The government has moved nimbly ever since it decided to set up 20 Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs). It asked industry body Nasscom to prepare a detailed project report. Nasscom handed over this report last week.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
Will the government be equally nimble in executing the plan? Does it have a vision of what it wants to do with the 20 campuses? Or is this another hurried announcement?
The first two IIITs came up in 1998 and 1999 at Hyderabad and Bangalore, respectively. Others followed in Gwalior, Allahabad, Pune, Jabalpur and other cities. This was at a time when all that the Indian IT industry needed was “employable IT graduates” to fuel its services export machines.
Almost a decade later, the Indian software industry is looking beyond services and trying to climb up the value ladder. It needs more PhDs in IT to help it compete globally; the existing IIITs can’t do enough. The biggest roadblock is a shortage of faculty. The Bangalore IIIT director agrees that there’s not even “a culture of high-quality production of computer science PhDs in India”.
Given that it takes at least five years for an educational institute to take off and that bodies such as the All India Council for Technical Education and University Grants Commission put up several bureaucratic hurdles, the progress so far on the IIIT road is not too impressive.
Maybe it’s time for some out-of-the-box thinking.
A core group of experts can mentor the institutes so that there is some commonality among them. But alliances — between the IIITs and with global universities — would also help get more bang for the buck. Instead of wasting time in acquiring land for sprawling campuses, which often becomes a real estate scramble, the new institutes should be centrally designed (but administered on the proposed public-private partnership), compact, eco-friendly, superbly furnished and connected with each other, both in bandwidth and brainpower.
Each institute can choose to build expertise in a particular area — nanotechnology to robotics, artificial intelligence to banking, software engineering to multimedia communications, the scope is limitless — and cross-fertilize each other.
To attract quality faculty, the government should seek global talent, including those of Indian origin. Salaries will have to be global as well. That is where the local IT industry should step in with lavish endowments.
What should be done to make IIITs a success? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org