There’s a huge opportunity to position India as a global hub for data and artificial intelligence (AI), enabling investment, jobs and innovation, says Anant Maheshwari, president, Microsoft India. Excerpts:
How prepared are enterprises today in a pandemic-stricken marketplace?
Across every industry and sector, we’ve seen years’ worth of digital transformation happen over the last few months. Organisations, both in private and public sector, are quickly adapting to new ways of working and serving customers. Innovation is being applied as organisations work on transforming products, services and business models to stay relevant. Technology is helping organisations to innovate and stay open in the most constrained and the most difficult of circumstances.
The pandemic has accelerated two mega trends that will likely continue well into the future. The first is cloud-led data and AI innovation.
Data and AI are helping transform core areas like healthcare, citizen services, MSME, agriculture and manufacturing, with speed and scale. The second is the absolute need to create a trusted and secure ecosystem to drive this innovation. Trust is critical in a digital world, and organisations will need trusted digital and data ecosystems to continue to grow securely.
A strong partnership between the government and industry will be vital to build a responsible tech ecosystem grounded in trust and strong ethical principles.
Why are enterprises increasingly talking about investing in trust, security?
Trust in technology has perhaps never been more important. With most of the world connecting remotely, cybersecurity today is a strategic priority for every organisation to protect their data, while ensuring the privacy, security and digital safety of their workforce.
Since the start of the pandemic, there’s been an exponential rise in cyberattacks, targeting individuals, organisations and often, critical first responders like hospitals and public health authorities.
With cybercriminals and nation-State attackers becoming more sophisticated, a strong industry collaboration is required for sharing threat intelligence and protecting against cyberattacks. It will need multiple parts but perhaps most important, it must start with the recognition that governments and the tech sector will need to act together.
Security and privacy need to be at the heart of how developers in organisations and governments build and deliver products and services. It calls for a collective responsibility.
Is Microsoft’s new approach seeing enough traction?
Much of our growth in the last year has been driven by our New, New, New approach: new customers, new solutions with existing customers and new business models. We continue to explore new business models and partnerships which enable us to get the benefits of technology to every part of the country. Through our ITeS360 programme, we provide a 360-degree partnership with our key partners for using our tech capabilities to strengthen the digital infrastructure of both our partners and their customers. We continue to work with strategic partners across the country to create innovative solutions for India. Start-ups and SMBs are crucial to India’s economic recovery and supporting them in this period of change has been a core area of focus for us.
Can you take us through Microsoft’s skilling initiatives for India?
Jobs of tomorrow will increasingly be technology enabled, therefore making digital skilling critical for India’s growth. Data and AI are playing a central role in the country’s digital transformation and economic recovery.
We have a huge opportunity to make India a data and AI hub of the world. What will be central to leveraging this opportunity is creating a talent pool that is ready for a data and AI world. We are working closely with the government, industry and civil society in India to address this gap.
Microsoft recently announced a partnership with Nasscom FutureSkills to skill 1 million students in AI by end of 2021. We’re collaborating with the National Skills Development Council of India (NSDC) to provide digital skills to 1 lakh youth and with the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to provide over 1,500 course modules in next-gen technology free of cost for students and educators. Addressing the skills gap that exist in cybersecurity has been another area of focus. Microsoft and the Data Security Council of
India (DSCI) launched a programme, CyberShikshaa for training underprivileged young women in cybersecurity. As a founding parter of the Cyber Surakshit Bharat initiative, we have been partnering closely with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), to skill security leaders in government entities across the nation in cybersecurity, helping them build cyber-resilience.