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India needs affordable, scalable models of development: Pitroda

PUNE: Noted technocrat Sam Pitroda has highlighted the need to create new models of development that are affordable and scalable in terms of addressing the problems of rural India.

"The key challenge before us as a nation is to understand how the vast pool of young talent and emerging technologies can be put to effective use to solve problems of the poor rather than the rich," Pitroda, who is adviser to the prime minister on public information infrastructure and innovations, said in a video-conference address to the 2nd Indian Student Parliament, which began here on Tuesday.

The three-day event, organised by the MIT School of Government (MITSoG) with support from the state department for higher and technical education, serves as a platform for young representatives of universities from across the country, to express their views on key issues of concern faced by the country.

Union minister for sports and youth affairs Ajay Maken was the chief guest while Maharashtra minister for higher and technical education Rajesh Tope and minister for sports and youth affairs Padmakar Valvi were special guests. Veteran cartoonist R K Laxman was accorded a special felicitation on the occasion for his life-time achievement.

Pitroda, who is credited with having laid the foundation of India's technology and telecommunications revolution in the 1980s, pointed out that despite progress, India still faces the challeng of addressing the needs of 400 million people, who live below the poverty line, and 300 million people, who are illiterate.

"Pursuing growth is the only way to address these issues but we need the sensitivity to solve our problems the Indian way rather than rely on the western models of development," he said. "We also need strong government to support the growth initiatives, considering that the coalition structure tends to slow down the process of growth and consumes precious time," he added.

Narrating his experience of leaving the US to be associated with India's mission mode programmes under the then PM Rajiv Gandhi, Pitroda said that the country was able to shore up telephone connectivity from 2 million in the late 1970s to the present 900 million due to strong government support and the energy, enterprise and enthusiasm of young engineers. "We started with little but focussed on local capabilities to build a huge telecom infrastructure," he said.

However, the challenge now lies in how to use this connectivity to do things differently and address issues like disparities among the urban and rural population, the rich and the poor and the educated and the illiterate, he said. "Technology is a great social leveller and can go a long way in resolving these issues," he added.

Pitroda said that as adviser to the PM on public information infrastructure and innovations, there is a greater thrust today on using information and communication technology for social services like linking 2,50,000 panchayats and creating a network of universities, library and research and development institutes to improve education.

"The education models are going to be different in the days ahead as teachers won't be required to create and deliver the content," he said. Similarly, the need will be to create an enhanced broad band to deliver social services. "To do all this, we need to think out of the box. We need to re-engineer our processes, redefine systems and focus on the young talent," he added.

Source: TOI, Jan 11, 2012

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