There could not have been a better way to deliver a lecture on the impact of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in human development than the way adopted by the organisers of Rukmini Shanmugham Endowment Lecture at Thiagarajar College of Engineering here on Friday.

The lead speaker S.V. Raghavan, Chairman, Technical Advisory Committee, National Knowledge Network (NKN) and also a professor with IIT-Madras, could not make it to the venue as he missed his flight from Chennai. But technology came in handy and he ensured his virtual presence through video-conferencing.

Explaining the benefits of application of ICT in areas such as health, education, entertainment, banking, financial services, insurance and many others, he said: “It can be really a change agent for social welfare. There has been fantastic growth in this technology and components have become affordable.”

Now it was possible to take the technology to the villages with a modest investment. It would cost between 32 and 45 paise per person per day in a district which could be connected to Chennai with a bandwidth of 80 gigabits per second (gbps), thereby delivering one gbps to every village.

The cost included expenses to be incurred on laying overhead or underground optical fiber cables. He said the affordability factor led to the launch of NKN, a resource sharing network aimed at connecting over 3000 universities, colleges and research establishments to create countrywide virtual classrooms.

In his presidential address, Venu Srinivasan, Chairman, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), asked students not to be swayed by short term events like the recent economic meltdown. “Knowledge is going to drive the society… The knowledge industry has changed India. You are in a society which is exuberant,” he said.

Referring to the growth of companies like HCL, Bharti Airtel, Suzlon, Suguna chicken and the men behind their development, he said: “These are people who were not born with a gold or silver spoon in their mouth. They achieved it through sheer hard work and entrepreneurial skills… You need to have the zeal to achieve.”

S. Thiagarajan, founder of the endowment (named after his mother), said that his mother was a woman much ahead of her time. She was of the view that the most fortunate people should certainly help those who had to tighten their belts to educate their children. She never thought of it as a favour or a charity.

Karumuttu T. Kannan, Chairman and Correspondent of the College, said that Late Rukmini Shanmugam was the first woman graduate in the Nagarathar community. Tamil scholar So.So.Mee. Sundaram and college principal V. Abhai Kumar also spoke. Later, Dr. Srinivasan handed over cheques of Rs.10,000 each to 24 students towards scholarship.