December 31, 2019 6:11:30 am
On an exciting and memorable evening in Mumbai recently, India’s IT world celebrated the seventh edition of the Express IT Awards. The proceedings began with a panel discussion on whether technology would take away jobs or help India leapfrog into the future, moderated by Sunil Jain, managing editor, Financial Express. Jatin Singh, MD, Skymet, provided several examples of how his company was using drones to monitor agriculture production and give inputs to farmers on the crop. He spoke of how this was easily scalable and, when linked with various experts and details of soil conditions, could boost farmer incomes significantly.
Both V Vaidyanathan, MD & CEO, IDFC First Bank and Rajiv Anand, ED, Axis Bank, spoke of how digital — UPI transactions, details from ecommerce sites and, soon, GST data — allowed banks to get customers who, till now, were too small for banks to even service, let alone make a profit from. Sharad Sharma, co-founder, iSpirt Foundation, spoke of how, over time, Ayushman Bharat would provide reams of data on the health of individuals and, with their tests and other records digitised, AI could be used for preventive treatments.
Roopa Purushotha-man, chief economist and head of policy advocacy, Tata Sons, gave the example of how the Tatas had, with process changes, made the functioning of AIIMS and its doctors — in Delhi — more efficient and the same process could be applied to courts, for instance, to improve productivity. Sanjeev Bikhchandani, founder and executive VC, InfoEdge, spoke of how, while it was fashionable to talk of jobs being taken, new technology was also creating new jobs. He cited a startup that was helping farmers identify, and treat, crop diseases and how, since Zomato-type food apps had developed — he is an investor in Zomato — several cloud-kitchens had come up and there were regular food deliveries between midnight and 5 am.
Vaidyanathan of IDFC First Bank and Anand of Axis Bank agreed that democratisation of data had enabled them to target retail customers who could earlier use only local moneylenders for their capital needs. Use of Aadhaar, tablets and credit bureaus helped bankers underwrite small businesses and provide them the same quality of service as was available to more affluent customers, Anand said. Vaidyanathan allayed fears of traditional jobs becoming redundant due to proliferation of technologies. He said that while new services were being created through technologies, they aren’t necessarily replacing old ones.
Chief guest S Ramadorai, former vice chairman of Tata Consultancy Services, observed how IT was being used for social good in areas such as healthcare, education and agriculture. “AI is being used to weigh newborn babies by scanning the volume of their bodies instead of putting them on the spring scale,” he said citing an example of social impact of new technologies.
The winners were chosen by a high-powered jury chaired by Mohandas Pai, investor and former CFO, Infosys and included Gopichand Katragadda, former CTO of the Tata Group and former head of GE’s India Research, Sharad Sharma, co-founder of iSpirt Foundation, Professor S Sadagopan, Director, IIIT and Sid Pai, technology consultant and investor. The heavylifting was done by knowledge partner PwC which scrutinised close to 300 entries to arrive at a shortlist. Sanjeev Bikhchandani won the Lifetime Achievement Award for making naukri.com India’s biggest employment site while Harsh Jain, founder of sports fantasy platform, Dream 11, walked away with the Newsmaker of the Year award.
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