India’s government is promoting numerous initiatives with the goal of transforming India into a digitally-empowered society. Over 100 smart cities are being planned. By 2020, India is expected to be the second largest nation of connected consumers. By 2025, India is likely to have 850 million users online , .
As technological advances disrupt existing markets and value networks, change can outpace our ability to adapt.
Rural communities, which account for two-thirds of India’s population, are forecast to represent the most growth in connectivity. By 2020, rural users are likely to constitute over 50% of all connected consumers . For the 300 million people without electricity, the government is promising solar-power and battery banks to achieve electrification for all. Entrepreneurs, such as Agritech startups, are being empowered by the government to equip rural communities with such farmer-friendly technologies as low-cost, hand-held sensors to assess soil health, and drones to assess crops. The strategy is to double the incomes of farmers by 2022 . As rural communities have opportunities to improve their living conditions and connect to the world, the social impact of technology will continue to transform society positively .
Yet, as India works to become this digitally-empowered society, businesses and municipalities will have increasing ability to accumulate, aggregate, and utilize vast amounts of individual, private, intimate, and sensitive information about their citizens. There are significant ethical considerations as incomprehensible networks operate behind the lines of visibility while amassing vast volumes of (potentially ineradicable) data to use or share. Unknowingly, society could be living in a digital panopticon.
As with all maturation processes, it will take time for the next wave of adopters in India to move through digital transformation toward digital maturity. Interestingly, even leading corporations around the world struggle to achieve and sustain digital maturity . As technological advances disrupt existing markets and value networks, change can outpace our ability to adapt. In these contexts, there must be a default for privacy considerations.
Society at large will be expected to adapt to progressively more digitally-empowered environments. Therefore, we must be empowered citizens who continue to strive to achieve an appropriate, and oftentimes delicate, balance between the interests of business, society, and the rights of individuals at all levels of digital maturity.
Christine Perakslis is Associate Professor in the MBA Program, College of Management, Johnson & Wales University, Providence, RI. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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