Sam Pitroda, adviser to India’s Prime Minister for Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation, highlights India's efforts to solve its challenges with geospatial technology.
Jun 28th, 2014
00:08Welcome back for a wonderful afternoon.
00:10This is going to be full of...full of rich and interesting experiences.
00:14To start it off, I'm going to introduce you to a person I've known for a few years...
00:19...who has been the backbone, one of the foundations...
00:24...one of the foundation people who has revolutionized India with technology.
00:29Most of us know this technology revolution.
00:32This is...if I was going to pick one person, this is the man.
00:36He is the adviser to the prime minister.
00:39He holds many positions, including with the UN.
00:42He's an inventor, he holds over 100 patents...
00:47...well, I can go on and on about Sam Pitroda.
00:50Sam, why don't you come out?
00:55He's a great guy.
01:01I'm supposed to give Sam this because, you know, technology.
01:05Oh, you're going to use that, okay.
01:06Thank you, Jack.
01:07Anyway, Sam, welcome.
01:09Thank you, Jack.
01:12Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
01:18It's indeed a special privilege to be here with you.
01:25To share some of our work on GIS and technology in India.
01:34I want to thank Jack and Esri for giving me this opportunity.
01:42Looking at all of you--almost 10,000--it is, indeed, a very humbling experience.
01:56I'm going to talk first a little bit about India, and then about GIS.
02:08India is a very complex country.
02:13Very diverse in terms of genetic pool.
02:22We have deserts on west, rainforest on east, Himalayan Mountains on north...
02:34...6,500 kilometer of ocean front, and tropical jungles in south.
02:46This India is changing, and changing rapidly.
02:55India also has great deal of history, heritage, in our temples, languages, art, music...
03:07...2,700 years ago, India had best of the best universities in the world...
03:14...Takshashila, Nalanda, Ratnagiri.
03:19In 1760, India was the largest economy in the world--27 percent.
03:27In 1947, when India got independence from British Raj, Indian economy was about 2 percent of the world.
03:40And, as a result, founding fathers spent a lot of time on building higher education institutions and infrastructure...
03:52...research, and focused on agriculture, and to make energy, space research, medical research...
04:04...agricultural institutions, IITs for technology, IIMs for management.
04:11This was the focus in early days.
04:17Sixty-five years down the road we see a lot of the great benefits of all the seeds we had planted then.
04:30Technology has been the key driver in India's development.
04:38But we, some of us look at technology a little differently.
04:42We believe technology is a great social leveler, second only to death.
04:50Some of us also believe that the best brains in the world are busy...
04:54...solving problems of the rich who really don't have problems to solve.
05:00And, as a result, problems of the poor really don't get the right kind of talent.
05:06We have the largest number of poor in the world.
05:10We have huge amount of young talent, and we have moral responsibility to solve the problems of the poor.
05:18And that's where we believe technology, including GIS, is going to help us in the next couple of decades to come.
05:29Now, India is able to feed 1.3 billion people, and we also have surplus food.
05:39We are one of the largest producers of milk.
05:43I started my work in India after having spent about two decades in US on telecom in early 80s.
05:54Then, we had two million telephones for 750 million people.
06:01Just in a short span of 20 years, India is a nation of connected billion.
06:08We have 900 million telephones.
06:12And the key is to take this connectivity forward.
06:17India has been growing at the rate of 8 percent for the last seven, eight years leaving aside the last year and half.
06:26India generates over $100 billion worth of software export every year, year after year...
06:33...and we believe that number will go to $250 billion by 2025.
06:41This India is looking at technology to really create opportunities for the young.
06:50But this India has lots and lots of challenges.
06:54Challenges related to urban development, rural development, education, health.
07:03India is still a very poor country.
07:06Three hundred million illiterates, 400 million below poverty line--400 million--and that is the challenge.
07:16So everything we do has to take into consideration the bottom of the economic pyramid.
07:23All of our focus has to be on inclusive growth, and this demands that we understand...
07:31...affordability, scalability, and sustainability.
07:38We have 550 million young, below the age of 25.
07:43We need to create 12 to 15 million new jobs every year, year after year.
07:49How do you do that?
07:52And that is the main developmental agenda for us.
07:59So in a sense, from my perspective, there are really three challenges in India.
08:03Disparity--disparity between rich and poor--urban/rural, educated/uneducated.
