Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Former President of India
  Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam    
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27-12-2002 : Mysore
Knowledge Society - Challenges *

I am indeed delighted to inaugurate the MysoreIT.com. My greetings to Mysore Forum for Information Technology. In recent times, the Information and Communication Technologies or what is now known as ICT has become a great leveler of society. It had provided unlimited opportunities to our young entrepreneurs. The ICT related business does not call for huge capital but it need the capital of knowledge. It does not need huge cities to start with. The ICT entrepreneurs any where in the country, any time in the country, with any combination of human power can bring competitive software products. Hence the Mysoredot.com gives a message that Mysore will win in IT business. I was thinking what thoughts I can share in such an important gathering. The topic I have selected is "Knowledge Society - Challenges"

MysoreIT.com. What can be its unique characteristics? Can it emulate BangaloreIT.com, HyderabadIT.com, MumbaiIT.com. No, not at all. MysoreIT.com has to have a unique brand name. What is that? Let us discuss. It can be Tele-medicine, e-education, e-tourism, e-governance. I personally believe, this Conference should essentially discuss and carve out an unique are for Mysore. Can MysoreIT.com specialize in localizing the Information Technology and take it to the masses so that our own billion people would get benefited.

Evolution of Knowledge Society

During the last century the world has undergone a change from agriculture society, where manual labour was the critical factor, to industrial society where the management of technology, capital and labour provided the competitive advantage. Then the information era was born, last decade, where connectivity and software products are driving the economy of a few nations. In the 21st century, a new society is emerging where knowledge is the primary production resource instead of capital and labour. Efficient utilisation of this existing knowledge can create comprehensive wealth of the nation and also improve the quality of life - in the form of better health, education, infrastructure and other social indicators. Ability to create and maintain the knowledge infrastructure, develop knowledge workers and enhance their productivity through creation, growth and exploitation of new knowledge will be the key factors in deciding the prosperity of this Knowledge Society. Whether a nation has arrived at a stage of knowledge society is judged by the way the country effectively deals with knowledge creation and knowledge deployment in all sectors like IT, Industries, Agriculture, Health Care etc.,


Knowledge Society

A knowledge society can be one of the foundations for realizing the vision for the nation: Developed India. Knowledge has always been the prime mover of prosperity and power. The acquisition of knowledge has therefore been the thrust area through out the world and sharing the experience of knowledge is a unique culture of our country. India is a nation endowed with natural and competitive advantages as also certain distinctive competencies. But these are scattered in isolated pockets and the awareness on these is inadequate.


Knowledge Society Components

Knowledge Society has two very important components driven by societal transformation and wealth generation. The societal transformation is on education, healthcare, agriculture and governance. These will lead to employment generation, high productivity and rural prosperity. How do we do that?


Wealth Generation

The wealth generation is a very important task for the nation, which has to be woven around national competencies. The task team has identified core areas that will spearhead our march towards knowledge society. The areas are: Information Technology, bio-technology, space technology, weather forecasting, disaster management, tele-medicine and tele-education, technologies to produce native knowledge products, service sector and Infotainment which is the emerging area resulting from convergence of Information and entertainment. These core technologies, fortunately, can be interwoven by IT. IT took off only due to enterprising spirit of the young. Thus there are multiple technologies and management structure that have to work together to generate knowledge society. It has to be recognized that the difference between an IT-driven society and a knowledge-driven society is the role of multiple technology growth engines. With India carving a niche for itself in Information Technology, the country is hence uniquely placed to fully capitalize the opportunity to quickly transform into a knowledge society. The methodology of wealth generation in these core areas and to be able to meet an export target set at 50 billion dollars by the year 2008, especially using IT sector is subject of discussion, while simultaneously developing capability to generate Information Technology products worth 30 billion dollars domestically to pump in for societal transformation.

Evolution of policy and administrative procedures, changes in regulatory methods, identification of partners and most importantly creation of young and dynamic leaders are the components to be in place. In order to generate wealth, which is the second component for establishing a knowledge society, it is essential that simultaneously a citizen-centric approach to evolution of business policy, user-driven technology generation and intensified industry-lab-academy linkages have also to be established.


Societal Transformation

The agriculture society concentrated on producing the natural products such as grains, fruits, timber, ores and natural minerals etc. The industrial society added value to these products by incorporating explicit knowledge (High Technology) to it. This not only added value to products but also increased the productivity. The Information Society adds further value by widely making available the explicit knowledge through electronic networking of information centres and thus making available information products worldwide. The knowledge society will be the society producing products and services that are rich in both explicit and tacit knowledge thus creating more valuable products. It will emerge as centre of excellence in certain institutions, which will expand to cover the entire country in a decade. The leading social group of the knowledge society will be its knowledge workers, who will have sufficient knowledge to create explicit and tacit knowledge rich products. The society will be highly networked to create knowledge intensive environment along with enabling process to efficiently create, share exploit and protect the knowledge.

The IT growth in India really has highlighted that it is possible the data transformed into the information has a business proposition. By 2010, India would aim at IT enabled services consisting of human resource service, customer interaction, finance and accounting, data search and integration and remote education. The wealth generation in real sense comes out not in series, data, information, knowledge and innovation. But how fast we move India in innovation path of business. Particularly e-business demands innovative software and hardware. Friends, as you all know, India is well placed at the dawn of the knowledge era. We should not miss this opportunity. Our culture and civilization have been enriched over the ages by great thinkers who have always taken an integrated view of life as a fusion of mind, body and intellect. Their vision of knowledge has blossomed in the form of many spiritual centers and classics. The coming decades, the enriched young, will see a confluence of civilisational and modern technological streams. IT helps to minimize the distance between the people. When a person is empowered with IT, he can be any where in the world and work for his mission. Knowledge Powered PURA, a model I propose will assist India in realizing removal of poverty in the rural India.


