Software Industry History Book

NYTImes reviews a new book on the software industry “From Airline Reservations to Sonic the Hedgehog: A History of the Software Industry” by Martin Campbell-Kelly. The review speaks quite well about the book, and it looks like a good read.

Mr. Campbell-Kelly’s book is not for everyone. He is an instructor in computer science at the University of Warwick in England and is a professional historian. His is not a book of insider gossip or of recreated scenes of clashing egos and executive tirades — the stuff of so many business books. Instead, it is the product of his reading and distilling of books, professional journals, magazine and newspaper articles and historical archives over the last four decades.

The result is a sweeping survey of the software business since the early 1950’s, its evolving structure, economics and marketing.

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Intel’s WiFi Investments

WSJ reports that Intel has made investments in 4 WiFi firms to boost the technology:

  • Vivato Inc., a San Francisco firm that has invented a way to extend the range of Wi-Fi networks from tens of meters to kilometers
  • London-based Broadreach Networks Ltd., which has a network of Internet-access terminals in the United Kingdom
  • Pronto Networks Inc., Pleasanton, Calif., which offers software to help manage Wi-Fi networks
  • rovingIP.net, Bellevue, Wash., which provides services to operators of Wi-Fi and broadband networks
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    eGovernance in India

    A flurry of articles on eGovernance in today’s Financial Express:

    eSeva: From a mere 4,800 transactions a month in August 2001 to a whopping 7.5 lakh transactions a month in February 2003: e-Seva, the Andhra Pradesh government’s pet Government to Citizen (G2C) utilities service project has come of age….A project, which started with less than 10 services in 2001, now e-Seva offers nearly 43 services, ranging from payment of utility bills to issuing of certificates, permits to licenses, reservation of buses to B2C services. e-Seva, which has been serving citizens in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, is set to spread its wings to all the 23 districts before the end of this year.

    Saukaryam: “Saukaryam in Vishakapatnam is among the very few projects using the Net effectively to connect citizens to civic administration in real time. People can settle their bills online, check the status of building and water supply plans, receive information on births and deaths, track garbage clearance, even scan tender notices….The idea behind the project is to track every service that is offered by the corporation online, from taxation to public works to city sanitation. Citizens can check on their property dues, or the status of garbage collection and access birth and death records, while a builder can track the status of his building application. Among other features, the site contains information on infrastructural work being taken up by the corporation, tender notices for contractors, and information on the city weather, news, places to visit, bus and train timings, etc. Also, it offers a discussion forum for people.”

    Maharashtra: “In the face of stiff competition from Karnataka and AP, Maharashtra government is all geared up for a municipal administration network, covering a record 20 municipal corporations and 220 municipalities. The municipal administration network (MAN), which is all about making the civic administration people-friendly, would be a collaborative effort by the state government and civic bodies. It would be implemented in the 60:40 revenue sharing basis.”

    eGovernance: “Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has proposed the idea of setting up a `special technical committee’ to undertake replication of successful IT solutions initiated by some states in a bid to achieve good governance in the country…With the Central government agreeing to allocate Rs 12,000 crore funds for taking up e-governance projects to all the state governments, the Union ICT ministry should better evaluate through a technical committee before duplicating the same, Mr Naidu urged…Awards were presented for the Best Citizen-centric project award to Maharashtra’s Project SETU and Gujarat’s Mahila Shakti; Best Revenue System award to Maharashtra Project Sarita; Best Website award to Maharashtra PWD and Best Office Efficiency Project award to Mumbai Naval Dockyard.”

    WiFi Leap for Rural Communications

    Two articles about a breakthrough by Media Lab Asia in WiFi. Their researches have managed to get 3 Mbps+ across a 37-km (22 miles) hop in rural India, as part of its Digital Gangetic Project. This bodes well for the use of WiFi for rural connectivity. MLA also has been working on DakNet, which uses a mobile van with a WiFi hub to provide intermittent connectivity across villages.

    Financial Express: “A research team of Media Lab Asia (MLA) has created an 85 km-long multi hop wireless corridor between Kanpur and Lucknow, called the Digital Gangetic Plain, using 802.11b protocol and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. This would mean that if the project could be commercially implemented, the 802.11b protocol — that is primarily used for indoor applications within an area of 500 meters — can be used for providing outdoor wireless connectivity for longer distances…The range of the 802.11b protocol has been extended by modifying the existing telecommunication equipment available off the shelf to keep the cost of infrastructure low and using only one base station on the 75-km stretch between Kanpur and Lucknow. The project has been named ‘Digital Gangetic Plain’ as the corridor cuts across the river Ganga and connects villages in the surrounding area.”

    Economic Times: “Stretching the 300m-efficient 802.11b technology to 20 km through directional antennas, MediaLab has created a proof of concept link between Saroha village of UP and its research centre at IIT Kanpur in what it calls the Digital Gangetic Plain experiment. The voice link from Saroha terminates at the IIT Kanpur PABX and then connects normally to the outside world. Initially, the 54 km stretch is covered in three hops between IIT-K and Mandhana village, Safipur and Saroha. Now a single-hop 37-km link has been set up. Work is on to scale it up to a 4 Mbps Kanpur-Lucknow corridor. The link, the first of its kind in the world, will be used as a test-bed for affordable rural communication.”

    TECH TALK: Transforming Rural India: Village Vacuum

    Little has changed in the villages of India in the past decades. Yes, schools have been built, but many still lack teachers and appropriate teaching methods. There are phone lines in many villages, but getting a dial tone is still a challenge. Electricity supply is at best intermittent. Health care is still limited in its availability. Entertainment is limited to radio or television, if it all the electricity is there.

    India’s villages are dependent on agriculture for much of their sustenance. Drought is a common occurrence across much of India. As a result, villagers, for the most part, remain a poor lot – the per capita income of India’s villages is perhaps no more than Rs 12-18,000 (USD 240-360) per annum, as compared to the national average of Rs 25,000 (USD 500).

    Perhaps, most important, the opportunities available to the people in villages are not dramatically different from what they were many years ago. Villages in India are where you live if you have no other option.

    And yet, India is in its villages. 70% of Indians live outside of the urban areas. Even as there is one India which is racing ahead with optimism towards the future, there is another India which seems to be stuck in the past. If India has to progress, there is little doubt that India’s villages have to progress, too.

    Transforming Rural India is a challenge that should focus the best of Indian minds – it is perhaps the single biggest barrier to making India a developed country, and achieving the 10% growth that CK Prahalad talks about. India’s villages need disruptive innovations to make the giant leap forward.

    In this series of Tech Talks, I want to discuss the role that technology can play in transforming Rural India. Of course, one can argue that what the poor need is food, water and electricity, more than technology. It is an argument we have been making since our Independence.

    India’s solution so far has been myriad poverty alleviation programmes and employment schemes. Corruption is not the only reason they have met with limited success. The question to ask is have they changed or enhanced people’s skills, and exposed them to new worlds. To that, the answer is a resounding No.

    I agree with Digvijay Singh, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, when he says that people are not the problem, they are the solution. In India, we have always been weighed down by our numbers. After all, with over 700 million across 600,000 villages in India, it is no small measure to upgrade quality of life for so many. And yet, unless we think of ideas which work with the village as a unit, there will be no universal transformation.

    The time for incremental innovation is over. India needs creative solutions to start a revolution which can take its villages fast forward in time – creating them economically viable units and growth engines, harnessing the power of the villagers, and opening up new horizons with the promise of a better tomorrow.

    Tomorrow: Village Visits