The world around us is witnessing winds of change, in an accelerating manner, particularly over the last 300 odd years- Dr. Lalit S. Kanodia
Dr. Lalit S. Kanodia, Chairman of Datamatics Global Services Limited while addressing the IIT Bombay for the 58th Session of the Interim Convocation on 28th February, 2020, where 171 students were awarded their Ph. D. degree. Congratulating the passing-out Research Scholars, said, , “IIT students need their knowledge and education to find solutions for issues such as power shortage, inadequate supply of fresh water and climate change. It is important for our country to create future opportunity whereby the citizens can contribute on the basis of what they know.”
The world around us is witnessing winds of change, in an accelerating manner, particularly over the last 300 odd years. Let me enumerate some of them. The world witnessed the Colonial period, when virtually half the world including North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and large parts of Asia and Africa were ruled by the developed countries of Europe. Colonial rule is now fortunately a thing of the past. Today, it is impossible for any country to rule another.
Another wind of change was the Industrial Revolution that introduced inanimate machines that changed the entire world, whether it be Per Capita Income, Ease of Living, or Travel. Both the quantity and quality of Production increased exponentially. We would not be where we are today, were it not for the Industrial Revolution.These winds of change then led to the Telecommunication and computing revolution. We now have virtually infinite computing power, data storage and bandwidth, available at our fingertips. We can see events live, as they occur around the world, in real time. Information is available instantly. It is possible to track the movement of each one of us, wherever we may be, if we have a cell phone. All voice communication on cell phones is now recorded. Therefore, privacy, a right we deeply cherish, is surely disappearing very rapidly. It is my sincere hope that these winds of change will soon overpower religious intolerance, which I believe is a strongly divisive force. It is very important for all of us to live and let live, and respect the faiths and beliefs of all humanity around the world.
THE CHALLENGE OF ECONOMIC GROWTH
Each one of us will agree that one of the greatest challenges that we are facing, as a country, is accomplishing rapid economic growth. We are all collectively striving to achieve the $5 trillion GDP goal that our Prime Minister has set for India. We now rank No. 5, measured by GDP, across all nations, after USA, China, Japan and Germany. Our economic rate of growth has been rising. It was 4% in the 1950s, 6% in the 1980s and 1990s and 7.4% in the recent past. Consequently, our GDP rose to $1 trillion in 2007, and $2 trillion in 2015 and this year will be $3 trillion. Hopefully it will become $5 trillion in 2025.
However, our Per Capita Income needs a big boost. We need to raise our growth rate to double digits if we are to rapidly catch up with the developed world. The world is also getting more and more competitive. Thanks to Travel and communication, the under-developed and developing world constantly witnesses the developed world. Their anxiety level and aspirations thus increases. We will therefore, undoubtedly, be faced with greater competition, perhaps even ruthless competition. I am confident you will be more than up to this. Nevertheless, I believe that the chaos we are witnessing today will lead to greater opportunity in the future.
IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION & KNOWLEDGE
Adam Smith, in his famous book, “The Wealth of Nations”, published in 1776, postulated that the primary factors of productions are labour, capital and land. I am sure all of you will agree that to this we need to add technology, which is even more important. Knowledge is a derivative of education and IIT is a citadel of education and knowledge. We are now witness to the fact that the most valuable Companies in the world are based on knowledge, and have very little fixed assets. India has been confronted with a herculean task related to education. When it became independent in 1947, only about 18% of Indians were literate. We therefore had to first make the balance 82% of our population literate. The Government put its shoulders to the task and, as of now, it is estimated that over 80% Indians are literate. We must also continue to raise the Education standards across our country. I reiterate that education leads to Knowledge and Technology, which enables us to produce more with limited resources. Therefore, all of you hold the key to the future of India.
Several of the largest Companies in India are now headed by IIT Alumni. Even in the USA, the most developed nation in the world, many IIT graduates lead some of the largest Technology Companies. These include Sunder Pichai who heads Google and Arvind Krishna who will shortly lead IBM. In her recent union budget recent speech, our Finance Minister, Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman, claimed that female education at elementary, secondary and higher secondary levels is now at par and even ahead of education for our boys, which will lead to a well-balanced development.
The Alumni of MIT and Stanford have between them founded Corporations in the US which contribute approximately 25% of the GDP of that country i.e. over $4.5 trillion. About a quarter of the workforce of Silicon Valley are from these institutes. Given the right environment, IIT Alumni, too, can do the same for India. This can have far reaching consequences for this country. I would like all of you to introspect as to how our IITs, can be yet more effective in the onward journey of our country. Approximately half our Civil Services i.e. IAS and IFS are now graduates of IITs or IIMs. This augurs well for the nation as a whole.
It is my sincere hope that this will percolate to our political leaders too, so that they too have a better education background, to be able to effectively lead our country.
Oxford and Cambridge, between them have produced 41 of UK’s 56 Prime Ministers since 1721. The Ivy League has produced 15 of the 45 Presidents of the US. I have no doubt that the fertile platform that IIT provides, can nurture similar talented leaders. As yet, there are only an insignificant number of IIT graduates who have made a successful political career. We need to explore ways by which our well educated citizens can contribute more to the nation’s political leadership.
It is extremely important for the future of this country to create a system whereby its citizens can contribute on the basis of what they know, rather than whom they know, or who their parents are.
As all of you know, over 80% of jobs in all countries, including India are in the Vocations. FICCI had estimated that India needs a vocation trained skilled workforce of 50 crores.In Germany, 50% of the students who pass out of High School, opt for Vocational Training. Vocational Training in this country is the tripartite responsibility of Institutes, Companies and Chambers of Commerce. I was delighted at our Government’s recent statement that they will motivate institutes to contribute to Vocational Training. I think IIT Bombay can also attempt to work with our Government in putting together an appropriate framework to impart vocational training and thus reduce unemployment. I am not suggesting that IIT itself impart vocational training.
IITs CAN ADDRESS OUR PRESSING PROBLEMS
We need to find solutions to our pressing problems. IIT is a repository of knowledge. We need to use that knowledge to solve these problems that are staring at us, and indeed the world. Knowledge is infinite and I exhort all of you to use your education at IIT and your knowledge base, for finding solutions to the enormous problems confronting us. Let me list just list a few of these problems.
- India, and the world, due to increasing demand, is continuously facing power shortage. Our fossil fuels, of coal and oil, will soon disappear. On the other hand, the earth, in one single hour, receives solar energy more than all the energy we consume in a whole year ! How can we collect this energy and store it economically to be used around the clock?
- Global warming can inundate and even destroy the world. How can Environment Engineering address this problem? How can we increase the greenery around us?
- How do we ensure an adequate supply of fresh water? Though 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, we will shortly have a water shortage. How can we convert sea water economically into drinking water?
- India is constantly confronted with parts of the country being flooded, while others such as Tamil Nadu, are continuously facing a drought. How can we address this?
- How can we create an environment of creativity in our educational institutes that can produce Nobel Prize winners? MIT alone has fostered 94 Nobel Laureates. Fortunately, the quality of students intake in IITs, exceeds that of the best US Universities.
How do we implement a more equitable economic system that fosters inclusiveness, without destroying innovation and hard work? Today, 9 of the richest Indians have wealth equal to 50% of the Bottom half of India ! How do we create a level playing field for one and all?