Innovation is one word that has been a life-changer for people all over the world. This is particularly true of innovations that bring technological access to the masses, uplifting the quality of life for the people. India has especially been one of the countries that have seen major revolutions taking place at the grassroots level through innovations of this kind. That is why, the idea of setting up a $1 billion venture fund to foster innovations that would essentially be poor-centric is a great way to brighten up the future of the Indian populace.
A National Innovation Centre has also been set up to oversee similar state centres and 100 sectoral houses. Sam Pitroda, prime minister’s adviser on public information, infrastructure and innovation, who announced the setting up of the venture fund, is one person who has been associated with such path breaking innovations and revolutions in the past. Pitroda, who set up the Centre for Development of Telematics or C-DOT for telecom research and development, is largely credited with ushering in the telecommunications revolution in the country. That was the beginning of moulding communication technology in a way that made it accessible to all, changing the lives of millions. The obvious face of this revolution were the ubiquitous yellow-signed booths — the public call offices or PCOs, which sprang up by the dozen in every nook and cranny of the country, enabling cheap and easy domestic as well as international communication. They were one of the lifelines for bottom of the pyramid migrant workers to keep in touch with their families, and travellers on long distance routes always had a PCO within reach to make a call. The effect of the phone booth revolution wasn’t limited to this; they also created enormous employment opportunities at the bottom of the pyramid, providing profitable self-employment in the form of a manned phone booth. The government supported this initiative through affirmative action in the form of preference to ex-servicemen or handicapped people in the allotment of PCOs. The number of such booths was estimated to have reached 197,000 in 1994 and peaked at 2.38 million by 2006. With the advent of cell phones, however, the PCOs declined in popularity since everyone now had their very own ‘PCO’ inside their pockets. Despite that, PCOs still remain the harbingers of this sea change in the lives of India’s masses. The bottom line is, if one innovation could mark the onset of such stupendous change in the way of living of an entire nation, there is no limit to the transformation that other such innovations could unleash. Recent reports quoted Sam Pitroda on the government’s plans to set up a ‘Smart Meter Task Force’, which would initiate a modernisation process in the way that power consumption is calculated. There are numerous other fields — health, education, sanitation, farm productivity, to name a few — in which innovations could lead to more effective utilisation of resources and upgradation in the standard of living in India’s towns and villages. India’s problem has never been a dearth of ideas but most often a lack of funds channeled in the right direction. Hopefully, with the setting up of this fund, which encourages new products and services that hold a promise of changing the future of the nation, a billion budding ideas would find a conducive environment to bloom.
Source: http://www.mydigitalfc.com/2012/bright-idea, Jan 17 2012, 2019