Reflecting on the potential for future

Reflecting on the potential for future

Last year was anticipated to be a year of positive change and development. Delivering on the expectations, more or less, 2023 was an eventful year, where history was made and new stones turned. While the backdrop of economic and geo-political uncertainty continued, many countries, including India, pushed boundaries to make a mark for themselves. This article will delve into some of the top happenings that made global headlines and their impact on the years to come.

India becomes the most populous country: Demographic dividend in India’s favor

2023 was the year when India surpassed China as the world’s most populous country. Encompassing 20% of the global population, India is on top of the world, in a people sense. What’s peculiar about India’s population status is the fact that the demographic dividend is likely to work in the country’s favor. With 250 million+ youth, the country is ripe with an army of sorts of consumers, workers and innovators. The median age of Indian citizens, slightly over 28 years, gives the country an unbeatable competitive advantage as having the world’s highest population. This high-density working-age cohort in the country will not only contribute to India’s growth by accelerating production levels but will also contribute to an increase in domestic consumption, facilitating a delicate balance to fuel economic growth.

A largely youth population can also be seen as a source of untapped potential for innovation and new thinking. In fact, 2023 marked India’s startup number to be at 1 Lac+, an exponential growth from a few hundred (~340) in 2016. This signals that having a large youth population will play out in the country’s favor, facilitating innovation and problem solving with lasting impact. Its youth quotient is the key to driving substantial economic growth. Education, empowerment, awareness and policies can create an intricate network to help the nation capitalize its youth potential.

All eyes on AI: Generative AI takes lead, countries bring in regulations

While technological advances have been making waves for years, 2023 undoubtedly became the year of AI. Obviously, generative AI became the talk of the town and ChatGPT touched 100 million active users in the first month of the year itself. The pace at which generative AI is growing and touching new milestones is phenomenal. While for a long time, AI was seen as a means to automate operational work, generative AI brought the possibility of automation of the knowledge economy. Gen AI’s ability to predict patterns in natural language and use it dynamically, is likely to enable it to automate several functions or parts of jobs for knowledge workers, which was seen as quite a distant dream, until a year ago.

2023 saw a proliferation of new generative AI applications for specific use cases, signaling the rapid adoption. While the potential is unmatched, by the end of the year, it became clear that organizations need gen AI-literate employees to actually capitalize on the benefits being presented. Undoubtedly, risks of biasedness, inaccuracy, intellectual copyright infringement, security, etc. also accompanied generative AI.

Contemplating about the future, one thing is very clear, generative AI will be one of the forces transforming the future of work, beyond what had been predicted a few years back. While the fear of massive job losses is exaggerated, the need for upskilling is on the cards. Knowledge workers must equip themselves to work with generative AI, rather than compete against it. The future holds unveiling solutions to address biased information production by training on new datasets, suppressing misinformation and identifying solutions to the risks which are paralyzing the unparalleled impact of gen AI.

As AI adoption saw exponential growth, concerns about privacy and risks came to the forefront, with a push for better governance, regulatory mechanisms and compliances in place. Taking the lead, a few countries traversed key AI and privacy policy milestones, including:

  • Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence by President Biden (USA): Focused on addressing broad issues related to privacy, misinformation and discrimination.
  • The E.U. AI Act: Aimed at regulating and mitigating the risks associated with the use of AI.
  • U.K. AI Safety Summit: Convening officials from 28 countries, who jointly signed a declaration, emphasizing the risks posed by powerful AI, importance of creating safe and secure AI systems and the need for international cooperation to mitigate those risks.

While not directly linked to AI, but definitely related, the Indian government also touched a landmark with the passing of India’s Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023. This Act has established a higher level of accountability and responsibility for entities operating within India, which are involved in the collection, storage, and processing of citizens’ data.

Collectively, these policy landmarks reflect on the increasing awareness and consciousness among citizens, governments and the countries, collectively calling for action for better AI regulation and governance. This trend is likely to become more strengthened in 2024 and beyond, with more policy frameworks coming in place for the same.

Moon’s South Pole no longer uncharted: India makes history

One of the biggest wins in 2023, which put India on the global map was the successful landing of Chandrayaan 3 on moon’s south pole, becoming the first ever country to achieve this feat. Chandrayaan 3 mission also opened new avenues for India’s economic growth and geo-political influence.

