Technology and digital connectivity have dramatically transformed lives over the last half of this century. Today’s world is more interconnected than ever before. Two to three billion people are anticipated to come online, globally, marking this the fastest period of internet adoption in history. It is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.
The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst and further accelerated the penetration of digital and tech ecosystems, enabling them to become the backbone of driving South Asian economies. It is time for South Asia to lead the world and leverage this transformation, driven by digital, to achieve regional and national economic growth, elevate efforts in human development and enable transparency in governance across the region. Public-private partnership models could also be a way forward given the pivotal role of the governments in South Asia, particularly in driving economic development.
There is a wide disparity amongst and within South Asian countries in terms of expertise in the digital and tech domain. The adoption of the fourth Industrial Revolution will play an important role in blurring the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds. Rapid adoption could help reduce the gap. The fourth Industrial Revolution brings advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, quantum computing, and other technologies together and enable exponentialities, helping serve markets of one.
South Asia has the potential to become a hub of innovation in the fourth Industrial Revolution, enabled by its demographic dividend, strong pool of technical manpower, the myriad variety of use cases and their potential impact on every stratum of society, including those at the very bottom of the pyramid. The large and educated labour pool will prove to be its biggest asset. The South Asian region is witnessing a huge surge in data consumption as internet, smart devices, social media, OTT platforms and technologies such as cloud and IoT become ubiquitous.
The South Asia session at LEADS 2021 (14-15 September 2021) will highlight the enhanced opportunities presented by the fourth Industrial Revolution to help fast-track economic development. The deliberations will also aim to focus on the knowledge and digital infrastructure gaps and the need for nurturing a digitally connected South Asia.
The author is Chair, FICCI South Asia Regional Council and President, Group Public Affairs and Member Group Executive Board, Mahindra & Mahindra
**This blog is a part of the ‘FICCI LEADS 2021: Reimagine the World’ series.