India has always been a land of ideas— be it in the field of inner sciences such as yoga or outer sciences such as physics, chemistry, medicine, shipping and metallurgy. Indian researchers have made significant contributions in numerous fields, ensuring that India remained an unchallenged global economic superpower- an exporter of technology for nearly 1500 years, well documented in Angus Madison ‘Economic History of the World: A Millennium’s Account. The very idea of zero and infinity emerged from the domain of inner sciences which is today the basis of mathematics. Indians were the first to develop steel, and the famous Iron Pillar at Delhi is the longest rust-free sample of steel in the world; it has lasted fourteen centuries till date without rusting. Indian textiles have been on a legendary path since ancient times. The Greeks and Romans recorded extensive import of high-quality textiles from India that were considered precious items in those days. Shipbuilding and export was a major Indian industry until the British banned it in the 1800s. More recently, Indian scientists, by placing the Mangalyan in the Mars orbit in their very first attempt, demon- Educate And Empower 30 The Finapolis l FEBRUARY 2015 strated the technological prowess of the Indian mind. Hence, to envision an ‘India of Ideas’, there is a need to overhaul the assessment of India’s intellectual potential. Are we meant to be a nation dependent on importing technology and intellectual property (IP) as we have been told very often, or are we meant to be a nation of exporters of technology and intellectual property as was in the past? These questions must be answered clearly to formulate a vision 2020.
In the 21st century, a country’s abilities and resources to produce and generate new knowledge would be the only way to place it on top of the global power hierarchy
Just like virus thrives in particular temperatures and humidity levels, a society to prosper on ideas requires certain enabling factors. The enabling factors include first of all, an education system that encourages free thinking both at the elementary level and at the advance level. Second, encouragement to the culture of entrepreneurship. Third, technology adaptation for dissemination of ideas and finally, a robust patent regime to recognise, reward and protect the innovator.
The education system at the primary and higher levels must be attuned to foster creative thinking. The system must be accessible financially. It is therefore very disheartening that education inflation CAGR in private final consumption expenditure is 7.5% since 2004-05. Thus, cost of education is increasing at a rate higher than growth in per capita income (roughly 6-6.5%). Besides affordability, there is an urgent need to revise the syllabi and align it with long-term strategic growth objectives of the country so that the education system is able to provide skilled manpower. Cost of education can be reduced if the education sector utilises and adopts new technology. It is estimated that going ahead, there can be a 95% drop in computer memory costs, reduction in raw data storage costs to 1/100th the current price, and a network efficiency increase by more than 200x. Hence, process power and data storage will become almost free; networks and the cloud can provide global access and pervasive education services.
The education system must also train minds to start their own ventures and encourage calculated risk-taking. SMEs have traditionally been a fertile ground for first generation entrepreneurs across many countries. The recent thrust in Budget 2014 to SME sector therefore is a welcome move.
Our education system must also sensitise students at the doctorate level about the importance of originality and to resist the temptation of plagiarism. At the same time, there is need to create awareness about IP rights and how to protect them. The office of Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks (CGPDTM) has taken many proactive steps in recent years to increase awareness in the Indian industry and among the citizens. During 2013-14, the office of CGPDTM conducted 28 awareness programmes, sent its officers as Resource Persons to 96 awareness programmes organised by World Intellectual Property Offices, Universities, etc. Such measures will definitely go a long way to create a solid base for a knowledge-driven society.
The Way Forward
For the next five years, our focus must be on the four enabling factors highlighted above. The usage of technology in higher education remains limited and must increase. Our system turns out nearly seven lakh science and engineering graduates every year. However, industry surveys show that only 25% of these are employable without further training. Today, a country’s abilities and resources to produce and generate new knowledge would be the only way to place it on top of the global power hierarchy. Hence, the need of the hour is to recognise that a sound economic growth model is ultimately the one that is based on a virtuous cycle of knowledge and innovation.