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印度智库:印度农村地区是移动互联网的下一个蓝海

Vivienne Walt 2019年02月25日

印度正在发生数字化革命。即便是在偏远农村,也有成千上万的人拿着刚买不久的智能手机,有生以来第一次登上了互联网。

2018年12月10日,印度政府智库印度国家转型研究所所长阿米塔布·康特在其新德里的办公室内。图片来源:Photograph by Vivek Singh for Fortune

去年12月,为了给本月的《财富》杂志撰写一篇关于谷歌的报道,我去了印度的几个地方。到了印度,你很难忽视这里正在飞速发生的数字化革命。即便是在偏远农村,也有成千上万的人拿着刚买不久的智能手机,有生以来第一次登上了互联网。

印度的数字革命必将带来极其深远的影响——这种影响不仅仅在于互联网给印度社会带来的剧烈变化,同时,它也将对整个科技行业产生巨大影响。印度是一个拥有13亿多人口的国家,其人口三倍于美国,如此庞大的市场,必定会为谷歌等科技巨头带来难得的扩张机遇。

就目前而言,对于在印度角力的大玩家们,赚钱并不是最主要的,而是要找到下一个10亿级的互联网用户群——而其中的大部分就在印度。当然,外国科技公司进军印度的阻碍也有不少,其中也包括政治上的障碍。即将于今年4月面临艰难选战的印度总理莫迪已经表示,要坚决保护印度的本土科技公司,不能让它们被谷歌、沃尔玛和中国的腾讯、阿里巴巴等外国巨头所吞并。

在新德里,我采访了印度国家转型研究所的所长阿米塔布·康特。印度国家转型研究所主要负责制定全国的数字化战略。在采访中,康特谈到了对于印度以及对于谷歌等美国科技巨头来说,当前重点要做好哪些事情。

《财富》:数字化转型对印度经济为何如此重要?

康特:未来30年,如果我们想保持9%或者10%的年增长率,我们不仅需要实物的基础设施,也需要数字化的基础设施。我们还需要在教育、卫生等领域实现巨大突破。只有数字化技术才能助推印度实现巨大增长,这就要求我们必须构建数字化基础设施作为支撑。

印度已经建立了超过10亿人的生物样本库,印度还拥有10亿多部移动设备、10亿多个银行账户。利用移动系统和这个庞大的生物样本库,印度政府可以将福利拨款直接打入受益人的银行账户。现在我们的数字支付都是基于移动的,我们已经有128家联网银行,他们都可以通过移动系统进行数字支付。

这就是印度为什么要废除纸币。(注:2016年,莫迪废除了大部分流通中的纸币。)

是的,它推动了数字支付的极限。我们不像美国和中国。在美国,所有数据都归谷歌和Facebook所有;在中国,所有数据都归阿里、腾讯和百度所有。在印度,数据归公共实体所有。比如说每个印度人都有跟“阿达哈尔”(即印度的12位数字身份证)绑定的生物特征。印度的消费税也可以通过数字支付缴纳。居民的生物特征数据仅归公共实体所有,而印度目前有99.6%的人都在网上纳税。

目前有多少人交税?

消费税的正规化将使纳税变得更正式,目前的规模已经相当可观了。(注:据估计只有不到10%的印度人交税。)我们的所有新方案都是完全数字化的。我们正在为5亿人提供医疗保险,这个数字比美国和墨西哥的人口总和还要多。而且它也是无现金式的,全部采用数字化技术。数字化已经应用到了方方面面,大多数印度人通过智能手机就能享受这些计划。

说说你们在如何使用你们建立的10亿多人口的生物识别库。

我们希望做到以数字化手段教育人,以数字化手段传播健康,并利用这些海量数据更好地进行数据分析,更好地创新,并帮助创业公司。这样我们才能确保人民得到最好的教育、最好的医疗。我们也可以横向和纵向地追踪每一个儿童的情况,然后对结果进行分析,以得出最好的结果,就像我们跟踪网约车的动向一样。我们也可以通过大量数据来跟踪个人的健康状况。这些只有通过数字化转型才能实现,而非实体转型。

由于智能手机的使用,银行交易的成本大大下降了。过去银行交易需要很长的时间。生物识别技术使得身份认证变得容易。印度以前是非常低效的,现在政府可以将资金直接转入所有受益人的账户。

我们认为,在农村地区,卫生和教育将越来越多地通过数字化网络向居民提供。我们最关注的挑战,就是建立坚实的宽带网络。我们首先是要建设光纤网络,其次是确保每个人都有手机,尤其是智能手机。在印度,智能手机的成本已经下降了。

由于一批新公司的加入,使得智能手机的价格显著下降。目前在印度生产手机的企业大约有128家。他们降低了手机的生产成本。这有利于手机的推广和数字化革命在印度的传播。

实物基础架构对印度这样一个国家显然也是很重要的,你为什么认为数字基础架构更重要?

