Sugata Mitra

Last updated on: 13 May 2019

 

Addresses


Lives in Gateshead, UK and Salt Lake City (Bidhannagar), India

 

Personal

Born in Calcutta, India on 12 February, 1952. Citizen of India.
Married to Sushmita Mitra, now retired from National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), Government of India. One son, Shounak Mitra , born in 1981, working as computer engineer in San Jose, California, USA.
 

Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in the Theoretical Solid State Physics of Organic Semiconductors, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, 1978.

  • Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Physics with specialisation in Quantum Biology and Acoustic Holography, Indian Institue of Technology, Delhi, 1975. First class

  • Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) with honours in Physics from Jadavpur University, Calcutta, 1973. First Class with second position in the University.

  • Indian School Certificate (I.S.C.) awarded by the University of Cambridge, UK from St. Xavier’s High School, Delhi, 1969. First Division.

 

Positions

 

2019: Independent researcher, speaker and author. Not affiliated to any institution or organisation.

2013-19: Professor of Educational Technology, School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, Newcastle University, UK.
2011-2012: Visiting Professor, MIT Media Lab, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
2006-2011: Professor of Educational Technology, School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, Newcastle University, UK.
1990-2006: Chief Scientist, Centre for Research in Cognitive Systems, NIIT Ltd., India’s largest multinational training and software services company. Founded and heading the R&D Centre of the company and responsible for all innovations in education, computer applications, media and communications technology. Activities include management, research, teaching and writing. During this period (1990-2006), the company turnover increased from Indian Rupees (INR) 300 million to over INR 10 billion (US$250 million).
1987-1990: Director, Publishing Systems, United Database (India) Ltd., then India’s largest telephone directory publishing company. Heading all technical functions including research and development. Activities included management, research and systems development. During this period, the company turnover increased from INR 35 million to INR 750 million.
1983-1987: Head, Technology Division, United India Periodicals Pvt. Ltd., publishers of daily newspaper, the Patriot. Responsible for all digital technology including research and development. Activities included management, research, teaching, writing and systems development. During this period, the company turnover increased from INR 10 million to INR 30 million.
1982-1983: Manager, Product Development, National Institute of Information Technology. Activites included research, teaching and development of instructional material.
1981-1982: Senior Scientific Officer, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. Activities included research and teaching.
1980-1981: Research Fellow, Technical University of Vienna, Austria.
1979-1980: Research Associate, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

 

Professional Experience


Research: Over 45 years’ experience in Learning Systems, Educational Software and Instructional Design, Organic Semiconductors, Computational Physics, Energy Storage Systems, Living Systems, Publishing Systems, Neural Networks, Multimedia, the Internet, Cognitive Systems, Artificial Life.and children's education.


Software: Conceived, designed, developed and implemented over 100,000 lines of code in Fortran IV and 7 dialects of Basic including Visual Basic as well as HTML.


Communication: Published over 35 research papers and over 1000 articles for adults and children in magazines and newspapers since 1965. Designed and implemented over 12 digital interactive multimedia applications. Played the lead instructional role in a 30 part Television serial on computers. Appeared in numerous technical interviews and instructional programs on Indian national and international television. Taught over 3000 students ranging from children to graduates and executives since 1975. Developed courses that have been used by NIIT and others to train over a million students all over the world.


Management: Established and managed the following:
-Computing Facility - the Centre for Energy Studies, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, 1982.
-Product Development Cell - National Institute of Information Technology, 1983.
-Technology Division - United India Periodicals, 1986
-United Database (India) - United Database India Ltd., 1987.
-R&D Centre - NIIT Ltd., 1990
-Centre for Research in Cognitive Systems (CRCS) – NIIT Ltd. 1999.
-Director of research, ECLS, Newcastle University, 2007-2009

-Director, SOLE Central, Newcastle University, 2013-2016
 

Membership and Affiliations

  • Vice President, All India Association for Educational Technology, India. (1993-97)

  • Member, The Press Club of India

  • Member, India Habitat Centre

  • Member, New York Academy of Sciences, USA

  • Member, Planetary Society, USA

  • Life Member, Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), USA

  • UNDP consultant, Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts, India (1995-97)

Awards

  • The National Science Talent Scholarship, 1969-1978.

