Prime Minister Narendra Modi has touted the role of start-ups in India’s economy – and highlighted their value as a tool for improving public health.
“Today, India is aspiring to become a $5 trillion economy,” the Prime Minister said whilst speaking at the 56th convocation of the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) in Chennai. “Your innovation, aspiration and application of technology will fuel this dream. It has become the bedrock of India’s big leap into the most competitive economy.”
Modi touted the start-up economy at IIT-M, noting “about 200 startups have been incubated here.” He drew attention to the plethora of applications start-ups can have and the societal issues they could potentially help to answer, including in health. “Many of the diseases that affect large sections of the population will not be the traditional contagious diseases,” he said. “It will be lifestyle [diseases] such as hypertension, type II diabetes, obesity, stress.
“With the field of data science maturing and with the presence of data around the disease, technology can find a way to find patterns. When technology comes together with diagnostics, data science and behavioural science, interesting insight can emerge.”
Modi has even suggested the potential value of start-ups in the government’s flagship health insurance scheme Ayushman Bharat in recent days. “We urge all startups in the health care sectors to come forward and be a part of this scheme,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s remarks are far from unfounded. Recent years have seen innovations ranging from telemedicine to expand access to healthcare to the application of artificial intelligence in diagnostics and treatments to numerous digital-health applications tackling a plethora of diseases. The Centre is keen to capitalise upon the growing trend of digital health, with Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan unveiling a blueprint for the same earlier this year.
Capitalising upon the potential of start-ups seems to be the Centre’s way forward. “Machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, state-of-the-art technology are all being introduced to students much earlier,” says Modi. “Once a student comes to an institution and wants to work on innovation, there are Atal Incubation Centres being created in many institutions. The next challenge is to find a market to develop a startup. The Startup India programme is designed to help you meet these challenges. This programme will support innovations to find their way to the markets.”