“The community is not just another stakeholder in business but is, in fact, the very purpose of its existence.”  – Jamsetji Tata

In the late 19th century, the founder of the Tata Group, Jamsetji Tata drew attention to this profound truth: the ties that bind enterprises, community, commerce, and government are essential for fair and prosperous societies. Our group has been operating for 150 years since 1868, and these words have been at the heart of our values and actions.

The words are very relevant today. We are in a new age economy being driven by digital platforms. We are also facing challenges of providing our citizens access to modernized and efficient public services in healthcare, utilities and infrastructure. Most of these issues, need to be tackled through strong and scalable public-private partnership models enabled by technology platforms for lower cost and higher impact.

Europe has always been a strong anchor in the global economy and at the forefront of public-private partnerships. Despite dealing with a rapid cycle of crises over the past decade, Europe continues to make steadfast progress. Growth rates beat expectations last year, marking a transition from economic recovery to economic expansion. Most forecasts indicate robust GDP growth at over 2%, inflation under control at 1.5%, and receding unemployment at 7.1%, a level last seen prior to the 2008 economic crisis. Enterprise birth rates have also been rising, demonstrating a new vibrancy in startups, business, and job creation across the region.

Europe is an important region for us. We have been strengthening investments in the region, and our presence now comprises 19 companies and 60,000 employees across Europe, ranging from steel and automobiles to IT services and hotels. We serve as the partner to more than 400 of Europe’s leading companies, helping them evolve and succeed in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution through digital transformation.

Europe continues to make steadfast progress.

In this context, the strategic partnership we have with the European Business Summit (EBS) is an important platform for fostering public-private dialogue. We believe that an important part of economic leadership will lie in creating public-private partnerships fit for the new age economy.

Let me offer some examples of such partnerships. These are initiatives we are supporting in India, to make a difference in the community by using technology to achieve scale, quality and efficiency at a cost that is not prohibitive any longer.

The first example is of Digital Nerve Centre (DiNC), a platform that streamlines and demystifies access to healthcare. With only 0.7 doctors per 1,000 –against a WHO norm of 1 per 1,000 and an OECD average of 2.1 per 1,000 – India will need over 2 million new doctors by 2030, as against just over 1 million doctors registered as of today. Technologically enabled healthcare service management platform is critical for making effective use of the healthcare professionals.

To achieve this, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), with the support of the Ministry of Health and four major hospitals, has undertaken a pilot project to redesign how patients interact with the hospital system. By shifting a series of administrative and coordination tasks from doctors, to a dedicated patient assistance system, the DiNC has produced significant improvements on a range of metrics including number of patients seen, time spent in hospitals by patients and the stress levels of doctors and nurses.

Additionally the DiNC platform has now been integrated with Primary and Secondary care initiatives of three State Governments to reach out to remote areas. We believe that this linkage of the tertiary-care level DiNC with facilitation system at the primary care level has the potential to create a comprehensive digital healthcare ecosystem.

The DiNC aims to improve access to healthcare with the use of ‘virtual consultation technology’. By linking local centers to this regional hub via video facilities, access to specialist care is spread widely at lower cost. This could mean, for example, world-class oncologists examining a patient remotely, assessing their tests results, monitoring of vitals and advising local doctors of the next steps for treatment and care.

As next steps, smartphones can be used to keep tabs on anything from heart rate to blood glucose levels, while smart implants can monitor a patient’s vital signs in real-time. This remote data streaming can allow a doctor to treat many more patients as they only need to physically see them if a problem is detected. Meanwhile, the latest artificial intelligence applications can even advise patients whether they need to see a real doctor at all. This has the potential to significantly ease pressure on healthcare providers while delivering patients the information they need.

Another example is the Passport Seva Project, designed to meet a growing demand for passport services. Using a public-private partnership model, the project sought to address an out of date, inconvenient and cumbersome passport application process, beset with delays arising from limited infrastructure and obsolete system. In the new process, while the sovereign and fiduciary function of granting and issuing passports remains with the Ministry of External Affairs, TCS is responsible for technology implementation and operations. Citizens are now being served by a scalable technology platform, supported by a network of 320+ passport facilitation centers across 150+ cities and call centers in 17 languages.  The digitization initiative has resulted in the drastic reduction in the average issuance time for Normal Passports from erstwhile 60 days to now 7 days (excluding time for Police Verification) with more than 130,000 citizens being serviced every day through the Passport Seva touch points.

These examples offer glimpses into how digital delivery platforms through a public-private partnership can be effectively used to deliver cost-effective solutions even in developing economies. Europe faces challenges of developed economies of improving human capital in the new digital economy, reinvigorating infrastructure and investment, and making the interaction between citizens and governments smoother.  I believe that digital platforms will play a significant role in these initiatives.

A 21st-century blueprint for inclusive growth requires a shift in mindset. As the Sustainable Development Goals recognize, it also requires partnership. These priorities cannot be left to the public sector alone, nor are they the sole preserve of the private sector. As we deliberate how to build the future of Europe at the EBS this year, we should look at collaborative models to drive growth.

N. Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons

This article was originally published in How can Europe lead in a changing world? a report published at the European Business Summit 2018. Click here to view the full report.