Sam Pitroda

Satyan Pitroda (popularly known as Sam Pitroda (born 4th May 1942) is an Indian telecom engineer, inventor and entrepreneur. He is popularly known as the Father of India’s Computer and IT Revolution as he helped Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in bringing computerization as an advisor to the PM. He was also an advisor to the PM during Dr. Manmohan Singh‘s tenure. He was born Titlagarh in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, to a Gujarati family.

Early life

Satyan Pitroda was born in TitlagarhOdisha, India to Gujarati parents. He had seven siblings and is third oldest among them. The family was deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy. Consequently, Pitroda and his brother were sent to Gujarat to imbibe Gandhian philosophy. He completed his schooling from Vallabh Vidyanagar in Gujarat and completed his master’s degree in Physics and Electronics from Maharaja Sayajirao University in Vadodara. After completing his master’s degree in Physics he went to the United States in 1964 and obtained a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

In 1966 he went to work for GTE in Chicago. He is regarded as one of the earliest pioneers of hand-held computing because of his invention of the Electronic Diary in 1975. In 1974, Pitroda joined Wescom Switching which was one of the first digital switching companies. He developed the 580 DSS switch, over nearly four years. It was released in 1978. Wescom was acquired by Rockwell International in 1980, where Pitroda became vice president. 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, via mobile phones.

He spent nearly a decade with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi as the leader of an effort to build an Indian information industry. The task was to extend digital telecommunications to every corner of the country, including remote villages, like the one of his birth. Pitroda launched the Center for the Development of Telematics (C-DOT) and served as Advisor to the Prime Minister on Technology Missions related to water, literacy, immunization, oil seeds, telecom, and dairy. He is also the founding Chairman of India’s Telecom Commission.

Pitroda returned to India a second time in 2004 to focus on building knowledge institutions and infrastructure. Pitroda served as chairman of the National Knowledge Commission (2005–2009), a high-level advisory body to the Prime Minister of India, to give policy recommendations for improving knowledge-related institutions and infrastructure in the country. During its term, the National Knowledge Commission submitted around 300 recommendations on 27 focus areas.

Pitroda also founded the National Innovation Council (2010), and served as the Advisor to the Prime Minister with rank of a cabinet minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation, to help democratize information.

Pitroda founded and served as Chairman of C-SAM. The company maintains its headquarters in Chicago with offices in SingaporeTokyoPuneMumbai and Vadodara. Pitroda holds around 100 technology patents, has been involved in several start-ups and lectures extensively.

Pitroda has also started several businesses as a serial entrepreneur (Wescom Switching, Ionics, MTI, Market, WorldTel, C-SAM, etc.) in the US and Europe.

He has also served as an advisor to the United Nations and in 1992, his biography Sam Pitroda: A Biography was published and became a bestseller on The Economic Times list for five weeks.{{Citation needed |date= July 2013}

He is living in ChicagoIllinois since 1964 with his wife and two children and also in Delhi.

 

Politics

In 2017, Pitroda was appointed as Chairman of Indian Overseas Congress by President of Indian National Congress, a major Indian political party.

