New Delhi, Amid a talented pool of tech entrepreneurs and start-ups in India live millions of women and under-represented communities, chasing opportunities to enter the new digital world, and the onus is right on the tech giants to skill them and bridge the digital divide, says a top Amazon Web Services (AWS) executive.
According to Teresa Carlson, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector at AWS — online retail giant Amazon’s Cloud business arm — the time is now ripe for tech companies to approach talented youth in rural India, skill and connect them to the digital mainstream in order to achieve “inclusive innovation”.
“India is unique. You have this highly educated population of tech entrepreneurs and start-ups and then you go into villages which are like a different world altogether.
“You got to access the talent pool there, make sure that you skill them so that they have the capabilities and opportunities to take advantage of this whole new world,” said Carlson, who is viewed as one of the most powerful women in the global tech scene.
For her, healthcare and education are the two sectors that need big tech intervention.
“I think for India, we have to create new mechanisms to educate people in emerging technologies like Cloud computing. We did the same in Kenya with the non-profit Digital Divide Data (DDD) and trained 30-60 people (including women) in Cloud computing as a stepping stone to more advanced IT careers and saw positive results,” Carlson told IANS during her second visit to India last week.
Today, the DDD and AWS graduates are earning five times more than their peers.
“We put them through an intensive six-month training. We put them to work at the Kenyan National Museum and now we have them working in other vocations. They are now in jobs that pay about $85,000 a year. That is more than they would make in three lifetimes in Africa,” Carlson noted.
She knows that this training model works and now she wants to scale it up for countries like India.
In the US, Northern Virginia Community College, in collaboration with the “AWS Educate” programme, has launched a Cloud computing specialisation as part of its Information Systems Technology (IST) Associate of Applied Science degree that started this autumn.
The class has already started and during the AWS education summit recently, it launched the same programme with Los Angeles community colleges.
“I spoke to some of your government officials, including in the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC), in the last couple of days and asked them why don’t we do the same here for vocational training in Cloud computing,” informed Carlson.
AWS “EdStart” programme is helping entrepreneurs in India build the next generation of online learning, analytics and campus management solutions on the AWS Cloud. The programme is designed to enable EdTech start-ups move faster with specially-tailored benefits.
AWS “Edstart” members in India include start-ups like doubtbox, Classplus, Quizizz, NEETprep.com, examly, StudyBoard, Bloombench, Multibhashi, proctor, I&WE and bookbhook.com , among others.
Carlson, who started her career as a speech and language pathologist, also looks at the Indian health care scenario with hope in her eyes.
“When I was here on my first visit two years ago, one of the things that struck me personally the most was the number of start-ups with virtual healthcare applications running on AWS,” she recalled.
The start-ups were working in the field of mapping the cornea to identify heart disease.
“I thought about that a lot over two years and, in these years, the number of both the companies and tools available to take healthcare to the next level in India is kind of off the charts,” said Carlson.
To help accelerate the discovery of new, targeted treatments for patients, Accenture and Merck (known as MSD), in collaboration with AWS, this month decided to launch a Cloud-based informatics research platform.
“This is an example of how Cloud computing is truly allowing for innovations at speed and at scale that we did not even think about years ago. This is where I think India is just going to be at much advantage, owing to the growing healthcare start-ups,” added Carlson.
“We have to ensure that you have policies that allow these things to get moving on Cloud because what you don’t want is 80 per cent of your IT budget to be spent on maintenance of the systems,” Carlson emphasised.
She recalled an incident when she took Amazon Cloud computing and its benefits to the US government in 2010 and an official asked her: “Are you here to sell books?”
“Policymakers in India definitely have a clear idea of what Cloud is. Everybody knows what Cloud computing is now. The world has changed quickly so that is a good thing,” she said.