Bringing Affordable Computing To The Next Billion

Manish Sharma Vice President, Asia Pacific NComputing The name NComputing is     synonymous with mathematical term ‘N’, which stands for an infinite number. And true to its name, NComputing is into virtualisation of desktops which enable multiple  sers to simultaneously share one computer. Manish Sharma, Vice President,  sia Pacific, talks about the company’s impact and the higher education scenario in India  

Please tell us about NComputing and its vision.
Currently there are about 850 million people in the world who have computer access.  esearchers say that another billion people want access to computing, but simply cannot afford  t because the cost of computer hardware and management  is too high. NComputing’s vision is  to bring affordable computing to the next billion people so they can join the digital   conomy. Our technology allows a single desktop computer to be shared by many users at  the  same time for approx INR 4,000 per seat. This is a breakthrough in affordability  that is  nrivaled and we are seeing tripledigit  yearly growth because the need is so immense. 

How  suitable are NComputing products for the higher education segment in  India? There is a  assive building boom in higher education in India. Despite the economic slowdown,  this is part of a 20-  30 year long term trend that has to do with the long term ambitions of     India as a major  global economic player. As new colleges and  universities are being built,     especially in the  private sector, there is actually competition  developing for attracting the  students. So  higher education institutions are building  state-of-the art computing labs and    facilities  to differentiate themselves. But they also need to do this under very tight budgets,      nd that is why they use NComputing’s shared  computing solutions. Globally            thousands of  colleges and universities use NComputing, for example USA itself, has almost  500 colleges and universities. We are seeing a similar level of interest across Asia and in India.

What impact has NComputing had on increasing access and enrollment ratio in higher education, especially in weaker socio-economic areas
The rich schools, whether in India or other emerging Asian nations, have funds for computers. But in weaker socio-economic areas, they simply don’t have the funds to buy expensive stand-alone PCs or laptops. We are the equalizers. We enable a poorer college or training institute to bring computing access for a fraction of the cost. With more access, these students play on a level playing field vis-à-vis the more affluent institutions. Despite major reforms in India’s higher education sector, we have not yet been able to match up to the demand for skilled workforce.

What do you think are the reasons for this?
When a student is in the college/ university learning subjects that will prepare him or her for a lifelong career, the computer is a tool for research, collaboration and communication. Private colleges/universities are taking the lead in bringing technology to the students as they have more flexibility and can charge higher fees, whereas government institutions have more limitations placed on them. In the transition phase from college to the work place, the  private sector has done a good job to provide practical skills needed through internal training. But this is typical in larger companies and urban areas, so there is still much that needs to be done.
Can our higher education system measure up to other Asian countries like China, Singapore, Malaysia, etc?
What do you think are the main challenges?
Absolutely. We Indians have a passion for learning, it ingrained in our culture and heritage. We had the first world university thousands of years ago. And with ‘top of the pyramid’ systems like IIT, IIM and ISB, India already measures up to other Asian counterparts. The question is how do we expand this excellence to rest of the pyramid? Government colleges/universities will need to be more ‘competitive’ by significantly changing the teaching models and approaches. Private schools will have to ensure quality teaching along with rapid growth. Private companies and NGOs need to increase their engagement with the education sector. Building world-class higher education systems take decades, not years. It will take time, but it is happening for us.

In what ways can an effective industryacademia collaboration build our higher education capacity? Do you think the Indian government is doing enough in this regard?Andhra Pradesh is a great example of Public-Private Partnership in primary/ secondary education. The government  anted to outfit 5,000 government schools with computer labs in an affordable and sustainable way. And they wanted to do it quickly so that the current students get its benefit. So they engaged with the private sector using a BOOT model (Build, Own, Operate and Transfer) and awarded the 5- year turnkey project to seven public and private education services companies. These companies had to install computer labs, hire and train 10,000 computer teachers, and have labs ready in the schools in a record time of 4 months. The government had put strict performance standards for all vendors. We think Andhra Pradesh’s approach is a blueprint for other states to follow, not just in school education, but also  higher education.
What are the future plans of NComputing
vis-a-vis education and ICT solutions?
There has been a rapid acceptance of NComputing products across all segments, especially Education. The reason is simple – when a prospect asks the simple question that why does he need to buy 10 desktop computers when only one would be sufficient without any compromise in functionality, he makes the smart move to NComputing. To assist them, our future plans are centered on expanding, educating and training our channels partners. These partners build value added solutions using NComputing tailored to their industries. \\