This was one of the most exciting days in my career. I got to visit IIT Madras' TeNeT group and interview Dr. Ashok Jhunjhunwala (who was awarded the Padmasri title in 2002). A simple, amiable, humble, interesting and obviously knowledgeable man, it was a pleasure interacting with him.
First I got to see demos of many of TeNeT's projects. These include innovative telecom technologies that can take ICT to the villages. Through the Chiraag project, they have set up Internet kiosks in numerous rural districts, where the kiosks serve as a one-stop IT solution for them - from communications to clicking of digital photographs - all at a low cost. The kiosks are used to tie-up skilled villagers with entrepreneurs in the city, so that work (ranging from data entry to embroidery) can be outsourced to the villages - making the world truly flat. In addition, medical and agricultural consultancy, and educational services are also offered through these Internet kiosks. I even got to video conference with a person in a remote village. You wouldn't believe it if I told you that these conferences work on 24 kbps Internet connections!
Then, I got to listen to a talk by Dr Jhunjhunwala at a IT company, on leveraging India as it stands up. Very interesting talk about driving progress through innovation and entrepreneurship. Then we had a tete-a-tete about incubation of technology firms and developing good business models for their sustenance.
Since my car hadn't arrived yet, Professor, his wife and I ended the evening watching budget news on TV.
It was a wonderful evening. A great learning experience. It is interacting with people like this that makes Journalism/Writing the interesting profession that it is.
Next I want to meet President Kalam! Hope some magazine editor gives me an opportunity to do so :-)