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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

IT and India

Amartya Sen
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Amartya Sen
I want to make a case for the IT industry to bring its influences somewhat beyond what can be seen as its traditional domain...My point is not that the IT industry should do something for the country at large, for that it does anyway. It already makes enormous contributions: it generates significant incomes for a great many Indians; it has encouraged attention to technical excellence as a general requirement across the board; it has established exacting standards of economic success in the country; it has encouraged many bright students to go technical rather than merely contemplative; and it has inspired Indian industrialists to face the world economy as a potentially big participant, not a tiny little bit-player.

My point, rather, is that it can do even more, indeed in some ways, much more. This is partly because the reach of information is so wide and all-inclusive, but also because the prosperity and commanding stature of the IT leaders and activists give them voice, power and ability to help the direction of Indian economic and social development.

Let me begin by asking a question that no one here will, I think, ask (because everyone I meet here seems so polite and well-behaved): why should the Indian IT industry have any sense of obligation to do things - more things - for India, more than what happens automatically from its normal operations (as a by-product of business success, rather than as a deliberated goal to be advanced, among other demands and necessities)? Why assume there is any obligation at all for IT to do anything other than minding its own business?

I think part of the answer lies in reciprocity. The country has made huge contributions, even though they are not often clearly recognised, to help the development and flowering of the IT industry in India, and it is not silly to ask what in return IT might do for India …

…The IT industry has a huge opportunity to help India by trying to make its contribution to the systematization, digestion and dissemination of diverse clusters of information in India about the lives of the underdogs of society - those who do not have realistic opportunity of getting basic schooling, essential health care, elementary nutritional entitlements, and rudimentary equality across the barriers of class and gender. This can also be said about problems of underdeveloped physical infrastructure (water, electricity, roads), as well as social infrastructure, that restrain the broad mass of Indians from moving ahead. There are particular causal connections also here: an enterprise that hugely depends on the excellence of education for its success - as the IT sector clearly does - has good reason to consider its broad responsibility to Indian education in general.

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