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January 1, 2008

Quick to blame IT

Issue 10 - Jan 2008

Prasanna Vishwanathan

This attempt to associate the IT success story with Nehruvian institution-building capabilities can be quickly debunked by pointing out that not many of those who pioneered the low-cost, offshore centric Indian IT emerged from the IITs. At the other end of the spectrum, analysis of the educational demographics of the foot soldier of the industry, the quintessential software programmer, would point to not less than 80 percent of them drawn from private engineering colleges and science colleges (several of them based out of South India). Ashish Arora and Surendrakumar Bagde from Carnegie Mellon University analysed “the relationship between software exports and private engineering colleges from 1989 to 2003 in fourteen Indian states, which account for nearly 85 percent of the population and virtually all the software exports”.

Their study “The Indian Software Industry: the Human Capital Story” finds that “even after controlling for a variety of factors such as level of wealth and industrialisation, the leaders in software exports are those states which allowed private engineering colleges to open before 1992”.

Many shady political operators who quickly turned themselves as educational entrepreneurs deserve credit for pioneering the model of affordable technical education in South India. The proliferation of engineering colleges in South India churned out thousands of bright engineers who were gleefully lapped up by well-oiled recruitment machinery of the top Indian IT companies.

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