September 22, 1997
Learning to learn
A Rs 700 m infotech university emerges in Tamil Nadu
As the wonders of information technology begin to seep into the
minds of India's millions, we are beginning to appreciate what
awareness itself can achieve.
even as bits and bytes become oxygen substitutes.
Though the infotech infrastructure is far from being the best
and the industry anywhere near getting its act together, one thing
is clear - the need to do something, urgently, is there. Why,
even the politicians, traditionally a little slow on the uptake,
have begun to chant the digital mantra.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has become a great
evangelist for information technology. His initiative is leading
to the computerisation and networking of many government departments
Another tangible effect of the new awareness is the ministry of
human resource and development's setting up of the Rs 1 billion
Indian Institute of Information Technology at Gwalior, Madhya
But the most significant is the initiative to build the Rs 700
million Tamil Nadu Institute of Information Technology, dubbed
TANITEC. The southern state of Tamil Nadu has had a tradition
of excellence in scientific endeavours. TANITEC is to be modelled
on Stanford University of the United States.
I chaired a committee of the Tamil Nadu government which has submitted
a report on the project. My colleagues on the panel were Dr Muthu
Krishnan and Dr Jhunjhunwala of the Indian Institute of Technology,
Madras, former vice-chancellor of the Anna University Dr Anantha
Krishnan and the present vice-chancellor, Dr Vasakam, Future Software
Chairman and Managing Director Ramani, Tata Consultancy Services'
Dr Mahalingam and the Tamil Nadu government's education secretary.
I feel TANITEC is unique because of the interesting approach of
the Tamil Nadu government towards it. There are several features
in the plans of the university which reveal that it is to be more
than a simple academic centre:
At present, the process is on to select directors for TANITEC.
Every attempt is being made to a contact non-resident Indians
working in universities abroad to see whether they could be persuaded
to return for work on TANITEC.
TANITEC must excel in education, research and extension and application
of information technology.
- To produce quality manpower of international standards in the
field of information technology.
- To help improve the quality of faculty in information technology
institutions and upgrade their infrastructure in Tamil Nadu.
- To be responsible for all-round development of information
technology, leading to the emergence of Tamil Nadu as a model
state in the application of infotech for improving the quality
of life. This has to be done through an intelligent backbone of
networks to disseminate information technology.
To conduct part-time and full-time undergraduate and postgraduate
programmes in information technology.
- To conduct continuing education programmes through networking
with educational institutions in Tamil Nadu, especially in the
area of information technology, and to improve their training
programmes and skills.
- To carry out research and development with special focus on
application of technology in areas like networking, software engineering,
telecommunications, ASICs, multimedia etc.
- To play a leading role in computerisation of the state government's
operation so as to make the administration more responsive and
- To provide software testing certification.
- To provide quality assurance certificates to other information
technology related training establishments in the state.
- The institution will be located on 100 acres of land, of which
40 acres will be for TANITEC and 45 acres for the information
technology industry in the form of an 'information technology
park'. The park will house units to carry out software and hardware
research and development. Plots will be issued in modules of 1
to 3 acre plots. Common facilities will be developed on the remaining
- The institution will utilise state-of-the-art technology in
all respects from building of the concrete structures to power,
amenities, laboratories, computing platforms and communications.
- TANITEC will be fully computerised and hooked to the Internet
right from the beginning. However, the support staff for this
would be minimal.
- The institution will also work closely with ELCOT or any other
agency nominated by the government to build data networks for
all of Tamil Nadu, covering education and research establishments.
If you have not already noticed, several of the features of TANITEC
which I have listed are designed to broaden the bottlenecks that
many of India's universities face.
For instance, though TANITEC is to be a university it has been
registered as a 'non-profit company' under Section 25 of the Companies
The Tamil Nadu government will have a 49 per cent stake in the
company's equity. The rest is expected to come from the industry.
Also the remuneration for the faculty would be most attractive.
Most importantly, in addition to teaching and research, TANITEC
will extend technology into industry and other institutions in
The idea is to make TANITEC propel Tamil Nadu into becoming an
'intelligent state'. The ideal that Singapore is close to achieving.
I hope other Indian state will follow Tamil Nadu's example and
give their young men and women and opportunity to prepare for
a career in information technology, the dominant economic force
of the future.
Previous columns: Critical mass | T.R.a.I | Santa Clause 11(2) | The Broadcasting Bill | The death of distance | S.O.S, getting the message out of the bottle | Force 7 from FICCI | Of railroads and info highways | Techno Politics | Cheating death: Ways to resurrect ITI | The HAM-handed miracle | Electronic governance | Which came first? | The four-engine design
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