Sam Pitroda, chairman of India's National Knowledge Commission, was one of the seven pioneers in their respective fields honoured by the prestigious British weekly The Economist.
Pitroda was awarded under the category 'Business-process innovation,' "for pioneering India's communications revolution." The award ceremony took place here on November 9 and it was presided over by The Economist's editor-in-chief John Micklethwait.
"In 1987 Mr Pitroda was asked by Rajiv Gandhi, the Indian prime minister, to help democratise access to telecommunications. His response was to deploy instantly-recognisable yellow telephone kiosks in every town and village. In the process, he helped to release the Indian telecoms industry from state control and opened it up to dozens of private companies, paving the way for India's telecoms boom. Through World-Tel, he now promotes similar policies in other parts of the developing world," the magazine said.
The others who were also honoured included Martin Caruthers, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Colorado at Boulder, for the development of automated DNA synthesis; Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström of Skype, for the development of internet file-sharing and telephony using peer-to-peer technology; Johannes Poulsen, former chief executive, Vestas Wind Systems, for the commercialisation of wind energy; Pierre Omidyar, founder and chairman of eBay, for the development of electronic marketplace technology; Hernando de Soto, founder and president of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, for the promotion of property rights and economic Development; and Nicolas Hayek, chairman of Swatch, for revitalising the Swiss watch industry.
"It is gratifying that over two decades after we began the process of telecom overhaul in India its results have become so pervasive. What I find particularly satisfying that during that phase I was able to tap into the youthful energies of India," Pitroda said after the award.
Explaining the purpose behind the annual prizes The Economist said, "This newspaper was established in 1843 to take part in "a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress".
One of the chief ways in which intelligence presses forward is through innovation, which is now recognised as one of the most important contributors to economic growth. Innovation, in turn, depends on the creative individuals who dream up new ideas and turn them into reality."