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Issue of April 2005 

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The change agent

In a national seminar titled 'IT-The Change Agent' held by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) on March 10 and 11, 2005, the possibilities that IT could bring to various industry verticals and to rural India were discussed. Eminent speakers such as Dr Deepak Phatak, Head, SJMSOM, IIT Bombay and N Vittal, former Secretary to the Indian government, spoke about the potential of IT in the field of agriculture.

IT for development

Prof Krithi Ramamritham, Director KReSIT, IIT, Bombay spoke of the, a website and information portal that attempts to answer farmers' questions. Aaqua has three components, two of which are functional and one that has been demonstrated but is still to be used. The first is a query addressing system which farmers from remote areas and rural parts of India can use to post queries. The portal has information on crop cycles, pesticides, soil, and suitable weather conditions.

The second component comprises updated prices of every agricultural commodity in different markets in Maharashtra. This opens the possibility of reducing the difference between the profits made by the farmer and the middlemen.

The third component that requires a large number of subscribers before it becomes functional is transport co-ordination that will intermediate between the farmer and the transport owner so that the process of produce movement is optimised based on routes and perishability.

For the rural masses

For such a system to work at its best, IT education of the rural masses is critical, said Prof. Ananthakrishnan. A possible way to approach the problem is to educate the young. Speakers held the view that several NGOs and corporates are already helping with IT education and popularisation but it is a disconnected movement.

P V S Rao of Tata Infotech said that the success of the IT promotion drive depended upon the availability of resources in local languages. "In addition, IT commands must be based on visuals and voice and the results of queries should be simple and direct," he said.

Day two

The second day at the seminar began with a keynote address by Dr Faqir Chand Kohli, former Deputy Chairman of TCS. He felt that India still lags behind other countries, particularly China, in most of the important development parameters and that we must be passionate about the task of development.

This was followed by a session on IT applications in the government. The speakers were Dr J C Mohanty, Secretary of IT, government of Andhra Pradesh, Venugopal Iyenger and Nageshwar Rao Challa of TCS. The session dwelt in detail about the ambitious moves made by Andhra Pradesh towards IT. The security aspects of IT systems were touched upon by Iyenger.

IT in education

A session on 'IT in Education' was addressed by Prof. Kesav Nori, Executive Director, TCS and Prof. S Y Mhaiskar, Principal, Sardar Patel College of Engineering. Prof. Nori dealt with many issues concerning education with reference to adult literacy and pedagogy. And Prof Mhaiskar described the ground realities in the field of technical education.

Power and energy

The final session of the day on 'IT in Power and Energy Sectors' was perhaps the most interesting. It was chaired by A Velayutham, formerly Member-Secretary of Western Regional Electricity Board (WREB) of the Central Electricity Authority and now a member of the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC).

The speakers were Ajoy Rajani, Head (Technology and Automation), Reliance Energy and K V Ghate, Manager, The Tata Power Company.

The session described the role and benefits of IT in the power industry. The primary role of IT is that of transformation. Industries do not adopt IT but encounter it and in the process are transformed. While IT reduces the transaction cost in banking, it changes the way power is generated, distributed and customer enquiries attended to.

Rajani of Reliance Energy talked about how the use of IT has helped his organisation provide better customer service and in turn lead to higher business volumes. And Ghate of Tata Power spoke about the benefits of IT in areas like vibration monitoring, outage preparedness, MIS, and materials management.

Soutiman Das Gupta, Deepali Gupta

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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