As India is planning to begin one of the largest vaccine projects, RIL Chief Mukesh Ambani said today that his organization is working with the authorities to provide technology resources and the backbone for mass inoculation against COVID-19.
NEW DELHI: As India prepares to begin one of the largest vaccine projects, billionaire Mukesh Ambani said on Tuesday that his company is collaborating with the authorities to provide technology resources and the backbone for mass inoculation against COVID-19.
Ambani’s telecommunications company Jio rolled out four years ago, promising free phone calls and dirt-cheap info. Today, Jio is India’s largest telecommunications provider with over 400 million subscribers, each connecting to the Internet.
At a Facebook gathering, Ambani said the government’s digital drive has kept the country going even through the pandemic and is now helping to start one of the biggest vaccine initiatives.
Strong digital and internet connectivity encouraged people to operate from home and enabled businesses to run smoothly.
“Sometimes I wonder that if the pandemic had struck India just four or five years earlier, we would not have been in as good a shape as what we are today, with all the connectivity we have,” he said.
Ambani, head of the oil-to-retail-to-telecom conglomerate, Reliance Industries Ltd, said the credit for this would go to the Prime Minister’s Digital India vision, which inspired the entire industry to carry out broadband in the first five years of its term.
This digital drive helped move cash to 20 crore needy bank accounts during the pandemic, he said. “And now we are ready and pretty much at par with the world, to roll out one of the largest vaccine programmes in the first half of 2021.”
Technology has since contributed to the delivery of health care.
“We are working very closely with all the authorities to make sure that we provide the technology tools and backbone for even vaccination in the coming quarters using technology,” he said.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also talked about the use of mass inoculation mobile technology against COVID-19.
Soon after coming to power in 2014, the Modi government unveiled Jan Dhan or no-frills bank accounts for the needy, scaled up the Aadhaar Biometric Identification Scheme and seeded them with cell phones.
This allowed the government to move subsidies and other incentives directly to the accounts of the specified beneficiaries without any pilgrimage or leakage.
This popular trinity can be repeated to guarantee that the vaccine meets the most deserving people.
Three leading developers of coronavirus vaccines – Pfizer Inc and AstraZeneca Plc and Bharat Biotech – applied for emergency use authorisation in India.
Though Pfizer India has applied to the drug regulator for approval to import its experimental mRNA vaccine for sale and delivery without the need for local clinical trials, Serum Institute of India, AstraZeneca’s India vaccine partner, has applied for an emergency use authorisation using evidence from Phase III trials performed globally, as well as in Brazil and the United Kingdom.
Bharat Biotech, based in Hyderabad, has sought a nod for Covaxin, which is being produced indigenously in partnership with the Indian Medical Research Council (ICMR).
Applications mean that a mass vaccination campaign will soon be ongoing in a country with the world’s second-largest coronavirus caseload.
Referring to COVID-19, Ambani said that it is not in India’s DNA to be deterred by the crisis, and that the nation not only faced the pandemic with tremendous resilience and determination, but also turned it into an opportunity for new development.
While the government gave the needy free ration and currency, the corporates did their bit. Reliance established a hospital devoted to COVID-19, began research at its Life Sciences division, and developed PPEs. And Jio’s telecommunications networks and other infrastructure providers have kept the country and industries running.
“We had never imagined that we would all work from home and the network traffic grew multiple percentage and none of us stepped out. But we at Jio) could maintain 99 percent availability, so that Indians could work from home, shop from home, study from home, and remain connected to the rest of the world,” he said.
He said that technology, with all the digitization measures that India has taken, will democratise resources and build equity for individuals and small businesses.
“To my mind, more wealth creation means more employment and more business,” he said, adding an alliance between JioMart-Reliance Group’s online distribution network and Facebook’s WhatsApp links local kirana stores to customers.
“And together with our platforms and the tools that we will provide to small businesses and to individual consumers, I believe will drive India to a USD 5 trillion economy and will make a much more equal India, with more equal wealth growth at the bottom of the pyramid,” he said.
“I firmly believe that in the next two decades, India will grow to be among the top three economies in the world. But more importantly, it will become a premier digital society.”
This will also be supported by the introduction of high-speed 5G telecommunications networks as well as by the government linking every village in the country with high-speed internet connectivity.