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A good book on a rainy day is happiness for me - Ruskin Bond

Monday, December 19, 2011


My first brush with Sam Pitroda's rousing lectures is when I randomly surfed the internet on one day and landed up in IIM- A website (Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad). It was a stunning video of Sam's valedictory lecture at the Institute titled "Nation Building". After I listened to that enticing lecture, I instantly became his fan. 

Sam is  fantastic orator!   He always speaks with statistics. He craved to do something for his motherland that had driven him to come home and contribute immensely of his expertise on Information & Communication Technology. He shuttles between his US home where he is having his own company: C-SAM Inc and India. 

We all know him as Rajiv Gandhi's trusted lieutenant in bringing Telecom revolution to India in late 80s. Being head of Telecom Commission during Rajiv Gandhi era,  he contributed immensely for stupendous growth of Information and Communication Technology. When the 1st UPA Govt. was in power, he handled the job of Chairman, Knowledge Commission from 2005 to 2009 and after that he worked as Adviser to Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure during Manmohan Singh era. 

I watched this stunning video at a seminar organized by Tehelka News Magazine titled as ‘THiNK – 2011’. He was given a topic "Technology Adventure in Democracy". This video was one of my best inspiring lectures which had a sea of information on Government’s developmental programmes. His outburst of anger on the media for not reporting the developmental works initiated by Government is palpable. We really need to join hands on the efforts of such selfless people who are silently doing their part in nation building and no doubt Sam Pitroda is front runner .

The crux of his lecture is as follows :-

a) The best brains of world are busy in solving the problems of few Rich People who really don't have problems at all.

b) Technology has a sort of divine life and a social leveller second only to death.

c) I have been working for the last 47 years on technology mainly : Information & Communication Technology

d) Information Technology plays a pivotal role in defining India.

e) In early 80s, it was Rajiv Gandhi's political will to bring technology revolution to India.

f) Telephone density by that time was : 2 millions for a population of 750 million. It was10 years waiting time to get a new phone connection.

g) Steps taken in the last 20- 25 years had changed the landscape : Today we have 900 million telephone connections connecting a population of a billion.

h) Who told that degree should take 4 years ? Now we have to question the very idea of education in the present format.

i) The very idea of teacher creating the content and delivering the content began to crumble.

j) Now it is time to change nomenclature from teacher to mentor.

k) National Knowledge Commission was formed 7 years ago so as to improve the skill and ensure a growth rate of 9 -10 % .

l) National Knowledge Network is being built with 1500 nods connecting all our Universities, colleges and Research Institutes and libraries with 40 GB bandwidth for seamless connectivity with educational institutions within the country and US, Europe and Japan for sharing information/ data with an outlay of 3 to 4 billion dollars. So far 400 nods have been connected and work is going on.

m) 250 thousand panchayats are being connected with optical fibre cable with a capital outlay of 6 billion dollars for bringing all public services under one umbrella. It is simply to radicalize the democracy. UID is one platform under Nandan Nilekani, GIS platform under Dr. Kasturi Rangan. Cyber Security , Application, Data Centres, Payment and Procurement portals. If end connectivity is made with these platforms, young talent will involve in making new applications and transform the delivery system.

n) We are having 32 million court cases pending. It will take 15 years to get justice in this country. With computerization the period will drastically reduce from 15 to 3 years, but we need domain experts, legal experts to work with us and technology is one piece of the jigsaw.

o) President of India declared 2010-20 as Decade of Innovation. National Innovation Council was formed by Prime Minister. As a part of exercise, National level, State level and Sectoral councils formed. Around 150 clusters have been formed in various segments of industry to bring innovation. 1 billion dollars have been earmarked for bottom of the pyramid innovation.

p) Proud Moments of India : 2700 years ago we established the first University at Takshasila in Nalanda. Zero is invented by us ; In 1760 (before British Raj) , we are the largest economy of the world with 27 % global economy which is now reduced to 2 %. India will again become the world's largest economy by 2060.

q) University and industry interface is needed. We have scientists who don't teach and teachers who don't do research.

r) The syndrome of 'Glass half full' needs to be changed.

s) We have 3 challenges : Disparity - between rich and poor, between urban and rural and between educated and uneducated.

t) Demography: we have 550 million young Indians we are below the age 25 years. It is simply not workforce of India but workforce for the world. Whatever the programs we do, this shall be the targeted group.

u) In India, you don't need any talent to identify problems; equally also you don't need to have talent for suggesting solutions as well. What you need is courage, confidence to go forward and guts to get it done against all odds.

v) Corruption is a reflection of all of us. The guy who is a corrupt is also my cousin. Growing up, I know that the teacher does n't teach, my dad does n't pay tax, my uncle cheats, that's the way of life it is. 

w) We have to go beyond petty complaints.

x) If you want to solve the complex problems of the world, go to India which is a right place.

y) At the bottom of pyramid, we have 400 million who are below poverty line and 300 millions who are illiterate.

z) 20 years ago, I was told that we have 12 thousand unique herbal medicine plants. A foundation was established in Bangalore with 200 employees funded by Danish Govt and 11000 of them have been documented. We have digitized a million rare manuscripts and 10 million more to do.

aa) While dealing with core issues like Education, health, Roads/ infrastructure development, it is not either or, all this and sum more !!

bb) Some of tech adventures in pipeline: Railway modernization, require 800 thousand cores of rupees: Semi conductor fab with 10 billion dollars outlay; Smart Grid.

cc) Pity, nobody knows all this.

dd) If we turn on Indian TV, we see only three things. Bollywood, Cricket and Political gossip. I am not interested in any of these.

ee) The seeds we already planted in 80s, I am seeing their fruits (communication revolution).

ff) The seeds we are planting today, I won't be around to see their fruits.

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