India:Digital Waves

India has seen at least three digital revolutions in past two decades. The first started with setting up of IPOs providing the facility for having local, STD and ISD telephony along with fax for transferring the documents. One could see these booths in every corner of the country. Both in Noida and Salt Lake, I used it for its convenience whenever the BSNL connectivity failed me.

The second revolution was for the Internet connectivity. It manifested itself in setting up of cyber cafes even in small towns and cities. I used the facility in CK market near our residence whenever I was there for sometime.It used to remain crowded in those days.

But with laptops, tablets and smart phones reaching every home either through personal procurements or through election manifesto of various states, the Internet has become easily available to a large number of individuals at homes, and now cyber cafes look deserted. However it remains popular with school going children for preparing project reports demanded by their schools.

Cell phones with almost in hands of 900 millions of the population had already killed the IPOs and with almost all cell phone service providers offering Internet on mobile phones for many a things such as social networking, cyber cafes have lost its utility.

Cyber cafes are still popular with students for project and photocopying of notes or text books and owners have added some related items along with it. I find it selling stationaries including those for computers that the students need. The self-employed owner of the cafes even help the amateurs to keep their laptops running, providing batteries or anti-virus and other softwares.

The owners try to diversify with some side business activities. I find one doing railways and flight booking, the other one does digital transfer of money for migrants.

Laptops and tablets will have good business in India with states as big as Uttar Pradesh committing to hand over to class X and XII students the gadgets free. UP alone is to buy 26.62 tablets this year itself. The state government has already selected HP for the supply of 15 lakh laptops at a cost of Rs 2,858 crores. A new wave of online education spreading fast will mean the requirements of the gadgets in increasingly larger number. I wish the local manufacturers such as HCL would have taken advantage of the opportunity.

As reported, the web-based courses of National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), led by IIT and IISc, that has Google, Nasscom, TCS, Cognizant and IIITs as partners, went online in October 2012. From July, NPTEL will offer course certification with live exams at the end. While the course is free, a fee will be charged for certification. Some IT cos have agreed to give inputs for the online courses related to computer science and networking. NPTEL is looking for a software platform to host its content along the lines of international providers Coursera and edX that have millions of users with Indians account ing for about 15%, second only to the US. The NPTEL channel, currently on YouTube, has 1.5 lakh subscribers and 8.7 crore views.

I foresee the digital onslaught to all Indian households- rich and poor benefiting them equally well.

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