Rediff Logo Infotech Banner Ads Find/Feedback/Site Index
September 22, 1997


N Vittal

Learning to learn

A Rs 700 m infotech university emerges in Tamil Nadu
even as bits and bytes become oxygen substitutes.

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.

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 and organisations.

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 Pradesh.

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:

  1. Vision
    TANITEC must excel in education, research and extension and application of information technology.
  2. Mission
    1. To produce quality manpower of international standards in the field of information technology.
    2. To help improve the quality of faculty in information technology institutions and upgrade their infrastructure in Tamil Nadu.
    3. 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.
  3. Objectives
    1. To conduct part-time and full-time undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in information technology.
    2. 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.
    3. To carry out research and development with special focus on application of technology in areas like networking, software engineering, telecommunications, ASICs, multimedia etc.
    4. To play a leading role in computerisation of the state government's operation so as to make the administration more responsive and effective.
    5. To provide software testing certification.
    6. To provide quality assurance certificates to other information technology related training establishments in the state.
  4. Infrastructure
    1. 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 15 acres.
    2. 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.
    3. TANITEC will be fully computerised and hooked to the Internet right from the beginning. However, the support staff for this would be minimal.
    4. 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.
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.

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 Act.

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 state.

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

Tell us what you think of this column