Innovation key to solving poors problems: Pitroda

Written by Press Trust of India | Chicago | Updated: May 2 2011, 08:19am hrs
India needs to channel the power of innovation to solve the problems of millions of its poor and offer them solutions that are sustainable and affordable, technology guru Sam Pitroda says.

Head of the National Innovation Council, Pitroda advises Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on public information infrastructure and innovations so as to focus on inclusive growth and an appropriate ecosystem in India.

Often referred to as the man responsible for Indias communication revolution, the policymaker says that the Indian government was looking to take the benefits of innovation to all sections of society.

The world over the best brains have been busy in solving problems of the rich who really dont have problems to solve so the poors problems dont get the right kind of talent, said Pitroda, who is a Chicago resident and also leads a small Oakbrook Terrace-based company called C-Sam Inc here that has developed a wireless payment technology system.

I want to focus on the bottom of the pyramid i.e. to help poor people for sustainability, affordability and scalability, Pitroda told PTI.

Pitroda said that the Prime Minister has set a Decade of Innovation 2010-2020 National Innovation Policy to promote innovation in all walks of life.

It is innovation as a platform, innovation in government, in education, in health services and agriculture.

Were going beyond the normal way of looking at innovation, he said.

The National Innovation Council has 16 members and Pitroda chairs that council in the rank of a cabinet minister.

Earlier, Pitroda was involved with the Knowledge Commission that aimed at reforming education system.

Pointing out to revolutionary legislations like theRight to Information Act (RTI), Pitroda said Manmohan Singh would in the long run be credited for bringing about greater transparency in the Indian system.

In the long history Singh will be remembered as one who opened up the system not the economy, he said.

The Right to Information Act, Employment Guarantee Scheme, Knowledge Commission, Innovation Council and Vocational Education Mission, he said, are programmes to enable India to grow.

Highlighting how the lack of proper use of technology had hampered the use of abundant resources in India, he said there was lot of food in the country but there was no management system in place and India has not used technology input for an effective food system.

As former prime minister Rajiv Gandhis technology adviser in the 1980s, Pitroda was responsible for heralding a telecom revolution in India, and for shaping up Indias telecommunication policy.

Since all the information is locked up, information infrastructure needs to be restructured and we need to create a public information infrastructure. We really need to democratise information to create exclusive growth, he said.

He said there was need to create the right ecosystemincluding venture capitalists, private equity, angel investors, knowledge of patents and entrepreneurship. We need to create an interface between university, industry and scientific labs, he explained.

Pitroda, however, said for the innovation policy to materialise it might take 10-20 years.

We need to emphasise many drivers of innovation and focus on durability vs disposability, he said.

Pitroda also said that we need to create state-level sectorial innovation councils to increase each states core competence.

Councils in many sectors will be created like textiles, biotechnology, nanitechnology. We need domain expert-based innovation councils, he added.

The idea to start such a council was developed in August 2010.

Weve identified 50 clusters in the country with the help of Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), he said.

Pitroda said there was a need to seal innovation in clusters and need to create technology and business incubators, trademarks and copyrights.

Were also setting up a billion-dollar fund for inclusive growth-based innovation. This is a national fund in private-public partnership mode, he said.

Businessmen who have products and services will provide for poor people, who do not have any capital to buy.

We need to discuss the information and communication technology role in the 12th plan (2012-2017). Were at a tipping point. Were a nation of a billion connected people,

Pitroda said referring to Indias burgeoning population with cell phones from school kids to fruit vendors.

With a billion people in India connected by cell phone there is a revolution of sorts going on. The first wave was the telecom revolution, then in 1991 there was a second wave of economic liberalisation and the third wave could be called democratisation of information, Pitroda said.

Pitroda is also working as chair of the Indian Food Banking Network (IFBN) which manages food distribution and makes food available to the poor and needy.