Voices Of Innovation: Faqir Chand Kohli

Former chairman of Tata Consultancy Services, India's software outsourcing pioneer, and a champion of cracking the country's adult literacy problem.

About the digital divide in India: How deep is it?

I don't think there's really a divide. The question is, are you using technology for everybody? China has six times the number of computers that India has and has written lots more software in Mandarin and Cantonese for its own people, whereas we have done it for others. China has used computers effectively in manufacturing, in agriculture. This year, China will install 13 million PCs, 8 or 9 million of which they will make themselves. We have just 3 million PCs. It's not that we are not doing well, but we are not doing enough.

We have to have a domestic digital industry and speed up computer use. It's doable to make a sub-$200 PC, but it needs a huge initiative. We need more microelectronic engineers who understand the hardware. We have requested the government to select 40 more colleges to provide a master's program in microelectronics.

Hopefully, in the next 12 to 18 months we will break the back of the PC problem and have software in all Indian languages. Then the fun starts, when everyone will use it.

Can India be a source of deep, real innovation?

For us in India, the cost of doing innovative technology is very, very low. The capability of India is its people. I admire China, but our people are better. India has ingenuity. We have more than our fair share of intelligent, hard-working people, great raw material and assets. We have to learn how to use them.

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