Research Spotlight

Digital’s new frontiers

Rapid technological advances offer a simpler and more connected future for all, but putting them into practice will not be easy. A few highlights from the recent Workshop on Digital Transformations organised by the Srini Raju Centre for Information Technology and the Networked Economy (SRITNE) at ISB on September 22-23, 2017.

How will the Government of India’s Digital India mission enable the state in extending its programmes more effectively and efficiently to hitherto unserved citizens in remote corners of the country? What is the role of intellectual property rights (IPR) in the context of fostering cutting edge innovation (or the lack thereof) in India? How are artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and deep learning redefining the nature and functioning of practically every industry?

Participants from academia, government and industry came together recently at the workshop on Digital Transformations, hosted by the Srini Raju Centre for Information Technology and the Networked Economy (SRITNE) at the Indian School of Business (ISB) on September 22-23, 2017, to imagine the shape of these digital transformations in the near horizon.

“Technology is not static, it is dynamic and has the ability to enable simpler, democratic and more efficient decision-making.” With this opening statement, Dr Dinesh Tyagi, CEO, CSC e-Governance Services India Limited, set the tone and pace of the panel discussion on ‘Digital India - Challenges, Impact and Opportunities’. Dr Tyagi and Mr G. T. Venkateshwar Rao, Commissioner, Telangana Technology Services and eSeva, outlined the central and Telangana governments’ vision and road map for a Digital India and Telangana. They highlighted various experiences from their efforts to digitise governance especially increasing financial inclusion through eSeva centres, and expansion of better quality education and health services through e-kiosks.

On a related note, Mr Jayesh Ranjan, Secretary, Information Technology and Electronics & Communication Department, Government of Telangana, in his keynote address pointed out to the need for reducing the, “inequality gaps in societal inclusion for a complete digital transformation of the Indian society”. The theme was further explored by Professor Sripad Devalkar of the ISB who presented findings from his ongoing research on the impact of installing Point of Sale (POS) devices in the prevention of leakages in the Public Distribution System (PDS).

Echoing Mr Ranjan’s comments on the challenges of promoting digital literacy, Dr Ganesh Natarajan, Chairman 5F World and NASSCOM Foundation, urged participants to rethink what “digital literacy even means.”

Panellists representing the pharmaceutical, insurance and internet services sectors discussed various issues underlying their respective businesses in the context of ‘Breakthrough Business Models and Industry Disruptions’. Professor Vasudeva Verma, Dean, Research & Development, IIIT Hyderabad gave a basic primer on AI, machine learning and its possible impact on societal functions. The presentation also provided a glimpse into the future of social computing in the context of communications, healthcare, and law and order.

The featured presentation “Returns to Digital Innovations: A Group-Based Trajectory Approach” by Professor Deepa Mani of the ISB, analysed the intricate connections underlying digital innovation and growth and profitability prospects of firms. Professor Mani called for firms to “break away from two forms of captivity - customers and markets” in their pursuit of digital innovation and creation of a sustainable value network.
In his featured presentation on the theme of ‘Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship in India’, Professor S Arunachalam of the ISB highlighted both the facilitators and barriers in adoption of personal computers in rural India against the backdrop of the Digital India mission.

Professor Anand Nandkumar of the ISB, set the tone for the panel discussion that followed with his presentation -- Innovation and Entrepreneurship in India. Exploring the question of ‘What role patents play in the Indian innovation and start-up ecosystem,” Professor Nandkumar demonstrated that post 2005, incentives and a changed IPR regime in India did not really promote innovation in terms of patents filed but they did create tremendous market value for business enterprises which were both technology enabled and technology driven.

The concluding panel discussion brought out the need for increased policy initiatives that prioritise collaboration -- between the public and private sectors, and between big corporates and small and medium scale businesses -- for the creation of an ecosystem that can transform India into a knowledge economy.  
The full list of panellists and presentations can be accessed here.

Vivek Nenmini is a freelance writer with the Centre for Learning and Management Practice, ISB.
With inputs from Tanushree Rawat, Visiting Researcher and Hitesh Hinduja, Research Intern at SRITNE, ISB.