I am here at the India Global ICT Forum 2013 in New Delhi, listening to what Innovation means in India and how practical creativity leading to biz and well being is stimulated by the Government. Here a few snapshots I like to share with you.
One thing that impressed me is a nation wide program, in India, to create a data base of biometric identification of all Indians, that is over a billion people, based on finger prints and iris recognition. Interestingly the business motivation is to provide a way to cut frauds (from a Government point of view) making sure that subsidy goes to the person that was intended to be the recipient. At the same time this nation wide person authentication becomes the platform for any business where identity is required.
The project is not just about creating a data base and populating it, nor limited to provide a standard set of APIs to access the identity information.
It is about developing more effective (and affordable) technologies for capturing biometric parameters, analyzing them and make sure of minimizing false positive and false negative.
The expectation is that being able to manage such a huge identity set will create a business opportunity for India to export these technologies.
Whilst one speaker insisted in better education an investor angel said that in his experience the less educated a person is, the more likely he is to become a successful entrepreneur. Those getting Masters and Doctoral degrees are usually looking for security, they do not have the right entrepreneurial spirit!
ICT is a winner-take-all business. One need to fund companies that are able to create the market, not those that aim at competing in an existing market.
A representative of the South Korean Government outlined their plan:
- 90% of population reached by 1 Gbps by 2017
- beginning of 10 Gbps in the mass market
- massive coverage of urban areas with free wifi hotspots
- eGovernment for free to all mobile phones (no charge in using a phone to access Government services)
- Nation wide commitment to prevent hacking and cyber crime on mobile
A representative of Bangladesh explained how ICT can change the life of people and the economic fabric by creating a brand new banking system. In Bangladesh only 22 million people have a banking account, but 99 million people have a cell phone. These latter represent 68% of the population and this figure is rapidly growing.
They can now open a cell phone mobile account by taking a picture of themselves through the cell phone, this is associated to four digits fingerprint that is managed by the Telecom Company along with a voice digital signature. The combination of these biometrics (in different situations) is the passport to access banking services. Notice that a good percentage of people in Bangladesh still do not know how to read and write, but they know how to operate a cell phone.
The transaction price is about 8 paisa, that is one third of the cost of a voice call, hence really affordable.
In India 346 million kids are in the primary and secondary school age but only 220 million are actually going to school. Also, it has been observed that the quality of education (and teachers) decreases as distance from a major city increases. Good teachers do not want to teach in rural areas.
Hence Education is a crucial strategic priority for India and the approach is to use ICT through “frugal innovation”, that is by dramatically reducing ICT cost so that it can become pervasive. Now they have a computer for school, Aakash selling for 2,500Rp (less than 50$) based on the microprocessor used by Apple for the first iPad. At that time (2010) it cost 38$, now it cost 4$.
For connectivity they use GSM making sure to format content in such a way that a few kbps are enough, so that the data service can be provided for free.