South Asian Voice at Davos
     on Globalisation
     on Technology

Honoured at Davos 2001
     Anant Singh
     Iqbal Quadir

Technology   Feature     

Reinventing India

Role of Internet In South Asian Development
Successful case studies
    What the Gurus say
    - Vinod Khosla
    - Gururaj Deshpande

Technology - a weapon to
fight poverty.

South Asian success     stories
   - Bangladesh  
     Village Phone
     Village E-Mail
     Village Internet
   - Madhya Pradesh State
   - TARAhaat.com
   - Several more

Cultural feature
Sadhus - Holy Men of India
-Their Beliefs
- Their Sects



Sundown Madness at Wagah Border


Heritage & Travel

Rajasthan's Forest Forts


Three Brothers & A Violin 


Editor's Note



Silk Road on Wheels

South Asian Shop

Old Prints





the-south-asian.com                            February 2001

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South Asians quoted 

- on Digital divide or digital opportunity?


Raj_Reddy_davos_2001_Remy_Stinegger.jpg (15598 bytes)  N_R_Narayana_Murthy_.jpg (8664 bytes)
Raj Reddy, Professor of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, USA;  N.R.Narayana Murthy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Infosys Technologies, India

Digital facts

  • 33% of the world's population has no electricity at all; 33% has only intermittent electricity. Reliable sources of energy need to be provided by solar, wind, tidal, or conventional means before the development opportunities of the evolving ICT economy can be harnessed for the developing world.
  • The UNDP estimates that to provide universal access to basic ICT equipment and services in all developing countries, adding one billion telephone lines, subsidizing over 600 million households that cannot afford basic telephone charges, providing PCs and access to the Internet for schools, might require an expenditure of $80 to $100 billion per year, over 10 years
  • The U.S. has 950 ISPs per 10,000 people while India has less the 1 ISP per 10,000. The Divide may widen if no efforts are made.
  • The world has 6 billion people, and only 0.8 billion phone lines. 80% are without phones – so how many surf the web?
  • There are 65 phones per 100 people in the U.S. vs less than 2 per 100 in India; 7 public phones for every 1000 people in the US vs .37 in India – World telecommunications Development report, 1998
  • Only 2.4% of the world' s total population uses the Internet. Regional penetration rates vary from 0.04% of the population in South Asia, 0.1% in Sub-Saharan Africa, 0.8% in Latin America, 26% in the U.S and 38% in Iceland – ITU,1999
  • English is currently used in 80% of Websites. Yet less than 10% of the world's 6 billion people speak the language – lack of local language content. While it is possible to search the Internet using Alta Vista in Estonian, which is spoken by only 1.5 million people, this is not possible in Hindi, which is spoken by 400 million people.


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?

Raj_Reddy_davos_2001_Remy_Stinegger.jpg (15598 bytes)"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?
What is the Internet’s potential to transform relations between governments and citizens, with citizens being treated as customers/owners of government? How should governments restructure their operations in order to utilise the Internet’s potential to the full? Where are the opportunities to deliver services more efficiently and align these services to the customers’ real needs?

 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

N_R_Narayana_Murthy_.jpg (8664 bytes)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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