Information Communication Technologies are evolving at an unprecedented rate and are at   the heart of economic growth and societal advancement in two of the world’s key global  markets: India and Europe. International cooperation is crucial to addressing many of the grand challenges facing both Europe and India, particularly in terms of ensuring smart, sustainable and inclusive societies. The time is ripe to chart a course for a collaborative R&D programme to take EU-India cooperation to the next level and work towards ensuring that societies in both regions are inclusive, innovative and secure. As we move into 2012 and ever nearer to the European Commission’s next Common Strategy Framework, Horizon 2020, international collaborative ICT research is key to creating the flourishing digital economy by 2020. Europe and India have complementarities in ICT research which should be leveraged to address challenges common to both regions that can lead to mutual benefit.

Through a consultative process with ICT Stakeholders and 18 ICT experts from Europe and India, the EC-funded project Euro-India SPIRIT (EUIS) has published a set of recommendations for collaborative R&D potential in key priority areas ranging from future networks, cloud computing and trustworthy ICT to networked media and future internet, ICT for public services and ICT for Inclusion. Our experts have brought insights into the strategic benefits of EU-India cooperation which are captured in a 32-page booklet titled “The New Paradigm – Harnessing EU-India ICT Research Cooperation”. Neeraj Suri is TUD Chair Professor, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany comments “Both Europe and India are major technology & ICT-rich societies, and it naturally behooves us to pool our resources to leverage the power of ICTs to build a safe and secure digital society where the full potential of ICT can be developed to benefit the global users”

A Connected World

The importance of being connected is becoming more and more central to the everyday lives of a growing percent of the world’s population and in particular ICT superpowers such as Europe and India. “Networks of the future need to address issues of very high capacity flexibility, heterogeneity, resilience and energy efficiency, while at the same time providing seamleass end to end infrastructure security and dependability.” Says Pierre Yves Danet, CTO, ASF Lab, Orange-France Telecom. With a dependency on wireless provision of broadband in India due to poor wired infrastructure, Ashok Jhunjhunwala, Professor, Dept of Electrical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, believes Euro-Indian collaboration is imperative for the development of “new wireless technologies which would reduce power required and transmitted per bit drastically, both to reduce energy usage and potential adverse impact that higher and higher electromagnectic transmission may have”

EU-Indian collaborative research on key areas such as Networked Media and Future Internet requires significant investments. Shared investment through collaborative research programmes would reduce the cost burden on both regions. Europe’s significant achievements in future network research could be leveraged to boost innovation in areas such as system architectures and technologies, ultra-high capacity satellite communications systems, ubiquitous fast broadband access, novel radio network typologies and resilient and flexible networks. Governance, education and inclusion are driven by a broad group of Indian stakeholders; from village farmers and senior citizens with rudimentary computer skills to researchers and social-network-savvy teens. The need for rich and immersive multimedia is expected to build a critical mass underpinned by the advent of cloud computing and the rapid proliferation of 3G. Europe is conducting ground-breaking research in this area in parallel with the rapid evolution of network technologies. Euro-India collaboration could therefore both leverage and supplement the reservoir of European knowledge and experience across a number of application domains such as eGovernment, eEducation and eInclusion.

Thorsten Herfet, Director of Research and Operations, Intel Visual Computing Institute, Saarland University, Germany, comments “While in Europe eEducation, has to compete with a dense network of high quality local education, Indian society will greatly benefit from already available and implementable systems. Joint research and application projects can simultaneously bring societal benefit and serve as a platform for further development of these systems.”

Empowering Our Citizens

ICTs can help provide the societal benefit that Hereft mentions and empower citizens across the board, including those at risk of exclusion. eInclusion is associated with different connotations in India and Europe with emphasis on bridging the digital divide across a high disparity within the population on the one hand, and on addressing the challenges of an ageing population and driving mainstream smart and personalised inclusion on the other. “The common denominator for India and the EU is their diversity and range of issues” comments P N Vasanti, Director, Centre for Media Studies, India. She adds “ICT tools and systems are indispensible for addressing these challenges and need to be applied to their respective local requirements. Current efforts and interests in both EU and India are ideal to learn from each other’s experiences and also kick-start research collaborations for effective application of innovation.” Mounib Mekhilef, Professor in ICT at University of Orléans; Director France, Ability Europe, agrees “EU-Indian collaboration can see the joint development of increasingly personalized tools and solutions that make eInclusion a game-changer in Europe and India”. Areas for Euro-India collaboration could include social, affective and persuasive computing; smart, customised and personalised information; personalisable assistive solutions. With a multi-disciplinary, user-centric approach which combines advanced technology research and systems integration, EU-Indian ICT collaborative research can help improve accessibility and usability of ICT to all walks of society.

