Giving a reality check to PM Narendra Modi’s ambitious vision of ‘Digital India’ that promises to connect citizens to services digitally, renowned inventor, entrepreneur and technocrat Sam Pitroda who spearheaded India’s telecommunication revolution in the 80’s said the campaign needs restructuring.
Speaking at the launch of his autobiography ‘Dreaming Big’ at Ahmedabad Management Association(AMA) in Ahmedabad on Friday, Pitroda said, “All the Digital India efforts which we have been doing since 25 years now requires restructuring because it is based on old silos. Today we need cloud computing, open source software through low cost models and all of that requires total revamping of the system, and nobody is prepared to do it. An average Indian thinks we are becoming champions in Digital India, he doesn’t know. He hears bits and pieces in news and they have no understanding of what it takes to build digital India.”
In the background of several incidents that threaten the cultural tolerance in the country, Pitroda averred, “Administrative reforms, judicial reforms, are the two fundamental challenges that I would try to change today. Tolerance is just one piece of the puzzle. The organisational architecture in India is not in tune with the 21st century, this is the larger issue.”
Speaking about his friendship with former PM Rajiv Gandhi to whom he became advisor and under whose support, Pitroda ushered in the era of telecommunication, for which he gave up his US citizenship, he said, “Rajiv Gandhi gave me political will, support and helped me in my journey to connect India and to make bold decisions….After his death, I went back on a tourist visa to the US and started to rebuild my life… Back in Chicago when I heard BJP leaders say on TV that Congress did nothing in 50 years, we did everything in 5, I felt like it was an insult to all of us. I called Sonia (Gandhi) and said that I want to come to India and campaign for the Congress. So me and my wife Anu came back to India and campaigned for 6 weeks. I had to do it because I realised that Rajiv Gandhi was dead and his unfinished dream had to be finished. We lost him(Rajiv) poorly, India went back by a decade.”
Calling the advent of internet, bigger than that of the discovery of an atom bomb and the World War II, Pitroda said that models of democracy, human rights, consumerism and free market economy in their current form need to change. Speaking about his book and on the topic, ‘What does 2050 look like?’, he outlined how energy will become free as will information and education changing the current education landscape.
He said, “The first part of the book is about family and fundamentals, the second is about democracy, development and dreams while the third is about redefining myself….What does 2050 look like? Light-giving trees, a 150 year old man working, no 40 hour week working, no pensions, no retirement funds, jobs will become temporary, no schools or fees and absolutely no need for teachers, there will be no need to own a car and energy will become free. This is going to happen and also in India.”
Among the many institutions he nurtured, the telecom engineer turned policymaker was the founding chairman of India’s Telecom Commission, the National Knowledge Commission and also founded the National Innovation Council. The book launch was attended by eminent personalities from the city like SEWA founder and Gandhian Ela Bhatt, Nirma Group Chairman Karsanbhai Patel, Congress leader Himanshu Vyas, Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi among others.