise in the acreage of genetically-modified crops since 1996. India may be happy to increase labour costs by more social security programmes like the Food Security Bill or the MGNREGA, but keep in mind the 170% rise in the global sale of industrial robots between 2009-11—12% of global workers are engaged in manufacturing globally and their lives will never be the same again, McKinsey’s report points out. Just look at the increased output in some of India’s top manufacturing firms and look at the significantly lower rise in the number of jobs created to realise this. Indeed, the primary reason for the revival of US manufacturing is the greater use of robotics. India’s choice is to either join the race or opt out altogether.
Whether it is fracking or the dramatic spread of the internet, more specifically mobile internet or the dramatic increase in computing power—while the fastest supercomputer cost $5 million in 1975, the iPhone 4 is equal in performance and costs just $400—McKinsey has zeroed in on 12 potentially disruptive technologies that could add between $14-33 trillion to global GDP each year by 2025, the economic value of existing processes that they will disrupt will be many times more (see Reflect page for more details). This knowledge-driven economy in a dramatically compressed time-frame is what India needs to ready itself for, not fighting over who will decide whether a university is to be set up or whether it should be allowed to offer distance education or only classroom-based education. While the world is moving on, India is still battling the problems of an earlier century.