Addressing the Lok Sabha on Wednesday (February 5), Minister of State of Ministry Of External Affairs, V. Muraleedharan, said that the ministry has set up New and Emerging Strategic Technologies (NEST) Division.
The minister said that the NEST division will be leveraged to engage in technology diplomacy and deal with the foreign policy and international legal aspects of new and emerging technologies.
“The Division will function under the supervision of a Head of Division. It will enable more active participation of India in global forums in the area of technology governance and promoting our national interests in that context,” the minister said.
The confirmation comes nearly a month after the reports surfaced that the Ministry of External Affairs has set up NEST division that will reportedly act as a nodal division for issues pertaining to new and emerging technologies.
Moreover, the NEST division will help in collaboration with foreign partners in the field of 5G and artificial intelligence. It had been said that NEST’s mandate shall include, but not be limited to, evolving India’s external technology policy in coordination with domestic stakeholders and in line with India’s developmental priorities and national security goals.
Further, the newly set up division will also help in assessing foreign policy and international legal implications of new and emerging technologies and technology-based resources and recommend appropriate foreign policy choice. NEST will negotiate technology governance rules, standards and architecture, suited to India’s conditions, in multilateral and plurilateral frameworks.
The government’s readiness to adopt technology comes on the back of reports that Indians are among the world’s most optimistic about technology. According to an opinion poll by the World Economic Forum (WEF), compared to global averages, Indian respondents more often say that technology makes personal relationships, society and jobs better. They also show greater trust in climate scientists and international organisations than people in other regions.
The union budget 2020 also emphasised on the new age technologies and its capacities. Presenting the budget, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented a new vision of the tech economy with patents, data centres, quantum technologies and connectivity.
“Artificial intelligence, Internet-of-Things (IoT), 3D printing, drones, DNA data storage, quantum computing, etc., are rewriting the world economic order,” Sitharaman said. She also noted that India has embraced these new technologies by sharing economy with aggregators that are displacing conventional businesses.
During the budget 2020 speech, she added that the Indian government has harnessed the new age technologies to enable direct benefit transfers and financial inclusion on a “scale never imagined before”.
India, today, has nearly 600 Mn internet subscribers, which has fueled the technology and internet industry. This makes the country second only to China. Indians download more apps (12.3 Bn in 2018) and spend more time on social media, an average of 17 hours a week, than users in China and the United States.