Accelerating development through technological change and innovation in the North Eastern region

a decade agoThe challenging topography of the North-Eastern region with its vast forest cover and landlocked topography was considered as a natural hindrance to the development and transport connectivity of the region. Ten years later, the world’s second highest railway pier bridge at Jiribam-Imphal in the North Eastern region is a living technological marvel, facilitating seamless transport connectivity despite the challenges of topography. Since 2014, more than Rs 5 lakh crore has been spent across sectors to harness the true potential of the sector. Technology and digitalization have become essential parts of the overall development strategy of the North Eastern region, which has given further impetus to this initiative. From public service delivery and governance to youth and enterprise, the widespread use of technology is promising a new revolution in the amrit kaal of North-East India.
To ensure strong infrastructure, it has been made mandatory to use latest technology in the construction of roads. This will make the roads stronger even in adverse weather conditions. Further, under the aegis of North East Space Applications Centre, all the States have developed agriculture and allied sectors using space technology; disaster management; Forests, Ecosystems and Environment; Water Resources Management; Medicine and health; Have prepared action plans in the field of planning and development and transport communication.
Agriculture and horticulture are the two most promising sectors in the region, which have immense potential for economic development and livelihood generation. Space technology is being used for measuring land area and horticulture infrastructure, evaluating site suitability, mobile apps for farmers etc. More than 600 entrepreneurs, thousands of farmers and artisans through the Science and Technology Program for North-East India (STINER), a dedicated scheme under the North-Eastern Council (NEC) for promoting Science and Technology in NER. Have benefited from various technologies.
The Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region is also using technology intensively for monitoring projects. Almost all project sites have been geo-tagged and a project monitoring portal has been launched. Digital innovation is helping in quick implementation and efficient monitoring of projects. For the first time, the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region has set up its field units in all the States for seamless cooperation with the State Governments. A mobile app is being developed for the field units, through which the units will ensure faster implementation of projects and better coordination with the state government and central agencies.
In the healthcare sector, coordination of digital measures through telemedicine and mobile diagnostics has the potential to revolutionize medical services accessibility. An important development being done on the ground involves the collaborative efforts of the Ministry of Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER) and Tata Trusts. These collaborative efforts aim to establish state-of-the-art cancer hospitals in all the North-Eastern states. Donar has already established high-tech Dr. B. A substantial grant of Rs 129 crore has been allocated for Borua Cancer Institute under the PM-Divine initiative. Additionally, 5G-based health applications have been launched across all states in the region to enable facilities such as door-to-door diagnosis, telemedicine, etc. Adding to these achievements, a state-of-the-art 3D Printing Center of Excellence has been inaugurated in Guwahati, Assam, marking a significant leap towards technological advancement in the healthcare sector.
Technological progress is expected to open new avenues for the talented and skilled youth of this region. Recently, we launched India’s first 5-G training labs across all states in the North-East region. These labs will help the youth in bridging the digital divide and acquiring future-proof skills. A successful project of tele-education has been implemented by installing smart virtual classroom facilities in 75 government schools and 4 District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) in Sikkim and Assam. The primary objective of this initiative is to enhance the quality of education for students living in remote and rural areas of the region. The donor will fund more such initiatives in the future. MeitY is also setting up domain-specific Centers of Excellence across the country to create the next generation of budding entrepreneurs in new areas of technology. Centers of excellence related to healthcare, IoT in agriculture, graphic design, gaming, GIS etc. are being opened in the capitals of all the eight states of the region.
The region is also set to benefit from the National Data Center for the North East to be launched soon. Being built at a total cost of Rs 348 crore, this data center will enhance the digitalisation potential of the region, promote socio-economic development in all sectors and strengthen the delivery of services in all sectors.
In recent years, the North East has shown great potential towards adopting digital facilities. In the North Eastern Region (NER), 47 per cent people have smartphones, which is almost at par with the national average of 48 per cent. Interestingly, the linkage of mobile and bank accounts in the North Eastern region is also equal to the national average of 86 per cent. We are strategizing various activities to leverage this opportunity for development of Common Service Centers, increase Aadhaar reach and promote economic empowerment and participation of women. The North Eastern region of the country has a tremendous opportunity to accelerate its development through the use of technology. In line with Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision of Digital India, policy makers, businesses and individuals should come together and collaborate effectively to seize this opportunity and harness it for the larger public welfare. The private sector should actively seek opportunities to leverage technology in its operations and adopt digitalization, automation and data analytics to enhance its efficiency and competitiveness. It is an exciting time to be a part of this transformation taking place in the North Eastern region and efforts are underway to establish the region as a powerhouse of techno-innovation and tech-based entrepreneurship.

Yes. Kishan Reddy
(The author is Union Minister for Development of North Eastern Region in the Government of India)

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