08:11This disparity is very large, and we need to really narrow it a little bit.
08:21As I said earlier, 550 million young, below age of 25.
08:28Where everywhere else in the world, population is aging and decreasing, in India it is young and increasing.
08:37This is the workforce for the world.
08:40How do we train them, skill them, feed them, provide nutrition, create jobs, is the fundamental challenge for us.
08:52We also have to make sure that we do expedite the process of development.
08:59Everything is happening in India, but perhaps not at the pace we would like.
09:05We have three strategies on development.
09:09First, expansion--we need more schools, more hospitals, more teachers, more doctors...
09:16...more roads, more power plants more homes, more jobs.
09:23We also need to make sure that the quality of everything we do...
09:28...needs to be improved substantially.
09:31Leaving aside top five percent, ten percent of education, health, governance, everywhere.
09:39We need to really improve quality.
09:42And finally, equity.
09:45We have to make sure that the poorest of the poor can, indeed, get the best education possible.
09:56To do this, we have decided to focus on information.
10:02We believe a lot of the poverty has to do with the poverty of information.
10:10So we have a Right to Information, which has been introduced...
10:14...but we really don't have information organized in the manner people can use.
10:19So we believe information is going to be the fourth pillar of democracy in the twenty-first century.
10:28As you know, we are the largest democracy in the world.
10:33I remember many years ago, going to Soviet Union...
10:39...and I was with Gorbachev and couple of his associates.
10:45And one of his ministers told me, he said, Mr. Pitroda, we are so impressed with India...
10:52...mainly because we just don't know how you hold this country together without guns.
11:00Such a large country with so much of diversity, and you don't use guns to hold them together.
11:06What do you do?
11:08He said, If we turned our guns around, we know Soviet Union will have difficulty holding it together.
11:20And I think this democracy forces us to democratize information.
11:28If we democratize information, we believe we can really radicalize our democracy.
11:35So we are creating public information infrastructure to provide information to large number of people.
11:45And this would really integrate with geoinformation.
11:52Public information infrastructure really consists of various platforms.
12:00We have a platform to connect voice, which is already done.
12:03We are now building a platform to connect data.
12:07Then, for ID, every resident will get unique ID, facial, fingerprints, iris.
12:19And this ID will be plugged into all the applications, like bank account, mobile phone connection...
12:27...ration card, food distribution, employment guarantee schemes.
12:33And then we are creating now a nationwide platform for GIS to really tag every physical asset.
12:43With this, we have platform for cyber security, lots of government and public service applications.
12:53We are computerizing, for example, 32 million court cases.
12:59It takes 15 years to get justice today, and we believe by computerizing...
13:04...we will be able to reduce this to perhaps three to four years to get justice.
13:11We are computerizing prisons, police, intelligence agencies, food distribution...
13:19...passports, drivers license, employment programs.
13:25Sum total today, we have about 10,000 software people working in the government...
13:31...on computerizing lot of these applications.
13:34And this is where GIS would be plugged in, in the future.
13:40We are also providing electronic payment to a large number of people.
13:46We have several national portals on water, energy, environment, biodiversity.
13:53And we have created, in collaboration with the US government...
13:57...as a result of the visit of President Obama, open government platform.
14:04This platform is really launched in India and in US jointly, and now we are offering it...
14:12...to many other countries at no cost as a gift from US and India.
14:20We are already in Ghana and Rwanda, and we have list of about 20 countries.
14:27All of these platforms are really geared towards democratizing information.
14:35The first main network is known as Knowledge Network.
14:40It really has 1,500 nodes with 40-gigabit bandwidth to connect all of our universities...
14:47...all of our libraries, all of our R&D institutions to improve collaboration and share resources.
14:56This network is already built and it cost us about $2 billion.
15:01The next network is all about connecting 250,000 local governments to optical fiber.
15:11This is going to cost us about $7 billion.
15:16We believe in next 18 months to maybe 24 months, this network will be operational.
15:24It will connect all the way up to Punjab or villages, and this will allow us to really reengineer...
15:34...a lot of our processes, education system, will help us in agriculture, health, and delivery of public services.
15:50This has to really tie into our vision of empowerment.
15:55Our goal is to really empower a billion people through knowledge information.
16:03And this is where GIS, we believe, will play an important role.
