Gates plans to work with IITs in the digital decade
CALIFORNIA: Gates, chief of U.S.-based Microsoft Corporation, called the IITs and its alumni a "treasure of top rate intellectual resource" for the world in a keynote speech at a special event in Silicon Valley to celebrate 50 years of the IITs.
The first IIT centre was set up in 1951 in the small town of Kharagpur in West Bengal in a complex that was a prison during British rule.
Today the country boasts of seven IITs, among India's growing centres of educational excellence, six of which are ranked among the top 10 science and technology schools in the Asia-Pacific region.
The two-day celebrations, which started Friday, is being organised by IIT alumni in the U.S. to forge "a formal identity for IIT-ians" as a group that has come to exercise considerable influence in technology and business worldwide.
Gates said if there was one feature of the IITs that he would never want changed was its philosophy of respecting merit above everything else.
Prompting frequent applause at the upscale Flint Centre in the heart of Silicon Valley, where some 2,000 IIT alumni showed up, Gates said he had made plans to "work together with the IITs in the next digital decade."
Gates particularly pointed out that other than Cambridge University in Britain, the IITs are the only institutions that his company Microsoft has chosen to work with.
He said there was need for institutions like the IITs to use information technology to deliver top quality education in a developing country like India.
Gates seemed to be in a particularly amiable mood, some of which may be attributed to Microsoft's astonishing announcement of first-ever dividend and a two-for-one stock split as the world's largest software maker reported record sales.
The company announced a 2-for-1 stock split and an annual dividend equal to 16 cents a share before the split. Already the world's richest man, the announcement meant a gain of a whopping $99.472 million for Gates' personal fortune.
He controls 621.7 million of Microsoft shares. Gates began his address comparing the websites of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), reputedly the world's best, and the IIT-Mumbai.
He said the MIT website had a news story about how a coffee house had to be closed down for want of business, while the IIT-Mumbai website talked about a leopard having strayed into its campus.
Clearly, he said, the IIT offers a "much more exciting experience."
Recognising that India was sensitive about any comparison with China, Gates said while it was remarkable to see India's growth as a "super power of human talent" it was equally important that the country also developed its manufacturing base.
He said IT would create millions of jobs but India needed hundreds of millions of those. The only way to do so was by creating a powerful manufacturing economy the way China had done, he added.
The event was kicked off by an introduction by Rajat Gupta, worldwide managing director of McKinsey. Gupta said the IIT community is becoming ever more influential internationally.
He said the conference was the first in a series of annual affairs designed to use the depth of knowledge and breadth of influence of IIT alumni.
In a recorded message Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, described the IIT as a "world treasure." He said IIT alumni were making a great difference at his own company as they were elsewhere.
The second day of the celebrations feature speeches by India's Human Resource and Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi and U.S. envoy to India Robert Blackwill.