‘Knowledge Is The Next Big Idea In India’

Sam Pitroda

Sam Pitroda

When telecom engineer and entrepreneur Satyanaryan Gangaram ‘Sam’ Pitroda first pitched his idea about a possible telecom revolution in India, he told then prime minister Indira Gandhi that he wanted to elevate the telephone from being a mere instrument to conduct a conversation into a tool for social change.

It was an expression that caught Ms Gandhi’s attention. Also present at the meeting was a big supporter of his ideas, a man who would be prime minister one day, Rajiv Gandhi. “I knew that Rajiv was actually with me right from the word go,” recalls Pitroda.

That was in 1981. In the next two and a half decades, Pitroda’s ideas have revolutionised the telecommunication industry — and indeed transformed the lives of millions of people in India. There have been occasional sparks of tensions with those who have called Pitroda “a man with a technology-proponent’s view towards problems and lacking a social scientist’s approach”.

But that has not bothered Pitroda. Now, the man who saw tomorrow is on a new mission. After heading the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) for the last four years, telecom czar Pitroda has been appointed an advisor to the Prime Minister of India on information infrastructure and innovation. In a telephone conversation with KUNAL MAJUMDER, Pitroda says his next big challenge is to revive the knowledge industry in India. He wants to use modern tools like the Internet to simplify governance and, once again, to transform people.

Read Read on the Tehelka issue dated November 07

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