Brainstorming sessions were organized on three challenges identified in the Technology Vision 2035 document of the Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC). Chairing the sessions on Eliminating Female and Child Anaemia, Futuristic Assistive Technologies for eliminating Disability Barrier and on Real-time Translation Among Indian Languages–(ReTrAIL) for Eliminating Linguistic Barrier Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan suggested that scientific fraternity should take lessons from a common man’s idea bank in pursuing innovation.
The sessions were organized by TIFAC, the author of the Technology Vision 2035 document, as it celebrated its 29th Foundation Day. Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Chief Guest at the event, also inaugurated product stalls showcasing Futuristic Assistive Technologies. He said that as a technology think-tank, besides giving technology foresight and scientific reports, TIFAC should also be thinking about the basic problems of the countrymen and their innovative solutions as well.
Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Chairman TIFAC said that Technology Vision 2035 is not the culmination of an exercise, but it will be a beginning to develop and diffuse technologies that can fulfill the aspirations and expectations of our people. Secretary, DST, Dr. Ashutosh Sharma reflected on the significance of TIFAC’s people-centric report and emphasized on the need of using technology to the societal benefit.
Dr. Prabhat Ranjan, Executive Director, TIFAC presented them an overview of TIFAC activities and highlighted the importance of technology foresight and the role it plays not only in S&T landscape.
Brainstorming sessions began with the important topic of ‘Guaranteeing Nutritional Security and Eliminating Female and Child Anaemia’, which is one of the 10 Grand Challenges identified in the Technology Vision 2035 document. By virtue of its complexity, Grand Challenge cannot be met by a single agency, organization of a group of individuals. Multiple stakeholders need to join hands with focused target and clear deliverables to take the challenges head on and this requires a detailed action plan. Towards this, a panel discussion on ‘Elimination of Anaemia in women and children’ was organized jointly with ICMR to assess the severity of the problem. The session, inter alia, discussed –
- Strategies required to popularize movement for elimination of anaemia – Use of ICT, social media etc.
- Development of rapid diagnostics for hemoglobin estimation which is economical, accurate and easy to operate at the household level.
- How traditional knowledge can be harnessed in the elimination of anaemia.
It was felt that a discussion on this topic must be at a larger forum, involving respective ministries, industry and medical fraternity. The session ended with a commitment to bring out an action plan within a year and forwarding it to the government for implementation. TIFAC, ICMR and other stakeholders decided to join hands to carry forward this initiative.
The session on “Futuristic Assistive Technology: Eliminating Disability Barrier” not only included presentations by eminent experts in Assistive Technology (AT) but also a thought provoking panel discussion that brought out some very important insights. On the occasion, nearly 20 products were showcased in an exhibition which gave a glimpse of the state- of-art of Assistive Technologies in the country. The idea behind the session was to create a platform to emphasize the role of technology for People with Disabilities (PwDs) and apprise the various stakeholders of the upcoming and futuristic Assistive Technologies and also strengthen the networks to maximize the benefits for PwDs.
The product showcasing was inaugurated by Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the Minister of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences. His keen interest in the state of art technologies kick started the session on an enthusiastic note. The presentations by experts gave a glimpse of technological advancements in the field of different disabilities and latest upcoming technologies in the area. The experts, during the panel discussion, lauded TIFAC’s effort in making the information on AT accessible, through the portal on aids & assistive devices (swavlamban.info), developed by it jointly with Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities. The panelists were of the view that all the stakeholders should own the portal to make it effective and useful.
The third technical session is on Real-time Translation Among India Languages (ReTrAIL), a technology that can possibly disrupt education and impact transactions limited by linguistic barriers. It would not only bring people closer to each other, but also government and people closer to each other.
Secretary, Department of Official Languages Shri Girish Shankar congratulated TIFAC on its initiative.
The challenge in ReTrAIL is not just the multiplicity of languages in India, but complexity induced by the variations in speech that vary from person to person, context to context etc. Even now realtime translation services are being offered in a few foreign languages, but they are far from level that can instill confidence among users. It basically involves developing technologies for automated speech recognition, machine translation and speech synthesis- all to be accomplished maintaining the VOIP standards.
Experts from leading academic institutions, industries and government came together to share the state-of-art and also the challenges. The brainstorming, as acknowledged by experts, has rejuvenated the efforts that were being made in this area by different groups in the country. The pointers from the session can be used, with more such insights, by TIFAC to eventually come out with a strategy to deliver the technology. Towards this, TIFAC proposed to carry forward the initiative and keep up the momentum to first evolve a roadmap for ReTrAIL, by involving the stakeholders.