by Nicholas Ferguson, Ashok Kar and Florence Pesce
The ERCIM-led Euro-India SPIRIT project launches the first Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Experts meeting to discuss ICT policy alignment between Europe and India.
Renowned ICT experts from the European Union (EU) and from India met in Hyderabad, India in August to deliberate on a joint approach to conduct research and foster innovation across emerging technologies and critical societal applications enabled by ICTs. This endeavour will pave the way for aligning their existing and future policies driving ICT research and recommend a strategy for increasing and supporting joint programmes and projects to address key technological and societal priorities in India and in the European Union.
Organised in three thematic groups – ICTs addressing Societal Challenges, AudioVisual Media & Internet and Emerging Technologies & eInfrastructures – the experts cover a large spectrum of ICT actors - from cutting edge research institutions to dedicated NGOs taking the benefits of ICTs to the masses. Professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala (IIT Madras), Professor T.V. Prabhakar (IIT Kanpur), Professor Krithi Ramamritham (IIT Bombay) and Professor P.J. Narayanan (IIIT Hyderabad) bring academic and research excellence, while Dr. Vinay Deshpande (Encore Software), Dr. Hiranmay Ghosh (TCS Innovation Labs), Subu Goparaju (SET Lab, Infosys Technologies) come on board with pioneering corporate research in ICT and Ms. P.N. Vasanti (Centre for Media Studies) and Ms. Anita Gurumurthy (IT for Change) anchor the deliberations in societal priorities. The European Union experts are a rich and diverse mix – Jim Clarke (Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland), Pierre-Yves Danet (Orange Lab – France Telecom), Professor Soumitra Dutta (INSEAD, France), Dr. Fabrizio Gagliardi (Microsoft Research, Europe), Professor Thorsten Herfet (University of Saarland, Germany), Dr. Mounib Mekhilef (Ability Europe, UK), Professor Mogens Kuehn Pedersen (Copenhagen Business School, Denmark), Professor Neeraj Suri ( Technological University of Darmstadt, Germany) and Ms. Nicole Turbe-Suetens (Distance Expert, France).
After a day of intense discussion, the experts presented key findings at a workshop on Collaborative ICT Research & Innovation between India and the European Union organised by the Euro-India SPIRIT project at eIndia2010, India’s largest ICT event. Over 50 participants were offered a comprehensive view of the ICT research and innovation priorities and programmes in the European Union while benchmarking the Indian ICT research objectives and initiatives and offering a vision of the way ahead in this collaborative endeavour.
Speaking at eIndia2010, Vinay Deshpande Encore Software and member of the Emerging Technologies & eInfrastructures WG commented, “Indian ICT can benefit from its interaction with the EU. In terms of policy we can learn from what has been done and the experiences of policies that have been adopted in the EU relating to e-Governance, social systems and how they can be adapted and even re-aligned for the needs of India. Likewise, the successes of Indian ICT can be transported to the EU so collaboration is a 2-way street.”
For its part, Europe is ready to learn from the Indian ICT industry with its world-renowned expertise in software development, especially in e-Governance, social systems and the rural sector. Fabrizio Gagliardi, Microsoft Research and member of the Emerging Technologies & eInfrastructures WG, remarked, “We have identified cloud computing as one of the potential new technologies and trends that can enable better science and improved industrial applications in India, especially with the highly distributed geographical nature of India.” Such an approach perfectly illustrates how closer co-operation on emerging technologies like Cloud can bring benefits across the board.
The benefits of EU-Indian ICT collaboration were also underlined with regard to the aging work force and the development of collaborative working environments which can offer a better work-life balance to aged workers while capitalising on their knowledge and reducing stressful factors such as travelling for work. According to Nicole Turbé-Suetens, Distance Expert and member of the Societal Challenges WG, “EU-Indian collaboration is helping people understand how these technologies can enhance their processes and deliver better quality of life, services and help their development”
Similarly, in the Telecommunications field, Pierre Yves Danet, France Telecom, and AudioVisual and Internet WG member believes that “technology must be aligned to ensure interoperability between different services. When setting up a service, particularly a mobile service, it is important that people from India, Europe and around the world can use the same phone and the same services.”
Joint EU and Indian ICT initiatives are a catalyst in addressing many of the challenges faced by India today such as improving public healthcare infrastructures and services, bringing efficient governance and seamless transactions to citizens, safeguarding the environment, improving education, learning resources and tools for the masses. Collaborative international research is an essential ingredient to achieve India’s ambitions in ICT, at home and abroad. The deliberations in Hyderabad offered fertile ground to strengthen this co-operation and ensure adequate policy measures are put in place.
The Working Groups will continue their discussions on 9 November 2010 and will prepare recommendations to be presented at the Euro-India SPIRIT Workshop to be held in Delhi on 10 November. The workshop will be co-located with the science & technology stakeholders conference organised on 11 and 12 November by the Delegation of the European Union to India.
Florence Pesce, ERCIM office, France