The Rural Technology Action Group (RuTAG) of IIT Delhi organised the 1st International Conference of Rural Technology Action Group (RuTAG) on ‘Rural Technology Development and Delivery: RuTAG and its synergy with other initiatives, on March 9-11, 2018.
RuTAG attends to the need-based enhancement of technologies with the help of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) alongside local NGOs. These needs are spotted out science and technology institutions, NGOs, PSUs and State and Central Government organisations. These enhancements could be technology improvements, delivery, training and demonstration among others. Currently, there are seven RuTAG centres at different IITs and one RuTAG chapter at University of Jammu associated with RuTAG IIT Delhi.
The dais included Dr Rajagopala Chidambram, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India under whose wings the event was organised, Dr Subir Kumar Saha, Head of Mechanical department at IIT Delhi, Dr Ketaki Bapat, Scientist ‘F’ at the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India, Prof. M. Balakrishnan, Professor at CSE department in IIT Delhi and Dr M.R. Ravi, Professor at Mechanical department in IIT Delhi. The keynote speakers include Dr R. Chidambaram, Prof. Akimasa Fujiwara, Dr Balakrishnan Shankar, Prof. B.K. Chakravarthy and Prof. P.L. Dhar.
In his keynote address, Dr Chidambaram emphasised on the magnitude of the technological gap in rural and urban technology and the need to scale innovations and synergize efforts. He stated that only with synergized efforts can innovations benefit the society and not just the research ecosystem. Discussing the need of bringing modern technology to rural areas, Dr Chidambaram touched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) listed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDE), which are call to action to ensure no poverty and world peace and include goals such as no poverty, gender equality, jobs, responsible energy consumption and illiteracy.
Talking about the human development index, which includes parameters such as life expectancy at birth, education index and standard of living; he stated that India should focus on only two parameters, the female literacy rate and the per capita electricity consumption. “While the per capita electricity consumption rate increases, it should also reflect on the concern for climate change and look for additional energy sources as innovation-led growth is no longer the prerogative of high-income countries alone”, said Dr Chidambaram. “It is also very important to mitigate the gap rural India faces while accessing services such as healthcare, transport and education”, he added.
Talking about innovations in India, Dr Chidambaram pointed out the contrast in India and other countries when dealing with an innovation. “Any innovation requires Research, Development and Delivery; failure in any one of them makes the innovation incomplete. In India, institutions excel in research but fail in the other aspects, while industries excel in delivery but do not have the expertise in the other fields. Unless and until we combine efforts of the industry and the institutions, we cannot completely employ our innovations to the benefit of the society. Global leaders such as the United States of America and China have achieved it, while India is still struggling”, said Dr Chidambaram.
Talking about new innovations he said, “It is important to understand the ground realities before implementing any project. The sooner a project starts collecting ground-level problems faced by people, the better. One should always remember that concept transfer is far better than technology transfer as it is limited by the infrastructure”.
Concluding, Dr Chidambaram laid emphasis on knowledge brokering, which can be defined as using old ideas as the raw material for the new ideas after another. He also shed light on different ideas being deployed all around the country by RuTAG, benefitting the rural population. As RuTAG is laying the foundation for innovative rural development, it is receiving support from multiple NGOs and government ministries, prominently from the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, North East India.