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Google the benefits, they can be truly huge PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 17 July 2020 03:14
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Govt role critical for India to benefit from Google plans

 

Google’s $10 billion investment over 5-7 years is quite small as investments go, but when seen in the context of India’s falling investment levels, even before the pandemic, it is to be welcomed. More important, Google’s investment is not to be compared with typical manufacturing investment, this is money that is to be spent on R&D and back-office work, so it is essentially an employment-generating investment. Indeed, to the extent Google plans to upskill one million teachers to use a combination of online and offline content, it will also be assisting in making people more employable. And, it is a matter of pride that several US tech giants have their largest workforce in India outside of the US. SAP and IBM get 8-10% of their global patents from their centres in India—firms like Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Intel are already doing some work on chip design here, and Google is also said to be working on this in India. Nasscom has a $100bn target for 2025 for revenues from this back-office R&D work in India.

For this to succeed, the role of the government is critical, both in terms of policymaking as well as in the adoption of technology. In education, it is only after the pandemic shut down most educational institutions that the government started pushing online education; though 900 universities in India are considered fit to offer classes in a brick-and-mortar setting, till just a few months ago, only a handful of them were allowed to teach online. Online education has the potential to address many of the yawning gaps in India’s education, from the shortage of good teachers to the fact that each classroom has children with differing learning levels; this is a big reason behind poor learning outcomes that emerges from Pratham’s ASER reports over the years, and online education can help students catch up at their own pace.

In the health sector, online can play a big role given India’s shortage of doctors, and not just in rural areas. Online healthcare is a lot more than just calling your doctor for a consultation, it is about online diagnostics, viewing tests via remote access, digitised patient records being available to doctors in distant hospitals. Indeed, since the government is also a big provider of services, how fast Google’s services—or that of any other tech platform—are used will also depend on whether the government adopts them. Linking rural health centres to top government hospitals in cities for teleconsultation is an example of such tech-adoption by the government. Allowing the use of AI in medicine—including diagnostics—will be another way to improve the quality of healthcare. Or take agriculture. The role of drones monitoring the crop is well known, and various firms have developed solutions using them to provide farmers 24×7 help on how to improve yields, etc. But, if the government continues to have restrictions on the usage of drones—it is yet to relax guidelines that can enable operations beyond visual line of sight or autonomously—or doesn’t do crop estimates using them or doesn’t allow insurance firms to settle claims using drones or other agri-tech solutions, this is not going to take off. Google and other tech providers can only do so much if the policy environment is not conducive.

 
 

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