Internet In South Asian Development
- a weapon to
Heritage & Travel
the-south-asian.com February 2001
South Asians quoted
- on Digital divide or digital opportunity?
The information revolution, particularly the Internet, is redefining the way people work and think. There is certainly a digital divide that exists, but the same technology has also been harnessed to reduce the divide and create more economic opportunities for the rural poor of the world - most of whom live in South Asia. Iqbal Quadir pioneered the way in which telecommunications empowered the rural women of Bangladesh. There have been many more success stories of local initiative.
The lessons so far have been that technology can also be used to reduce disparity between the rich and the poor - both at the macro and individual level. "The consensus is that both the market and the state will play important roles in closing the divide, as will partnerships between the private and public sectors."
Three factors that will broadly determine how digital opportunities can be created, are: access to technology, availability of high-quality content for potential users in less-developed nations and communities, and efforts to improve living standards and literacy rates.
Can technology alleviate poverty?
"Until we provide a low-cost computer that is usable by an illiterate farmer on a farm without electricity, you cannot talk about alleviating poverty ... Even assuming that such a divide is available, someone has to pay for connectivity." -- Raj Reddy, Professor of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, USA
Will the Internet Make the Notion of Perfect Market Competition Real?
Masood Jabbar, President, Computer Systems, Sun Microsystems, USA "I came in here with the firm conviction that dynamic pricing is here and that we should get on with it," he said. "Yet while the concept is there, it appears that it is not quite ready for prime time." French consumers are very particular about their food, for example, and like to be able to handle and smell their produce at the corner market.
B2B Exchanges: Who Really Wins?
Mohanbir Sawhney, Professor of Electronic Commerce and Technology, Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University, USA. "Last year, everyone considered it a unique time in history. However, history showed that the striking characteristic about times like these "is that there have been other times like these," Sawhney noted. Today B2B looks very much like earlier grids, whether telephones, electricity or the highways system. The interesting point about them is their impact on business, and most of the added value moved downstream to the customer. Now people are asking: "Is frictionless commerce going to lead to profitless commerce?" Another striking trend in the past 12 months has been towards collaboration among competitors.
"As someone observed, the last big consortium was
Communism and that didn’t quite work out," Sawhney observed.
"The thing I like about B2B is that I can be a futurist and a historian in the same year."
E-Government: The Next Revolution?
N. Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, India, reported on the great improvements in accountability, speed and efficiency achieved in state services. George Pataki, Governor of New York, USA, mentioned analysis of crime patterns across jurisdictional lines to improve crime-fighting techniques as an example of how the new technology could improve government services.
Corporate decision-making and leadership
The role of youth in decision-making was also emphasised by N. R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Infosys Technologies, India, whose company maintains at least 60% of its decision-makers below the age of 30. How do you keep the "soul" of a small organisation within the body of a large one? Murthy finds that a group operates best if it has around 250 people, and it should even have its own building if possible. His company provides flexible hours and amenities such as a gym, pool and Internet café. "It’s just on Friday at five o’clock they have to deliver what they’re supposed to." He also pointed out the importance of leadership and open communication about "the good, the bad and the ugly". A survey that rated his company the best employer out of 7,500 companies in India found the most important reasons to be the company’s ethics and fairness with promotions
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