Indian President Talks Technology During Virtual Visit to UCSD
By Douglas Ramsey | June 5, 2006
|President Kalam begins a Q&A session with the UCSD audience via optical fiber -- from 10,000 miles away.
Photos courtesy Barbara Haynor
In San Diego, Science and Technology Minister Urges Collaboration on ‘Affordable, Accessible’ Solutions for India
When the President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam, addressed
a standing-room-only audience on the UCSD campus Wednesday,
he was there – but he wasn’t there. High-definition
cameras at the presidential palace in New Delhi captured
his live remarks and the video signal was transmitted
over a dedicated network of optical fiber stretching
over 10,000 miles between the Indian capital and the
La Jolla headquarters of the California Institute
for Telecommunications and Information Technology
The avuncular Kalam – one of India’s most distinguished engineers – delivered the keynote address during the opening session of the U.S.-India Summit on Education, Research & Technology, organized and hosted by the UCSD division of Calit2. He loomed over the UCSD audience from the auditorium’s 30-by-20-foot screen, and indicated his support for making even more connectivity available as India strives to become a developed nation by 2020.
“Today what we are witnessing is an example of creating virtual presence between India and the University of California,” said Kalam. “We should aim at making the bandwidth available without hindrance and at no cost. Making the bandwidth available is like government laying roads. In the modern digital economy driven by knowledge products, bits and bytes traverse the network and create wealth and this will recover the cost of investments in the bandwidth.”
Summit organizer Ramesh Rao remarked on efforts over
the past year to develop closer ties with India and
its research institutions. “A turning point
in these activities was our opportunity to interact
with the president,” said Rao, director of Calit2’s
UCSD division, who met twice with the Indian leader
in New Delhi. “Two things stand out: his desire
to see how technology can solve problems of a societal
scale, and his penchant for using technology to get
his message out.”
|Scripps professor V. Ramanathan (center) explains the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to sample airborne pollution to Minister Sibal, as Calit2 UCSD division director Ramesh Rao (left) looks on.
UC President Robert Dynes was impressed with Kalam’s
message – and the medium. “You began as
a cyberlink, but by the time you finished you seemed
to be physically here, thanks to the technology,”
said Dynes in thanking the Indian president. “You’ve
laid out your vision, which is not unlike our vision:
a vision of energy, air, water, food, health, and
transportation, and how using technology, together
we can address those challenges for global prosperity.”
The invitation-only summit brought together faculty, students, executives, university administrators, government officials and representatives of American and Indian funding agencies to discuss how to promote collaboration between the two countries in education and research.
|Outside the Faculty Club, Minister Sibal is flanked by (l-r) Calit2 director Larry Smarr, Jacobs School dean Frieder Seible, UCSD chancellor Marye Anne Fox, Indian science counsellor Kamal Dwivedi, and U.S.-India Summit organizer Ramesh Rao of Calit2.
The delegation of Indian dignitaries attending the Summit was led by the country’s Minister of Science and Technology, Kapil Sibal. Sibal spent most of the week at Calit2, with side trips to QUALCOMM, General Atomics, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In an interview to air on UCSD-TV, Sibal stressed the importance of Indian and U.S. scientists working on technologies that are appropriate for a country like India where 700 million people live in 600,000 rural villages, many of them without power.
“In India a large section of the community doesn’t have the buying capacity to use high-cost technologies for their everyday lives. What we need are simple, affordable, accessible solutions,” said Sibal. “What we need is technology that is appropriately engineered for making it accessible and affordable to the common man. That’s where we want to collaborate with Calit2 and the whole University of California structure.”