Sam Pitroda, Chairman, The Pitroda Group LLC
Sam Pitroda is a telecom engineer. He is also known as the Father of Indian Computers Revolution. He is an internationally respected development thinker, telecom investor and an entrepreneur. He has been credited for having laid the foundation for India’s technology and telecommunication revolution in the 1980s.
Today, the whole world is connected through technology. A person living in India can easily connect with a person living in London. A mother can easily call her children when they are getting late on their way home. A grandfather living in village can easily talk to his grandchildren living in the city. We cannot even imagine today’s world without connectivity. However, the situation was not the same in 20th century. Many people have worked hard to make this possible. One of such people is Sam Pitroda, who decided to improve the technology of connectivity in India. He is also our guest for today.
Sam Pitroda is a telecom engineer. He is also known as the Father of Indian Computers Revolution. He is an internationally respected development thinker, telecom investor and entrepreneur. He has been credited for having laid the foundation for India’s technology and telecommunication revolution in the 1980s. He was the Chairman of India’s National Knowledge Commission. He has received numerous awards and recognitions including 20 honorary PHDs and is currently chairing five NGOs.
What inspired Sam to work on India’s mobile network?
Sam tells us that he was born and brought up in a small tribal village of India. In the year 1964, when he was 22 years old physics graduate, he read in a newspaper that then US President Kennedy was planning to send man to the moon. Inspired by this he went to the US. However, he got an admission in a University at Chicago. He studied and worked there. As he was coming back to India in 1979, he wanted to make a phone call to his wife, but unfortunately phones did not work in India at that time. That was the time Sam decided to fix the communication problems in India. He says that he was convinced that connectivity is going to be the key to India’s future.
Communication devices as a tool to social change
Sam tells us that he wanted to develop the means of connectivity as he believed that connectivity has become a necessity for humans rather than being a luxury. He tells us that the model earlier was providing a telephone to the one who could buy it. Sam’s updated model suggested that having access to a mobile phone is more important than owning a mobile phone.
Redesigning the World
As the world was under lockdown due to the pandemic that hit us in 2020, Sam got a chance to revisit the idea he has in his mind for a long time. He says that the world was last designed in the mid 20th century. That design was led by the US and many international organisations were made. Sam believes that those organisations have provided betterment to society and have done their job well. But with the change in time, the old design is gradually becoming obsolete and there is a need to rethink and redesign the systems of the world.
Sam further says that hyper-connectivity has changed the world. Unfortunately, it is currently being used to increase production and efficiency. However, it has high potential of improving the way we treat our planet and human life. We need to redesign the world where we can put hyper-connectivity to better use.
He also believes that the world is investing too much on millitary which is actually in a way leading to violence. This is why the world needs to be redesigned.
Sam’s source of inspiration
Sam believes that the main source of inspiration for a person should be oneself. Inspiration should come from within. However, he also tells us that he is also quite inspired by the life of Mahatma Gandhi.
Advice to young people starting their career
Sam advises the new generation to first build a good self as he feels that many people do not pay attention to this. He believes that a person should be disciplined, respectfull, analytical, creative, humble, simple and should always believe in human values.
Mr. Sam Pitroda is an internationally respected telecom inventor, entrepreneur, development thinker, and policymaker.
Credited with having laid the foundation for India’s telecommunications and technology revolution of the 1980s, Mr. Pitroda has been a leading campaigner to help bridge the global digital divide. During his tenure as Advisor to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Mr. Pitroda led six Technology Missions related to telecommunications, water, literacy, immunization, dairy production, and oilseeds. He was also the founder and first Chairman of India’s Telecom Commission. In these plural roles, Mr. Pitroda helped revolutionize India’s development philosophies and policies with a focus on access to technology as the key to social change.
As a way to induce the second phase of India’s technology revolution, in 2005 Mr. Pitroda headed India’s National Knowledge Commission (2005-2009), to provide a blueprint of reform for the knowledge-related institutions and infrastructure for the 21st century in the country.
Recently, Mr. Pitroda served as Advisor to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation, with the rank of a Cabinet Minister. He served as the Chairman of the Smart Grid Task Force, as well as the committees to reform public broadcasting, modernize railways, deliver e-governance, and other developmental activities.
Mr. Pitroda is a Founding Chairman of five non-profit organizations, a founding Commissioner of the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development, and Chairman of the ITU’s m-Powering Development Board that looks to empower developing countries with the use of mobile technology.
In addition, Mr. Pitroda is a serial entrepreneur having started several companies in the United States. He holds around 20 honorary PhD’s, close to 100 worldwide patents, and has published five books, numerous papers and lectured widely all over the world.