Guest Blog: Fulfilling the Promise of the Digital Age

As the only British winner at the Global ICT Excellence Awards at last week’s World IT Congress, Seth Finegan from Informed Solutions reflects on the challenges and opportunities facing the tech industry.

It’s been over a decade since I was last in India and the pace of change has been phenomenal. Many cities are unrecognisable and have been on an incredible economic journey driven by technology.

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India is not alone in this respect, as disruptive change is sweeping across the world. In his opening address to the 22nd World IT Congress at Hyderabad, Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged this, linking technological progress to the Indian philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbaka’, the Sanskrit phrase for ‘the world is one family’. It was hard to escape the sense of inter-connectedness and global opportunity that technology has become synonymous for.

“Technology, if used well for public good,” added Modi, “can deliver lasting prosperity to mankind and a sustainable future for our planet.”

Setting the tone for the next three days, the spirit of Modi’s vision was evident in many of the debates and subsequent discussion, which frequently looked at what we need to do to make sure technology is a force for good.

As the sole British winner, we were very humbled and proud to pick up an award in WITSA’s Emerging Digital Solutions category, being rewarded for our digital transformation work with government. This includes delivering a digital democracy solution for England’s electoral boundary review and digital claims portals which make it easier and less stressful for innocent victims of violent crime and terrorism to receive compensation.

Staying true to Modi’s vision of delivering for the public good, we want to ensure that technology is firmly established as a force for good by serving people not displacing them.

This means ensuring that disruptive technologies like AI, automation, IoT and Robotics have a positive impact on society.

More than ever, technology is on the brink of transforming society, particularly in areas such as health, wellbeing and the environment. But we will only realise the full benefits for people and communities if we’re mindful and diligent in its application.

The fact this is a global challenge was made abundantly clear in Hyderabad this week. But it’s been extremely encouraging to see the UK, helped enormously by techUK, shape and lead this debate.

Our Government is pushing forward on techUK’s recommendation to set up a Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation and this stands to give us a significant advantage in developing and guiding ethical innovation. With the Prime Minister committing to making the UK world leaders in AI, our global reputation for technology will undoubtedly help British companies take advantage of increased global trading opportunities.

The Department of International Trade is also committed to this and they should be congratulated for organising a Northern Powerhouse India trade mission last week to coincide with the World IT Congress.

India is poised to become the second largest market for IT by the end of the year and with IT spending about to jump dramatically due to a number of government initiatives, British technology could have a key role to play in meeting India’s ambitions as the world’s fastest growing G-7 economy.

Back at the World IT Congress in Hyderabad, the debate continued on how technology can help solve 21st century problems. Sophia, the world’s first humanoid robot, who has been granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia, took to the stage and to polite applause told delegates that humans shouldn’t fear robots.

Unfortunately there are many that still need to be convinced. And while we should not be afraid of the technological revolution, there are still more questions to be answered and more work to be done to ensure the enormous potential of disruptive change leaves no one behind.

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