NASSCOM successfully hosted Hon’ble Union Minister for IT and Law, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, for a roundtable with IT Industry leaders in London on July 9th 2018, with the support of techUK and GSA, at the techUK office. This high level Roundtable was attended by our High Commissioner, His Excellency Mr Y K Sinha, along with senior management of leading UK and Indian technology companies in the UK, senior officials from DCMS including UK National Technology Officer, Liam Maxwell, leadership of techUK and GSA. From the NASSCOM side we had, Ms Debjani Ghosh, the President & Mr Shivendra Singh, VP, Global Trade.
The timing for this meeting could not have been better. With the increasing volatility in the geo-political environment and looming trade tariffs wars, the interest in strengthening the Indo-UK alliance was tremendously high. Added to it, was the very high interest in understanding the digital transformation opportunities in India and the Gov’t’s thinking on policies w.r.t data protection, FDI etc. The discussion proved to be highly engaging and mutually beneficial.
It was focused on a number of areas:
- Promoting bilateral Indo-UK trade within the Brexit environment, with tech sector playing the lead.
- Hearing from the Hon’ble Minister and High Commissioner on the opportunities that exist in India, in the context of the trillion dollar digital economy.
- Hearing from the UK side, from Liam Maxwell, on his thoughts on how he sees this exciting opportunity for collaboration and co-creation and any challenges therein.
- Hearing most importantly from leading Indian and British companies, on ground examples in UK and in India in terms of investments, job creation, innovation and challenges.
- Finally, also discussed were some of the critical areas of collaboration – eg: both Minister and DCMS reps felt there was a strong need for India and UK to join hands and address ethical issues that new technology poses to us. This included data privacy and security issues, especially in the context of next-gen. technologies (e.g. AI, IoT, Big Data) in priority sectors that have huge social impact i.e healthcare, fin-tech and social inclusion.
Common themes that cut across both UK and Indian tech companies were, the lack of availability of high skilled employees, importance of start-ups and the value they bring to global services technology providers. The Minister highlighted that data protection should not impede the growth of innovation. He reiterated the need of both governments to share knowledge, collaborate on research, innovate and create partnerships via deploying complementary technological strengths. The Minister also highlighted the success of inclusive growth that Indian digital space had witnessed in wake of the Government-led Digital India programme, and invited the tech firms in UK to take advantage of the growth opportunities that India offered. Both the governments highlighted the importance on working together on future skilling initiative and supported NASSCOM future skilling partnership with techUK. Equally, both the sides were in sync on the need to work together to address ethical issues which technology poses. Liam Maxwell, the National Technology Officer was tremendously impressed by the Indian Government’s successful implementation of the “Aadhaar” programme and complimented the Minister for the same.
As a background, over the last one year, NASSCOM has been deeply engaged with the UK Government, particularly the Department of Digital, Cultural, Media and Sports (DCMS) where the technology sector rests along with Department of International Trade (DIT) and these ministries have found real value in this engagement. We have seen this in their explicit support to NASSCOM on the creation of the Indo-UK Tech Alliance with techUK in April 2018, to increase collaboration on skills and new technologies, assist in policy development and encourage innovation.
The Alliance members met on 21st June 2018, and jointly urged the UK Government to support the operationalizing of the joint “future skills initiative” to upskill UK technology workers to bridge the skills gap and design a flexible immigration system that allows for frictionless mobility of skilled workers between India and UK. This was followed by a formal MOU between NASSCOM and techUK to enable them use NASSCOM Future Skills as the platform for reskilling the IT workforce in UK. This formed a part of the joint statement of both the PMs when PM Modi went to the UK in April 2018. We reinforced the partnership when we hosted the Secy of State Matt Hancock in India in May 2018 where UK Government announced NASSCOM to be a partner for its Tech Rocketship awards 2018-19 (for start-ups). And now with the roundtable with the Indian IT Minister, we have taken another step forward. Our objective is to continually provide value to the UK Government as a trusted industry partner. This will enable us to be an integral part of any bilateral technology discussions by having a seat on the table on issues related to innovation and co-creation, skilling and making policy recommendations.
The feedback from the participants has been overwhelmingly positive. A key feedback from Liam Maxwell was that NASSCOM can really help them strengthen the ties with the Indian Gov’t for higher collaboration. The Minister also was very happy with the discussion and has agreed to do a similar roundtable in the US when he visits the country in Aug 2018.