A decade ago, on January 26, 1999, the scientist Dr Sugata Mitra watched as his team cut out a hole in the wall of the Delhi
NIIT campus in the Kalkaji area. On the other side of it was a slum, a closely packed, messy confusion of small concrete and brick homes.
The slum’s neighbours had regarded it as such an eyesore that the government had been busy building a five-foot-high fence to cordon it off. But Dr Mitra saw the slum—whose clusters carried hopeful names like ‘Nehru’ and ‘Navjeevan’ (new life)—and spotted an opportunity. Through the hole they had carved out, his team provided access to a computer for the slum’s kids, who quickly figured out how to use it. And soon enough, Dr Mitra found that children using these computers were demanding ‘a faster processor and more RAM’  and teaching themselves English.
Experiments like the one initiated by Dr Mitra, whose project the government has since taken up as part of its literacy efforts, are shaping a face for information technology in India that is very different from anything...