  • The National Merit Scholarship, 1969.

  • The Indo-Austrian Research Scholarship, 1980-1981.

  • The Raizada award for the best paper of 1999 from the Computer Society of India, 1999.

  • The “Best ICT story” award from the IICD at the World Bank’s Global Knowledge II conference in Kuala Lumpur, March 2000.

  • The “Best Social Innovation of the year 2000” award from the Institute for social inventions, UK, 2000.

  • The “Man for Peace” award for 2002 from the Together For Peace Foundation, Italy, 2002

  • Finalist, World Technology Awards, education category, World Technology Network, San Francisco, June, 2003

  • The Dewang Mehta award for innovation in IT, Ministry of Information Technology, Government of India, 2005

  • Best Education Research Article in an Open Access Journal for 2005, The Communication of Research Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association, 2006

  • Alumni Award for Outstanding Contribution to National Development, from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, 2006

  • Best Book award from the Indian Society for Training and Development, 2007

  • Honorary Doctorate, Technical University of Delft, the Netherlands, 2011

  • Special Achievement Award, 'Learning Without Borders', 2011

  • The Klingenstein Award, USA, 2011

  • The Leonardo European Corporate Learning Award 2012

  • The $1 million TED prize 2013

  • Distinguished Alumni Award, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, 2013

  • Honorary Doctorate, Open University, UK, 2014

  • Honorary Doctorate, Siglio 21 University, Argentina, 2016

 

Principal Achievements


Conception, design, development and implementation of novel computer applications in India.

1983: India’s first Local Area Network based newspaper publishing system.
Configured and implemented a Burroughs B21 network connected to Autologic typesetters and programmed pagination rules in the pre-desktop publishing era. Also predicted the emergence of desktop publishing industry.
Ref: Computers Today, May 1985 (India). Copy available.

1985: India’s first automatic database publishing system.
Conceived and developed database publishing software and applied this to produce the Delhi Telephone directory.
Ref: Times of India, Saturday, December 10,1988, pg1 (India). Copy available.

1988: The world’s first PC-LAN based Yellow Page publishing system.
Developed the technology and applied it to produce the first telephone directories with Yellow Pages for the Indian cities of Agra, Bombay, Bhubaneshwar, Calcutta, Coimbatore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Madurai, Salem, Thiruchrapally and Vishakhapattanam. Subsequently transferred the technology to Bangladesh to produce the first directories of Dhaka and Chittagong cities. In effect, this technology started the database publishing industry in these parts of Asia.
Ref: Computers Today, October 1988, pg73 (India). Copy available.

1989: India’s first Perception Recording System
Invented a system to take continuous analog inputs from 16 users and produce a real-time graph on a PC, with several statistical modes. Used for qualitative perception feedback studies, the system remains one of the few of its kind in the world.
Ref: ET, May 29, 1991 (India). Copy available.

1990: The world’s first hyperlinking software
Conceived and developed “Imaginet”, a program to hyperlink application programs on PC s such that the user can move seamlessly from application to application. Subsequently used for producing the first multimedia applications in India.
Ref: Imaginet: An Associative, Non-sequential multimedia Storage and Retrieval System
S.Mitra and Ajay Magon, Multmedia Computer and Communications: Technology, Application and Enterprise (INFOCOM ‘92), Tata McGraw Hill pg 20-30, November 5-7, 1992, Bombay (India)
Also: Sunday Magazine, August 11, 1993 (India). Copy available.

1992: The world’s first on-line multimedia Operation Theatre Information System
Supervised the development and implementation of a PC-LAN based system that converts conventional patient records into multimedia (audio, graphics, video, etc.) in real time for providing support information to surgeons during heart-bypass surgery.
Ref: Computers Today, May 1993 (India). Copy available.