16:07We have state level, local governments who control lot of the information, and we also...
16:16...have federal government with huge amount of information.
16:20So we need to work hand in hand with state as well as federal governments.
16:29We have been working with GIS for last 20 years on and off.
16:33We have used GIS in bits and pieces for many of these activities...
16:42...on energy, transport, farming, and many other areas.
16:47We use GIS for disaster management, many of the government projects.
16:52But now we need to really extend benefits and create a platform to link up with all of the other activities.
17:03So our real vision is to have new information regime supporting good governance, good public service...
17:12...sustainable development, and, ultimately, empowering billion people.
17:22So the value proposition for us relates to geotagging all the assets...
17:28...like the UID for the residents; planning and monitoring of government funds and programs...
17:34...and [unintelligible], transparency in the government; because we do believe that information...
17:40...brings about openness, accessibility, connectivity, networking, democratization...
17:46...decentralization, and, as a result, generational transformation.
17:53All of our cities and centric services would be plugged into GIS.
17:58And we really need to focus not only on citizen services--also on enterprise applications, government applications...
18:06...and, as a result, GIS platform will have infrastructure, asset, portal...
18:16...a national portal, and we need to build human capacity.
18:22Like in Intellicom in early 80s, we started with training 1,000 engineers in digital communication.
18:30Then we took 1,000 more and trained them on high-speed computing...
18:36...and that gave us the platform and resource to build software industry.
18:43We believe we will have to do something similar on GIS at this stage...
18:48...because going forward the human capacity is going to be a big challenge.
18:56So in governments, rural development ministry, for example, can benefit substantially from GIS.
19:06Mining, water--all of the applications in the examples you saw in the morning...
19:13...give us more confidence to really build these applications in the near future to help us...
19:20...in managing of our resources, improving productivity, increasing efficiency.
19:27We have several programs on e-governance today.
19:33Besides computerizing courts, there are special programs...
19:37...on e-governance which also would need plug-in to GIS services.
19:43And for enterprise, there are all kinds of applications.
19:50Earlier, we were talking about census data with couple of friends during coffee break.
19:57And we said if the kind of applications we saw earlier, if we can get birth certificate online...
20:04...immediately at the time of birth, maybe the whole census meaning would change.
20:10We have launched our own satellite for imaging.
20:16We have lots and lots of different groups working on variety of applications today...
20:22...in agriculture, land management, health services.
20:28And the idea is to bring all of this together.
20:31When we started looking at this three years ago, we realized that we have almost 10 different maps in the country.
20:40Everyone has their own map.
20:42Water department map is different from revenue department.
20:45It's very different from telecom, gas authority.
20:51Each one has their own boundaries.
20:55And to get everyone to come together on a platform, to agree to a common map...
21:00...took us almost a year and a half.
21:04Information is power nobody wants to share.
21:08And we learn hard way, that if we want to succeed in this area...
21:13...we've got to get everybody collaborating together and accepting one, common standard.
21:23These are some of the national assets and some of the state-level assets.
21:29All of these assets will have to seamlessly work together.
21:33And it's not very easy to work with different states.
21:37We have around 30 different states, 15 different languages.
21:44Some of our states have 200 million people, like a country.
21:52And to get all of these to work together is, indeed, a major challenge for us.
21:58Capacity building is the core of our program on national GIS.
22:05We need to get right in early school education--understanding of GIS.
22:13We need to train people in the government, we need to train management people...
22:21...we need to educate our politicians, we need to create special university...
22:27...special courses, and we believe a lot of this is going to take a decade.
22:33This is one of those items which is not going to happen in the next three to five years.
22:39For us, the fundamental drivers are minimizing cost, improving efficiencies, enhancing public services.
22:54You look at our five-year plans which are documented in three big books close to 1,000 pages.
23:04Hardly anybody reads those plans.
23:08Now we are digitizing, making it available to large number of people, including schools and colleges.
23:16All of these things are just beginning to happen.
23:22The key at this stage is connectivity, access, organizations, policies...
23:33...and we do realize that we need special organization for GIS.
23:39We need special policy framework for GIS, and we do need focus on innovations.
23:47So National GIS Agency will look at capacity building, policies, manage portal...
23:58...create infrastructure, provide services, and manage assets.
24:06It will also tie in with a lot of the other agencies like remote sensing...
24:12...aerial survey, National Organization for Maps.
