Daniel Bell, a noted professor emeritus of sociology, in his collection, ‘The Winding Passage: Essays and Sociological Journeys’, 1960-1980, described technology in the following words, “Technology, like art, is a soaring exercise of the human imagination. Techne, too, is a form of art that bridges culture and social structure, and in the process reshapes both”. A look at the evolution of technology since the dawn of human civilization and the consequent transformation of human lives and behaviour substantiate his words.
Human civilizations over the ages have gained a lot from technological innovations and inventions used to perform the tasks at hand. Any thriving and evolving civilization has witnessed necessary technological innovation and the technology invented has in turn been influenced by the aspirations and ideals of the population, so much so that they are inextricable from one another and move around in a cycle. Many crucial technological innovations have changed the behaviour and operation of societies, thereby bringing about a change in their social, political, and economic environment, and ushering in the demand for greater technology. As the well-known proverb goes, “necessity is the mother of invention”, the primary driving force behind all technological inventions has been the needs of society. Technology can help a population in surviving and progressing at unimaginable speed by enhancing their efficiency, as well as altering the adaptive mechanisms of human beings and in turn their evolution.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines technology as “the application of scientific knowledge to the practical aims of human life or, as it is sometimes phrased, to the change and manipulation of the human environment”. Technological innovation comprises everything from the invention of the wheel and the practice of agriculture in ancient civilizations to the usage of calculators, the compass, ships, calendars, and chariots in the Middle Ages, to the presence of computers, mobile phones, and robots in present times. The projected technologies of the future include advanced smart devices, quantum computers, Blockchain technologies, smart cities, and a much more advanced application of artificial intelligence. Technology affects every component of civilization including its language, education, architecture, city planning and landscaping, communication, military, health, and record keeping.
In India, the Ministry of Science and Technology celebrates 11th May as National Technology Day every year. The day is regarded as a symbol of the quest for scientific inquiry, technological creativity, and the translation of that quest into the integration of Science, Society, and Industry. It aims to memorialise the achievements of all the people involved in science and technology activities, primarily the scientists and engineers. The day is celebrated chiefly to commemorate the carrying out of successful nuclear tests at Pokhran, which propelled India into a Nuclear Country. The Pokhran tests codenamed ‘Operation Smiling Buddha’ and ‘Operation Shakti’ were carried out in 1974 and 1998, respectively, at the Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan. ‘Operation Smiling Buddha’ was India’s first successful nuclear bomb test while ‘Operation Shakti’ was the accomplishment of a Nuclear Missile Test. Additionally, the day has two significant historical events; the test flying of the first indigenous aircraft ‘Hansa-3’, a light, day and night flying, all-composite 2-seater trainer aircraft designed and built by the National Aerospace Laboratories, Bengaluru with a speed of 213 kmph and a range of 842 km, and the test firing of the ‘Trishul’, a quick reaction, low-level missile system developed in surface to air role capable of engaging targets up to 9 km, and an anti-sea skimming missile against low-level missiles. The day is celebrated with a theme every year and the theme for the year 2022 is “PRAGATI-Promoting Avenues for Growth through Technological Innovations”.
Modern technology has changed our lives in numerous ways-altering the way we work, communicate, think, learn, earn our livelihoods, and spend time in leisure. It has helped in easing everyday lives by aiding in the completion of difficult tasks. The following words of Sir Arthur C Clarke, the famed science-fiction writer, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” from his 1962 book “Profiles of the Future”, appear to have been written for the technology of this age. Technological development has had an influence on all the following fields:
Education: In the modern world, learning has been transformed by the availability of computers and the internet. All the information anyone desires is available and accessible all around the day. A simple google search or Youtube video can help in learning a new language, programming skill, or any technical skill. A large number of books are available in a very small space and any required book can be easily found on the internet. The advent of online education has provided unprecedented learning opportunities to people all over the world, helping them in earning degrees from the world in the comfort of their homes. Lessons and lectures are available on websites in video or written form and help make the process of teaching more effective, easier, and convenient. A comprehensive initiative called PM eVIDYA was initiated as part of the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan in 2020, which unified all efforts related to digital/online education to enable multi-mode access to education. The initiatives include: DIKSHA (one nation, one digital platform) for providing quality e-content for school education in states/UTs; Swayam Prabha TV channel for classes 1 to 12; Extensive use of Radio, community radio, and CBSE podcase-Shiksha Vani; Special e-content for the visually and hearing impaired on Digitally Accessible Information System (DAISY) and in sign language on NIOS website and Youtube. Other digital initiatives include the SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds, National Digital Library (NDL), Virtual Lab, e-Yantra, NEAT ((National Education Alliance for technology), and FOSSEE (Free Open-Source Software for Education) to ensure quality education to all students.
Communication: Communication services are a crucial component of the progress of any society. Technological innovations have made a huge impact in the domain of communication and brought a phenomenal change in the way people communicate. From relying on smoke signals, birds, and letters to waiting for a wireless message, fax, or telephone call, we have now arrived in the age of instant messaging. A multitude of methods such as email, phone calls, and messaging apps are available which make communication easier, effective, and available at the tip of our fingers. The popularisation of applications such as Zoom, Skype, and Google Teams helped immensely during the pandemic in conducting remote work calls, taking classes, and running businesses.
Health: Technological advancements have made a huge impact on the health sector by increasing the life span of people and their quality of life. Advancements in diagnostic tools enable doctors in identifying health problems early on and improve the chances of saving lives. Diseases that once resulted in epidemics such as Measles, Smallpox, Diphtheria, Polio, and Covid-19 have now been tackled due to the formulation and mass-manufacture of vaccines. Modern medicine allows patients to deal with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension without any hassles. The introduction of smart watches and mobile medical alert systems further helps in the monitoring of health issues. In the General Budget, 2022, technology took a centre stage in the Health Sector. The government rolled out the ‘Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission’ (National Digital Health Ecosystem) which will provide a digital health ID with health records and an integrated digital health infrastructure.