1993: India’s first Interactive Television
Invented what is possibly the most inexpensive method for implementing interactive TV using a combination of hyperlinking, voice mail and VGA to video technologies.
Ref: Quality Inn, Kensington Terrace, Bangalore (India). Also, Citicable, NOIDA, U.P.(India).

1994: India’s first computer based edutainment course for children
Developed a model for edutainment and implemented it to teach children advanced concepts in computing including concepts on Graphical User Interfaces, Artificial Intelligence, Genetic Programming and Artificial Life.
Ref: Education through Digital Entertainment: A Structured Approach, Renu Ahuja, Sugata Mitra, Rashmi Kumar and Monica Singh, Proc XXX Annual Conference of the CSI, pg 187, Tata McGraw Hill, 1995 (India)
Also: Express Computer, Bombay, May15, 1995 (India). Copies available.

1995: India’s first electroencephalic interface for PCs
Conceived and supervised the development of an amplifier and digitiser for electroencephalic signals. This small and inexpensive device can act as a EEG or ECG viewer for biomedical purposes. However, the present project is aimed at studying the use of this device as a possible user interface for PCs and neurofeedback training.

Ref: Telegraph, Calcutta, October 21, 1996 (India). Copy available.

1996: The world’s first virtual university on the Internet
Developed the NIITNetVarsity, a virtual university on the Internet. While several universities have web sites, the NetVarsity is a simulated environment that has no physical counterpart. The project was completed in July, 1996 and was at that time the only learning environment of its kind in the world. Instruction in the NetVarsity is composed of “Skilletes”, which are like “atoms” of instruction. Modules are constructed by joining combinations of Skillettes to each other.Ref: http://www.netvarsity.com

1997: India’s first live Internet camera applications
Developed and implemented live cam applications for webcasting the proceedings of the Annual General Body meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industries. This was followed by a webcast of live open heart surgery at the Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre.

1998: The Worlds first outdoor Internet kiosk for disadvantaged children
Conceived and developed an outdoor kiosk that provides Internet access to slum children in New Delhi as well as rural children all over India. Popularly known as the “Hole in the wall”, this project continues to attract worldwide attention. The experiment has been reported in almost all printed and broadcast media in the world. Thousands of references available on the Internet.

1999: India’s first wireless web cameras and guided robotic Internet vehicles
Led a team of researchers that built and tested wireless Internet robotic camera applications. Currently operational at the Qutab Minar in Delhi and the Char Minar in Hyderabad, India.

2000: India’s first infra-red and/or radio frequency digital speech delivery device
Led a team of researchers that built and deployed solid state, digital speech transmitters and receivers for a museum application. Visitors would “hear” exhibits describe themselves as they are approached. Currently deployed at Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India and at the Ramakrishna Mission, Delhi, India.

2001-2006: Deployment of outdoor rural kiosks for children
Funded by the International Finance Corporation, the Government of Delhi, the ICICI bank and the Government of India, constructed “hole in the wall” kiosks in remote villages of India, Cambodia and all over Africa. Over a five hundred computers now (2009) exist in these countries in the open and over 150,000 children use these for self-instruction and entertainment.

2007-2009: Design, development and deployment of Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLE) for children
Funded by the education fund of Orient Global, designed and constructed 12 SOLE facilities in disadvantaged areas of Hyderabad and Sindhudurg, Maharashtra, India. Over 6000 children use these facilities for self organised learning. Resulted were tested in Newcastle, UK This resulted in the training of thousands of teachers all over the world in the period 2009-2013. Schools in every continent have started using SOLEs and the number of children impacted is likely to be in the hundreds of thousands. Most major newspapers and TV channels in the world have reported this work.

2009: Conception and deployment of a Self Organised Mediation Environment (SOME) for children
The Oscar winning film 'Slumdog Millionaire' was based on a book by the same name inspired by Mitra's 'Hole in the wall' experiments. This was reported in the Guardian UK in February 2009 and resulted in a large number of volunteers willing to help with children in remote areas. Using Skype and a website www.solesandsomes.wikispaces.com a 'cloud' of mediators interact synchronously with children in Hyderabad and Shirgaon. Results were tested and more than a dozen disadvantaged schools in India and Colombia.

