From predicting heart ailments to installing smart parking management units, India’s IT sector is gung-ho about the applications of next-gen technologies and systems like artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, cloud and data analytics.

At the NASSCOM Technology and Leadership Forum 2019 in Mumbai, industry stakeholders seemed to unanimously agree that these technologies will be the foundation on which a new, truly digital India can be built.

“India has all the potential to become a centre of data analysis. The huge data that 1.3 billion Indians are generating is a great opportunity,” said law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, while releasing a report at the event on Wednesday. The report, “India’s Trillion Dollar Digital Opportunity,” suggests that India is poised to become one of the largest data ecosystems in the world with the number of smartphones projected to more than double, digital retail transactions to jump tenfold and mobile data consumption to leap as much as 60 times by 2025. The report projects that India can become a $1 trillion digital economy by 2025.

Nivruti Rai, country head, Intel India, calls new age technologies – AI, blockchain, cloud and data, the A, B, C and D of the future. At the event on Thursday, Rai spoke about several use cases for these technologies. AI, she said, can be used for a wide range of purposes in sectors like health, smart mobility, agriculture and finance. Blockchain can provide secure storage and has uses in payments and banking, while cloud gives remote access to large volumes of data which can increase business efficiency, while “datafication” can help standardise data and make it more accurate and comprehensive, according to Rai.

She also raised some red flags on each of the technologies, saying AI might suffer from human biases that may have crept into past data, and a lack of empathy. Blockchain, on the other hand, consumes a lot of energy and is costly to integrate with existing systems, Rai said. The security and privacy of data on the cloud are serious concerns and a delay in data access may slow down processes, while datafication has huge initial setup cost.

However, “every red [flag] is an opportunity. We need to invest in the green flags of these technologies in order to tackle the red ones,” Rai said, adding that the industry must work together to leverage these technologies so that India can emerge as a leader in Industrial Revolution 4.0.

For global tech giant Microsoft too, these are areas of focus. Anant Maheshwari, president, Microsoft India, released a white paper –“Age of Intelligence,” at the event. In the paper, the company talks about the need to democratise AI and make it easily accessible to developers, organisations and the society at large in order to fully unlock its potential.

Microsoft also announced a global collaboration with NIIT Technologies to develop and deliver a spectrum of technology solutions for customers globally across banking & financial services, travel & transportation, and insurance segments.

Shailesh Kumar, chief data scientist at Reliance Jio, also highlighted the need to capitalise on these technologies going forward. He said India Inc as a whole should move towards offering the next generation of products, which will be able to tap into an ecosystem of intelligence, connected to other smart products.

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