Modi stresses the crucial role of innovation in combating the COVID pandemic
New Delhi, June 16, 2021
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today stressed the crucial role played by innovation in combating the COVID-19 pandemic that had put many of the conventional methods to test.
Delivering the keynote address at the 5th edition of VivaTech, the annual technology conference in Paris, dedicated to innovation and startups, Modi said, “I believe, where convention fails, innovation can help. This has been seen during the COVID-19 global pandemic, the biggest disruption of our age. All nations have suffered loss and felt anxiety about the future. COVID-19 put many of our conventional methods to test. However, it was innovation that came to the rescue.
“When I speak about innovation before the pandemic, I refer to the pre-existing advances which helped us during the pandemic. Digital technology helped us cope, connect, comfort and console. Through digital media, we could work, talk with our loved ones, and help others. India's universal and unique biometric digital identity system - Aadhar - helped us to provide timely financial support to the poor. We could supply free food to 800 million people, and deliver cooking-fuel subsidies to many households. We in India were able to operationalise two public digital education programmes - Swayam and Diksha - in quick time to help students,” he added.
“The second part, innovation for the pandemic refers to how humanity rose to the occasion and made the fight against it more effective. In this, the role of our start-up sector has been paramount. Let me give you India's example. When the pandemic hit our shores, we had inadequate testing capacities and a shortage of masks, PPE, Ventilators and other such equipment. Our private sector played a key role in addressing this shortage. Our doctors adopted telemedicine in a big way so that some COVID and other non-COVID issues could be addressed virtually.
“Two vaccines are being made in India and more are in the development or trial stage. On the Government side, our indigenous IT platform, Arogya-Setu enabled effective contact tracing. Our COWIN digital platform has already helped ensure vaccines to millions. Had we not been innovating, then our fight against COVID-19 would have been much weaker. We must not abandon this innovative zeal so that we are even better prepared when the next challenge strikes,” he said.
The conference was attended by French President Emmanuel Macron and Publicis Group Chairman Maurice Levy among others. VivaTech was founded in 2016 by Publicis Groupe and Groupe Les Echos.
Modi said this platform reflected the technological vision of France. India and France have been working closely on a wide range of subjects. Among these, technology and digital were emerging areas of cooperation. It was the need of the hour that such cooperation continued to grow as It will not only help both nations but also the world at large.
Referring to the just-concluded French Open tennis tournament, he said many youngsters saw the French Open with great enthusiasm. One of India's tech companies, Infosys provided tech support for the tournament. Likewise, the French Company Atos is involved in a project for making the fastest supercomputer in India. Whether it is France's Capgemini or India's TCS and Wipro, India’s IT talent is serving companies and citizens all over the world.
The Prime Minister said India was home to one of the world's largest start-up ecosystems. Several unicorns have come up in recent years. India offers what innovators and investors need. “I invite the world to invest in India based on the five pillars of Talent, Market, Capital, Eco-system and, Culture of openness,” he said.
"Indian tech-talent pool is famous across the world. Indian youth have given tech solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems. Today, India has 1.18 billion mobile phones and 775 million internet users. This is more than the population of several nations. Data consumption in India is among the highest and cheapest in the world. Indians are the largest users of social media. There is a diverse and extensive market that awaits investors," he said.
“This digital expansion is being powered by creating state-of-the-art public digital infrastructure. A fibre optic network of 523,000 kilometres links our 156,000 village councils. Many more are being connected in the times to come. Public wi-fi networks across the country are coming up.
“Likewise, India is working actively to nurture a culture of innovation. There are state-of-the-art innovation labs in 7,500 schools under the Atal Innovation Mission. Our students are taking part in numerous hackathons, including with students overseas. This gives them the much-needed exposure to global talent and best practices,” he added.
Modi said while the world has seen, over the past one year, a lot of disruption in different sectors with much of it still there, disruption does not have to mean despair.
“Instead, we must keep the focus on the twin foundations of repair and prepare. This time last year, the world was still seeking a vaccine. Today, we have quite a few. Similarly, we have to continue repairing health infrastructure and our economies,” he added.
“We in India, implemented huge reforms across sectors, be it mining, space, banking, atomic energy and more. This goes on to show that India as a nation is adaptable and agile, even in the middle of the pandemic. And, when I say prepare, I mean Insulating our planet against the next pandemic. Ensuring we focus on sustainable lifestyles that stop ecological degradation. Strengthening cooperation in furthering research as well as innovation.
“The challenges our planet faces can only be overcome with a collective spirit and a human-centric approach. For this, I call upon the start-up community to take the lead. The start-up space is dominated by youngsters. These are people free from the baggage of the past. They are best placed to power global transformation. Our start-ups must explore areas such as Healthcare and adopt eco-friendly technology including waste recycling, agriculture and New age tools of learning.
“As an open society and economy, as a nation committed to the international system, partnerships matter to India. France and Europe are among our key partners. In my conversations with President Macron, In my summit with EU leaders in Porto in May, digital partnership, from start-ups to quantum computing, emerged as a key priority. History has shown that leadership in new technology drives economic strength, jobs and prosperity.
“But, our partnerships must also serve a larger purpose, in service of humanity. This pandemic is not only a test of our resilience but also of our imagination. It is a chance to build a more inclusive, caring and sustainable future for all. Like President Macron, I have faith in the power of science and the possibilities of innovation to help us achieve that future,” he added.