  • The mission was achieved at a fraction of the global cost, consuming significantly lesser fuel, signaling India’s potential to unlock space expeditions in a frugal and sustainable manner. Undoubtedly, this created a benchmark for global forces aiming to traverse space missions.
  • Chandrayaan 3 became the fuel re-igniting the space startup ecosystem in India. Adding to the unparalleled contribution of the space scientists and engineers, many startups also contributed to the success of the mission. Currently, there are over 140 space startups in the country, and the success of this mission is likely to contribute to an increase not only in the number of startups, but also the funding and support they receive from public and private sources.
  • Furthermore, the mission’s success is a gateway to greater budget allocation and focus on space tech, infrastructure and education. At the same time, it is likely to open up new opportunities in space R&D, in a bid to further accentuate India’s technology prowess.

Overall, the ability to interweave innovation with resourcefulness, leading to unparalleled success has put India on the global map as a force to reckon with. This is likely to be translated to a greater geo-political influence for the country, greater opportunities for global partnerships, etc. With the success of Chandrayaan 3, India’s space market is estimated to reach USD 13 billion by 2025, capturing 10% of the global economy.

Climate becomes talk of the town: COP28 makes news 

2023 also became a year when conversations on climate change were more real than ever. While discussions have been underway, agreements and commitments made during global summits and conferences gained momentum.

For instance, at G20, a consensus on the need to shift to clean energy was echoed. G20 countries endorsed a commitment to tripling global renewable energy capacity and recognized the imperative to peak emissions before 2025, requiring a 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

And, the biggest climate change conference of the year, COP28, further paved the way for climate action. In a landmark move, the “loss and damage” fund was established, which received $700 million+ from governments to support the most vulnerable countries in the face of climate-related disasters. In another first, 134 countries (contributing to 76% of the emissions produced by the global food system) signed a declaration pledging to tackle the climate impacts of the food industry. The global north, with 22 countries, also signed a declaration to triple its nuclear power generation capacity between 2020 and 2050 to reduce dependence on oil, gas and coal. Focus on the need to move away from fossil fuels (contributing to 80% of global warming), commitments on air-conditioning, recognition of clean hydrogen certificates was also secured. What has been monumental is that for the first time, 200 countries adopted the final ‘Global Stocktake’ text, emphasizing the need to “transition away” from fossil fuels as a key driver to combat climate change.

Overall, the key highlights from across global platforms signaled the need to facilitate climate science and data, which are being seen as pivotal for informed climate policies and to progress towards a resilient green economy. The years to come are likely to see an exponential growth in data capitalization for sustainable decision making, especially for the most vulnerable, leading to climate impact.

G20 sees growing global south influence

Another major feat for India in 2023 was hosting the G20 summit, which was hailed as a ‘Diplomatic Win’ for the nation. While it laid the foundation for future cooperation and set the stage for multilateral reforms, a subtle undertone of the growing global south influence was remarkable. It started with embracing the African Union as a part of the G20. Kept at bay for the longest time, India’s G20 presidency unfurled a passage for greater inclusion of global south voices.

At the same time, proposed reforms of multilateral development banks (MDBs) like the World Bank and the IMF, also signaled greater support for the global south. Essentially, the reforms aim to augment the opportunities for developing countries to access loans from MDBs, as an alternative form of financing. At the intersection of development and climate action, these loans can help the global south transition from fossil fuels, while also meeting other urgent needs.

Undoubtedly, several other topics were discussed, including the Ukraine conflict, the modern spice route, climate action, etc. However, the G20 summit set the stage for embracing the global south into the geo-political and economic mainstream, giving the developing countries a voice and support to take a stand. Invariably, this will ignite greater representation and participation of developing nations across global platforms, paving way for disrupting the conventional power blocks for a more inclusive world order.

Overall, 2023 has been a year of opportunities and firsts. It is important to not only view the year when many monumental landmarks were achieved, but also a year when new opportunities were uncovered. Each event mentioned above paves way for greater exploration and impact in the respective areas. It is now to see how we respond to the presented opportunities in 2024, capitalizing on the potential unlocked in the last year.

Prateek Tokas
Prateek Tokas
Editor

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this feature article are of the author. This is not meant to be an advisory to purchase or invest in products, services or solutions of a particular type or, those promoted and sold by a particular company, their legal subsidiary in India or their channel partners. No warranty or any other liability is either expressed or implied.
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