24:22All of this work has just started.
24:28What do we hope to achieve from all of this?
24:33We do believe that information would improve transparency, accountability...
24:39...would address issues related to corruption, misunderstanding, waste of resources...
24:47...and would make government more accountable.
24:50It will empower citizens, it will provide knowledge to a large number of people...
24:56...and, hopefully, because of the size of the country, we will be able to provide the kind of leadership...
25:04...that we need at all levels to integrate GIS into many government programs.
25:13These are some of the applications we are working on right now.
25:19Land acquisition, wasteland development, water, agriculture, mining...
25:29...and all of that, planning does use GIS today.
25:37But at the end of the day, we really need Indian model of development.
25:42We believe the western model based on consumption...
25:47...is just not scalable, sustainable, workable, desirable, for India.
25:54We cannot have education at the cost of $30,000 a year tuition.
26:01It's just not scalable.
26:04We have to focus on affordability.
26:06Everything we do has to be affordable.
26:10I always give this example on telecom.
26:14I've been in the telephone business for about 50 years.
26:17Per line cost of telephone line remains $1,000 a line.
26:25And, as a result, it took us 110 years to get a billion telephones in the world.
26:33Then came mobile telephony.
26:37Cost went from $1,000 to $500 a line, to $200 to $100, and it went to $80.
26:45All of a sudden, in 15 years, we had 6 billion more mobile phones.
26:52So everything we do in India has to keep in focus, bottom of the economic pyramid and affordability.
27:02We do cataract surgery for a dollar and a half.
27:06We do quadruple bypass for $2,000 as opposed to $20,000 or $50,000 or $70,000.
27:16All of these things require Indian model of development.
27:22Indian way of innovating.
27:27Innovating for the poor.
27:30And this is the challenge for all of us.
27:36These models don't exist anywhere else.
27:39Everyone is quick to look up to the US and the west for all kinds of solutions, which is great.
27:49But at the end of the day, if we can't change the past model, it has no applications in India except for the top of the pyramid.
28:00Take, for example, auto.
28:03Can we really develop a system where everybody in India and China would have a car?
28:09It's a scary thought.
28:12How can we have a billion, 1.3 billion cars in India?
28:15What does it mean to environment?
28:18So we need to find new solutions for transportation.
28:23A lot of these things require generational change and not incremental change.
28:30The biggest challenge for us is mindset.
28:34I tell many of my colleagues today that we have 19th century mind-set...
28:41...20th century processes, and 21st century technology, and 21st century needs.
28:48We've got to think very differently.
28:53Finally, the real challenge is to reduce disparity in the next couple of decades.
29:032010-2020 has been declared by government of India as the decade of innovation.
29:10We have National Innovation Council, state-level innovation councils...
29:15...and the focus is to pain young to think differently.
29:22We believe through innovative ideas, out-of-the-box thinking, we'll be able to address challenges...
29:28...related to disparity, expedite development, and really focus on demographic dividend.
29:38If we don't focus on 550 million young, it would be a major challenge for us going forward.
29:46I'm confident, mainly because of technology of today.
29:52Whether it is information and communication, cloud computing, open-source software...
29:57...fiber optics, smartphones, and all that; or, biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials...
30:09...alternate energy--all of these things give us hope to find new solutions.
30:16I'm big on India mainly because of technology and the young talent.
30:23But I do realize that we have a long way to go.
30:26Journey is just beginning, and it will perhaps take a decade or two.
30:33But the success we had in telecom gives me the confidence that it can be done.
30:40We need help.
30:41We look forward to your support, your understanding, and once again I want to thank Jack...
30:49...for giving me this opportunity and I wish you all a great conference, thank you.
31:00Wonderful, thank you Sam. Thank you very much. It's great. Sam is one of the reasons why I have confidence about the future.
31:14This is leadership, isn't it? My God. Really, Sam, thank you. My great pleasure to have you here. Thanks.
31:27Roger Tomlinson, at lunch, we were talking. If we'd only met Sam 30 years ago...wasn't that your comment, Roger?
31:36It's great. It is the kind of leadership that we need for the future.
31:42It's the kind of leadership we need to turn it around. That kind of top-down thinking.
31:47But also, not just baloney. I'm talking about people that actually have done things.
31:52He did things, and he continues to do it today. Transforming our future.