New Delhi: Indian Communications and IT Minister Arun Shourie has refuted allegations that Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) had to withdraw from Media Lab Asia due to differences with him. "The only reason why they quit is because the institute could offer no value-addition to the project that could benefit the Indian masses."
"It is not that I did not believe in rural technology through IT. The agreement with MIT which lapsed on 31 March 2003 and was not renewed because researchers in the five IITs to whom funds had been given for the project said they could not tell what contribution came about MIT," says Shourie.
Terming the allegations made by MIT Media Lab chairman Nicholas P Negroponte as "strange," the minister says since he does not want the relationship to end unhappily, he would rather not react to the sort of phrases that have been used. "I am surprised. This was not the tenor of talks when he came to meet me."
Hitting out at MIT, he says at one point they had promised that due to the association of great names with the project, a lot of private funds would come. "But even the private entrepreneurs who were on the board of Media Lab Asia had also not contributed anything. So in the end, it was completely a government-funded project."
Citing the meagre MIT cooperation to the project, Shourie says: "One of the IIT professors said there had been only two e-mail messages from the MIT professors in the whole year and they came only twice to give lectures. That was the extent of value addition by MIT."
The minister says MIT was demanding a payment of $5 million for using the word 'Media Lab Asia.' "This kind of allegation mongering would get them nowhere... Then I will have to go into too many facts."
Shourie says MIT's withdrawal would not be any great loss to the project because in any case the Indian government is spending a lot of money and Indian IIT professors are doing the work. "Moreover, the IITs do not want an exclusive tie-up with any agency. They want a choice, which is what led to a revamp of the project."