Thursday, August 19, 2004

India and Technology

Something is changing in this world.

Like Om Malik, of Gigaom, says, "The axis of technology has shifted to somewhere over the South China sea".

And when it comes to technology in India, that really gets me up! And I don't mean only in urban India, I don't mean boasting about wi-fi connectivity while sitting in a pub in Marine drive in Bombay, nor do I mean spending a lazy afternoon knocking down a few on Church street in Bangalore while watching the last sixer hit by Sachin on the cell phone. (Yup, you guessed it, beer is another thing which picks me up, but that's another story!) Anyways, these are just what they sound like - idle boasts and false pride. No, I'm talking about getting technology to the people, the people who really sweat, who really bleed, who really work. People who crave to do something better with their lives, not for their own sake, but for their children. People who see a better future in their kids than they can ever hope to have for themselves. People who know that the project they are involved in will never be complete in their lifetimes, who's results will be judged by future generations, and despite all that, still put in more than the get out of it. That is what moves me.

So when I came across two small items which didn't get too much headlines, my ears perked up. One was the largest wi-fi network in the world having been set up in Kerala. And the other was about the info-thela, or info cart, where wireless connectivity is being brought to the masses using a cycle rikshaws!

I had heard about innovative uses of wi-fi in India earlier. Take the instance of setting up wi-fi access points on Karnataka State Transport buses, so that every village they pass through gets connectivity! And wi-fi being wi-fi, the signals jump from one bus to another as they move in and out of range. And the best part? To service all access points you send one technician to the bus terminus, instead of sending tens of people across to static wi-fi access points set across the country! (And please, please don't ask me how they connect during the night. I mean, every person I've mentioned this to asks me that question!)

Apparently, Indian farmers nowadays check global prices of their goods every morning before they go to sell their stuff to the merchants! ITC, yes, the same ITC, which all of us have paid a lot of money to while smoking cigarettes (and which I still do!), has won the 'World Business Award' which is given to companies assisting development. Check out their e-Choupal site.

India also has set up the World's largest highways project. Although this particular one I do have a contention with, considering that we have such a wonderful network of railways (well, their website also needs some work!), but I guess when you have such a lot of people, maybe the railways are not sufficient!

By the way, when was the last time (ahem!) you checked out the website of the President? Or that of the Prime Minister's? Quite an education in themselves. The President's is my favourite, of course!!

Life building upon life. Innovation builing upon innovation. The future is not out there, it's in here. In life, in hopes, in dreams.


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