Recently, I learned the word “languishing” through an article – a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.

Looking around, I realized a lot of us have been languishing throughout the year, together. An unpredictable virus has exposed the fragility of our “systems” and the dark clouds of anxiety and uncertainty dangle over our heads, almost all the time. Amid all of this, it is the innovations in the health-tech sector that give me hope each day! Be it the portable oxygen concentrators saving lives of critical patients, or Twitter which has been unanimously converted into 24*7 #SOS helpline where strangers are reaching out to each other for help and actually finding it. We must be thankful for many old and new technologies that have come to the fore during this pandemic; thankful to people who untiringly keep inventing these innovative health spaces.

I remember during the crisis of migrants, I was at the District Collector office on the occasion of Gudhi Padwa, contemplating ways to handle the lockdown and exodus of migrants returning to their native places. An idea struck me – to create a basic responsive app to track the movement of migrants and plan better for their secure and comfortable travel. Within the next few hours, the team got working on it, built the app in 48 hours, and tracked almost 1,00,000 migrants in the period of two months. This simple yet crucial experiment led to two insights- innovation doesn’t necessarily mean rocket science, a smart and simple application developed at the right time has the capacity to save thousands of lives. Secondly, we could do it because many technologists worked hard to build millions of APIs and were kind enough to release those for free to serve humankind.

Fareed Zakaria, one of the most renowned thinkers in the world, rightly says in his latest book, “Pandemic made us realize that life is digital!”. He also applauds India for the same. Right from procuring essentials, components of the gig economy to learning – everything we did in the last 18 months, and are still doing is digital! With a mini-computer (mobile) worth Rs. 5,000 in our hands, we get access to the entire world- what a liberating feeling! The impact of digitization is huge, people have started to relate the words digital and technology as synonyms to each other.

This is also the time to salute visionaries like the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, IT wizard Sam Pitroda, electronics vizard Prabhakar Deodhar; they envisioned the digital revolution decades ago and paved the founding blocks for the same. As a Minister of State for Maharashtra, I feel privileged when I review projects like Bharatnet which actually connects every nook and corner of the state and country to the internet, and hence provides the citizens an infrastructure to explore all the benefits of the digital world. Today we are digitally well placed because Moore’s law is being followed by complex technologies, smaller ICs, and convergence of electronics, mechanical, and computer technologies.

Technology goes beyond the realms of digital. When the first wave of COVID-19 had struck, I had a meeting with the industrialists of our district MIDC. Many of them had the capacity to convert their production line of assembling automobile parts to assemble ventilators. Admirably, many of them achieved that in a span of a fortnight. Our Manchester of South: Ichalkaranji, toiled to redesign their processes and stitched PPE kits in record time. A small start-up manufactured large quantities of cardboard beds – durable just like wooden beds. Technology was a common link in all these success stories.

It is exciting to keep pace with the speed of technology. The impact that it has on all of us can be deciphered from all angles – social, political, economic, and psychological. As I had mentioned earlier, technology has pierced through these dark and gloomy clouds. It has given us hope. As a tech enthusiast and policymaker, I see many positive innovations happening every single day. But I would save that for another article. Today on National Technology Day, I bow down to all the brains & hearts behind these innovations. They may not be the front line warriors in this battle but they are definitely providing the right weapons and arsenal to our frontline warriors and making our battle a little easier with each passing day.

Satej D. Patil,
Minister of State, IT, Maharashtra

May 10, 2021

How Technology Is Boosting India’s Fight Against COVID-19 Pandemic

Recently, I learned the word “languishing” through an article – a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking…
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