如果你想在各地建实体银行,让真正的银行经理去管理,印度得花上几百年的时间。如果你想建实体学校,也得花几百年的时间。唯一在能让印度在技术上实现跨越的方法,就是使用数字化技术。现在,即便不通过大型学校和书本,只通过智能手机,也能教育孩子。比如印度比哈尔邦有一个叫作班卡的落后地区,那里所有的教育都是通过移动电话完成的。

我们在安德拉邦采访时,我去了一些村子,我感觉要让人们真正理解如何正确使用智能手机,可能还需要很多年。但你说的是15年。

从我们的经验看,有些在我们看来对数字化技术一窍不通的人,实际上学习使用手机的速度要比我们想象的快得多。印度农村地区是很擅长学习使用手机的,因为现在印度人人都在用手机。目前印度的智能手机用户已达4.5亿,其他人则使用功能手机。而从功能手机到智能手机的转变将发生得非常迅速。印度的规模也将使成本进一步下降。

数据本地化对于科技公司来说是一个非常热门的问题。现在谷歌等大型科技公司也储存了不少他们在印度收集的数据。你认为这个问题对印度有多重要?

这对我们来说也是一个重要的问题。目前印度就此还没有最终政策,但印度政府已经任命了一个委员会,委员会已经出具了一份报告,印度信息技术部正在对其进行审查。在我看来,重要数据(比如与健康有关的数据)必须本地化,印度是有能力处理这些数据的,印度是一个IT实力很强的国家,印度人的数据必须留在印度。这是我们的看法。

外国投资者是否将印度看作一个长期市场?现在他们已经投入了几十亿的投资,最终他们能赚回来吗?

很多公司在印度的投资都是长期而非短期的。像谷歌这样的公司会长期投资印度,而且他们也会在数字化方面为印度做很多好事。我相信过了一段时间之后,他们会在印度发展得非常好。印度市场正在不断扩大。谷歌面临的最大挑战是如何以印度本土语言进行传播。印度大概有3.5亿人的英语市场,其他人都说本地语言。对于Facebook、推特、谷歌等科技公司,他们的一大挑战就是如何融入本地语言,尤其是印地语。

印度以前的营商环境很复杂,过去投资者的日子不太好过。但是在过去四年间,政府采取了一系列措施,为投资者营造了简单易行的投资环境。很多规则、程序和文书手续都被废除了。这也是为什么根据世界银行的排名,印度的营商指数上升了65位。另外,印度也让它的29个邦每年都围绕营商环境展开竞争,而且这种竞争是很激烈的。

在吸引非英语人口市场方面,谁做得比较领先?

我认为谷歌是领先的,其次是亚马逊,现在沃尔玛也加入进来了。但是谷歌依然遥遥领先,因为它在Internet Saathis项目和女性身上做了大量工作。(注:谷歌与印度塔塔信托合作,向印度广大农村派出女员工,培训当地女性的基本互联网技能。)同时谷歌也通过Google Pay做了很多数字支付机制的推广工作。它也资助了很多印度的创业公司。

印度有很多优秀的工程师和几百家创业公司,硅谷在这方面给印度带来了什么?

硅谷带来了一个很好的创新生态系统。硅谷与班加罗尔和海德拉巴的科技公司的关系,甚至要好于硅谷与华盛顿的关系。所以说我们已经打造了全球第三好的生态系统。而它很大程度上是我们与一些充满活力的硅谷公司密切合作的成果。(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

When I traveled around India in December for this month’s Fortune magazine story on Google, it was hard to miss the head-spinning digital revolution underway in India. Even in the tiniest village, thousands of people had only recently bought their first smartphones and logged on to the Internet for the first time.

The consequences are profound—not only for India, for which the Internet will bring radical transformation, but also for Big Tech. In a country of more than 1.3 billion people—three times the population of the U.S.—India offers tech giants like Google the chance for drastic expansion.

For now, the driving ambition is not making money. It is finding the next billion Internet users—and most of those will be in India. There are hurdles aplenty, including political ones. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faces a tough reelection battle in April, has vowed to protect India’s national tech companies from being swallowed whole by the likes of Google, Amazon, and Walmart as well as Chinese titans like Tencent and Alibaba.

In New Delhi, I sat down with Amitabh Kant, CEO of the National Institution for Transforming India, or NITI Aayog, which oversees the country’s digital policies, to ask what is at stake for India, and for U.S. tech giants like Google.

Fortune: Why is this digital transformation so important for the economy for India?

Kant: More than physical infrastructure, we need digital infrastructure if we are to grow at 9% or 10% a year over a three-decade period. We need a quantum jump in education, in health, in several of these areas. It is only digital technology that will enable India to make a big growth. And this will require us to create digital infrastructure as the backbone.

What India has done is that it has created a billion-plus biometric. It has a billion-plus mobile [devices]. It has a billion-plus bank accounts. And the government of India does all of its transfers straight into the beneficiaries’ bank accounts, using the mobile system and using the biometric. All our digital payments is mobile based now. We have 128 banks linked together; all of them are digitally connected for digital payments through the mobile system.

So this is why demonetization was so important. (In 2016, Modi invalidated most of the bank notes in circulation. —Ed.)

