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Bridging more than the digital divide

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MR STEVE BALMER, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft Corporation, with Mr N.R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman & Chief Mentor, Infosys Technologies, at a function organised by Microsoft in the Capital on Wednesday. Kamal Narang
MR STEVE BALMER, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft Corporation, with Mr N.R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman & Chief Mentor, Infosys Technologies, at a function organised by Microsoft in the Capital on Wednesday. Kamal Narang

Our Bureau

New Delhi, Nov. 8

Opposites attract may not be true just in the case of personal relationships, but even for business partnerships. The comparison between the partnership shared by Microsoft's Mr Bill Gates and Mr Steve Ballmer on the one hand, and the Infosys' Mr Narayana Murthy and Mr Nandan Nilekani, on the other, set the tone for discussion of a seminar `Bridging the digital divide', organised by Microsoft India on the occasion of Microsoft's CEO Mr Steve Ballmer's visit to India.

While Mr Bill Gates and Mr Narayana Murthy's personalities can be described more as "introvert" and "geeky", Mr Steve Ballmer and Mr Nandan Nilekani share more "extrovert" and "flamboyant" traits.

Another interesting similarity that was cited by Mr Prannoy Roy, who moderated the panel discussion, was that the richest men of America, Mr Gates and Mr Ballmer and their counterpart in India, the Reliance chief, Mr Mukesh Ambani, were academic drop-outs.

Taking off where Mr Roy left the discussion, Mr Narayana Murthy commented, "What makes this remarkable (the richest being drop-outs) is the fact that despite their backgrounds, they had tremendous courage to take significant decisions, one of the key hallmarks of good leadership."

Primary Focus

Talking on the future of technologies and Microsoft's focus on India, Mr Ballmer said, "Our primary focus is to have the best minds of the world to create computers that can be affordable for India's one billion population. We are not looking at one computer per village or family, but at an individual level. Be it raw material or any other factor, we are exploring all possibilities to make this happen."

The Microsoft Country Manager, Mr Ravi Venkatesh, announced the opening of their innovation centre at Bangalore, which would create an independent software vendors network to convert ideas into intellectual property.

He said, "India is a country with one-third of the world's software engineers and malnourished children. It had 7-8 of the world's millionaires and ranked 127-128 on the Human Development Index and there was a greater need for cooperation among government, private enterprises and NGOs to bridge the digital divide."The other panellists included the Ranbaxy CEO, Mr Malvinder Mohan Singh, and the IIT professor, Mr Ashok Jhunjhunwala, who shared their views on the role of technology in areas of healthcare and agriculture.

Telemedicine

" Telemedicine was emerging as an important area in the healthcare sector and technology would further enable to drive down the costs in the area, as it has happened in the case of prices of medicines for HIV-AIDS," said Mr Singh.Mr Ballmer commented that over the last five years about 1.2 million jobs had been created in the healthcare sector in the US and this happened when all other sectors had been witnessing job cuts.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 9, 2006)
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