Technology will spur India's growth: WEF president

The rise of advanced technologies has the potential to create economic and social value and it can boost the country’s potential for maintaining growth momentum while attaining greater social inclusion and regional cooperation, WEF President Borge Brende said at the ongonin session of the World Economic Forum in New Delhi.

He said that India is very advanced from many developed economies when it comes to information technology sector, but there is a lot of scope for development in terms of infrastructure.
The Geneva-headquartered WEF is organising its 33rd India Economic Summit in New Delhi on 3-4 October under the theme - ‘Innovating for India: Strengthening South Asia, Impacting the World’. More than 800 leaders from 40 countries comprising senior public figures and leading representatives from civil society, arts and culture, science, business and academia will participant in the event.
Artificial intelligence and drones, start-up unicorns, infrastructure, environmental reforms, gender parity, education and South Asia’s economic outlook will be on top of the agenda.
In his opening remarks, Singapore’s deputy prime minister Heng Swee Keat, said, “We are going through a period of major changes in the global economy. In some parts of the world there is a retreat from globalization, while in other parts of the world, there is a desire for greater integration”.
"We are seeing a growing inequality in terms of wealth and income--both within countries and across countries. We are seeing a lot of concerns about the impact of economic growth on sustainable development, on the environment," he added.
The programme will also underline South Asia’s relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and highlight how the two regions, defined by their demographic and digital dividends, will shape the world’s collective future.
The Deputy Prime Minister asked how countries in South Asia can come together to provide support for global integration and a multilateral trading system.
"It is our 35th year of engagement with India, and the 50th year by the way, of the founding of the World Economic Forum," Prof. Schwab said at the start of the session.
He noted yesterday's 150th anniversary of the birth of Gandhi, who he called an inspiration for leaders around the world, including Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as future leaders to come. Prof. Schwab saluted India as the world's largest democracy.
Prof. Schwab added that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be a "major part of our discussions here... it's transforming business models and reshaping national competitiveness."
In opening remarks, Director-General Banerjee of the CII, a sponsor of the summit, said the two-day meeting would be an opportunity to "see a further integration of Indian companies and India with the globe."
As a panel with the co-chairs got underway, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister, Heng Swee Keat highlighted three global trends and challenges: a retreat from globalization in some parts of the world, rapid technological change and growing inequality around the world.
"There are many people in the world who feel globalization has left them behind," he said.
But he emphasized that leaders have to show people how globalization can work for them. This, he said, should include structural reforms of the economy to address inequality and sustainability concerns.
Of the disruption caused by technology, the Deputy PM said: "In the digital age, talent will be key to dynamism. But talent is not just about the top leadership. It is also about all our workers. How do we bring up our workers and help them to grow new skills and new jobs?"
"The next decade will be the golden decade for technology and entrepreneurship in this region," said Sequoia's Shailendra Singh. He noted the "pace at which innovation is happening and speed at which companies are developing" in India and across South Asia.
Apollo Hospitals' Shobana Kamineni said the healthcare industry in India - which is expanding national coverage through a government-led scheme - is helping to find jobs for women, addressing the issue of workplace inequality.
Gillian Tans of Booking.com said "most of the value we create stays in the local economy", noting that India has the fastest growth rate of any country for the company's bookings.
Welcome to the first day of the Forum's India Economic Summit. The meeting is taking place in New Delhi 3-4 October, under the banner theme Innovating for India: Strengthening South Asia, Impacting the World.
Over 800 business, civil society and government leaders from more than 40 countries are slated to attend.
Key public figures attending include Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Singapore deputy prime minister and minister of finance Heng Swee Keat, US secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross, India’s minister of commerce and industry and railways Piyush Goyal, Nepal’s finance minister Yub Raj Khatiwada and Maldiv’s Speaker of the Parliament (People's Majlis) Mohamed Nasheed. 
Gender parity
Alongside the economic dialogue, another session exclusively to address gender issues is also being organised, inspired by an all-women UN peacekeeping force, to India's second lunar mission.
But, despite these champions the gender gap still exists in the region, which needs to be bridged, the panelists said.
The panellists include, chairman of the board of SWIFT India Pvt Ltd Arundhati Bhattacharya, India’s minister of women and child development Smriti Zubin Irani, sportsperson and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia Sania Mirza and minister of education of Bangladesh Dipu Moni. 
Change for greater gender parity needs to come from the grassroots level, said minister Irani at the start of the session.
"When we talk about parity do you define it only from the economic perspective?" the Minister asked. She called for broadening the definition to take into account situations where more powerful women empower other, less empowered women.
In Bangladesh, "we are actually walking the talk," said minister Moni. Over 29% of the government's budget was allocated for women's empowerment last year, across all ministries, she added.
Last year, Bangladesh allocated 29.65 per cent of its budget towards women empowerment programmes, says minister Dipu Moni. 
Driving ahead on the issue of equality in India, Mirza noted that the culture of a woman or a girl picking up a sport used to be frowned upon and that has shifted, even though there is still a way to go.
"It is so deeply embedded - this culture that a girl needs to be pretty and that she needs to be fair to be pretty... I think that culture needs to change," Mirza said, commenting on Indian society and culture.
Bhattacharya said: "We need to encourage entrepreneurship for women" to retain them in the workplace and encourage female leadership.
Meanwhile, minister Irani said it cannot be only women who solve gender parity problems - but that men who are passionate about equality be included in the conversation. "All genders" must be included at the table, she said.
She wondered why there are no men on the panel at #IES19 that’s discussing closing the gender gap! 
The first official session of the summit is being chaired by the Forum's President, Børge Brende, with all of the event's co-chairs participating as panellists.
There will also be remarks from Klaus Schwab, the Forum's Founder and Executive Chairman, as well as from others.