Yes, it pushed the limits of digital payments. In India we’ve pushed digitization in government. Unlike in the U.S., where all the data is owned by Google and Facebook, and unlike China, where it is owned by Alibaba and Tencent and Baidu, in India it’s owned by public entities. So you have the Aadhaar [a 12-number digital I.D. issued to each Indian citizen] biometric, which owns data. Now you have the Goods and Services Tax. It is all digital. Biometric data is only with public entities. You also have 99.6% of people in India paying taxes online.

But how many people pay taxes?

The formalization of GST will make it more formal. It’s quite substantial now. (Fewer than 10% of Indians are estimated to pay their taxes. —Ed.) And all of our new schemes are all digital. We’re providing health insurance for up to 500 million people. That is more than the population of the U.S. and Mexico put together. It is all cashless, portable, and it is all digital. You have digital data everywhere. And most of the people access these schemes in India through mobile smartphones.

Tell us how you’re using this billion-plus biometric you have created.

We want to make sure we are able to educate people digitally, that we are able to spread health digitally, and use this vast amount of data to use better data analytics, do innovation, help startups. Then we can ensure that people are able to get best education, the best health. We can track every child longitudinally, latitudinally, learning outcomes, to track the best outcomes, much like we track Uber cars. Or track the health of the individual using a lot of data. And this is possible only with a digital transformation, not a physical transformation.

The cost of bank transactions has fallen radically because of the use of smartphones. It used to take a long time. The use of biometrics has enabled the spread of identification. India used to be very inefficient. Now the government transfers money directly into bank accounts of all the beneficiaries.

Our view is that health and education will increasingly be delivered in rural areas through the digital network. Our challenge is to create a strong broadband and that is what we focused on. Spreading the fiber optic, number one. Number two, ensuring we are ensuring that everybody has a phone and particularly a smartphone. And in India, the cost of smartphones has fallen.

New companies have made the cost of smartphones fall radically. About 128 mobile companies are manufacturing in India. They’ve brought down the cost of manufacturing of mobiles. This will all lead to the spread of the mobile telephone and the spreading of the digital revolution in India.

Why do you see this as more important than rolling out physical infrastructure, which is obviously so important in a country like India?

Because if we were to go around creating physical banks and have physical bank managers it would take India hundreds of years. If you were to create physical schools with infrastructure it would take hundreds of years. The only way to technologically leapfrog is to use digital technology. You can educate children not through books today, and not through large schools, but through mobile telephones. There is one of our backward districts, called Banka in Bihar state, where the entire education is being done on mobile telephony.

When I visited villages, we were in Andhra Pradesh. It felt like it was going to take many years for people to get connected, and to really understand what to do with a smartphone. But you are saying 15 years.

Our experience has been that those who we think are [digitally] illiterate are actually able to use mobile telephony much faster. Rural India is very digitally savvy. Because everyone in India today is using a mobile phone. About 450 million people are using smartphones. Others are using feature phones. The switch-over from feature phone to smartphone will happen very rapidly. The size and scale of India will make the costs fall.

Data localization is a very hot issue for tech companies. How important is it for India, where big tech companies like Google store data they are collecting in the country?

This is an important issue for us. I think the last word on this has not been said. The government has appointed a committee; the committee has given a report. That is being examined by Ministry of Information and Technology. My view is that critical data, for example relating to health, must be localized. India can handle it. India is a very savvy I.T. country. The data of Indians must be kept within India. That is our view.

Do foreign investors look at India as a long-term play? They put billions in now, and eventually they will make it back?

A lot of companies are investing here for the long term, not the short term. My view is that companies like Google are here for the long term they will do a lot of good in digitization. I’m sure over a period of time they’ll do extremely well in India. The Indian market is just growing and expanding. The challenge in Google is to spread in Indian languages. We have a market of about 350 million people in English, but the rest is in local languages. The challenge for all the digital companies—Facebook, Twitter, Google, everyone—is to make a massive push for local languages, particularly Hindi.

India used to be complicated. It used to be tough for investors. But over the last four years, the government has taken a series of measures to make India easy and simple for investors. A number of rules and procedures and paperwork have all been scrapped. That’s why India has jumped up 65 positions in ease of doing business, as ranked by the World Bank. India also makes its [29] states compete every year on the ease of doing business. There is huge competition.

Who’s ahead in trying to appeal to the non-English-speaking Indian market?

I think Google is ahead. Followed by Amazon, and now Walmart will come in. But Google is way ahead because it has done a lot of work with Internet Saathis, with women. (Google, in partnership with India’s Tata Trust, deploys women in villages across India in order to train other women in basic Internet skills. —Ed.) It has done a lot of work pushing the digital payment mechanism, with Google Pay. It supports a lot of our startups.

India is full of great engineers and hundreds of startups at this point. What does Silicon Valley bring to the picture?

Silicon Valley brings a great ecosystem of innovation. There’s a greater connect between Silicon Valley and tech companies in Bangalore and Hyderabad than between Silicon Valley and Washington. So we’ve created the third best ecosystem in the world. And much of that ecosystem is a consequence of our close relationship with some dynamic Silicon Valley companies.

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