While the world is focusing on Driver-less vehicles and Space technologies, the technology needs of the developing world in general and India in particular are very different. There is a lot to catch-up for these economies. It might be possible to jump a step or two but not more. This makes things very interesting!
Technology needs in the developing world are influenced by two primary factors; 1) Need for equitable distribution of the new wealth created, and; 2) Solving basic problems that have been existing due to lack of quality physical infrastructure. Let us discuss both these factors in more detail.
Most developing economies have large population that needs to be employed into meaningful work. The use of technology needs to be such that these young men and women who enter the workforce create things of value. Technology, for them, can only be an enabler. A system that is fully or majorly automated with little human intervention would do more harm than benefit these economies. This is where Government of India’s emphasis on human-intensive manufacturing makes a bold statement by being different from the approach followed by the industrial world. It is ideal to have skilled workforce producing high quality products by making optimal use of technology rather than having large-scale automated manufacturing. This not only reduces the cost of production due to availability of less expensive workforce, but also encourages innovation and out-of-the-box thinking from business leaders. More importantly, it leads to a more equitable distribution of the new wealth created.
Secondly, developing economies, even today, have their primary concerns arising from the lack of quality physical infrastructure; be it schools, hospitals, roads, electricity and so on. For these economies, technology can be a very good enabler for provision of services. A case in point could be quality distant education for students, provision of emergency and super-speciality medical services through digital channels to people from semi-urban and rural areas, availability of high-efficiency low-cost electric products, promotion of renewable energy and sustainable growth and so on. Talking about India, which is a predominantly an agrarian economy, technology can help for accurate climate predictions, soil health, reduce market inefficiencies due to information asymmetry and support superior logistics and warehousing that reduces and eventually eliminates loss of food-grains, crops, vegetables and fruits.
This is where technology can play a very crucial role in shaping the lives of people over the next decade.