Transportation: The initiation of trains, buses, cars, ships, and airplanes has improved the feasibility of travel and made long-distance travel very comfortable. The arrival of ridesharing apps such as Uber and Ola have also reduced the time taken in travelling while also making it cost-effective. The transportation system is the backbone of any society and the progress in this sector helps ease lives. In India, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is known for its cutting-edge research and development knowledge base in diverse science and technology areas. The CSIR in collaboration with the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) and other institutions provides better technological interventions in various other sectors such as Tunnelling, Alternate fuels, Electronics, Binders for road pavement (Hydrocarbon as well as Geopolymer), Roadside Plantation, Environment Impact Studies, and Machineries & Equipment. India has also invested hugely in the biofuels and electric vehicles sector to achieve a clean energy-based economy.
Banking: Today, transferring or withdrawing money doesn’t require the need to go to a bank. Banks have enabled online transactions for people everywhere and it has helped greatly in reducing the time taken for such transactions and made lives easier. Online applications such as Paypal have helped people send and receive money using the internet. With apps such as Google Pay and PayTM, there is no need to carry any money. These apps securely link the bank account with the mobile phone number and allow instant payment at any time.
Agriculture: The technological advancements in agriculture in terms of mechanization have vastly increased the food production capacity. The critical time-consuming agricultural processes can now be executed with ease and in a fraction of the time they once required.
The government has been promoting the use of new technology in Agricultural Research. The National Agricultural Research System coordinated by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) has a total of 102 Research Institutions, 63 State Agricultural Universities, 3 Central Agricultural Universities, and 4 Universities, besides 82 All India Coordinated Research Projects/Network Projects. The research by ICAR focuses on the genetic enhancement of crops/livestock/fish for high yield, quality, and climate resilience, conservation of resources, and development of an intelligent IT-enabled platform for technology transfer among farmers and stakeholders. The adoption of Farming Systems Models developed by ICAR has also enabled farmers to enhance their income and strengthen their economic condition.
Improving Productivity and Ease of Living: Technology has vastly increased productivity since the ability of computers to solve complex mathematical equations has allowed them to speed up every task. Technology has also greatly reduced the time taken in completing the household chores due to the availability of vacuum cleaners, over, microwave oven, washing machine, iron, and coffee maker. It has also uncomplicated shopping, ordering food, groceries, and medicines by enabling online browsing and ordering of these essentials.
Others: Drones or Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are a new technology that is finding a multitude of applications. Drones have been traditionally used in the military but are now used in disaster management, media, mining, construction, transport, geo-spatial mapping, precision agriculture, forestry, and tracking environmental issues such as erosion and deforestation. In the defense sector, the Indian government purchased the Heron TP missile-armed drones and the General Atomic MQ-9 Guardian long-range unmanned combat aerial vehicle while also developing its fleet of vehicles like DRDO Lakshya, DRDO Rustom, and DRDO Nishant.
In early 2020, the government announced its ambition of creating a comprehensive e-property ledger under the Svamitva (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) scheme. To achieve this, thousands of drones will be used to map roughly 660,000 villages between 2020 and 2024. Drones also have increasing applications in agriculture since they are not hindered by the terrain and are faster and easier to use. They have been used to monitor crop health, crop treatment, carry out soil analysis, spray insecticides, and assess crop damage. They are also finding new applications such as irrigation planning and crop height estimation. In the construction sector, drones help in surveying areas, preparing base plans for cities and infrastructure development, analysing traffic data, and evaluating the condition of structures like dams and bridges after a natural disaster. In mining, they help detect leakages in oil and gas pipelines and monitor safety risks at the smelting units.
Technological advancements have enhanced every aspect of our lives today and would further improve the standard of living in the coming decades. On the National Technology Day, the Technology Development Board (TDB), a statutory body of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, honours the technological innovations that have aided in the growth of the nation. The President of India presides over as the chief guest of the event and presents the awards to the scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs for their contribution in the field of science and technology. The TDB provides financial assistance to Indian industries and other agencies for the popularization of indigenized technologies and the adaptation and wider application of imported technologies. Since its inception, the TDB has funded more than 300 companies for the commercialization of technologies. To further its purpose, every year, the TDB seeks applications for national awards for the commercialisation of technologies under three categories National Awards, MSME Awards, and Start-up Awards. The awards are conferred to various industries for the successful commercialization of innovative indigenous technology which contributes to the vision of an ‘Aatma Nirbhar Bharat’.
National Award: This award is conferred to an industrial concern that has developed and commercialized an indigenous technology. If the technology developer/provider and the company responsible for commercializing it are different, then each company is eligible for an award of Rs. 25 lakhs and a trophy. In 2021, this award was given to companies manufacturing ‘fully tempered solar glass’ and ‘Textile Reinforced Concrete (TRC).
MSME Award: SMEs which have successfully commercialized a product based on indigenous technology are awarded Rs. 15 lakhs in this category.
Start-up Award: This award is given to a technology start-up for promising new technology with potential for commercialization. The award includes a cash award of Rs.15 Lakh and a trophy.
In addition, the Government of India also awards a total of 975 National Awards, 17 International Awards, and 10 Other Awards in the field of Science and Technology. The details of these awards can be availed at https://www.indiascienceandtechnology.gov.in/nurturing-minds/s-and-t-awards/national.