2013: Design, Development and Deployment of 'Schools in the Cloud'
This project was made possible by the 1 million dollar TED prize of 2013. Seven experimental sites, two in the UK and five in India, will be set up and observed over a three year period. Schools in the Cloud brings together the concept of SOLEs (Self Organised Learning Environments) and SOMEs (Self Organised Mediation Environments).
https://www.theschoolinthecloud.org/

 

Contributions to Science and Technology


Generally considered to have a wide and multidisciplinary view of communication and computer applications. The following ideas have, arguably, influenced computing paradigms:

1978: The relationship between the structure and function of organic molecules
Through an interesting thought experiment and a large amount of computation showed that the properties of the Pthalocyanine group of molecules depend on their shapes more than on the constituent atoms. Later applied this thinking to automatic typographic design.
Ref: Crystal Structure Sensitivity of the Band Structure of Organic Semiconductors, S.C. Mathur and S. Mitra, J.Phys.C Solid State, Vol 12 No.2 1979 (UK).

1982: A correlation between location and sensitivity of human sense organs
A speculative concept connecting physiology and quanta that could be of seminal interest to robotics today.
Ref: A Correlation between the Location and Sensitivity of Human Sense Organs, A.K. Bannerjee and S.Mitra, Spec. Science and Tech. Vol 5 No2 pg 141, 1982 (Australia).

1983: A diagnostic method for computer programming training
A simple and powerful method that involves detection of bugs purposely put into a program. Currently used for software quality control in several companies including Motorola.
Ref: Sugata Mitra and R.S.Pawar, Data Training, Vol2, No3, February 1983 (USA).

1985: Distributed processing over Local Area Networks
One of the earliest methods for breaking down large computational and database problems into smaller segments for simultaneous processing by many small computers. Reduced the cost of database publishing hardware by several orders of magnitude.
Ref: Computers Today, October 1988, pg 73 (India).

1988: Hyperlinking
A concept for non-linear interconnection of “Hyper-screens” left over from application programs after they have completed execution. This gives a general framework for the development of almost all multimedia and virtual reality applications as well as a new and wider meaning to graphical user interfaces.
Ref: Imaginet: An Associative, Non-sequential multimedia Storage and Retrieval System
S.Mitra and Ajay Magon, Multmedia Computer and Communications: Technology, Application and Enterprise (INFOCOM ‘92), Tata McGraw Hill pg 20-30, November 5-7, 1992, Bombay (India)
Also: Sunday Magazine, August 11, 1993 (India).

1991: The Virtual Organism
A concept that extrapolates beyond the Graphical User Interface to schemes that interact with a user in an organic, multisensory manner. Integrates Database management Systems, Multimedia, Neural Networks and Expert Systems using the Left and Right Brain model.
Ref: Artificial Intelligence and India, IEEE Asia Pacific Horizon, Jan’93-Mar’93, Pg54 (India).

1993: Effect of damage on Neural Networks
Started in the late eighties, among the first workers to suggest that artificial neural networks can be used to gain an understanding of brain malfunction in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Ref: Proc. 1994 IEEE/SMC Conference, Vol.1, Pg 989 (USA).

1994: Storage and Retrieval of Human Personality
Current work continuing on the intriguing possibility of a digital, multisensory personality system that would encapsulate the basic graphical, vocal, mental and attitudinal characteristics of a person.
Ref: Telegraph, Calcutta, Monday, May 29 1995 (India).

1996: The Cognitive User Interface
Using the psychological principles underlying human personality and communication, this is an attempt at constructing user interfaces that proact (instead of react) and adapt to human needs.

This work is continuing.

