Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday pitched for making digital connectivity a "basic right" for children just as their right to schooling, and stressed the need to make school education more "creative".
"School education in science and mathematics should become more creative and stimulating. Let us also use the internet to bring the best of our scientists in direct contact with our children and our youth. Digital connectivity should become as much a basic right as access to school," Modi said, while inaugurating the 102nd Indian Science Congress in Mumbai.
The university system in India, Modi said, must be placed at the cutting edge of the research and development activities in the country.
He called for broadening the scope of investment in science and technology that is at present focused on central government agencies.
"Our universities must be freed from the clutches of excessive regulation and cumbersome procedures. They must have a higher degree of academic freedom and autonomy, and, there should be as much emphasis on research as on teaching," he said.
Modi said India needed to foster a strong culture of collaboration between institutions and across disciplines to take advantage of developments, innovations and expertise in diverse areas.
Underscoring the importance of international collaboration in scientific research and the need to benefit from growing the trend of such endeavours, Modi said he "placed science and technology at the forefront of our diplomatic engagement".
"As I have travelled abroad, I have personally sought out scientists to explore collaborations in areas like clean energy, agriculture, biotechnology, medicine and healthcare.
"We have built excellent partnerships with all leading nations to address the grand challenges of the world today. I have also offered our expertise to our neighbours and other developing countries," he said.
Modi said India's global competitiveness depended not on reinventing the wheel but on sustained development and indigenous innovations.
"Our long-term global competitiveness will depend not on replicating what others have done, but through a process of sustained development and innovation."
Modi urged the domestic industrial sector to "step up investments in science and technology in its own interest" and make the practice a corporate social responsibility.
"India's own pharmaceutical industry has carved out a place for itself in the world, because it invests significantly in research," he said.
"For a safe, sustainable, prosperous future for India, or global leadership in a knowledge and technology intensive world, we need to put science, technology and innovation at the top of national priorities," the prime minister concluded.
The five-day conference at the University of Mumbai will see deliberations and presentation of papers by scientists and Nobel laureates from across the globe.
As the Science Congress returns to Mumbai after 45 years, the emphasis will be on showcasing the city as a science hub as well as being the financial capital of India.