Technology has emerged as a vital ally for enhancing governance, transparency and accountability in the system. Covid has clearly revealed the mutually reinforcing relationship between technology and socioeconomic progress in the event of a major global disruption. It has also evidenced the need to accelerate economic reforms, in which, revolutionary technologies such as big data, data mining, blockchain, and other digital innovations will play a pivotal role.
Technology is a necessary – but not a sufficient – condition for socioeconomic development. Technological solutions can help identify loopholes in the system, and safeguard public finances for the benefit of citizens. However, they need to be combined with human supervision and ethical usage. Maximizing their effectiveness also necessitates the formation of strategic collaborations between government agencies, civil society, news media, and the private sector.
Take the case of blockchain – it can enable a world of low-cost transactions without any expensive bureaucracy adding their fees to the top of it. Blockchain is not a new technology … rather, it is an innovative way of combining and using existing technologies. It is unfortunate that Bitcoin was the first globally headline-grabbing product from the blockchain technology group, but the fact is that blockchain can do for bilateral financial transactions what the internet and email have enabled for universal person-to-person interactions. Many technological innovations have a dark side to them, but that is no reason to overlook their innate potential.
Innovative and scalable technology solutions can play a key role in bringing about minimum government with maximum governance. Technological companies need to partner with the government to bridge the technological gap between the public and the private sectors. Government also needs to work with suitably selected companies to keep pace with the latest technological developments and collaborate with foreign partners, forming strategic alliances to curb cross-border money laundering and illicit financing. This will take time and effort, and will necessitate consensus on some key issues.
Technology could be used to facilitate a resilient recovery from Covid for the most vulnerable sections of our society. Burning issues like climate risks and food insecurity, which have strong gender and equity overtones, and affect the poor the most, are amenable to technological solutions. However, we need to remind ourselves that people form the core of such transitions. The underlying principle must be to prioritize socioeconomic solidarity and rural growth over simply improving technological efficiency.
Technology will play a significant role in shaping the future of the Indian economy. For example, India's performance in the digital payments space is today the envy of many countries all around the world, who, only a few years ago, thought that they were miles ahead in technology and innovation. We need to replicate this success in other spheres of economic activity, especially pertaining to agriculture, renewable energies, and MSMEs. We have the ability to do it. And it would have a phenomenal effect on our long-term growth.