Thousands of students are expected to have access to the world’s best online study material, research laboratories and faculty members when work on the National Knowledge Network (NKN) is completed by March 2011.
Recommended by Sam Pitroda who headed the National Knowledge Commission (NKC), the network has till date connected around 60 educational institutions in the country, and over six virtual classrooms have been set up. The remaining 1,440 institutes are expected to be connected by March 2011.
Last week, a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the establishment of the NKN with an outlay of Rs 5,990 crore to be implemented by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) over a period of 10 years.
“This financial approval will help put the entire process on the fast track. While the infrastructure will be in place by 2011, improvements will keep taking place over the next 10 years as users also have to be ready to use the network; connect to the virtual labs, etc., which will happen over the next few years,” said the professor.
The NKN was announced by the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram in his Budget speech of 2008-09. Initially, Rs 100 crore was allocated to the Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and IT to establish the network.
The architecture of NKN will be scalable and the network will consist of an ultra-high speed core in the multiples of 10 Gbps and upwards. The broadband network will have a 100 Mbps or higher access bandwidth — almost all user institutions, therefore, will have to upgrade their networks to be able to cater to these speeds. While several institutions may already have an advanced network, a large number of institutes will need to upgrade their infrastructure on campus.
“The experimental stage has been slowly expanding in the last few months. We have so far connected 60 institutes including all the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) (also the new ones), Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, atomic energy labs and Council of Scientific & Industrial Research. We are hoping to put the entire network in place by March 2011,” confirmed an IIT Madras professor, who is a network expert, involved in the process.
The NKN will have about 25 core Point of Presence (PoPs) and 600 secondary PoPs. It will connect around 1500 institutions. Setting up of core network is expected to be completed in a span of 24 months. This network facility will enable country-wide class rooms to be conducted. This will be especially useful where there is a severe shortage of trained faculty. A lecture by a professor in one IIT institute can be attended to by all institutions connected to this network. The network is expected to encourage sharing of knowledge, specialised resources and collaborative research.
In addition, there will be a one-time capital investment to upgrade the local area networks (LANs) of these institutions to a 100 Mbps capability. The NKC also planned to create virtual classrooms through this linking of universities and educational institutions. It is focused on five critical areas of knowledge related to access, concepts, creation, applications and services.
This includes a variety of subject areas such as languages, translations, libraries, networks, portals, affirmative action, distance learning, intellectual property, entrepreneurship, application in agriculture, health, small- and medium-scale industries and e-governance. Once the linking of the colleges is successful, NKC had suggested to extend the concept to schools too. Health, education, grid computing, agriculture and e-governance are the main applications identified for implementation and delivery on NKN.