Saturday, January 21, 2006

Squeezing IT for maximum benefits

Americans make technology work for them. Indians make technology hog and toil for them. They squeeze every ounce of utility from a new technology/service. I say this with conviction 'coz for every technology that saw the light of the day in the form of a gadget or service that evinced consumer interest, Indians have put it to more varied uses than anybody else in the world.

Let me illustrate my stance with examples. Take the case of the mobile GSM technology. It ushered in mobiles and sim cards into our lives. While America uses it extensively for making calls, they seem to have almost forgotten that you could also send Short Text Messages (SMSes) through them when the message to be conveyed is brief. In contrast, we Indians use SMS as through mobiles were meant for them. The story does not end there. We use it not just to send messages, but also one-liners, jokes, riddles, etc. The corporate world uses SMS to advertise new products. TV Shows use SMS to entice users to vote for their favorite stars and download ring tones, enter contests. News channels use them to conduct mass surveys and polls. We can book tickets to movies, cricket matches through SMS. Banks bombard us with SMSes asking if we are interested in credit cards, ultra-low interest loans that they promise to quickly disburse on our 'OK-ing' with a SMS. Even our politicians use them to send out messages to woo the prospective voter.( Remember the Vajapayee SMS that was selectively targeted at key audiences in cities ). SMS technology has diversified so much that one can even send SMSes in Hindi, the national language.

Not just this. BBC was showing the other day on "Click", one of its popular IT related programs, a new application for SMS technology. A electronic digital board linked to a SIM card is placed at prominent places in every village participating in the program. Agriculture tips, weather forecasts are sent as SMS messages to these SIMs and the message appears on the LED bulletin boards serving to keep farmers updated at all times.

Now tell me... with all this show here, Americans seem like novices when it comes to utilizing SMS technology.

Not convinced !!! Take the example of Linux. While tech geeks all over the world were going ga-ga over how Linux is steadily, but surely replacing Windows, scientists at IISc came out with the Linux powered Simputer, a low cost hand-held for the rural masses. And the cost...well within 10000 rupees.

Still bothered about this new thought... Take the case of STD booths. When the telecommunications revolution rocked India in the 90s, BSNL STD booths mushroomed all over India and they are to this day icons of shrinking a vast country like India in terms of connecting people. Then came privatization era and suddenly we are seeing booths of Reliance, Tata Indicom and other private players competing with BSNL. America hardly has STD booths except for the ones in cities.

Though in all this, we need to appreciate that demographic factors, economic factors and cultural factors all play a part in determining which country embraces what technology to what extent, we also need not forget the ingenuity with which we Indians have made technology toil for us. Three cheers to us. Hip Hip Hurray !!!

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