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Around 8,00,000 students from 1,000 colleges and educational institutions in India -- including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) -- will be able to connect with the world's best online study material, research laboratories and faculty members by March 2008.
This high-bandwidth networking will be made possible by the National Knowledge Commission (NKC), which has started work on the first leg of setting up its proposed National Knowledge Network to connect all universities, libraries, laboratories, hospitals and agricultural institutions, enabling them to share data and resources across the country.
The work, which will be carried out in phases, will link 1,000 out of 7,000 colleges in the first phase. The technical aspect of the first phase is being handled by a team of professors from IIT, Madras.
The team prepared a report, which was submitted to the Ministry of Information Technology on June 30; the setting up of the network will commence after the ministry gives it the go-ahead.
"There is a huge amount of open (free) educational resources available today. The linking of institutions will enable students to become part of the global student education community. It will not only bring down the cost of education substantially, but also bridge the difference between the good and not-so-good institutes," says A S Kolaskar, advisor to the National Knowledge Commission.
NKC also plans to create virtual classrooms through this linking of universities and educational institutions. It is focused on five critical areas of knowledge related to access, concepts, creation, applications and services.
This includes a variety of subject areas such as languages, translations, libraries, networks, portals, affirmative action, distance learning, intellectual property, entrepreneurship, application in agriculture, health, small- and medium-scale industries and e-governance. Once the linking of the colleges is successful, NKC plans to extend the concept to schools too.
The proposed broadband network is likely to have a 100 Mbps or higher access bandwidth -- almost all user institutions, therefore, will have to upgrade their networks to be able to cater to these speeds. While several institutions may already have an advanced network, a large number of institutes will need to upgrade their infrastructure on campus.
The initial cost of the Knowledge Network will involve a recurring cost of Rs 20-40 lakh per institution connected, amounting to Rs 200-400 crore annually for the 1,000 institutions of Phase I.
In addition, there will be a one-time capital investment to upgrade the local area networks (LANs) of these institutions to a 100 Mbps capability.
Thereafter, based on the feedback, the installation of the inner core network of 10 Gbps or higher capability will be taken up. This will involve a capital investment of around Rs1,000 crore.
NKC had recommended setting up a special working group of experts to finalise the specifications, implementation plans, cost estimates and network plans, as well as to carry out the actual task of procurement and commissioning of the network. This group will also establish a special purpose vehicle needed for running the network on a day-to-day basis.
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