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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The Role of Internet in South Asian Development


Salman Saeed

" Hope cannot be said to exist or not to exist. It is like the paths men travel upon. Where many people travel there a road is made "… Lu Hsun – (Chinese short story writer)

Just as the old land and sea based trade routes, and the cities on these routes became the centers of economic prosperity, so today the old prosperity based on connectivity via land and sea is giving way to a new connectivity based on Computers and Data / Voice Networks based on both Wireless, land based copper and Fiber networks. Because of the advances in Network technology namely – Optical Switching, the speed of Transactions will further increase. The net result of all this will be the increasing trend towards economic Survival of the Fittest. Whichever country and Company can produce and offer goods at the best price will survive – the rest will be condemned to a digital divide and fall - much as the cities of the old Silk routes went into obscurity and never recovered their prosperity built on taxing the trade goods on the old routes. The rule will soon become ‘Network your Information/Data using Optical Technologies or die economically’. This will be the new battle cry.


Archaeological insights have shown the existence of trade, as early as 3000 to  5000 B.C,  among the Mesopotamian, and the Indus Valley Civilizations,  in areas along the Arabian Peninsula, in Bahrain, etc. In the early eleventh and the fifteenth centuries much of Europe was in the dark ages. However there were flourishing and rich empires between China, India and Central Asian that were involved in trade. Such trade, in spices and silk, which found its way into the Roman empire, was possible over the land routes. There were three Silk Road branches – one arm was the Samarkand, Bokhara,Taskhent, Kashgar; another went through what is now Afghanistan and another went through India along the Indus River into China.

By AD 1500 the European nations in search of spices had found alternative sea based trading routes around Africa and via the Arabian Ocean along the Indian coast and then into the East Indies [Malaysia, Indonesia]. This was the start of the Italian Genoese bankers and the great trading cities of Genoa, Lisbon, and Amsterdam, later to be dominated by the East India Company out of the port of London.

Three Waves of Technology

Technology wave  1 – Printing Press & Maritime Navigational Instruments.

Somewhere in the 16th century the Gutenberg Press was invented in Germany, and writing and printing received a quantum jump in production. Also the technology of calculating time on the sea and the marine navigation instruments was innovated by British experts.

Later on by 1950, as the British Empire gradually gave way to the dominance of the U.S., New York became the dominant port city due to the sheer bulk of maritime trade; in the 1990’s Los Angeles took over New York as the major port in terms of the total tonnage of shipping of goods traded between a port city and the rest of the world. Asia Pacific corridor and the emergence of California [Silicon Valley].

The cities of Samarkand, Bokhara never recovered from the demise of the land based silk roads of Central Asia. Genoa, Amsterdam, Lisbon, London [with its Docklands named after the British Colonies – West Indies, Spice docks, etc] went through similar declines in terms of net prosperity.

Technology wave 2 - Steam engines.

The next big land based networks were the great railroad networks that were built in Europe based out of the steam engine and the subsequent industrial revolution. The Orient Express, the California Zephyr, Canadian Pacific, Santa Fe railroads, North Western Railways of North India built an entire era of prosperity by opening up the rich agricultural hinterlands of Europe, Mid West America, Canada, Punjab and Europe. 

Interestingly, most of the land based fibre optic cable network that
has been laid around the world is mostly along old existing railroad
tracks; sometimes oil companies have allowed rights of way for laying
fiber optic cable along gas & oil pipelines; in U.K. fiber optic cable
has been laid  along the canal systems; Euro Tunnel has laid huge
amounts of fibre optic cable; Major Sea based Fibre optic cable systems have been laid by Global Crossing. This is the subject of a later forthcoming article.

Technology wave 3 - Computers & Networks.

Today the emergence of the Internet will reflect a similar phenomenon in terms of the volume of Data Traffic being sent across various networks; you can see a point marked by the suburbs of Reston, Herndon in Virginia next to Washington D.C. and the Bay Area of San Jose, Santa Clara as comprising the most prosperous areas on the world map below.

belllabs_small.jpg (6172 bytes)

Just as the old land and sea based trade routes and the cities on these routes became the centers of economic prosperity, so today the old prosperity based on connectivity via land and sea is giving way to a new connectivity based on Computers and Data / Voice Networks based on both Wireless, land based copper and Fiber networks.


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