By 2022, India is set to become the most populous country in the world, with around 1.4 billion people. Already, it’s the world’s largest democracy with a population of over 1.3 billion people. It is a country that had, in the past, shaped the world and is yet again poised to take that position.
Prime Minister Modi’s mantra – India means business – and his open approach to foreign investment, aided by the belief that India can become the engine room of global economy, is driving confidence in India, both domestically and internationally.
Travelling to India for the first time in January this year, as a participant in the Australia India Youth Dialogue (AIYD), I was confirmed in my thinking that Australia and particularly New South Wales, need to have a strong focus on India and developing our relationship. With more than 211,000 people in New South Wales of Indian ancestry and 143,000 people born in India, our State has very strong and organic people-to-people links with India. The challenge now is to be able to further develop and embed those links to strengthen the Australian and Indian relationship.
The AIYD ran across four days in Delhi and Mumbai, coinciding with the Australian India Leadership Dialogue as a track two dialogue. It included 15 representatives from Australia and 14 from India, drawn from business, media, NGOs, arts and politics.
The topic of the AIYD for 2018 was “digital disruption”, looking at the future of democracy, the future of work and the future of information. While digital disruption is a phenomenon impacting every Nation on earth, there’s no doubt that India is at the coalface where the next digital frontier has the potential to alter its trajectory in the world.
In my short time in India, I could see that the device that was changing the country the most was the mobile phone. The majority of the Indian population has largely by-passed the personal computer and moved straight to the mobile phone. It’s expected that 500 million Indians will be online by the middle of this year and growth in rural India has outstripped urban growth at the rate of 14.11% in the last year. Over the next four years another 300,000 Indians are expected to come online and most of that growth in access will be through low-cost mobile phones. That’s an exceptional opportunity for both Indian and Australian app developers.
This growth in digital platforms is leading to a burgeoning industry for start-ups in app development to solve a multitude of problems and challenges. The biggest challenge in India is how the rise of digitisation and automation can lead to inclusion rather than displacement. This rise may see many traditional jobs displaced, but India has been leading the world when it comes to delivering new employment opportunities from the digital revolution, particularly when it is a revolution that brings the world closer together. There are a multitude of Australian companies and individuals that are already utilising India’s digital manpower to support our businesses and application.
One of the great ties that binds Australia and India is our democratic system. As the world’s largest democracy, India has seen the digital realm disrupt politics and tear down barriers and entitlements of Government. Electors in India have the ability, and most certainly use it, to deliver a direct message to their elected representatives on the issues that matter to them. Whether it’s through the use of WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter, Indians are demonstrating their vibrant democracy and their politicians are utilising these platforms to understand their constituents’ concerns and demonstrate their initiatives. India’s digital democracy is so vibrant that the internet is being clogged up by daily “good morning” messages, which are often directed at and from politicians.
The New South Wales Government has seen India as an important destination since Barry O’Farrell, our now Trade Envoy to India, was Premier. In 2013, New South Wales outlined India as a priority market under our International Engagement Strategy and developed the NSW India Strategy. NSW has a sister state relationship with Maharashtra and has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Gujarat Government.
As India further develops we need to look for more opportunities to develop relationships and facilitate India’s rise. There’s no better partner in this project than NSW’s own Indian diaspora and they will be a key partner to tie our prosperity together.