India is in the midst of a transformation. Spurred on by the economic liberalisation in the 1990s, the country has gradually moved ahead on a path of industrial and technological modernisation and a further integration into the global markets. The rise of the middle class has challenged existing traditions and values. Urban areas have become the hub of employment and witnessed social progression, triggering an ever-growing migration towards cities. The thrust for modernisation as well as burgeoning household consumption, over the years, have pushed up the demand for electricity, whose production has mostly been based on fossil fuels, creating social and environmental problems. Consequently, today, the numbers of young Indians that want a future based on new technologies and ideas is steadily on the rise. Furthermore, digitalisation is disrupting old business models and traditions, and new ways of living are emerging.
Presently, the core question is: how can India’s economic development be charted in a way that it becomes a socially-balanced, sustainable and resilient economy. Digitalisation assumes particular importance in this regard, especially in overcoming economic, ecological and social conflicts. Not only can technological improvements offer newer solutions to diverse challenges, but a growing, worldwide demand for IT skills and innovation can create new jobs for India and generate opportunities for the vast unskilled labour force in the country.
The FES is organising dialogues and expert meetings to promote the transformative discourse of a rising India which tackles various aspects of modernisation, such as energy transformation, urbanisation and digitalisation. There are three key questions to be addressed:
1. What would an economic development model that serves as a compass for overcoming economic, ecological and social crises in a digital world look like?
2. Which discourses could help to level the political playing field for progressive policies?
3. On which platform could reform-oriented actors join forces to form a broad rainbow coalition for the political struggles over the new development path?