By: Arjun Gargeyas
Last Updated: September 10, 2022, 12:44 IST
India, as a fledgling and rising technological power, has the ability to leverage technology for the greater good. (Shutterstock)
In the current Information Age, technology has become a ubiquitous part of every country’s society. Citizens are empowered in a wide range of ways with improved access to technology, states’ economic sectors are transitioning into the digital space, and tech development has been outpacing regulations and governance regularly. This is the era where technology is becoming a strategic tool for the state to drive growth and protect its interests.
India, as a fledgling and rising technological power, has the ability to leverage technology for the greater good. As seen from the past two decades, tech has simplified policy decisions and has improved the quality of governance in the country. The questions on accessibility, inclusion and levelling the playing field have been bridged by the use of technology to a certain extent.
The Indian state should now start viewing technology and its adoption from a more strategic lens. But how can India use ‘technology’ to tackle existing problems as well as try to deploy it as a prospective solution in key areas of governance?
Frontier Areas of Expertise and Scale: India must focus on identifying and building on certain technology areas where it has made and can make a significant global impact. This can aid its technology exports and help expand its international digital and technological footprint. Low-cost telecommunication operations, renewable energy systems, and digital payment frameworks can serve as model areas that India can use as soft power tools in the technology sphere.
Skilled Labour Workforce in Multiple Domains: India should look to leverage the presence of the abundant domestic human capital in the country to create a strong workforce in specific technology areas that might prove to be critically important in the near future. The availability of low-cost labour must be used to persuade technologically advanced states to look at the Indian workforce as a contributing partner to some labour-intensive supply chains. Semiconductor design and IT services are areas that continue to require large pools of human resources, and India’s workforce has proven to be competent in these fields.
A Notable Presence in International Technology Supply Chains: Though a rising technological power, India has become essential in key areas of the high-technology realm. Other states depend considerably on India for certain technology supply chains because of its comparative advantages and expertise in specific processes. This must be used to India’s strategic advantage and to ensure it remains a factor in the international technology trade ecosystem.
The identification of critical technologies or key areas in technology supply chains to invest scientific and financial resources remains critical. The Indian state must consider extensive collaboration with the domestic private sector to enhance research and match global developments in specific strategic science and technology areas. This can eventually result in increased influence through a dominant domestic technology sector.
The focus on promoting research in technology areas where India-specific solutions are needed and are unlikely to be addressed by the developed world can be prioritised. Encouraging the use of open-source technologies to promote innovation free from state intervention, technology oligopolies, and international politics can help in India’s tech growth trajectory.
This would make technology more accessible and more relevant to developmental challenges. Open-source technologies also serve as a counterweight to the dominance of Big Tech and aid technology sovereignty in an uncertain geopolitical climate. It can also bridge the trust deficit between the state and the citizens by addressing privacy and surveillance concerns.
While gaining a foothold in technology product development can create a zero-sum game between two or more parties, the scientific knowledge in the field itself is a non-zero-sum game. The Indian state should prioritise improving the dissemination of technical expertise as part of its technology strategy.
The Indian state should not favour isolationism especially in the field of technology development. The process of collaborating in high-technology areas to tackle the existing bottlenecks in several supply chains must be one of the sector’s priorities. The principle of ‘plurilateralism being a necessity and not a choice’ while dealing with critical and emerging technologies must be championed if India aims to become a leading tech power.
Leading talks with fraternal multilateral groupings to build technological partnerships can be done. The Indian state should also engage in responsibilities such as improving technology-related trade, facilitating technology transfer agreements between participating states, and setting credible technology standards in critical and emerging technologies.
A good example would be to move forward on the recently signed India-Europe Trade and Technology Council to build a robust technology trade infrastructure. The focus should be removing export controls on components related to critical technologies and reducing import tariffs for high-tech products.
The Ministry of External Affairs must also take up a technology diplomacy approach to include science and technology as a source of outreach through appointed officials leading diplomatic conversations in the field.
A non-discriminatory data-sharing framework between states so long as the data in question does not infringe on India’s national security can allow India to be integrated digitally worldwide. This can include participation in multilateral technology data-sharing agreements if there are no compulsions to share critical data threatening its internal security and ensuring India’s access to similar data from other signatories.
Finally, the state can lead global efforts to set forth universally-acceptable and legally-binding instruments on technologies that threaten the safety and security of all states. A techno-democratic alliance that prevents the control of specific technologies by selective groups, especially those potentially impacting warfare and conflict and detrimental to international security, can be led by India and its diplomatic partners.
Technology has become an integral aspect of international relations, foreign policy, military and defence in the recent past. As an aspiring world power, India should focus on utilising its strengths in the technological realm to advance its strategic interests. This would benefit both the Indian and society in the long run.
Arjun Gargeyas is a research analyst at Takshashila Institution. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
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By: Arjun Gargeyas