The world was last designed about seventy-five years ago. In his new book, Redesign the World: A Global Call to Action, Sam Pitroda argues that hyperconnectivity and the COVID-19 pandemic offer a unique opportunity to redesign the world. He says redesigning the world is not about looking at it from the point of view of liberal or conservative; left or right; capitalism or socialism; public or private; democracy, dictatorship or monarchy; open or closed systems; rich or poor; urban or rural; east or west; white, brown, black or yellow.
He traces seven tipping points in the last 75 years which have had a profound impact on people. They are decolonisation, the rise of China, fall of the Soviet Union, 9/11 terror attacks, rise of technology, increasing inequality, and COVID-19. Today 2.7 billion people make less than $2 per day. Two and a half billion people have no access to toilets. Environmental degradation is growing. Totalitarian regimes are taking over democracies.
He gives the example of India’s telecoms revolution – the country had fewer than 2,500,000 telephones in 1980, almost all of them in a few big cities. The telephone was seen as a luxury item with 7% of the country’s urban population accounting for 55% of the nation’s telephones. The country had only 12,000 public telephones for 700,000,000 people, and 97% of India’s 600,000-odd villages had no telephones at all. By 1987, it had delivered a 128-line rural exchange, a 128-line private automatic branch exchange for businesses, a small central exchange with a capacity of 512 lines, and it was ready with field trials of a 10,000-line exchange.
Pitroda’s proposed redesign of the world has the planet and its people at the centre; with five new pillars of inclusion, human needs, new economy, sustainability/conservation and non-violence. This webinar is a discussion exploring the themes in the book, looking at how the world economy can progress beyond Covid.
- Sam Pitroda, telecom inventor , entrepreneur and author
- Dr Mukulika Banjerjee, Associate Professor, Anthropology, LSE
- Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Innovation and Enterprise, Birmingham City University
About the Author:
Sam Pitroda is an internationally recognised telecom inventor, entrepreneur, development thinker and policymaker who has spent fifty years in ICT and related global and national developments. He was born in Odisha to a Gujarati family, and is popularly known as the Father of India’s Computer and IT Revolution. He was the founder of India’s Telecom Commission after becoming Advisor to PM Rajiv Gandhi in 1987. In 2004, he led the National Knowledge Commission of India under PM Manmohan Singh. He founded the National Innovation Council in 2010, and served as the Advisor to the PM with rank of a Cabinet Minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation, to help democratise information.
Before his government roles, he was an early pioneers of hand-held computing because of his invention of the Electronic Diary in 1975. From 1974, Pitroda developed the 580 DSS switch over four years while at Wescom Switching, one of the first digital switching companies. During his four decades as an engineer, Pitroda filed scores of patents in telecommunications. The latest set of patents relate to mobile phone-based transaction technology, both financial and non-financial.
He is also a founding commissioner of the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development, and chairman of the International Telecommunication Union’s m-Powering Development Board that looks to empower developing countries with the use of mobile technology. In addition, Pitroda is a serial entrepreneur who has started several companies in the United States. He holds around 20 honorary PhDs, close to 100 worldwide patents, and has published five books and numerous papers. He lives in Chicago with his wife.