Knowledge Powered PURA ( Providing Urban amenities in Rural Areas )

I am sure that removal of poverty will call for Providing Urban amenities in Rural Areas (PURA). The model I envisage is a habitat design to improve the quality of life in rural places and makes special suggestions to remove urban congestion also. Instead of village population coming to urban area, the reverse phenomena have to take place. How is it possible? Knowledge powered village complex has to be generated in numbers in every State. That means, 20-30 villages linked through a circular road (10x6 kms) with highways bringing physical connectivity and reliable communication facilities bringing electronic connectivity. In the periphery, there can be schools, primary health centres, technical training centres, silos for storage of products and markets for promoting products, cottage industries bringing economic connectivity and knowledge connectivity. This knowledge powered village complex will also have markets attracting urban business. IT enabled Service Industries can flourish in rural complexes as we can get the land and building and very lower rates. We can engage semiskilled to skilled manpower at relatively lower rate as the cost of living becomes lower. The best technology and processes in the world are useless without the right skilled and motivated people to apply them. India is rich in this aspect.


Insights in to Life : IT in healthcare

When Bio Science and Information Technology merge, a new area is born - bio informatics, that will lead to healthcare exploring genetic diagnostics and genetic treatment. I would like to share few experiences of people and their pain and possible solution. Recently I was at the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology at Hyderabad. I met hundreds of young scientists working on the genetic origin and manifestation of diseases particularly Cancer. The young scholars were very enthusiastically shared with me their knowledge of molecular biology and cellular research. They told me about the information encrypted on the DNA of a cell and how both problems and solutions to the human lives reside on the software that nature embedded in each life it creates. In a way, these young minds were dealing with the questions that were so far confined to the domain of sages and philosophers. Bio- Informatics has got a tremendous scope in healing the pains of the people and providing better healthcare services. Research and developments in these directions have to emerge as the area is vast and un-traveled.


When Bio Science and Information Technology merge, a new area is born - bio informatics, that will lead to healthcare exploring genetic diagnostics and genetic treatment. I would like to share few experiences of people and their pain and possible solution

This is an important and complex subject. One of the difficult problems for anyone who deals with the Government agencies, as a citizen or as a businessman, is its sheer complexity. There is now an increasing awareness in the Central and State Governments to bring in functional agencies that could lead to a one-stop shop to all the needs of the citizen. Persons in this one-stop shop themselves may have to do several coordination within the complex systems. Modern IT tools help to speed up such coordination. Eventually it can reach real-time capability as is done for railway booking. Actions by some of the State/Central Govt departments have resulted in the launch of Internet portals of Central and State governments. Portals of this nature are being attempted in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and many more. In these States, electronic network systems are being used to provide market related information, land records and food stocks. But these actions are at an initial introductory phases only. In one State, a florist even participates in the flower auction at Netherlands, using real-time communication. It is well-known that the Railways and the Airlines are already using computerized reservation system effectively; but such an operational system is yet to emerge even as a beginning in many other areas of government - public interfaces, in banking, tax or electricity bill payment etc.

With this background, for India, transforming into a transparent society, it is essential that government functions which have interfaces or interactions with public especially where the state and central functionaries have to serve or support even correct the citizens, such functions have to be done through the tools of information technology and communication. This means, software have to be written to codify the rules, procedures and other related government functions and public access should be through IT. Then the government functions can provide equal access to all based on predetermined rules and even with rules to govern exception being done in a transparent manner. Since India has the core competence in information technology and communication, the possibility of success to bringing in transparency in administration and management through e-commerce and e-business leading to e-governance, is definitely possible. Actions have to be initiated in a mission mode. There are tremendous BOT business model opportunities for the private IT entrepreneurs in assisting the Government in providing better services to its people.



Information Technology can be a force multiplier in every domain. When medicine is integrated with IT, it becomes Telemedicine. When Education is integrated with IT, it becomes tele-education. When commerce is integrated with IT, it becomes e-commerce. When governance is integrated with IT, it becomes e-governance. The same way we should learn to handle IT applications and use them to augment your basis domain expertise. That is the real demand for future.

When the child is empowered by the parents, at various phases of growth, the child gets transformed into a responsible citizen. When the teacher is empowered with knowledge and experience, good young human beings with value systems take shape. When individual or a team is empowered with technology, transformation to higher potential for achievement is assured. When the leader of any institution empowers his or her people, leaders are born who can change the nation in multiple areas. When women are empowered, society with stability gets assured. When the political leaders of the nation empower the people through visionary policies, the prosperity of the nation is certain. When religion transforms into a spiritual force the people become enlightened citizens with value system.

A nation is made great by the thoughts of its people and their action. The people in turn become important citizens of that great country. The next 20 years period, I consider, is a period of technology transformation in India. I anticipate new emerging economic situations. There is a possibility of India becoming a knowledge society with focussed tool of Information Technology and entrepreneurial push. All the more, this ambience will demand our cultural and traditional value system to be embedded in our societal growth. I am sure the technocrats, entrepreneurs, policy makers and business magnets who have assembled here will pursue vital roles in realising our second vision of transforming India into a Developed country.

My greetings to all of you.




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