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The Story of Independent India’s Journey to IT Excellence

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The Story of Independent India’s Journey to IT Excellence

August 15 – a day when the heart of every Indian dances with joy. On this day, sixty nine years ago, ourcountry broke the shackles of colonialism, emerging as an independent nation. This is the day India began its long journey to self-reliance.

In the decades after independence, India made rapid strides in various fronts, including science and technology. Today, we will look at the tremendous progress made by our nation in the field of information technology (IT).

We can divide India’s odyssey to preeminence in IT into four distinct phases.

  1. The formative period (1955-1970)
  2. The public sector propelled growth period (1971-1977)
  3. The period of limited private sector participation (1978-1990)
  4. The period of rapid growth (1991-till date)

Let us now look at each phase in detail.

The Formative Period (1955-1970)

Independent India got its first computer in 1955, when a HEC-2M was installed at the Indian Statistical Institute at Kolkata. At this point, the country had only a few dozen trained IT professionals. V. Rajaraman, in his insightful work History Of Computing In India (1955-2010), points out that the initial years of India’s computing were marked by efforts to create the intellectual base for a successful computing industry.

Various technological institutions of repute such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Regional Engineering Colleges (RECs), presently known as National Institutes of Technology (NITs) were at the forefront of these efforts. A major step taken in this period was the establishment of the Bhabha Committee in 1963, which recommended the establishment of a Department of Electronics (DoE) in the Government of India (GoI). The recommendation was implemented in 1970.

The Public Sector Propelled Growth Period (1971-1977)

In the third decade after Indian independence, the demand for computers was fuelled by public sector organizations such as defense and scientific research establishments. Most of this demand was met by the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL). The organization produced integrated circuit (IC) based machines such as the TDC-312 and TDC-316.

This period saw the establishment of various institutions dedicated to the development of computing in the country such as the National Centre for Software Development and Computing Techniques (NCSDCT), National Informatics Centre (NIC), Regional Computer Centers (RCCs), and the Computer Maintenance Corporation (CMC). 

The Period of Limited Private Sector Participation (1978-1990)

This period saw the emergence of private players in the Indian computing industry for the first time since the nation’s independence. A number of private companies were set up, and these firms were engaged in the development of minicomputers, using imported components. Most of these computers used UNIX as their operating system.

Major breakthroughs were seen in the computing arena during this period. In 1984 and 1986, the GoI lifted numerous controls, paving the way for fully assembled motherboards. Needless to say, this provided a major fillip to the computer industry.

The Period of Rapid Growth (1991-till date)

The story of our country’s foray into the league of IT powers is inextricably linked to the economic reforms launched in 1991. Liberalization of the Indian economy, nearly four and half decades after its independence, opened new opportunities for the country’s computing sector. Various controls such as restrictions on foreign exchange dealings were relaxed considerably, resulting in the rapid growth of the IT and IT-enabled Services (ITeS) industry in the country.

Outsourcing is the norm of the day. Thanks to a large pool of technically-qualified, English-speaking workforce, the country became the destination for American and European firms. Various IT-allied industries such as e-learning, digital commerce are thriving thanks to various reasons such as the growth of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and outsourcing-friendly legal framework. Today, foreign firms can obtain high quality IT and ITeS services at considerably lower costs by outsourcing their projects to India. For instance, McKinsey and company reported that firms can save up to 35% to 45% on producing a 1-hour online course by outsourcing its development to India. The time-zone difference between India and the West is another decisive factor in the growth of outsourcing.

Independent India’s journey to excellence began in 1955, and in the ensuing fifteen years, the country developed a strong intellectual base needed for a successful computing industry. The period 1971-1977 witnessed a growth in the demand for computing solutions, driven by the public sector. The country witnessed limited participation of the private sector in the IT industry for thirteen years, beginning 1978. The advent of economic reforms opened new doors for the IT sector in the country, paving the way for its rapid development.

Hope you liked the post. Wish you a very happy Independence Day.

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