Bountiful Wishes for 2020: A New Year & A New Decade
Asoke K. Laha, President and MD, Interra Information Technologies.
Every year, at the cusp of the year ending and beginning of the year ahead, I used to ponder what would be the most likely trend in information technology. In the earlier years, I used to bet on unraveling of block chain, Artificial Intelligence, hyper automation, distributed cloud computing, data mining and a host of other things that can be referred as mega trends in the digital landscape to take the technology to the next level . With the passage of time, my “wish lists” have not only become realties but the breakthroughs have gone much beyond my predictions and expectations. Technology, which is spinning around human ingenuity and requirements, I thought sets its own goals and agenda and evolves into an architecture shaped by the need of the time.
Now, more than the mega trends that IT can bring about in keeping technology grow from strengths to strengths, I wish technology become more responsive to the needs of the people. Sometime down the line, technology would leap much beyond human ingenuity and start dictating mankind what it should do and what not? I do not know. But I sincerely feel that such stage will not come because every new idea on technology should germinate in the human mind and cannot be retooled by robots, however strong and powerful the artificial intelligence that have wired into the robots. In short, technology has its own limitations and capacity restraints.
But the problem lies with the creators of these technologies. They can use the technology the way they want for destructive and creative activities. I want technology to leap and not to take a backseat: but less for its sake and more for humankind. Let there be hundreds of innovations and discoveries in the artificial intelligence. Of that breakthroughs, may be a few should be human focused.
In no way, I am asking for too many new technologies to emerge. They are already there in abundance. But the usage is restricted to a few privileged and rich. Technology driven devices like an implant for a diabetic person, hearing aid, a sensor fitted walking stick for a blind are much beyond the means of an ordinary citizen. Let these devices that can help a patient or giving relief to a house wife from drudgery be produced in a mass scale at affordable prices to the benefit of people who have only limited means. In other words, there should be an equitable distribution of benefits of technology among people of various income levels cutting across geographies and class.
I used to highlight the social responsibility to be assumed by tech companies. Could they focus more on socially relevant projects to eradicate poverty, destitution, malnutrition, healthcare and a lot more areas? I am not denying that such initiatives are not there. But they have touched only the fringes of the problem. More calibrated steps are needed to address these issues in a systematic manner. Let that be the resolution of the corporations in the New Year, which also is the beginning of a new decade.
I was pleasantly surprised by the efforts of some of the big tech companies like Apple and Amazon in investing healthcare. They are hiring doctors and health workers to create newer platforms for addressing the health issues. I hope that they are not motivated not alone by the huge profits that they can rake from this segment but also in providing healthcaresolutions for the poor and under-privileged in continents and regions, where such facilities are rather primitive.
Education is another area that tech companies can enter leveraging internet. Many of the poorer areas in the world, where discontent and frustration run high are marked by low level of education. There should be coordinated efforts to reach out to these regions to improve the level and quality of education.
Without any reservation, I can vouch that during recent years, computer literacy and usage of modern communication tools like mobile phones, usage of smart digital platforms have increased in India. But still it is by and large restricted to some pockets. I was told in some of the up-market areas in Bengaluru and Chennai, payments to house maids, car washers, carpenters, masons etc are paid through digital platforms like Paytm, Google pay etc. Even the causal workers are paid through such platforms. There is a discernible difference in the usage of such platforms in the rest of India, though usage of mobile phones is common throughout the country. Should we address the skewed distribution in the application of technology across the country? That will be a good exercise to identify the reasons behind digital divide in the country. That said, it is commonly noticed that parents get to know about computer, digital applications more from their children, who have flair in understanding the complex applications of apps and other uses of digital platforms.