India: the world’s largest democracy, with almost a billion people; a nation whose economy is growing at a rate of 7 percent a year. India’s computer software industry itself is growing at a rate of more than 50 percent a year. MIT: one of the best universities in the United States. Due to its depth in engineering, math and science, some people consider it the best technological university in the world.
An association between these two should seem natural. But surprisingly there has never been a developed India Program at MIT. The members of MIT India Technology Education Program (ITEP) intend to change that fact.
Founded in September 1997 at MIT by two graduate students in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Ameet Ranadive and Vinay Pulim, and by Professor Kenneth Keniston of the STS Program, ITEP has three goals:
• to advance computer-related education in India with a focus on the Internet;
• to establish a long-term exchange program between MIT and India;
• to promote cultural understanding between American and Indian youth.
This summer, four MIT undergraduates and two graduate students will travel to the state of Maharastra in India. Over a six week period, they will establish an Internet server at an Indian high school and educate students about computers, the Internet, and HTML programming.
The students will spend their six weeks in the Indian city of Pune, a city of 3 million people situated approximately 60 miles south of Mumbai (once known as Bombay). Due to the numerous universities and the developed automotive industries in Pune, it is referred to as both the "Oxford of India" and the "Detroit of India". The MIT students will be working in the Dr. Kalmadi Shamarao School, which enrolls children from grade school through high school. Ever since a new computer facility was created in 1991, the school has made computer education a mandatory subject for all students from grades five to ten.
The project is made possible by support both from India and from the United States. In India, Rahul Rathi, a young entrepreneur in Pune, has made a major commitment of time and energy to ITEP and acts as its local coordinator. Support from MIT alumni in Pune (Arun Firodia and Baba Kalyani) and from MIT alumni in Mumbai (Kavas Petigara) has been combined with support from the Mustard Seed Foundation of Cambridge and a back-up from MIT’s International Science and Technology Initiative to make the Program possible. An MIT Steering Committee consisting of Professor Keniston (Andrew Mellon Professor of Human Development), Professor Michael Fischer (Director of the Program in Science, Technology and Society) and Professor Myron Weiner (former head of the Department of Political Science and former Director for the Center for International Studies) provides oversight.
This summer’s ITEP project in Pune is designed as a pilot project for future summer programs of this kind, and in the long run, for a larger MIT-India Program.