Info, Communication Technology & Paradoxes
Information And Communication Technology is a key expression today. So have e everything: e learning, e agricuture, e governance, et al. We are looking at ICT as a provider to solutions through community interaction, gatheing, comminity information centres and common service services. The communitization of education, in general is a good sign, and if we harness technology for community development, we will have quicker solutions to business, education, community life, buying and selling, paying bills, purchasing tickets etc through kiosk enabled centres or nodal points.
The major problem however, is that in a country like India there are disparate levels of infrastructural development. The internet makes communication quick and to have internet providers in every nook and corner of the country, its untethered crevices will need a long time and phase by phase developmnent. For example connectivity in the south and the west is perhaps better than the rest of the country. But the good thing happening is that software for the local and regional languages are being developed. We cannot expect the masses to communicate in English, nor can we expect everyone to know Hindi. ICT development in the poorer countries will depend a lot on factors such as telephonic communications, electricity and internet connectivity. When we do not have TV relay stations in every village we cannot expect internet to be provided in the most far flung areas of the country immediately. So what do we do in a situation where service providers are not there, there is no electricity and there is poverty. The politicization of myths such as e-everything can only have cursory or perfunctory effects. The idea that ICT is a solution builder is correct but we have to look at the massive structure of the country and provide the apposite infrastructure everywhere. And again, this is linked to poverty. The poorest people live in the remotest areas and to uplift their economic conditions ICT is certainly a pre-requisite. But the planning stage is important, that is to say the building of infrastructures.
That is again not to say that work is not being done in the country in the field of ICT. There are e-choupals, community information centres and common service centres spread across the country in many states. Social entrepreneurship groups such as BASIX India are doing a very good job in this respect. But here also economy plays a vital role, as they have to get returns for sustainability and sometimes the village folk are unable to pay even one or two thousands for services rendered.
The kind of work that is being done in the country with reference to e-services can be understood if one looks at the Manthan Awards instituted by a Delhi based NGO, Digital Empowerment Foundation. One can go into their website and see every year the innovative practices which are awarded and are noted.
Things are happening but we have not reached the planning stage as yet. But we talk about ICT in such a glowing manner as if it has permeated all walks of life. This is the paradox that is India.
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Ananya S Guha
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