Ambassador Powell Highlights Importance of IITs at PanIIT Global Conference

Ambassador Nancy J. Powell

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Kolkata, India – “I couldn’t get my speech on my iPad last night,” announced US envoy to India Nancy Powell to a room full of techies at the almost packed Science City Auditorium in Kolkata.

Back in the city where she once was the US Consul General, she brushed aside concerns about the India growth story. ‘If you have doubts whether India is emerging, step out and take a look at what is around you. There is so much growth… Rajarhat, Salt Lake City, new buildings… they are all coming up,’ she said at the Pan IIT Global Conference 2012.

That China was a major concern for the US reflected in her speech. “China is producing one million graduates every year in science, technology, and mathematics. While India graduates about half that number, the US fewer than half. Both the United States and India need to do a better job,” she said while addressing a session on Transformational strategies for India.

 Why are IITs so important to the US? ‘India and the US have much to do to collaborate in future in the field of science and technology. Although India’s science and technology establishment has made enormous progress in the last few decades, further collaboration is needed,’ said Powell.

“This is why IITs are so important and the US government is so eager to promote them,” said Powell, adding that the US is looking to bolster partnerships and encourage more students to go to the country.  

Skills development is the key focus. “The US is training workers to compete in newer fields. Community colleges are working with local industry. India recognizes the need for such training. We are planning to establish a similar system here,” she said. “The jobs of the future will go to the smartest applicants,” said the diplomat.   

“We are actively encouraging more American students to study and explore India through a new initiative called ‘Passport to India’. India and the United States both recognize that sustained educational exchanges are key, and that’s why we have placed such an emphasis on the US-India Higher Education Dialogue,” she added.

Powell urged IITians to create apps (mobile applications) in a bid to transform India. “Create apps that support nutrition, health and child survival and literacy of girls. You can bring a transformation by apps,” she insisted, welcoming funding ideas and looked for greater productive collaboration in the future.  

Private American companies in India are already engaged in research activities in places like Hyderabad and Bengaluru . “We can do this (research) in English rather than having to learn Chinese. It is a huge advantage for India to use,” said Powell.

The US envoy also pointed out that there is huge scope in assisting in the urbanization process with 45 Indian cities with a population of over a million. “After coming back to India, I saw the growing power of states to compete for US investment. Education, transportation, sanitization, urbanization etc will create additional work in the non-metro cities,” she pointed out.   

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