India is blessed with rare advantages: a youth population (aged 10-25) that is the size of the third-largest country in the world, along with the fastest-growing, trillion-dollar plus, economy in the world and growing by almost US$150 billion every year. By contrast, most developed economies have aging populations and are experiencing sluggish economic growth.
With over 150 million people entering the nation's workforce by 2035, India must focus on managing this demographic transition effectively if it hopes to build on its unique advantages. Other countries that have done so (such as the US and China) have outperformed their peers in the long run in terms of economic growth. And although India's strong growth may make navigation of this transition seem simple, it isn't. Why? Almost two-thirds of young Indians live in geographically dispersed, low-income rural locations, where people have few marketable skills and inadequate access to healthcare and sanitation.
Given the seriousness of the situation, the Indian government has rightly recognized the need to foster inclusive economic growth. If large portions of the population are unable to participate in the economy, risks including joblessness, crime, drug abuse and mental illness could worsen. Managed successfully, India's demographic transition could add an average 2 percentage points every year to the nation's per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) over the next few decades.
But to succeed on this front, India must ensure that as many citizens as possible have employable skills, are healthy and actively participate in the nation's mainstream economy as income earners and consumers. Three sectors—education, healthcare and agriculture—will prove especially critical to this effort. Recognizing these sectors' importance, the Government of India allocated over US$20 billion in 2015-2016 alone under planned and un-planned budget expenditure. Some aim to improve quality and accessibility of education and healthcare, given that developing the right skills and being healthy are crucial to getting—and keeping—a job. Others are focused on boosting productivity of agriculture and making jobs in this sector more financially rewarding.
But despite considerable investment (public and private) in such programs, meeting development targets in these three sectors has been difficult. Most projects still fail to deliver the hoped-for impact, because the challenges they intend to overcome prove more daunting than expected. Our research reveals that three critical shortfalls in project design and deployment are preventing projects from delivering as promised; we call these the "Triple S":
Scale: projects do not reach most of the intended beneficiaries
Speed: projects do not reach beneficiaries in a timely manner
Sustainability: projects do not continue to provide beneficiaries what was promised
To overcome the Triple S shortfalls, projects must excel on three interrelated performance attributes: awareness, accessibility and affordability. Greater project awareness combined with improved accessibility can help overcome the scale shortfall. Similarly, accessibility coupled with affordability can greatly improve the chances that a project will remain economically viable over a sustained period.
When it comes to success, only programs that can deliver maximum impact at minimum cost (including funding and time) will survive the test of India's vast population and the daunting nature of its demographic transition. Digital technologies can help program leaders improve performance attributes of awareness, accessibility and affordability so vital to the success of these initiatives.
Indeed, Accenture research reveals that digital technologies can radically improve performance of development-related programs, leading to faster delivery of greater value to more beneficiaries. But to make the most of their investments in digital technologies, leaders in government and business must align their goals to India's priority of socioeconomic inclusion. Drawing on the experiences of organizations that have successfully leveraged digital, Accenture has defined a three-step process for using digitalization to support inclusive growth in the three sectors:
1. Determine strategic focus to align with India's growth priorities
2. Build digital capabilities across the value chain to improve project awareness and accessibility
3. Nurture an inclusive culture characterized by compassion
By mastering this three-step process, program leaders can build scale, more speedily generate results and ensure that the benefits of the programs they are managing endure in the long run.