Cloud, Big data & Analytics, & Intelligence are driving the revolution of Digital India

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Recently, Microsoft India has partnered with several state governments to help them leverage cloud, machine learning and mobile based solutions to improve citizen services, education, healthcare and agriculture, among others.

In an interview with EC’s Rashi Varshney, Sanjeev Gupta, General Manager – Public Sector, Microsoft India spoke about the cloud ecosystem in India, how the Government of Indian can use technology for governance and what are the most exciting factors in India for the tech giant. Read on…

Edited Excerpts

How do you see the cloud ecosystem shaping up in India?

The cloud ecosystem in India is a significant opportunity and set to grow to USD 1 billion by 2020. This growth is being driven not only by the mature enterprise ecosystem, but also the burgeoning startup and small and medium business segment. Contributing to this uptake in cloud adoption are the Indian Government’s progressive plans such as Digital India and Startup India.

Microsoft’s cloud is mirroring this growth statistic, with 52% of top 100 Indian companies listed on the BSE adopting our cloud services. With our local datacenters, full suite of cloud services for all types and sizes of organizations and a vibrant partner community, Microsoft is bringing the full power of its enterprise grade secure technology to India. Since the launch of our commercial cloud services through local datacenters, we have witnessed significant adoption of our cloud services across sectors like BFSI, healthcare, media & entertainment, e-commerce, telecom and government. Top financial services organizations such as HDFC, ICICI Lombard, IDFC, and Kotak Mahindra Bank, large IT players like Wipro, Infosys, and TCL, and majority of Indian healthcare providers including Fortis Healthcare, Apollo Hospitals, AIIMS, L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), and Narayana Health, have adopted Microsoft cloud. New generation ecommerce players and start-ups like Snapdeal, PayTM, Justdial, Meru cabs, etc., are also leveraging the power of Microsoft cloud to spur their growth momentum and connect better with customers.

How is Indian government accepting new technologies such as cloud, what kind of challenges you see in public sector in India in terms of technology adoption? 

The Indian Government continues to reinforce its belief in the transformative power of technology to drive socio-economic change, with its progressive visions like Digital India. For us at Microsoft, this presents immense opportunities to support the government in achieving its goals of digital transformation and inclusion. We want to ensure that the cloud, especially the public cloud, serves the public good. Therefore, we extended our cloud services through local datacenters – this is not only a big milestone for us at Microsoft, but also an important step forward in being a key partner to the country’s growth ambitions.

How can IT companies such as Microsoft support Digital India, Smart cities and e-governance initiatives?

Cloud is really at the heart of the technology revolution that we see around us. Today, cloud computing is making it possible to drive intelligence and insights from the immense magnitude of data, converting it into predictive and analytical power. This power puts data and cloud computing at the core of analysis and action to empower the government to address challenges including poverty, hunger, health and education. With our local cloud infrastructure, the possibility to transform India into a digitally empowered, knowledge economy is manifold. It not only has the potential to fuel India’s inclusive growth, spur innovation and accelerate digital transformation, but also open new possibilities in e-governance, financial inclusion, healthcare and education, and positively impact the lives of a billion people.

What are the company’s major implementations in India in these initiatives?

Microsoft is a proud and committed partner in driving a transformative change in India. We have partnered with several state governments including those of Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu to help them leverage cloud, machine learning and mobile based solutions to improve citizen services, education, healthcare and agriculture, among others, in the states. Some examples include –

Agriculture: Microsoft has collaborated with ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) and the Andhra Pradesh government in creating a Sowing App and Personalized Village Advisory Dashboard to provide powerful cloud-based predictive analytics. The app empowers farmers with crucial information and insights, helping the farmers to determine the most appropriate time to sow seeds. This, in turn, helps reduce crop failures and achieve optimal harvests. Today, over 200 farmers are already using it. This is a significant start for digital agriculture and can reap benefits in multiple ways as governments and stakeholders discover the potential for technology to unlock and offer multiple solutions for the farming community.