Awards

  • Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award, 2000 in recognition of his outstanding contribution to telecommunication and harnessing it for the social and economic transformation of developing countries
  • Dataquestgave Pitroda a lifetime achievement award in 2002.
  • In 2008, Pitroda was elected as a world prominent leader by the World Network of Young Leaders and Entrepreneurs.
  • International Telecommunication Union(ITU) conferred the World Telecommunication and Information Society Award to Pitroda in Geneva on 17 May 2011. He was awarded in recognition of his dedication to promoting Information, communication, and technology as a means of providing a better life for humanity and social and economic empowerment. He was the first Indian to receive this award.
  • In May 2010, the University of Illinois at Chicagocollege of medicine presented him an honorary degree.[19][20]
  • Sambalpur Universityhonored Pitroda with D.Sc. on its 23rd convocation on 14 July 2010.
  • The Government of India awarded him the Padma Bhushanin 2009 for his contribution to Science and Engineering.
  • The Skoch Challenger Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 for ushering in the telecom and IT revolution in India.
  • Andhra Universityhonored Pitroda with D.Sc in 2008.
  • Award for Public Service in the Field of Telecommunications, IEEE Communications Society, 2007, for exceptional contributions in developing indigenous systems and telecommunications infrastructure in India
  • He was felicitated on 31 March 2009 by Akhila Bharatiya Viswakarma Mahasabha (ABVM) for service to the Viswakarma community, in the presence of Chief Minister of Delhi, Smt. Sheila Dikshit.
  • World Telecommunication and Information Society Award, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), 2011, for his outstanding contribution to improving life in rural communities through information and communication technologies. Sam Pitroda is the first Indian to receive this prestigious award
  • He addressed the 2nd Indian Student Parliament in 2012.
  • He addressed the gathering of students and faculties of Seshadripuram First Grade College – Yelahanka, Bangalore, and various other students and faculties from other institutions across Bangalore about the topic of ‘Innovation and Advancement in Modern Education’ on 14 October 2017.

Philanthropy

Sam Pitroda currently chairs five major NGOs.

The University of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology

The first is the Foundation for Revitalization of Local Health Traditions founded in 1990 with Darshan Shankar. It has now turned into The University of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology near Bangalore in India. The foundation promotes Ayurveda, India’s traditional medicinal knowledge. Today, FRLHT has over 200 scientists and professionals on a 19-acres campus and has documented over 7,000 herbal medicinal plants. It also has over 100 herbal medicine gardens, approximately 500 acres each. Sam Pitroda is chairman, the board of trustees at the institute.

The Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI)

In 2009, Sam Pitroda founded The Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) along with Nina Fedoroff and Sara Farley in Washington, DC as a non-profit organization with a mission to forge, optimize, and sustain knowledge partnerships between the people and institutions of higher education and research around the world. They build and support purpose-driven networks to solve shared challenges in science, technology, and innovation. They have worked in countries including Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Middle East, North Africa, and more.

India Food Banking Network

In 2010, Pitroda established the India Food Banking Network (IFBN) to create a network of Food Banks in India to systematically capture and distribute food to empower and support the food security mission in India. Today, IFBN has food banks in Delhi, Gurgaon, and Noida with plans to expand into Mumbai, Bangalore, Calcutta, and others. Sam Pitroda is chairman of the advisory board of the India FoodBanking Network.

People for Global Transformation[

People for Global Transformation were launched in 2012 along with Mr. Hubert Vedrine, France’s former Chief of Staff for President Mitterrand. PGT is a global think tank that brings together an interdisciplinary group of 15 leading voices from across the globe to help shape the 21st century’s discourse on development and governance and provide innovative policy recommendations. The group particularly endeavors to generate greater transversal thinking on the transformational potential of technology and its consequences for all.

Action For India

Also in 2012, Pitroda founded Action For India to help social innovators in India overcome barriers to scale and achieve greater impact at the Bottom of the Economic Pyramid. AFI connects social innovators with impact investors, mentors, technology resources, government contacts and local partners. AFI is headquartered in New Delhi, India, and has a chapter in Silicon Valley, California.

Others

In addition to these six NGOs, Sam Pitroda is also:

  • Founding commissioner of the UN Broadband Commission
  • Chairman of the m-Powering Development Initiative of the ITU in Geneva
  • Chairman of the Vikram A. Sarabhai Community Science Centre
  • Board Member of the World Wide Web Foundation
  • Board Member of the Institute of Design, IIT, Chicago
  • Founding partner of the Young Indian Company, India (now the majority owner of National Herald)

Books

Books by Pitroda

Pitroda also holds a collection of over 40 years of his personal daily diaries and workbooks.