WorldTel Chief Comments on Net Projects in Developing Markets
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Sam Pitroda believes in the power of technology to fulfil basic human needs almost with religious zeal.
As chairman of WorldTel Limited, London, which was created by the International Telecommunications Union specifically to fund telecom in the emerging markets, Pitroda now has the opportunity to practice his faith across the entire developing world.
Commenting on WorldTel, Pitroda pointed out that it was set up over two years ago at the initiative of the International Telecommunications Union, the ITU. "The idea of WorldTel was really to help develop telecom in developing countries, mainly the emerging markets," said Pitroda.
The ITU, with a membership of 187 nations, has expressed concern about telecom systems in these countries for quite some time.
"McKinsey and Company suggested that we should set up a financial institution funded by institutional investors on commercial basis to fund telecommunications," described Pitroda. "So we have five, six major industries, GE Capital, AIG, Natwest, Kuwait Investments ... [and] we structure projects in various countries."
"I got into it on a voluntary basis and had been working with them since 1994 on and off. And then I got sucked into it and two years got into WorldTel full time as chairman and CEO,'' Pitroda shrugged.
WorldTel has done two major projects so far and there are about eight or nine more in the planning stage.
The firm has invested $100 million worth of equity in Mexico for one million lines of wireless local loops in collaboration with a local company called Telinor and Bell Canada International. That was their first project. Another project for about $45 million dollars was funded in Azarbaijan.
"About a year and a half ago we set up community internet services in Peru. We have some discussions with Pakistan, Kazakistan; we have a small project in China. We get a lot of support from ITU,'' he added.
Pitroda pointed out that people go to cyber-cafes to, say, access New York or the Silicon Valley.
"We have to understand that the cafes today do not answer the needs of the people of India. Because, they don't answer the needs of the Indian data bases."
"For instance, art and culture. Look at Tamil Nadu art and culture. And there is so much that needs to to be done and it requires a lot of local creation of data bases. In the local language. It will create a lot of employment."
"To me this is the real use of the Internet. I believe that Internet can improve the quality of life and fuel economic growth in the developing countries," Pitroda concluded.