Remarks for Tech Panel at U.S.-India Tech Summit
Charles H. Rivkin
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
New Delhi, India
November 18, 2014
I am honored to join so many key leaders in the ICT sector, from both our governments and private sectors. And I would like to thank the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology, who partnered with the U.S. Government to sponsor this important summit.
There is only so much you can do to make a garden grow. You can plant the seeds. You can enrich the soil. You can water at the right times. You can pull out the weeds. You can make sure the garden gets enough sun. But then it’s your job to get out of the way and let the garden grow on its own.
As governments, there is much we can do – and much that we should do – to help the ICT sector grow. After all, a rich and fertile ICT sector can do so much for the people we are sworn to protect and serve – our citizens.
It may sound surprising to hear a U.S. Government official start a speech by talking about gardens – and maybe that has something to do with the agriculture panel where I’ll be speaking shortly!
But it helps me underscore a fundamental point.
A rich and fertile sector was certainly the impetus behind the Digital India program, whose vision we support and whose goals we are eager to help advance.
But like the gardener – we can reach those goals best by removing the obstacles to growth, and letting things grow by themselves.
In terms of the potential for India’s ICT sector, this couldn’t be a more auspicious time.
According to the Economist magazine, India’s internet users are expected to double to more than 550 million people by the year 2018.
This will make India the world’s second largest internet market. And we fundamentally agree with the Prime Minister’s assessment that this growth will be a game-changer, driving economic growth and personal empowerment.
With this growth come many opportunities, whether we are talking about e-government that can connect people to important services … or e-commerce and other internet-enabled applications that can help small and medium-sized businesses grow and have more access to global markets …
… or quite simply, a broad platform that will allow more people to connect to the world at large.
Two way investment, unhampered by government protectionism and restrictions, would go a long way towards realizing that potential.
We also agree with India’s premise that “IT plus IT equals more IT.” And that ties in perfectly with Secretary Kerry’s prosperity agenda which does not see trade and investment as a zero sum game, but one of equal participation, open competition and mutual advantage.
Our companies are eager to invest in India, employ its citizens and operate service and manufacturing centers here.
But that means competing on equal terms, with no government-imposed restrictions or requirements that amount to protectionist barriers.
There is so much that our IT sector can bring to the table, whether that’s helping to expand broadband access, or develop emergency and disaster communications networks, or simply support social networking, online shopping, e-health, e-learning and e-government – all of which create efficiencies, stimulate economic growth, and improve social well-being.
Removing barriers would also go a long way toward improving India’s manufacturing capability too.
If any country has the intellectual capital and university system to further develop its ICT sector, it’s India.
By removing those barriers, India’s IT industry would have direct access to global supply chains – which are so critical for its innovators and entrepreneurs.
Measures like these would bring greater resonance to India’s message that it is “open for business.”
So would a bilateral Mutual Recognition Agreement, which would save manufacturers the time and expense of additional product testing, so they could deliver products more quickly to each other’s markets and lower costs to consumers.
Finally, we believe there is no greater step to helping the ICT industry contribute to the Indian economy than by opening up the satellite industry.
The Indian satellite industry is successful and mature enough to compete on the world stage without government protections.
An open, competitive satellite industry would fulfill Digital India’s goals, and offer widespread national coverage – from the Himalayas to the Nicobar Islands and everywhere between.
By bringing broadband internet access and mobility connectivity to its people, and emerging as a manufacturing hub for satcom components and systems, India would demonstrate that what’s good for the citizen and the consumer, and what’s good for the investor and the entrepreneur, is also good for the economy, for our countries, and for our citizens.