Thursday, September 23, 2010

National Knowledge Network for India

Greetings from the last day of the World Computer Congress 2010 in Brisbane. Professor SV Raghavan just gave a keynote address on "National Knowledge Network of India: An Instrument of Social Change". Professor Raghavan explained that while the world has a view of India as a high technology nation, that technology is concentrated in relatively few urban areas. Most of India is in villages in rural areas. There is a stronger regional government, than in countries such as Australia. At question time Professor Raghavan mentioned he had discussed with the now Australian Prime Minister a project of a 10 Gbit connection between India and Australia being worked on by QUT. Professor Raghavan envisions this communications link being used for joint teaching of university student between India and Australian institutions, as well as for research collaboration (Australia and India signed an agreement on education in April). Given that the ongoing existence of the current Australian government depends on justifying the National Broadband Network, it will be interesting to see if the Minister for Broadband takes up this idea of broadband for education as an export industry to Asia, in his closing speech to the Congress at 4:45pm today.

Professor Raghavan suggests the way spread the benefits of economic growth in India is through education. He argues that pedagogy is not a technology problem and must be handled in an integrated manner, where technology can help. While much is said about "cloud computing" and other online services, Professor Raghavan pointed out that from a commercial finance point of view it is still vice telephony which provides much of the revenue. Therefore it will not necessarily be commercial forces alone which will deliver the online services to provide education and other economic enablers. One example given was the use of broadband networks was e-health for rural India.

I saw this when I visited in 2005, Living in an Indian Village in Goa for Three Weeks. The scale of the task of providing education is daunting. Professor Uma Kanjilal, Director of the School of Social Sciences, Indira Gandhi Open University (IGNOU) . Visited us at the ANU in Canberra last year and detailed how the educated millions of people.

My Indian ANU students are educating me on some of these issues as I teach them Green ICT and I will be discussing how the Internet can be used to help with education in India, in my talk at the congress at 12 noon on "Teaching Sustainable ICT Competencies with Tablet Computers".

The text of Professor Raghavan's address day has not yet been published. But he recently gave the Convocation Address to the M. S. Ramaiah School of Advanced Studies on a similar theme:
... In the next several minutes, I would like to concentrate on describing to you India / our country / that is on the threshold of major change. You should be happy that you are graduating at a time when phenomenal and unprecedented changes are taking place. India today presents only opportunities and challenges / and not problems and difficulties. India is creating a great ambience for its children. ...

Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to Government of India is unique in many ways. Our office looks at issues that concern the country holistically. ... the Scientific Advisory Committee to Cabinet, which I have the opportunity to be closely associated with and manage as an integral part of my work, gives the holistic appeal to the process. Initiatives such as Core Advisory Group on Automotive Research (CAR), Rural Technology Action Group (RuTAG), Core Advisory Group on Machine Tools Research, Core advisory Group on Nanotechnology Initiatives, Core Advisory Group on Synchrotron Facilities Establishment, and Core Advisory Group on Solar Energy are a few examples of unique initiatives from our office.

... NKN is a game changer for India. National Knowledge Network (NKN) is multi gigabits per second network that covers India. It is a high bandwidth and low latency network, with a powerful CORE (at 40 Gbps), Distribution (at multiple 2.5/10 Gbps), and edges that connect institutions at 1 Gbps. All institutes of higher education and research (such as IITs, IIMs, NITs, Universities, and so on) and all national laboratories (CSIR, ICMR, ICAR, DBT, DST, DAE, DoS, DRDO, MoES Etc.) are part of NKN.

A typical institution conducts about 150 classes every hour from 8 AM to 2 PM everyday. India has 15 IITs, 35 NITs, 6480 universities and about 500 national laboratories. Each IIT generates 150 classes that can be shared by all universities and affiliated colleges, thereby benefitting an extremely large number of students. Paucity of teachers will be a thing of the past.

NKN is a great integrator. Let me explain how. The educational institutions and national laboratories together have close to 15,000 PhDs in various subjects. Their collective wisdom is now available and it is reachable.

Every Indian, irrespective of the geographical location, can benefit by accessing this vast intellectual resource. We expect that new pedagogy, new relationships, and new research ideas will emerge, as a result of this seamless connectivity between institutions and individuals. This is what I meant by threshold of change. Very expensive laboratory equipment will be shared. It is difficult for me to explain the change 3 it is to be felt by every one of you, as we go along.

... Remember, India has several languages, dialects, and cultures. Generation and sharing of learning material has to be automated. ... NKN can take your lessons national to all students all over the country. ... NKN will take your methods of healing to heal billions of lives in India and worldwide. You like to do technology, NKN will put you in touch with the right kind of people and get you access at the global stage to market your technology ...

An educated nation is a creative nation. Produces Intellectual Property for the country. NKN acts as an enabler in this process. ... NKN in simple terms. ...
1. Annihilation of Distance.
2. Simultaneous Observation of Events

... Health Referral System ... A patient requiring critical attention and an expert opinion can be remotely seen, examined, diagnosed, and treated. What NKN provides is Clear Visibility of whatever medical records are generated at the remote end X-Rays 2D and 3D, MRIs, CT Scans, PETs and so on. The volume and clarity requires very high bandwidth and very low latency. As time is of
essence in life saving referral situations, local handling with remote expert
guidance will be ideal. ...

From Convocation Address to the M. S. Ramaiah School of Advanced Studies , Professor Raghavan, Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, 21 May 2010 (links added).

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