India and Brazil tech innovation visions and priorities for 2014

On the global stage, India and Brazil continue to be markets of interest for businesses looking for growth opportunities, particularly in the tech sector. So it’s always interesting to hear about policy initiatives regarding technology and innovation in those countries.  In India, the chief minister for the state of Gujarat and also prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi outlined his ICT industry vision for the country, while the Brazilian minister for science, technology and innovation (MCTI), Marco Antonio Raupp, announced Brazil’s technology policy priorities for 2014.

Speaking in a recent interview, India’s Narendra Modi said, “My vision for IT sector is that it develops the capacity and capability to become the engine of innovation and the driver of growth in the years to come. I see the IT industry as an engine for making India the knowledge superpower and an agent of change that touches lives of the poorest of the poor, for their empowerment.”

Like every tech aspirational nation, he talks about wanting to create an environment where India becomes the home of the next Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.  In particular he believes that India could become the next hub of cloud infrastructure, exploiting the synergistic opportunities from co-locating non-conventional energy projects and massive data centers in areas where there is little scope for agriculture or manufacturing. He talks about the internet being paramount, with e-governance and m-governance being key drivers in empowering the public.

In the telecoms sector, the tele-density in rural areas is still too low he suggests, at 40 percent (compared to 145 percent in urban areas). Hence there is an urgent need to conclude the national optical fiber network (NOFN) project that would help bridge the urban-rural digital divide. He cites the example in his own state of Gujarat where he is taking broadband connectivity to all villages using satellite infrastructure in order to provide citizen-centric services and quality long distance education to rural areas.

Modi also says in the interview that he wants India to be an innovation hub in ICT, creating a stronger collaboration between industry, academia and the venture capital industry. He believes that more synergies need to be created between the country’s national security needs and its technology incubation system, with greater participation of the private sector in defence manufacturing and research.

Some of Modi’s words reflect what’s already happening in industry. At the recent TiE Entrepreneurial Summit in Hyderabad, there was much talk of the cloud being a big business opportunity for Indian firms large and small, especially with a government focus on the use of cloud for implementing public services.  Other areas that would drive opportunities for cloud businesses include e-commerce and healthcare.

Also, India’s HCL Technologies (India NSE: HCLTECH) has announced a strategic partnership with Computer Sciences Corporation (NYSE: CSC) to address the substantial market opportunity created by the need for enterprise clients to modernize their applications and transition to the cloud.  HCL and CSC will create an application modernization delivery network to enable enterprises to shift from legacy technologies to a cloud-enabled platform. The first delivery centers will be launched in Bangalore and Chennai, and will focus on the banking and financial services verticals initially.

Brazil technology priorities

Meanwhile, Brazil’s minister for science, technology and innovation (MCTI), Marco Antonio Raupp, announced Brazil’s technology policy priorities for 2014, focusing on six key areas, of which the first is the development of cybersecurity policies.  A major government target is to develop technology, knowledge and new systems that give more security to the operation of public and private sector networks in Brazil. This is not surprising given what the world now knows about how some governments are using online data as a result of the Edward Snowden disclosures. Not only that, there are also reports of a recent internet of things cyber-attack whereby smart appliances like refrigerators and internet-connected set-top boxes were hacked and used to send out malicious emails.

As far as Brazil’s cybersecurity policy goes, government is looking to invest in start-ups specializing in cybersecurity and defense so that it can be better prepared for future threats, and in April 2014, a two-day global conference on the future of Internet governance will be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Representatives of the academic and technology community, the public and private sector and the civil society are set to take part, as well as representatives from other countries.

The approval of the Science Code, aimed at making researchers’ lives simpler, is another priority in Brazil. It aims to set specific standards for less bureaucracy in technology research and greater flexibility throughout the process of planning and implementation of projects, particularly in areas such as equipment imports and contracting services. “This new regulatory framework is essential to increase, facilitate and promote the activities of science, technology and innovation in the country,” according to minister Raupp.

The third area of priority for 2014 is funding for infrastructure supporting technology research. Around Brazilian R$420mi (US$178mi) of federal sector-focused infrastructure budget is allocated to the National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development. The money is being invested in the implementation, modernization, expansion and refreshing the physical infrastructure of national research through public tenders.

The fourth area is in technology-focused government agencies, with the creation of four Centers for Strategic Technologies focused on the Northeast, the Atlantic Rainforest and the Wetlands, plus a facility for water resources.  The initiative to use advanced technology tools to monitor natural disasters across the country was launched last May. As a result, some 934 automatic rain gauges have been delivered so far, as well as 771 semiautomatic rain gauges and two weather radars.

According to Raupp, this is an important social program because landslides and floods happen every year and cause massive disruption to the population, so avoiding deaths by alerting the authorities to take action when needed and mitigate the effects of these natural disasters is vital.

The fifth area of focus will be to build another space satellite this year as part of the ongoing Brazilian Space Program which should see the launch of a new satellite this year. The last area of focus highlighted by the Brazilian government will be to continue its educational, innovation and entrepreneurship programs focused on science, technology and innovation.

The MCTI wants to continue putting resources into the Science without Borders scheme, an international scholarship program focused on technology and science students. Since its start in 2011, the initiative has given 60,000 out of the 101,000 scholarships it has set out to award until 2015 – as well as Plano Inova Empresa, an innovation grant to private sector companies with a cash pool of R$32.9mi ($14mi).

Both the Brazilian priorities and the Indian minister’s vision point to a focus on innovation related to cloud and internet, with a key attention to cybersecurity, public services, and public citizen empowerment. These are not very different to many emerging countries’ agendas, but in India and Brazil, these public statements demonstrate the higher place on the political agenda for technology and innovation.

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