Friday, August 29, 2008

Technology Adoption - The Indian way

If adoption of technology brings with it the blessing of greater productivity, it does not come without its share of teething problems. The distinction however when it comes to technology adoption is that the teething problems are beyond those visualized by an engineer with the wildest imagination. And what better place than a country like India to see such instances happen day in and day out, where every technology from the west has to be re-cranked and re-designed to suit the 'desi' lifestyle.

One such instance happened during the travel that inspired my previous post. A young lady of about 26-27 boarded the bus sometime after the bus left Bangalore. She passed 60 rupees to to the conductor knowing very well that the fare for her destination, which incidentally was also the last stop, was 56 rupees. The conductor collected the money and forgot to issue the ticket. The lady too got engrossed in a book.

As the bus left the penultimate stop, the lady voiced out the need for the ticket. The conductor exclaimed that he had already issued one for her. She claimed otherwise. After a heated argument the conductor finally agreed to issue a ticket. Now came the real twist. The electronic ticket vending machine he had, had already ticked off all places except the penultimate stop and the final destination. What that meant was the conductor could only issue tickets between the most recent stop and the next stops. The machine was programmed to behave that way. So the conductor came back, "Look here, I can only issue you a ticket worth a maximum of Rs 13 and not more. This is the fare between the last two stops for this bus."

"No, I need the full ticket for all the travel I have done. How can I pay you Rs 56 and get a ticket for Rs 13. You will enjoy the balance 43 which will never go to the government", cried the lady. After much squabbling, the conductor agreed to take only Rs 13 and issue a ticket of equivalent value. This too did not satisfy the lady. "I do not want to deprive the government of the money that was otherwise due to them for the travel I have done", said the determined lady. There was no way for the poor conductor to get the 'stupid ticket vending machine' to spit out a ticket of Rs 56. He was cursing aloud his lot, "This is not the first time I am getting into such problems. Which dumb guy designed this thing?". For a moment he forgot all the benefits the machine had brought him. He even issued a dire warning to all passengers, "Look here, everybody make sure you ask for ticket immediately the next time you are travelling, else not only will you suffer, you also end up making our lives miserable". I loved this part the most.

Finally the lady and the conductor had to approach the ticket collecting office at the final destination to get things sorted. So much for technology adoption.

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