In today’s highly interconnected ICT enabled world of world girdling telecom networks, ubiquitous internet, electronic
trade, high speed data networks and online transactions, the gap between the digital haves and the have nots
yawns wider, leaving a vast abyss of a digital divide, broadly along the age-old conventional definition of the northsouth
divide. While the world has indeed been transformed in part into a global village, the digital have-nots among
the homily of nations face the real threat of being further marginalised in an otherwise interconnected world. In
this context, India, ranked as one of the world’s poorest countries with a large illiterate population, does have the
potential to bridge this digital divide and employ ICT as an engine for rapid economic growth. For decades now,
the Asian Tigers have grown by manufacturing exports. India could now be the first country to rely on growth
driven by human and intellectual capital, if the government takes bold and innovative steps to harness India’s competitive
advantage in ICTs. We have nothing to lose but our poverty, and the 21st century can indeed be India’s
century. And our Indiaspora are large contributors to this trend that is turning into a torrent …
THE INDIAN FACTOR IN SILICON VALLEY
During the year 1999, UC-Berkeley School of Information dean AnnaLee Saxenian discovered that Indian-born entrepreneurs had founded 7% of all Silicon Valley start-ups between 1980 and 1998. By forming their own networks and mentoring each other, they had changed the perception about Indian technologists, showing America that they could indeed be CEOs. Nearly eight years after she published her findings, Prof. Vivek Wadhwa partnered with her and Professor F. Daniel Siciliano of the Stanford Law School, to update and expand this research. The results they came up with were more than astonishing: 25 percent of start-ups in the US and 52% of those in Silicon Valley were founded by immigrants, and Indian immigrants were the leading among them, having founded 13.4% of all Silicon Valley’s start-ups and 6.5% of those nationwide. This was particularly surprising since Indian immigrants comprised less than a miniscule 1% of the US population of that time.
The only Indians in the Silicon Valley of the ‘50s and ‘60s were a few freshers who came to the US for study and ended up staying. Indians were stereotyped as beggars and snake charmers, and finding them in leadership positions in the technology industry was absolutely unimaginable. Then the wave after wave of IIT grads migrating to the US to escape a stifling scenario of the ‘70s and ‘80s began to change this. One by one they mastered the Valley’s unwritten rules of engagement and shattered its glass ceilings. Engineers like Vinod Dham started creating breakthrough technologies such as the Pentium chip, and entrepreneurs like Kanwal Rekhi and Vinod Khosla co-founded companies like Excelan and Sun Microsystems.
They also started helping each other and formed their own entrepreneurial networks. Ever since, many talented Indians pouring into the Silicon Valley of Northern California have further pushed boundaries and held positions of power in the world of technology and media. Almost all the big US technology companies have technology pioneers of Indian descent, including the fathers of the USB and technology blogging. Satya Nadella rose to become Microsoft’s CEO last year replacing Steve Ballmer, which instantly propelled him into the highest-profile slot. But he is by no means the first Indian to make waves in the technology world.