Bridgital Nation … how AI can resolve India’s digital divide, between technological leadership and mass impoverishment

October 25, 2019

It is 2030.

India is among the world’s top three economies. All Indians use the cloud, artificial intelligence and automated learning to either do their job or get their job done.

All Indians have access to quality jobs, better healthcare and skill-based education. Technology and human beings coexist in a mutually beneficial ecosystem.

This reality is possible. It is within reach. With Bridgital.

In this groundbreaking book, the chairman of Tata Sons, Natarajan Chandrasekaran presents a powerful vision for the future. To the coming disruption of artificial intelligence, he proposes an ingenious solution, where India is perfectly positioned to pave a unique path from the rest of the world. Instead of accepting AI as an inevitable replacement for human labour, India can use it as an aid; instead of taking them away, AI can generate jobs.

The book focuses on three transformational requirements —Technology, Talent, and Vision, that create a pathway for governments, businesses, and everyday people. The book suggests a different way for Indians to think about themselves and their nation. India is difficult to pin down because of its idiosyncrasies among more than a billion individuals. The State of Uttar Pradesh has more people than Brazil. The sheer size of India’s challenges is mindboggling but supports the fascinating dynamics and potential of the country. It is the largest technology laboratory in the world.

In this undertaking, the role of Indian women is critical: 120 million of them have a secondary education, but are not part of the workforce. And the women who insist in working encounter obstacles. The criticism of their neighbors and sometimes the shame of their families are poignant because, on both sides, they are profoundly sincere but irreconcilable. In this context, how to address challenges through a reimagining of tasks and processes? How to liberate the insufficient number of doctors and surgeons from the time they spend in administrative duties through technology? Can deficient infrastructures be overcome through digital transformation?

This book is a fascinating and splendidly described journey through the multiple challenges India is facing. Building bridges is not optional: It is a question of survival. As I was finishing reading the book, it occurred to me that the book’s thesis might not only be true for India. The scope, size and diversity of the challenges in India can inspire other countries and regions. Aren’t many societies confronted, mutatis mutandis, with the same challenges of unparallel development? Without bridges, we abandon “the other side,” the less fortunate, rich, or educated. We are responsible for reducing the distance between those who understand, and those who are left behind.

What the book brings to this debate, is the experience of technology and of human realities, to which Chandra and Roopa bring their own views. The future of work will be imagined, designed, tested, and made in countries like India. In a broader sense, the book takes on one of the pivotal questions of our time: how to make technology a companion, rather than an enemy, of mankind.

Chandrasekaran (or Chandra as he is often called) and his co-author, Roopa Purushothaman, survey the country for inspirational stories of resilience and determination, and seek the ideal way to bring Indians closer to their dreams. Through on-ground application of the dynamic technology called ‘Bridgital’, they show how Indians can be connected across the country, creating a network of services to be delivered where they are most required.

This thoughtful solution will address India’s biggest challenges by bridging the huge chasm between rural and urban communities, the different levels of education and medical access, and between aspirations and achievement. From healthcare to education to business, the model can be applied in various sectors, and, by a conservative estimate, it can create and impact 30 million jobs by 2025.

One of the country’s foremost industry leaders and pioneers, Chandrasekaran brings his expertise of over thirty years with the Tata Group to offer a blueprint for building a prosperous India, where everyone is included in the growth story.