In the 21st century, as India’s economy continues to evolve and develop, its digital prowess has emerged as a significant driver of growth. The Digital India initiative has emerged as a driving force behind this evolution, steering the nation towards a digital-first future. However, amid this technological boom, a vast and largely untapped resource remains in the shadows – the underwater domain.
Singapore, which is a small country with minimal natural resources, has been able to catapult itself into becoming a developed nation by investing in the development of new marine industries…
In this era of digital transformation, India stands at a crossroads, faced with the choice of sinking into obscurity or soaring to new heights by harnessing its hidden maritime potential.
India’s Blue Economy Potential
India’s maritime area encompasses the same geographical expanse as its terrestrial counterpart, however, its contribution to the nation’s GDP is a mere 4%. This disparity raises questions about the untapped potential that lies beneath India’s waters, where an estimated 80% of India’s resources hide. In addition, India’s marine wealth supports over 4 million fishermen and other coastal communities, intricately linking India’s economic growth with its Blue Economy.
To unearth this hidden potential, technology stands as the linchpin. From food to energy to tourism, every aspect of the economy can benefit from a better understanding of our underwater resources enabled by the Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) Framework. It revolves around the notion of gaining insights into the undersea environment within our maritime areas.
The Role of Technology
The UDA framework, by design, encourages digital-first pooling of resources and synergizing efforts across the stakeholders, from industry players to policy makers to fish farmers on-ground. The aim is to build efficiency in resource utilization and optimize governance mechanisms. The current fragmentation across the stakeholders within the nations and the region can also be addressed with the effective implementation of the UDA framework.
Norway, for instance, has been able to build one of the largest fishing industries in the world, and is a global leader in the development of new technologies for the blue economy by investing heavily in its marine research and development. Singapore, which is a small country with minimal natural resources, has been able to catapult itself into becoming a developed nation by investing in the development of new marine industries, such as aquaculture and marine biotechnology. From the policy framework establishment perspective, key nations including the US, UK, Canada, Australia and EU have developed dedicated national ocean policies with measurable outcomes and budgetary provisions.
Despite the immense potential of India’s underwater domain, dearth of appropriate technology is a major hurdle.
The Unseen Frontier
Spanning over 350 nautical miles, India’s maritime Exclusive Economic Zone holds a trove of living and non-living resources. This includes recoverable resources like crude oil and natural gas. Currently functioning as a vital shipping hub and the world’s second-largest fish producer, India’s maritime landscape has the capacity to harness substantial energy from marine sources like waves and tides. Moreover, the coastal economy provides sustenance for over 4 million fisher folk and coastal communities, highlighting its socio-economic significance.
Through digital transformation, India can ascend to a prominent maritime position and take the lead in digital innovation globally. The impending blue economy framework serves as the nexus through which India can harness the hitherto unexplored maritime resources.
As the digital age pervades the maritime domain, data security and visibility have also become paramount. Effective underwater domain awareness aids in safeguarding national interests and ensuring a secure data exchange infrastructure.
Despite the immense potential of India’s underwater domain, dearth of appropriate technology is a major hurdle. Addressing this requires not only technical innovation but also fostering the talent pool equipped with acoustic expertise and marine domain knowledge.
The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) is a significant advantage, as it aids in creating models and simulations of the marine environment.
Steps in the Right Direction
The blueprint for India’s maritime evolution begins with the strategic deployment of the blue economy framework. A Geographic Information System (GIS) for Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) becomes pivotal to comprehend the underwater landscape.
Simply put, MSP is the process of analyzing and allocating the human uses of the ocean. It is a holistic approach to manage the marine environment, keeping the ecological, economic, social, and cultural values of marine areas in mind. Being able to map underwater resources helps with the coordination of activities and the balancing of competing uses of the ocean in order to achieve sustainable economic development.
That being said, MSP relies on technology for the effective collection and analysis of marine environmental data. The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) is a significant advantage, as it aids in creating models and simulations of the marine environment. These models help anticipate how various human activities might affect the environment and enable testing of different MSP strategies around managing pH levels, nutrients, diseases, and harvesting times in a way that’s sustainable for the long run.
A well-structured digital roadmap must guide these efforts, leveraging cutting-edge technology and data analytics to foster holistic development. The startup ecosystem in India, as evidenced by the Startup India initiative, has the potential to play a pivotal role in driving this maritime revolution. By nurturing innovation, encouraging research and development, and fostering entrepreneurship, India can harness the immense potential of its startup ecosystem to contribute significantly to the blue economy framework.
By embracing a comprehensive UDA framework, India can propel its maritime sector…
India at a Crossroads
India’s maritime success depends on knowing what’s under its rivers and oceans. This means mapping resources using modern tech and AI, which can speed things up. Synergetic databases and indigenous capacity building further align with India’s strategic autonomy goals.
The untapped potential of the underwater domain is vast and varied, encompassing economic growth, environmental sustainability, and national security. By embracing a comprehensive UDA framework, India can propel its maritime sector into the digital age, redefining its economic landscape for generations to come.