ICT plays a crucial role in ensuring that Public Services are delivered more efficiently, faster and at reduced costs to citizens and organisations. The Digital Agenda for Europe places emphasis on a new generation of open, flexible and collaborative eGovernment services by 2020 as key enablers for citizens and businesses. Achieving eGovernment in India remains a daunting task given the diversity of its population spread and the need to address specific issues at an institutional level. Much could be gained from assessing global strategies and implementation in order to further articulate India’s eGovernment strategy. In particular, joint initiatives with Europe could identify social trends, undertake policy modelling and validate next-generation infrastructures, services and tools to optimise public service delivery and language portability. “There is a huge opportunity for Europe and India to jointly develop easily accessible, eGovernance services anytime, anywhere, and to anyone” Vinay Deshpande, Chairman & CEO Encore Technologies, India.

Into the Cloud

The emergence of cloud computing promises to enhance current public services in both Europe and India and transform the way business and research are conducted. Fabrizio Gagliardi, EMEA Director, Microsoft Research Connections comments “Cloud computing fits well with the highly distributed nature of India enabling increased access to computer resources and empowering a broad set of users in science and enterprise. Improvements in network infrastructure, solutions for wireless and satellite technologies will enable access to cloud computing resources in India allowing remote access from less developed parts of the Indian sub-continent”.

It is important that EU-Indian Collaborative research focuses on intelligent and automatic management of cloud resources, scalable data management strategies, infrastructure virtualisation support for mobile and context-aware applications as well as energy efficiency and sustainability of software and services. Addressing current impediments to mainstream adoption, such as interoperability, legal, data and security issues is high on the European Agenda and Europe is gaining a stronger collective voice around standards implementation, which presents important opportunities for effective cooperation in this area. Developing a collaborative test bed to pilot the adoption of standards-based, interoperable cloud services would pave the ground for a level playing field of mutual benefit. Neeraj Suri adds “ICT technologies, and especially cloud computing, have already connected countries to form a global e-village for varied functionalities spanning e-commerce, news, social networking etc. This privilege of ICT interconnectivity unfortunately also exposes all the constituents to the full range of location-agnostic security & privacy issues that detracts the value of ICT usage for all”.

Indeed, Trustworthy ICT is a core research area for India, which, as many other democratic and pluralistic societies, is facing a number of issues around network and data security, dependability and privacy protection. Europe has supported and benefited from large-scale collaborative projects in this field and has set benchmarks in trustworthiness of ICTs for individuals and businesses and with regard to security and privacy. Jim Clarke, Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland, believes there is considerable potential to build collaborative partnerships between Europe in India for sharing research results and building common approaches in areas such as malware protection, privacy protecting identity management systems, a strong societal approach to security and usable, effective security in the mobile world.

An Eye to the Future

With such a broad range of common themes it is imperative that research cooperation between India and the European Union needs commitment from both sides over the medium and long term. Besides agreeing on common themes, there is need for institutional mechanisms and horizontal measures to be put in place and animated. Through a consultation process with the ICT stakeholder community, Euro-India SPIRIT calls for a series of measures to further boost collaboration. Firstly, a dedicated multi-year EU-India Bilateral ICT Research Programme can see the establishment of joint calls focused on mutually agreed topics. Already successful between Europe and Brazil and Russia, this would offer joint funding to support cutting-edge research and potentially lead to a longer term joint Indo-EU ICT Research Programme. For this to be successful it is also important that a stakeholder dialogue and collaboration process across specific research and technology themes between India and the EU is established. The creation of Indian Technology Platforms is required which could be based on the successful European Technology Platforms such as NESSO and EPoSS.

As the Euro-India SPIRIT project draws to a close, its success bringing European and Indian ICT stakeholders together is evident with a growing online community of users who are able to access a variety of multi-media features including interviews, reports and training on Euro-India ICT collaboration. Furthermore, by bringing together ICT experts from India and Europe the project has built bridges between the two communities. Usha Reddy, Independent Consultant, India, concludes, “The Euro-India Spirit was effectively captured as the project began with a clash of cultures and priorities, but in the end, the project team arrived as one at common concerns affecting the relationship between ICTs and societies.”

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