Government to setup 20 new IIITs with private players, to spend $500 million [NOT IITs]

The Indian government wants to set up nearly 20 top level Institutes for Information Technology with private players and has set aside more than $500 million to do so, junior minister for human resources development Shashi Tharoor said yesterday.

Mr Tharoor said in the Lok Sabha

While land for the purpose would be made available free of cost by state governments concerned, an IIIT would be established at a capital cost of Rs 128 crore each to be contributed in ratio of 50:35:15 by centre, state and industry partner respectively.

Unlike reported widely in the press, these aren’t the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) which have a wider curriculum and are a force to reckon with. These new ones will be named Indian Institute of Information Technology and will deal with IT related subjects.

Based on the recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Council, the government has established 8 new IIITs during the 11th five year plan, the minister said. The 11th five year plan is between 2007- 2012.

The Center has given in-principle approval to set up IIITs in Assam, Tripura, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

This could help in increasing the number of the so called “employable” talent for the IT industry. The gap between industry and the academia is a topic of discussion at most education forums and so is the lack of research funding for high tech in India.

Dilbert's Asok on IIT
Dilbert‘s Asok on IIT

Hopefully, these institutions will prove their worth in the years to come.

We aren’t sure to what extent this will address the immediate problem many product companies are facing. Product companies often look for engineers with a lot of depth and usually face challenges putting together teams with high talent density.

For instance, when we interviewed Poonacha Machaiah, CEO, Qyuki- the social media platform promoted by A R Rahman and Shekhar Kapur a few months ago, one of the challenges he pointed out was the availability of deep talent. Machaiah managed to put together a team and launch Qyuki earlier this week but there are hundreds of startups facing a similar situation in India.

Then there are some questions that draw sharply polarized reactions. Should education at this level be privatised? Or should it remain government sponsored? Does the government really have a choice because the demand is so high? How will this impact the quality of education? What do you think?

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