Here is an academic article about History of IITs and computing in India. I found this article via blog of Dheeraj Sanghi. This article chronicles the creation of IITs and their subsequent impact on establishment of IT industry in India. IITs were created by direct patronage of US(IITK), Britain(IITD), USSR(IITB), and West Germany(IITM). Indian political elite were able to convince the major powers of the time to contribute in creation of IITs. The article also notes that
Not building the IITs would not necessarily have insured that those resources would have been spent instead on an effective mass education system, but if India’s IT industry is one legacy of Nehru’s policies, so too are its generally low levels of education and persistent poverty.
Indeed, IITs has been acting as an elite and exclusive club that can be joined by seemingly fair process of entrance exam. This club can catapult one into the world of highly skilled professionals. The destination of such professionals is US. IITs are only good at producing export quality undergraduates, which is by no means a bad thing. The problem is that IITs have failed to do high quality research. In the same time, public imagined IITs to be like a ‘fairy palace’ that is not accessible to normal human being. IITs can not hope that their status as government funded elite club is sustainable. One day or another, Indian polity will challenge its structure. Given that their research record is ‘international zero’.
Indian government has been attempting to change IITs and sometimes in very foolish ways. Recently, a massive expansion of IITs has been started. Now they are expanded to 14 from 6 IITs. This is very interesting experiments in many ways. No one can deny need for more high quality technology institutes. Yet, there are many objections on this expansion. Many IITians are worried about dilution of their brand name. Some are worried that there will not be enough qualified faculties willing to join IITs, given the salary levels. Quality control of these many IITs will be increasingly hard.
In my opinion, time is ripe for the expansion. Lets hope that the new IITs will succeed.