The project is about to complete its pilot phase of one year in December this year and the progress would be reviewed by the Indian government next month for extending the project to its full 10-year term.
The contributions in terms of financial support from private sector would help the promoters - Media Lab US and department of information technology (DIT) - not only in getting a go-ahead for the full project but also to convince the government to provide Rs 1,000 crore help spread over 10 years as proposed in the project plan. The rest of the funds would be arranged from corporate sector and global financial institutions.
Responding to a question asked by eFE, minister for telecommunication and information technology Pramod Mahajan said that the Tatas had already sent a cheque of Rs 1.5 crore as the first installment. I will be asking Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Software Technology Park of India (STPI) also to contribute in the project, he said. Moreover, he was also confident of similar support from Indian software companies like Infosys Technologies. Microsoft has already committed to provide $1 million (around Rs 5 crore) to the project.
If I am going to ask the government to give Rs 100 crore to the project next year, I need to show a commitment from the corporate sector also, he said. The minister had earlier asked Indian IT and telecom companies - in a written communication - to extend financial support of Rs 5 crore each to the Media Lab Asia project.
The project, which is considered to be close to the ministers heart, will be completing its first year of pilot operations in December this year.
Although the project was conceptualised early last year (2001), the contract between MIT and government of India was signed in September last year. The one year pilot period, however, was extended by three months as funding was made available to the project in November 2001.
Insiders, however, point out that the project has not made any significant progress in the last one year in terms of achievements. It is difficult to achieve results in research projects in one year, said a senior professor working with one of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and involved in the project supported by Media Lab Asia.
IIT professors, however, told eFE that most of the projects supported by Media Lab Asia were already being pursued by their departments.
The involvement of Media Lab would speed up these project besides bringing them under a wider network of research projects. This will help us work in tandem with other teams and develop complementary technologies rather than working in isolation, said a professor in department of computer sciences of IIT, Mumbai.