India lacks the excitement

Date:   Monday , January 05, 2009

All over the world, there is a lot of excitement surrounding future internet designs. But unfortunately, I don't see a lot of the same here in India. Based on my interactions with a few professors in the IITs, I have learnt that about five percent of the fraternity here is engaged in research and networking; out of them, perhaps maybe only five are working on what I would call experimental systems research.

One reason for this could be the fact that till around 10 years back, doing experimental systems research used to be very expensive, and our professors and universities did not have the money to invest in it. Though the situation has changed now, as I perceive, and money and infrastructure is available in premier universities like IITs and IIITs, the experimental systems research orientation is not there.

While it is easy to say that returnees from the U.S, those with a background in experimental research, could fill that gap, the fact is that there are a few hitches. If a researcher is doing very well in the U.S, and has a promising career path, it is very difficult for him/her to continue the same work in India. There are some examples, where professors have returned and are engaged in systems research in some IITs, but their number is very very small.
The situation in our competitors in the global arena, like China, Korea and Japan, is quite different. For instance, I was in Korea a couple of weeks back attending a conference on future internet designs, and there were over 100 people attending the event. Out of them, maybe 25-30 were professors engaged in experimental research. In other countries, there is a realisation that they missed the bus in the first waves of internet research, and they seriously want to catch on. But, over the past two days that I have been here, I havenít found that ambition to go ahead.

Among existing companies, like TCS and Infosys, I think they are doing so well in their field that they don't see a need to go out and invest in experimental systems research.

In the U.S, there are two tracks along which future internet research is promoted: one deals with research programmes, the other with experimental facilities on which networking research can e tried out. Perhaps, we should try and do something similar her in India, and try and get a body like World Bank to fund it. That could be our way into the future.