Widespread broadband penetration is the need of the hour in both urban and rural areas. For ensuring effective implementation of technology, skilled manpower is required at every level, keeping in mind the ever-rising need of Internet penetration, says Vipin Tyagi, Executive Director, Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT), in an interview with Arpit Gupta of Elets News Network (ENN)Excerpts:
Do you think technology and IT are a boon for India, especially when everything is moving away from traditional platform to digital platform?
Anything which is new has two sides and technology is no exception. On one hand, it gives you opportunity for setting a benchmark in what you are doing and participating into, thus becoming a part of change. Leaders become trailblazers, laggards become front runners and this happens only during change.
Considering the times that we are living in, I think the whole country has the potential to be a leader. So the technological changes that are happening around the world require some fundamental changes. For any new technology to take effective space, we need a lot of skilled manpower efficient in handling hardware and software, bold designers, testers, etc., so that you can create something. Then you need a second breed of people who can actually think what has to be done. They come out with business modules, how the services are going to be offered and the overall scenario.
Then you require another set of people to understand the implication of the whole thing. So, whether ICT will propel India into a leadership position or not, at least I see a distinct possibility.
In order to transform it into reality, it is very important to look at all the above aspects which I call envision, implement and see the impact. If there are roadblocks like non-cooperation, unfavourable policies, manufacturers not accomplishing targets, etc., only then we will blow it off.
“Infrastructure has to be created taking a holistic view and sometimes it will not have immediate returns as the urban area has to pay keeping in view the economic parity. For long-term benefits, the system has to be created in such a way so that it can connect with every unconnected entity in the system”
As far as C-DOT is concerned, what is your role in initiatives like Digital India?
Telecommunication is one of the fastest growing areas and it is ever expanding in terms of data traffic and also new applications are coming along. Consequently, there is a need for somebody to innovate, writing research papers, writing the patents, giving the trademarks but actually giving it back to the society so that the youngsters can be engaged in meaningful deployment.
C-DOT is a powerhouse of technology, as we have wireless technologies, optic fibre cable (OFC) based broadband technology which we have pushed up to take 1 terabyte per OFC. We push the wavelength so that each wavelength has 100 gigabyte. My vision is that we need to have India as a gigabyte nation. For that you need large scale of technological changes because India is a country with a large population, our environmental conditions are different, and we have highly energetic people who want to fulfill their requirements in real time. All of these provide breeding grounds for us to push through these technical innovations.
C-DOT has installed fibre-based broadband in residential buildings, campuses, offices and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). We are now trying to increase Wi-Fi penetration in remote locations. For that, we will increase the range to 20 km and we have built in solar panels.
Given the demography we have, is the gigabyte concept a viable option, especially in the rural areas?
Rural India needs much more attention and better penetration in terms of data connectivity now more than ever. Imagine that there is a state of emergency and you need to consult a doctor, what will happen? So, the perspective of looking at things will have to change. It is sad that we have not started to look at things yet. The entire wealth of the nation traditionally and till now has been given by the rural India. Take the fashion industry for example. Do you think that it is driven by urban areas? The clothes are made in villages; the stitching happens there, the fine work happens there, so the perception that fashion industry belongs to western countries is not true.
Infrastructure has to be created taking a holistic view and sometimes it may not yield immediate returns. For longterm benefits, the system has to be created in a way so as to connect every unconnected entity in the system.
THE TECH CONNECT
Where the survival is the question and where the fundamental needs are the question, that is where the whole urbanisation issue begins and we have to connect technology in order to solve that. Smart cities are for smart people allowing co-existence and allowing them to be who they are
What are the programmes and initiatives that you have taken?
One is that we have mastered the art in broadband technology; we have almost all portfolios of broadband. If you want to give connectivity both at large and small scale, you don’t have to go out of the country.
We’ve done till now 50 technology transfers and in fact one of them will be entering villages now. A small device with as low as 10-15 watt work on solar and gives 400 MB/s connectivity, television, telephone, fax, four connections on wi-fi, all in just `7,000.
It is a big myth that we cannot compete with China. Despite having labour available at such cheap cost, why are our prices high? If we talk in terms of digging the earth, then we may have lack of resource there. C-DOT is the term given to build the technology and give it back to the youth of the country.
There are so many concepts that have to be kept in mind before embarking on a smart city. Once I saw a man carrying two gunny bags with his wife and children and the caption was “new migrants” to the city of Delhi. So, urbanisation problems are at different strata. We need to think on how we can create vibrant, dynamic IT-based systems that can bring down costs and take care of all kinds of people and facilitate their existence. Where the survival is the question and where the fundamental needs are the question, that is where the whole urbanisation issue begins and we have to connect technology in order to solve that. Smart cities are for smart people allowing co-existence and allowing them to be who they are.