December 2010

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Delhi meet focuses on EU-India sync-up

Euro-India participants explored joint research possibilities in areas of ICT for healthcare and development

By Nicholas Ferguson and Juanita Kakoty

ICT is seen as a key enabler in developing the market for affordable healthcare. The social significance of this could be widespread as benefits reach  underprivileged and rural sectors of Indian society for whom affordable healthcare is often not a reality.

ICT for healthcare, and the broader issue of how ICT can address societal  challenges, were the two key topics discussed at the EC-funded Euro-India  Spirit and Synchroniser ICT policy events held on November 10 at Surajkund in  Delhi. The event saw ICT experts and  stakeholders from Europe and India deliberate upon issues that have direct bearing on ICT policies formulated in  the two geographies. The insights that emerged outlined a roadmap of thematic  concerns for future collaborative research, and pronounced the strong need to  engage the respective governments and industry practitioners in an active ICT policy dialogue.

Working groups will draw expertise and knowledge from the industry  practitioners, to pinpoint real challenges on the ground

In a build up to the workshop, an intensive meeting of ‘Euro-India Spirit’  experts took place focusing on shaping EU-Indian ICT policy in three main areas: ICT for addressing societal challenges, audiovisual media and the Internet, and emerging technologies and e-infrastructures. The group consolidated and built upon the findings and results of previous meetings to leverage joint cooperation between EU and India in areas that offer mutual benefits for both sides. Areas recommended for future collaborative research include: boosting e-healthcare capacities, investing in secure and dependable  ICT infrastructure, broadband research capacities pertinent to both EU and India, ICT applications in disaster management, e-services like multilingual content and cloud computing, data acquisition, dissemination, storage and   management, issues of security and trust, and empowering end users.

Comprehensive discussions on policy measures to fund and promote research kept the experts’ discussions animated, as did the talks that stressed the importance of addressing a validation scenario right at the stage of formulating research proposals. The importance of adding local depth to a global infrastructure was also repeatedly highlighted during the course of the meeting.

The ICT workshop saw participants from the Indian Government,  European Commission, academia, industry, civil society, researchers and practitioners. They discussed and reflected upon joint research possibilities in the domain of ICT for Development between the European Union and India. With a keynote presentation on Indian ICT policy issues by Dr G Narendra Kumar, Joint Secretary, Performance Management Division, Cabinet  Secretariat, the exclusive invitation-only forum aimed to maximise the effects and benefits of policy dialoguing among stakeholders and experts from EU and India. Alvis Ancans, International Relations Officer, European Commission, highlighted the structure of Seventh Framework Program (FP7), including a breakdown of funding areas focusing on ICT. He outlined various types of support that the European Commission offers for international collaboration and listed the Indian organisations that have been successful so far in FP7 ICT Calls including FICCI, IBM India, IIT Delhi and IIT Bombay.

As an outcome of the two-day intensive exercise, Euro-India Spirit re-aligns its priority to drawing expertise and knowledge from the industry practitioners. This would allow real case scenarios to be discussed, showcasing benefits and pinpointing real challenges on the ground. Euro-India Spirit will actively participate in a series of ICT events to be hosted in India in 2011.

The key next steps include the preparation of a document of policy recommendations that will be submitted to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Government of  India and to the Directorate General for Information Society and Media,  European Commission. The document will highlight themes for joint EU-India research collaborations and innovation in the field of ICT for Development  which can have farreaching effect in healthcare and beyond.

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