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Q&A: S Gopalakrishnan, Infosys

'We need to encourage research for development'

Bibhu Ranjan Mishra 

S Gopalakrishnan

Three years ago, decided to felicitate outstanding researchers in various fields by setting up the Science Foundation, a not-for-profit trust. Infosys' executive co-chairman S Gopalakrishnan speaks to Bibhu Ranjan Mishra about the reasons behind instituting the awards and also about technologies that are expected to steer the IT industry forward. Edited excerpts:

How successful you have been in meeting your objectives of promoting researches in the country?
Our objective was to recognize people of Indian origin doing researches relevant to India, and recognize them. This will encourage more people to do researches and enhance the quality of researches in India. We believe that as India looks at growth and development, invention and innovation coming out of researches will have a very important role to play.

There is a popular belief that since the IT industry hires graduates in large scale, students want to join the industry instead of pursuing higher studies and do research. What is your view on that?
I don't believe the IT industry is responsible for not encouraging higher studies and research. We need world-class industry and for that we need to pay more to get good employees. Other disciplines have also started compensating people well. We need to create an environment where there are enough people who can go into other disciplines of engineering. We need to encourage people to do research rather than saying that the IT industry needs to reduce the salary of employees. Our initial focus was to establish this industry in India and scale it up.

What role do you think various fields of science will play in propelling the growth of IT industry?
Most of these fields are interrelated. If you look at the chip itself, which is a hardware, you will find that we all use it as the basis for building this industry. A lot of researches have happened in terms of increasing the number of processing units which are embedded into the chip; then we have gone into multi-core architecture. These innovations in chip technology are driven by basic and material sciences. Future opportunities like quantum computing and nano-material are heavily dependent on the other streams of sciences. When you look at algorithms, they come from applied mathematics and statistics. I see the need for creating an inter-disciplinary approach now to solve real-world problems in areas of healthcare, sustainability, education and poverty.

What are the technologies which have really been the backbone of the IT industry?
In my view, there are seven innovations which gave a boost to the proliferation of communication and networks. The first among them is the TCP/IP standard, which created a universal network and a universal way to address every element that is connected to the network. The introduction of personal computers was the second milestone as that democratized computing. People who have created them are those who are now creating content and contributing to the explosive growth of the internet that we see today. The other areas which gave a boost to communication networks are worldwide web, fiber optics, mobile phones, application architecture and search engine.

What are the emerging areas of opportunities for the industry?
There are a lot of new things that will have an impact on the industry. Internet is not only connecting the devices and appliances, it is also connecting people. In the next few years, we will have an explosive growth of connecting devices. Some people even say that 50-60 billion devices will be connected. The second area is explosion of data on the internet. People will require services to make use of the data after analyzing it and to store it. With the emergence of cloud computing, we are going through a phase where computing on-premise will actually become a back-up to computing from the grid or cloud. That transition will happen over the next 5-10 years, and that again will provide significant opportunities for us to re-look at how we deploy applications and do computing. We also expect the Rs voice' to play a major role in the proliferation of internet.