1997: Meaning in Binary Strings
Using simple analytical techniques, this is an attempt to determine where “meaning” lies in binary string representations of media objects.
This work is continuing.
Ref: Dataquest (India), May 31, (1998)

1999: Minimally Invasive Education
A set of experiments that set out to investigate the processes by which children self-instruct each other in skill areas. The experiments involve constructing outdoor Internet kiosks in rural and semi-urban areas, particularly where economically disadvantaged children live. The children are exposed to the technology with no instruction whatsoever. It is observed that they reach close to the levels of city children with no difficulty. Additional effects such as management skills, social skills, behaviour changes and acquisition of the English language has been observed as well.
This work is continuing.
Ref: Mitra, Sugata et al., (2005), Acquisition of Computer Literacy on Shared Public Computers: Children and the “Hole in the wall”, Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 21(3), 407-426

2006: Fractal Replication in Time Manipulated Cellular Automata
A computer simulation shows that connected systems with an 'imagined' future will reproduce images fractally. Could this be a basis for memory and consciousness. This work in continuing.
Ref: Mitra Sugata and Kumar, Sujai (2005). ‘Fractal Replication in Time Manipulated One-Dimensional Cellular Automata’, Complex Systems, Vol. 16 (3). http://www.complex-systems.com/Archive/hierarchy/genlisting.cgi?vol=16&iss=3&vars=Menu_1_16=1&label=Menu_1_16&state=0.

2009: Self Organised Learning and Mediation Environments (SOLEs and SOMEs)
Devloped the concepts of SOLE where children in groups manage their own learning. They are assisted by a 'granny cloud', a groups of mostly retired teachers who interact with the children over Skype.

2013: The School in the Cloud
Experiments with seven facilities, two in the UK and five in India, where children use Self Organised Learning Environments and the Granny Cloud to take charge of their own learning. The concept of SOLEs have spread throughout the world.
 

Research awards


Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, 2000-2006, $ 150,000 for experiments in the Hole in the Wall technology in Delhi Slums.

ICCR, Government of India, 2001-2003, $ 300,000 for experiments in the Hole in the Wall technology in Cambodia.

The Social Initiatives group, ICICI bank, 2002-2005, $ 50,000 for experiments in the Hole in the Wall technology in 5 villages in western coastal Maharashtra, India.

World Bank/International Finance Corporation, 2001-2004, $1.6 million for experiments in the Hole in the Wall technology in 23 Indian villages.

The Education Fund of Orient Global, 2006 onwards, $2 million for experiments in self regulated education in remote and rural areas.

Knowledge Transfer Partership, 2009-2010, about GBP 100,000 for a reseach project with ICS, Glasgow.

MIT Media Lab, 2011, $100,000 approx. funded by OLPC, USA, towards spending a year at the Media Lab.

The TED project, 2013: $1,000,000 towards the School in the Cloud project.

 

The Dalio Foundation, 2015. $150,000 towards maintenance of the School in the Cloud Labs in India.
 

Invited Keynotes, Plenaries, lectures etc are under a sepatate menu item.

 

Videos of some invited lectures (this list is not up to date):


First TED talk based on LIFT 2007

TED Global talk at Oxford, 2010
ALT-C 2010 Keynote
BBC Culture Show extract - 25 november 2010
A SOLE session at the Washington International School in February 2011
Google Zeitgeist 2011, London
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6_YvNVzUZw&feature=youtube_gdata_player
Lots of talks all together
TED Book: Beyond the Hole In The Wall
TED Prize 2013 Talk

UNESCO talk of 2017

BBVA talk in Madrid 2018
 

Publications

 

References

 

  1. R.S. Pawar, Chairman, NIIT Limited, 85, Sector 32, Institutional Area. Gurgaon 122001, India. Tel: +91 (124) 4293000 , Fax: +91 (124) 4293333. Email: Pawar@niit.com.

  2. Prof. Nicholas Negroponte, Emeritus Chairman, MIT Media Lab, 75 Amherst Street, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. Email: nn@mit.edu

  3. Prof. Marmar Mukhopadhyay, NIEPA, Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi 110 016, India. Phone: +91(11)685 3942 email: marmar@vsnl.com

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