Archive for December, 2003

Transcript on Demand from Indian Universities

December 28, 2003

It was nice to see a news item on Pune University going digital. Of the mny
things what interests me most is the digitization of records all the way to
1949. How nice if they follow a “Open Source” Approach to this project, share
it with others so that UGC can force ALL Universitis it funds to go digital,
at least for records (marks cetificates, degree certificates…). May be IBM
or HP will chip in with server space on a Data Center so that Indian
Universities can offer Transcript on Demand? Will UGC take it up? It will
change the face of higher education in India

Mobile Phones will see further growth

December 26, 2003

Thanks to the agreement reached between cellular operators and the Government
of India – Government reducing by 2% the revenue share that cellular operators
will give to the Government and cellular operators withdrwaing all court cases
the feeverish growth of WLL-based mobile phones will come to GSM (full mobile)
services. The tariff will come down (at least not go up) benefiting the
customers. The money that would have gone to the lawyers will go the public, a
definite progress in the year long confusion that started last year when
Reliance announced its service

Infosys and i-Flex on a winning spree

December 25, 2003

Infosys acquired an Australian company Expert Software for $ 23 Million and
iFlex acquired an American company Super Solutions in USA for $ 11.5 Million.
In addition, Infosys Banking product Finacle will be powering ABN Amro Bank in
China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. These augur well for the continued growth of
Indian IT industry. We should expect Infosys, i-Flex and Wipro to reach $ 10
Billion in the next three years. That, and that alone, will do justice to the
common perception of India being an IT Super power

Number Portability

December 23, 2003

With Americans getting number portability as thanksgiving gift on November 24,
2003 there is talk of it in India too. Yes number portability makes more sense
in wireless world (India never had number portability in land line). With
geogrpahic region much larger, genuine competition and the skyrocketing user
base and the falling quality of cellular phone services in the last 3 months
really sugest we need this feature planned at least for 205. Will the service
providers listen?

ICT in India & its impact

December 21, 2003

My views expressed in the Book Launch Ceremony (“Sand to Silicon –
Amazing Story of Digital Technology
” authored by Shivanand Kanavi,
published by Tata McGraw Hill) on December 20, 2003

1. I see IT becoming a mother industry and influencing all other industries in
a subtle way. In fact, I expect IT to become “Invisible Technology” in the
sense that there will be more IT being done, but not necessarily under the
banner of IT. It is important for people to understand this development.
Kanavi‘s book will help people to apreciate this view

2. Inforation and Communications technologies are converging all the more.
With computing devices communicating faster and better and
communications devices computing faster nd better, one of them will
subsume the other function. I use a SONY-riccson phone that links the caller’s
phone number to the picture (I take with the built-in camera). For example,
databases are usually associated with computers, but my cellphone uses the
compute function extensively – lists all names starting with a
letter; interacts to select my choice; look-up to get the phone
number; link a picture from the database; and render the picture
in thumb-size or full mode depending on the phone prientation – all considered
compute functions. This book brings this out this synergy nicely,
particulary in a “lingo” that everyone (not just the techies) understands.

3. With ICT powered by Integrated Circuits on one hand there an another
IC at work too; with Indians & Chinese likely to play a key role in the
next decade by way of hardware (likely to be made by Chinese that would need
software from India) and software (likely to be made by India with hardware
from China). It is important for larger stake holders (politicians, other
professionals, bueracrats and even lay public) to understand this development.

I wish the author and publisher every success and hope to see at least ten
such titles in the near future

Future of Networking

December 20, 2003

These are my views expressed in the inaugural address as Chief Guest of
the National Conference in Netwrking organized by the TIFAC-CORE on
Network Engineering
of the Kalasilingam Engineering College (AKCE),
Krishnan Koil, Tamil Nadu on 19th December, 2003

I personally see FOUR broad trends

1. The paradigm of netwoking used to be connecting computers; today it is
attaching to an existing network. As graduate students in early seventies, we
used to pride ourselves in building networks by tying computers together; but
today, with Internet all around and the “always on” wireless netwoks
everywhere, all we need to network a computer is to attach it to the network
that is pervasive.

2. For long, CS education has centered around PC (Terminal, X Terminal)
centric networking built around LAN / WAN that assumes synchronous
model
. With PDA / Mobile phons communicating we need to re-visit this
view. PC’s / Terminals are generally synchronous; with part asynchronus and
part asynchronous connections that PDA’s and Mobile phones exhibit, there are
interesting challenges.