Education: To boost the Andhra Pradesh’s education ecosystem, Microsoft is working with the Government of Andhra Pradesh on a machine learning based model to analyze and predict drop outs and take preventive action. Andhra Pradesh, India government uses Azure Machine learning to predict which students will struggle/drop out of school across its 10,000 schools. Officials have created more than 600,000 predictions using Azure Machine Learning, revolutionizing how Indian local governments increase student retention.

We are focused on expanding digital inclusion and skills training as well as nurture new businesses and innovators through various initiatives, in line with Government’s vision. Our education and entrepreneurship programs and platforms such as Project Jyoti, Imagine Cup, Microsoft Innovation Centres, DreamSpark, and BizSpark, have engaged over five crore students, academicians and entrepreneurs in the last 20+ years.

Last Mile Connectivity: Addressing the issue of last mile connectivity, we have piloted last-mile access projects in Srikakulum in Andhra Pradesh, and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, using our cost-effective technology called TV White Space. We have also partnered with the Government of Maharashtra to create the first smart village in Harisal.

Smart Cities: Microsoft’s CityNext initiative enables city residents and city leaders to use technology to build a foundation for sustainable growth and prosperity. It puts people first and builds on a new infrastructure of collaborative technology to engage citizens, businesses and government leaders to do ‘new with less’. We have a long history of successful programs, which collectively propel cities and their people toward what’s next.

Healthcare: L V Prasad Eye Institute is using Azure Machine Learning and Power BI to predict the final surgical outcome of eye surgery patients and provide insights into how blindness spreads across the country, helping health officials develop strategies to fight the issue. Using predictive model that helps predict regression rates for eye operations, doctors can pinpoint the procedures needed to prevent and treat visual impairments. Using the data, doctors can also better understand the risks involved for a patient, which leads to more effective treatment while reducing costs.

How important is privacy for government undertakings? How is Microsoft ensuring privacy on cloud? 

The increasing complexity of connected systems has increased the surface area for cyber-attacks. This requires urgent cyber security interventions by the government to ensure that India’s digital infrastructure is not vulnerable to cyber breaches, which are only increasing in scope and sophistication. With technology at the core of Digital India and Smart Cities initiatives, it is important that the government embraces the power of technology while undertaking measures to safeguard it from threats that know no borders.

Microsoft’s approach to cybersecurity in today’s cloud-centric world rests on three core functional areas: protect, detect and respond. To support a comprehensive, cross company approach to security, Microsoft invests more than a billion dollars in security research and development, every year. We are the first company in the industry to win a certification ISO/IEC 27018 that validates the highest levels of data security and privacy. We provide unique, tailored solutions to help our customers monitor, analyze and prioritize threats within their environments. We also offer industry-leading tactical and strategic response capabilities backed with unique access to deep product expertise.

Our cybersecurity investments in India underline our relentless commitment to security and partnering India in realizing its digital vision. We recently launched our first Cybersecurity Engagement Center in the country. This full-scale center brings forth innovations and advancements by way of security platform, threat intelligence analytics, advanced threat protection, machine learning capabilities, security consultancy services and cloud security in a comprehensive way. Our Microsoft Consultancy Services offer a suite of security services to help enterprises and governments understand their security needs and set up appropriate security strategies to protect their critical infrastructure. Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit – a team of technical, legal and business experts, seeks to build trust by fighting technology-facilitated crimes like global malware, reducing digital risk and protecting vulnerable populations, by combining big data analytics, cutting-edge forensics and novel legal strategies. Additionally, Microsoft has also launched Microsoft Secure – a nationwide awareness campaign to ensure security for digital transformation. We remain committed to building a secure information infrastructure in India and look forward to working with organizations to secure India against cyber threats.

What are the three things about India that excites Microsoft the most?

India is truly at a turning point in how technology can accelerate the dreams of individuals and organizations here. We are amid a revolution – organizations are transforming themselves and industries are being reinvented in ways we never imagined. There are three core trends that are driving this revolution – cloud computing, big data & analytics and intelligence. The convergence of all three is where the magic happens; reshaping the way businesses engage with their customers, and governments with citizens, how they run their business processes and transform their products.

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