BillG in IndiaThe obvious answer is no, but it is amazing how many fail to consider the relationship between the two. From recent comments he made, its clear that this fact is something Bill Gates understands very well. On a trip to India, Bill Gates spoke at length on many different occasions about various topics concerning India’s economic development and the role technology and innovation would play in lifting the country out of poverty.

In particular, his comments on the need for India to develop more home-grown research capability and increase the number of PhD’s granted every year, indicated that he is someone who ‘gets it’. In the past, business leaders have heaped platitudes on India’s wealth of science and engineering talent, few have pointed out that this talent is mostly utilized overseas, far from where it can make an impact on innovation in India.

Expanding the number of research centers from 800 to the 1,100 found in China is something Gates thinks should receive increased focus from policymakers. In his view, it is how India can stay ahead of other countries that are trying to catch up to where it is:

“At first some of that (IT boom) was built on low-cost labor. And, of course, as time goes on, you don’t want to have that as the only differentiator and it’s not a sustainable thing, because others can come along with that as well,” Gates said.

Where telecommunications is concerned, there is a reason why the human element to innovation gets barely any mention. So much effort is focused on the technology, whether its network standards or cutting-edge devices, that the human component to innovation gets overlooked. Gates’ comments should remind industry leaders that technology does not exist in a vacuum. Without the minds that can develop innovations  for harnessing solutions to the challenges people face, we really are constructing large temples that will be empty of devotees.