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Powell push for IIT grads

Governor M.K. Narayanan, US ambassador to India Nancy Powell and Dean Thompson, the US consul-general in Calcutta, at the Science City auditorium before the start of the inaugural plenary of the PanIIT 2012 Global Conference, partnered by The Telegraph, on Friday. (Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya)

The US ambassador to India wants the IITs to set one more condition for their students to graduate at a time when information technology is revolutionising education.

“They (the students) should be asked to create an app to address one of the pressing issues India faces and then hand it over to the government,” Nancy Powell suggested at the inaugural plenary of the PanIIT 2012 Global Conference, partnered by The Telegraph, to loud applause from the Science City audience.

The session — chaired by industrialist Purnendu Chatterjee — saw Powell, ITC chairman Y.C. Deveshwar and Lord Kumar Bhattacharya (member of the British House of Lords) discuss philosophies, theories and concrete ideas on how to transform India.

The ambassador, who had been the consul-general in Calcutta in the early ’90s, began her speech citing “Rajarhat, Salt Lake City, the expansion of infrastructure, new buildings and high-tech companies” as examples of progress the city has made despite the challenges.

She referred to the Indo-US co-operation to address concerns in areas like food production, climate variability, health, education, and energy in India. “A half-century ago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology organised and led the Kanpur Indo-American Programme... to help establish IIT Kanpur.”

Powell also stressed the need to set up institutes similar to community-training colleges in the US to make workers globally competitive.

“Much of that training (imparted to workers) is done by community colleges (in the US). These institutions are very closely tied to community needs,” she said. “India has recognised a need for such training and is planning to work with the American community college system to establish a similar system here. At the summer 2012 Higher Education Summit, Secretary Hillary Clinton emphasised that the US government supports these plans to bring community college education to India.”

Deveshwar highlighted what businesses could do to address multi-dimensional problems that can decelerate India’s development.

Indian businesses, he observed, need to become competitive in the value they add to be able to compete in the global market and move up the value chain.

“We import iPhones and iPads and we export lower-end items. We need to, therefore, invest in research and development in order to create intellectual property and build Indian brands,” said Deveshwar.

“A country is as good as its companies…. Ask what you can do for India rather than asking what India can do for you.”