Indian President Promises More Connectivity in Country's Drive to Become a Developed Nation by 2020
San Diego, CA, June 5, 2006 -- When the President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam, addressed a standing-room-only audience on the UCSD campus May 31, he was there - but he wasn't there. High-definition cameras at the presidential palace in New Delhi captured his remarks and the video signal was transmitted over a dedicated network of optical fiber stretching over 10,000 miles between the Indian capital and the La Jolla headquarters of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). [To watch streaming video from the U.S.-India Summit, click here. Real player and broadband access required.]
"Today what we are witnessing is an example of making virtual presence from India to the University of California," said Kalam. "We should aim at making the bandwidth available without hindrance and at no cost. Making the bandwidth available is like government laying roads. In the modern digital economy driven by knowledge products, bits and bytes traverse the network and create wealth and this will recover the cost of investments in the bandwidth."
President Kalam delivered the keynote address during the opening session of the U.S.-India Summit on Education, Research & Technology. Organized and hosted by the UCSD division of Calit2, the invitation-only summit brought together faculty, students, executives, university administrators, government officials and representatives of American and Indian funding agencies to discuss how to promote collaboration between the two countries in education and research.
In introducing Kalam, conference organizer Ramesh Rao remarked on efforts over the past year to develop closer ties with India and its research institutions. "A turning point in these activities was our opportunity to interact with his Excellency the President of India," said Rao, director of Calit2's UCSD division, who met on three occasions with Kalam in New Delhi. "Two things stand out: his desire to see how technology can solve problems of a societal scale, and his penchant for using technology to get his message out."
After his speech, President Kalam took questions from the San Diego audience - transmitted in high definition video. Former Jacobs School of Engineering dean Robert Conn - now a venture capitalist - asked about India's plans to bring electricity to its more than 600,000 villages. After noting that the country's development plan calls for doing so by 2010, the President also urged American and Indian researchers to collaborate on the development of carbon nanotubes for photovoltaic cells. "These technologies can be very important by allowing us to increase the efficiency of photovoltaic solar cells from the present 15 percent to 50 percent," said Kalam. "The University of California and Indian universities can work together in this important mission."
"President Kalam, you began as a cyberlink, but by the time you finished you seemed to be physically here, thanks to the technology," said UC President Robert C. Dynes in thanking the president. "You've laid out your vision, which is not unlike our vision: a vision of energy, air, water, food, health, and transportation, and how using technology, together we can address those challenges for global prosperity."
The U.S.-India Summit was co-sponsored by Calit2, UCSD, QUALCOMM Inc. and the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum, an autonomous, non-governmental and not-for-profit organization set up in 2000.
The forum's executive director, Arabinda Mitra, traced the roots of scientific collaboration between the U.S. and India from the 1950s (with American support for India's green revolution) to 2005, when Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Indian Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal signed a landmark agreement that opened the door to a wide range of scientific and technical cooperation in nuclear, space and other sectors. "This agreement established for the first time the intellectual property rights protocols," explained Mitra. "It has also encouraged science-based, public-private partnerships."
Calit2 associate director Leslie Lenert (left)
explains some of the technology being
developed to improve medical response in
the event of a natural or man-made disaster.
Minister Sibal (left) gets a tour of the General
Atomics facility near UCSD.
At Scripps (l-r) Ramesh Rao, Arabinda Mitra
Kamal Dwivedi, Minister Sibal, and former
science and technology secretary
Most of the Summit sessions featured two presentations - one for an Indian perspective, the other from a U.S. vantage point - followed by Q&A with the high-powered audience. Speakers from India included Sam Pitroda, chairman of India's Knowledge Commission; Anand Patwardhan, executive director of the Technology Information Forecasting & Assessment Council (TIFAC); Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, director of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR); professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala of the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras; S. Mohan, director of the Indian Institute of Science; and Prem Nair, M.D., dean of the Amrita School of Medicine.
One of the Summit highlights was a session on "Science for Society." Former Secretary of Science and Technology V.S. Ramamurthy noted that India "lives in its villages" - 700 million people living in 600,000 villages, with 30 percent illiteracy, major cultural and religious differences, and speaking 24 languages. "With this diversity it's not even clear what they are looking for in their definition of development," said Ramamurthy. "If you ask whether information and communication technology [ICT] is available to rural India, it isn't. Is it affordable? No it isn't. Is it relevant to India? Do they get what they want if they are using the web? Does it add value to local resources and skills? Only then will it add to the wealth of that particular community."
Providing an American perspective was the distinguished, Indian-born V. "Ram" Ramanathan, a professor in the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Ramanathan talked about the challenge to the environment from global warming as India and other countries use more energy and fuel the Atmospheric Brown Cloud (ABC) phenomenon, which is affecting climates worldwide - and, according to a new study, even reducing rainfall on the Indian subcontinent. "On the global warming issue, it's become us versus them, with industry on the one side and scientists like me on the other, and we're always seen as opposing each other," said Ramanathan. "I don't see it that way. We are still letting the technology develop independent of the science. I would like to see - with this intellectual brainpower here - that we put our heads together and see how to address the case of India that is rapidly moving. For a scientist like me, it provides a great opportunity to observe how it's changing."
Four breakout sessions focused on specific technologies where there is potential for U.S. and Indian university and industry scientists and engineers to collaborate: wireless communications, nanotechnology, life sciences and "intelligent" automotive and transportation systems. UCSD electrical engineering professor Mohan Trivedi chaired the transportation session, and also convened a meeting on the eve of the Summit to take an inventory of existing research collaborations in automotive systems. Other side meetings focused on tele-education and tele-medicine initiatives.
The City of San Diego also proclaimed May 31, 2006, "U.S.-India Summit on Research, Education & Technology Day" in San Diego. Mayor Jerry Sanders was represented by the city's Environmental Services Department director Elmer Heap, who recently spent four weeks in India, working with the city of Hyderabad on upgrading its ability to deal with a by-product of economic growth: solid waste. "We worked with them to site the first state-of-the-art landfill in the nation of India to manage the waste in a manner that is appropriate, and to close a dumpsite that causes great problems in that city and surrounding communities," said Heap. "I love that country. It was a remarkable experience to learn from those people and that country, and I will never be the same thanks to that experience."
The same could be said of the U.S.-India Summit itself. "We're here because this is an opportunity to create linkages, to educate people, to help improve the state of India that has provided us not just with the ability to sell product there, but with its people and their creativity," said Summit co-chair Paul E. Jacobs, CEO of San Diego-based QUALCOMM Inc., which now has four offices and 400 employees in India (plus another 200 who are doing work for the company on the payroll of Indian IT-services firms). "About 15 percent of our workforce is of Indian origin, and that will probably grow as 200,000 engineers are trained in India every year, versus only 70,000 in the United States. This whole academic exercise should create new leaders to build up activities within India and around the world."