The theme of this year’s event is ‘Intelligent Economy – Leveraging Technology for the New Era. Speaking to this daily, he said, “The government is investing a lot more in technology unlike earlier.
It is also relying on tech for many of the new programmes such as the GST, Aadhaar, payments and fintech. The industry and government have realised that the concept of ‘one nation’ that everyone talks about can be achieved mainly through technology.
Aspects such as the Aadhaar, GST, passport, taxes, road tax administration – these are areas where the government wants unification – and these are examples of where it has invested efforts.”
Evolution of ICT: Talking about the sister city, he says, “Bengaluru has earned the reputation and brand image of a leader as far as technology is concerned. Chennai also continues to have that advantage. But the branding of TN and Chennai, more specifically, as a place that is easy to do business, must improve to gain a certain reputation, that we are also in the race. That image is also somewhat tarnished and we must rebuild it.”
“I am happy with the progress that India is making but I am unhappy with the speed at which the progress is being made. We have not been fast enough as an industry under the research and the education institution system – not fast enough to grab the new technologies, new initiatives.
We are talking of mobile-first but while we are still coming to grips with mobile, that slogan has already gone as people are now talking of AI first,” Narayanan laments. “So, while we are catching up with that, there is something else that has come about.
We seem to be constantly caught in the catch-up game. The only solution is to have big investments in skill development, technology-based development, talent availability, investment in schools and colleges, and most importantly, the government must provide support for research institutions, where top-notch talent can be created.
We have seen this before – in Stanford and all the other universities – the government must identify hundreds of institutions in the country and fund research to such an extent that these stand out. The model that China has followed and enormously successful. Why can’t we,” he questions.
He also draws attention to the overhaul that must happen in terms of content, the format, the message, the participants of this exercise. He says, “First and foremost, is the ones who have been running it along as a routine thing must make way for new-gen people, who should run it in a different way. Younger people with different ideas must take over. People must be willing to openly and transparently discuss without any pride and prejudice or vested interests.”
Chennai’s scope in aerospace
Narayanan explains, “Two areas where the country is in a leadership position globally – are Aviation and Space research; and Nuclear energy and programmes. Both have fantastic leadership, research institutions supporting them.
The IISc, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), IIT and institutions that work for every IISc, TIFR and new institutions that came up in Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru, helped the industry flourish. We have that kind of opportunity now as we have institutes like IIT Madras and the Chennai Mathematical Institute etc. But we need to attract other such institutions to set up shop here.
For the government bodies to come here, for the ISRO to conduct research here, the aeronautical companies need to be here – they have a facility at Tambaram. We need to encourage the creation of aircraft maintenance bases. I believe so much can be done here.”