3. For long we are used to the 7-layer OSI model of clear separation between
hardware and software. With Network Processors & O/S for network devices, what
is done at hardware and what gets done in software is changind dramatically.

4. The universality (even the term Ethernet had this idea) is really coming
true. IPv6 will see very quick adoption, with Nokia deciding to move to IPv6
enabled handsets.

As teachers & researchers we need to sensitize students about this changing
paradigm.

ASAN – ATM made for India by NCR

December 18, 2003

NCR Corporation, the world leader in ATM (Automatic Teller Machines)
designed and built an ATM exclusively for India. It is built for the
dusty environment that is typical of India, more so rural India; this ATM does
NOT “swallow” the ATM card, but keeps the card in the holder for the user to
see; it can be switched off remotely so that during nights it can be made
non-operational; it was designed jointly with IIT Bombay. All these oint out
an interesting trend; when the market is large MNC’s will design products for
India (India expects to add 10,000 ATM’s next year); if we can master
technology (we are considered leaders in IT) MNC’s take us seriously; and,
last but not the least, our academic institutions will rise to the occasion if
challenged sufficiently. All these are welcome developments in India’s
technology landscape

Saddam Hussein captured

December 15, 2003

Saddam Hussein was captured using a lead from his family member. He was pulled
out using ordinary showels from a hole by US soldiers. In a sense, the most
dramatic operation of the year, may be the decade, by the most powerful army
combination could succeed with ordinary low-tech leads and tools. Hopefully,
this will bring some maturity into the whole process of high-tech usage
characterized by “cowboy” type masala war shown live by CNN. High-tech
has its place; but has its own limitations. There is enough that mature,
time-tested low-tech ideas, tool and technologies can offer. It is the
creative genius that ultimately scores.

ITI to make handsets

December 14, 2003

Indian telephone Industries, the public sector giant that dominated telecom
manufacturing for four decades (prior to liberalization and opening up of
Indian telecom industy), is said to be in the final stages of manufacturing
handsets. With huge capacity, manpower and distributed through the length and
breadth of the country, ITI should utilize this opportunity to come out of its
cloud and embrace the wireless consumer space that it has so far avoided. With
wireless phone subscribers increasing at 2 Million per month over the couple
of months, and more than million a month for six months in a row it is the
right time. However, ITI should learn to be nimble, quick on feet and adapt to
the changing market needs of the demanding customer today, who looks for
convenience, features and style.

What can we learn from CAT exam paper leak?

December 12, 2003

It is unfortunate that CAT (Common Admission Test for MBA Admission to IIM’s
and other Institutions) examination paper leakage caused the cancellation of
the All India examination that would have to be re-taken by 150,000 students
all over again. Any such over-centralization has this attendant problem,
particularly when the skewness between the demand and supply is rather high
(1,500 seats in IIM’s nd 150,000 appicants). What we need is to defuse the
pressure through a multi-pronged strategy

1. Dramatically increase supply – we need 100 IIM’s in place of just seven
today; of course, Government should play an enabling role and not a stifling
role that it plays today. In the process good organizations, individuals and
corporations that have plenty of money do NOT come forward to start
institutions and street corner shops are mushrooming all over. Good
organizatins get turned off by the control raj; bad guys just use money power
to buy the controlling authority. By controlling the inputs and leaving out
the output quality, Government guarantees quantity (and the resulting money to
the fly-by-night institutions) but no quality. This was exactly what Gvernment
did in auto industry; controlled steel and power supply that was input and not
controlling output quality; once it stopped controlling input and moved to
output control, such as emission norms, quality improved and the size of the
industry dramatically grew from 45,000 to 450,000 over a decade! Can we not do
the same in higher education? Just as Toyota, GM, Ford, Honda and Hyuandei
came to India, MIT, Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge will come to India on our
terms. We can become the education capital of the world and not
degree-printing shop of the world.

2. We should move to a more transparent system – scores that can be revealed
to students, examinations that can be taken up 12 tims a year and not just
once a year – with so much IT outsourcing happening in India we can even plan
an “examination on demand”. Who knows ETS will find it cost effective to
outsurce the GRE, GMAT, SAT & TOEFL examination processing to India over the
next 5-10 years.

These are definitely “out of the box” ideas that need extensive debate and
action; but the time has come to look at such alternatives rather than a
“blame game” that is going around these days.

We should start thinking in those terms and NOT in taking CAT out of IIMs and
create one central examination that is far more vulnerable and a sure
invitation to disaster