Software Engineers Making India a Superpower

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  • Topic: India, Indian Institutes of Technology, Delhi
  • Pages : 5 (1742 words )
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  • Published : September 13, 2010
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In recent years, there has been a small chorus of voices promoting the notion that India is an IT Super-Power. Not only has this been touted by a section of the Indian Press, but it has also found an echo in the writings and statements of Indian NRIs. Undoubtedly, India's progress in the field of Computer Science has been quite remarkable. The reputation of India's best IT professionals is entirely well-deserved, and Indian researchers have been publishing some of the best papers in the field. Moreover, according to a recent article in Forbes magazine, India's intellectual acumen has now drawn 150 global business giants to set up research and development facilities in India. Not only does the list include important technology companies such as IBM, HP, Texas Instruments, Motorola, Samsung, STMicro and Infineon, but also large manufacturing companies such as GE, Daimler Chrysler, Tyco Corp, and Electrolux. Although not all of these R&D facilities are working at the cutting edge of technology, several of these centers are critical to the success of the parent company. For instance Intel's India Research Center filed 63 patents in the past year, and has now emerged as Intel's most significant international center, edging out counterparts in Malaysia and Israel. Guillermo Wille, head of GE's India Research center has noted that GE's Indian scientists and engineers are working in leading edge fields such as nanotechnology, hydrogen energy, photonics, and advanced propulsion. And in the ultimate compliment to Indian talent, Oracle co-president Charles Phillip said recently: "The kind of intellectual figure you people have is phenomenal...". Yet, before people get carried away by such praise, it is important to ask - how many Indians have the opportunity to excel - and how much does India benefit from this growing contribution to tomorrow's technologies? First, it should be emphasized that the the vast majority of patents that are being filed by such Indian labs are held by foreign entities. Many of these patents will be used to generate profits for shareholders abroad - not for Indians. Many of the products that will result from these patents will be manufactured and consumed abroad. Only a small fraction of Indians will get to enjoy the fruits of this intellectual labor. Second, it should be noted that the MNCs who are setting up research labs in India are extremely selective in terms of who they hire. They interview at India's best colleges and cherry-pick the cream of the crop. Indian students who make it to India's best science and engineering schools invariably come from districts where education facilities at the primary and secondary level are far superior to the norm. Children from relatively under-developed and neglected districts in Bihar, Jharkhand, Eastern UP, Eastern MP, North Bengal or Western Orissa are not exposed to a childhood education system that can prepare them for such high-technology jobs. Although there have been touching and inspiring stories of how children of slum-dwellers in Mumbai, Delhi or Lucknow have beaten all odds to top IIT entrance or GATE (or other such nation-wide exams), these are usually very rare instances. Children of the urban poor are seldom able to reach the top of the academic ladder. This lack of equal opportunity should therefore give some pause to those excited by the long overdue recognition of Indian intellectual abilities. Unless India as a nation can provide a decent education to all its children, pride in the nations best intellectuals will not be uniformly shared. And those left out might easily express their grievances and resentment in quite unpleasant and destructive ways. The acceptance and influence of the Naxal movement in the less-developed regions of India is, at least, in part due to the lack of affordable (and quality) mass education. It must also be noted that whereas India's best institutions are producing highly-qualified and very able graduates, such is...
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