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 aaqua.org,
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
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
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.
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