Spotlight on Computing in India

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December 9, 2020
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We’re excited to kick off the “Spotlight on” series of ACM Selects, which aims to highlight great advances in computing from around the world. 


This Spotlight on Computing in India Select is a starting point to showcase stories that provide insight into the evolution of computing in India and the rapid pace of digitization that has led to the creation of a thriving software industry and a booming digital economy in the past decade.


We always want to improve our selection and curation process by including topics not covered in this shortlist. To that end, please send your feedback and suggestions to selects-feedback@acm.org! We look forward to your guidance on how we can continue to improve ACM Selects together.‍ 


Read more about the ACM's ongoing efforts to provide resources for students and professionals through the ACM Learning Center.

ACM Selects Exclusive: ABC for Professional Relevance in The Digital World by Tan Moorthy

First published with this edition of ACM Selects, December 9, 2020.

To kick off this Spotlight on Computing in India ACM Select, we invited Tan Moorthy, a senior executive at Infosys — a major IT services and consulting firm based in India — to share his journey in computing and his advice for computing and IT professionals. In this article, Tan Moorthy discusses learnings from India’s digital transformation and shares his thoughts on how IT professionals can stay relevant in the evolving IT industry.

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IT/Software Industry & Startups

The Growth and Evolution of India’s Software Industry

First published in Communications of the ACM, Vol. 62, No. 11, October 2019.

Over the last few decades, the Indian software industry has undergone a massive transformation from being considered a cost-effective software-development destination to an innovation-driven R&D sector. The Indian software industry now builds some of the most complex IT systems and is home to many products that are used globally. This article helps connect the dots and provides a historical perspective on its growth and evolution.

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The Rise of the Indian Start-Up Ecosystem

First published in Communications of the ACM, Vol. 62, No. 11, October 2019.

Over the last 5 years, India has produced over 61 unicorn tech startups — each valued more than US$ 1 billion. What led to this startup “boom” in India? This article introduces the trends that led to the creation of the Indian startup ecosystem and highlights Indian startups that are developing cutting-edge technologies and products with unique business models, for the Indian demographic as well as western markets.

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Digitization

Bringing the Internet to the (Developing) World

First published in Communications of the ACM, Vol. 61, No. 7, July 2018.

Internet access is widespread throughout the developed world. However, for developing regions like India, it was a luxury — until some years ago. This CACM article highlights efforts and challenges in bringing Internet infrastructure to unconnected areas in India and other developing nations.

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India Stack — Digital Infrastructure as Public Good

First published in Communications of the ACM, Vol. 62, No. 11, October 2019.

Critical to India’s transformation into a digital world are the digital infrastructure backbones that are in use by most Indians today. This article examines the motivation and the design behind the identity and payments frameworks: Aadhar and the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).

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Examining the use and non-use of mobile payment systems for merchant payments in India

First published in COMPASS '19: Proceedings of the 2nd ACM SIGCAS Conference on Computing and Sustainable Societies, July 2019.

Penetration and usage of mobile networks have surged in the developing world. With access to cheap internet and smartphones, it appears easy for Indians to adopt digital solutions to traditional processes like cash transactions. But is it really?

“There are so many mobile money services. If I use one of them, some customers will expect me to use another services as well.” 

“I was dating a girl without the knowledge of my parents. They looked at Paytm’s history and figured that I have a girlfriend since I was regularly buying tickets for two people.” 

India faces interesting, and sometimes amusing, challenges to broad adoption of digital payments. Find out more in this paper published by ACM COMPASS.

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Academic Research

Indic Language Computing

First published in Communications of the ACM, Vol. 62, No. 11, October 2019.

India has 22 official languages written in 13 different scripts with over 720 dialects. Only 10% of the population speaks English, and often the social media interaction is code-mixed, with Romanized text for multiple languages. Scarcity of annotated data in Indian languages, along with absence of basic speech and NLP tools, makes language computing quite difficult. In this article, Pushpak Bhattacharyya, a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at IIT Bombay, highlights these challenges in detail, describing the progress in machine translation and ideas to move the needle in speech recognition and speech synthesis.

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SHAKTI: An Open-Source Processor Ecosystem

First published in Advanced Computing and Communications, Vol. 2, Issue 03.

The processor market is dominated by big players such as Intel, ARM, and AMD. Their processor cores come with very restrictive licenses around modifying instruction sets and benchmarking. The Shakti processor ecosystem aims to create an ecosystem of open-source processors, along with required tooling for design and verification, to enable processors to be customized, upgraded and re-designed in a collaborative manner for modern computing workloads.

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Opportunities and Challenges for Artificial Intelligence in India

First published in AIES '18: Proceedings of the 2018 AAAI/ACM Conference on AI, Ethics, and Society, December 2018.

Shivaram Kalyanakrishnan, an Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at IIT Bombay, highlights the opportunities and risks of an AI-centric approach in India. While opportunities exist in language computing tasks for Indic languages, digitization and analysis of public records, and digitizing health records to aid in medical diagnosis, there are associated risks of displacing workers from their jobs and reinforcing social discrimination biases inherently present in collected data.

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Revolutionizing Governance with Technology

Open Government Data Policy and Indian Ecosystems

First published in Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (ICEGOV '17), March 2017.

The Government of India passed the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy to make governance at the central, state, and local levels transparent and foster coordination by proactively releasing datasets to the public. This article delineates the principles underlying the Open Government Data (OGD) platform established under this policy, and describes the OGD’s implementation from both organizational and technical perspectives. Finally, this article analyzes the types of datasets released on the OGD and its observed benefits.

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Mobile Seva - Enabling mGovernance in India

First published in Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA '16), May 2016.

With over 1.15 billion mobile phone subscribers in India, mobiles are increasingly becoming a gateway to consumer services. This article studies how government services at all levels, such as paying taxes and disseminating agricultural information, are making use of mobile governance (“mGovernance”) and the “Mobile Seva” framework built to deliver different levels of capabilities via SMS, voice, applications, and other mobile channels.

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Furthering Technology Education

What Makes NPTEL India’s EdTech Hero

First published in Factor Daily, Jul 2017.

The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) is an online educational platform launched by the top Indian universities in science and technology, and has quietly become the most accessed library of peer-reviewed educational content in the world: its YouTube channel alone has over 385 million views as of December 2020. This article describes how the NPTEL, through MOOCs, certificate programs, discussion forums, and local chapters, has benefited millions throughout India and generated thousands of new applications and startups.

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CSpathshala: Bringing Computational Thinking to Schools

First published in Communications of the ACM, Vol. 62, No. 11, October 2019.

This article presents an overview of CSpathshala, an ambitious program intended to teach computing as a science to every child in India by 2030. The program faces many challenges due to India’s scale, such as having to deal with 29 different state boards, or account for rural schools without digital tools to impart computational thinking without actual computers, and this article describes the grassroots efforts that have come together to generate creative teaching techniques and new educational content — provided to schools for free — to overcome them.

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