My Views on India-China Comparison

I gave a talk recently at the Economic Times Knowledge Forum in Mumbai. Matt McGee captured part of what I had to say:

Rajesh Jain, managing director of Netcore, told the audience that although India describes itself as an IT nation, in comparison with China it is lagging in the computerisation stakes.

Jain said that although there are 40 million infoworkers here in India, only one million have broadband connections. And while there are 130 million Internet users in China with broadband, India only has one million broadband connections. Part of the problem is to do with infrastructure, said Jain, and another problem was the high cost of computing in India.

Much cheaper broadband connections and much cheaper computers were needed urgently to address the gap, he said. On a visit to China hed noticed that high speed connections were everywhere. Kids in Internet cafes were using avatar-style instant messaging, online games, and watching TV and movies on their computers.

While Oracle and Sun never managed to make much of a dent in the market with their thin client offerings ten years or so ago, the difference now is that there is broadband, which can turn a slim device like the reference platforms Via is creating into a very powerful machine, he said. The hunger for computing needs to be satisfied quickly.

Gadgets and Media Makers

The New York Times writes:

For decades, nearly every gathering of media or technology executives has defined the future in a single word: convergence. What exactly was converging remained in dispute, but most saw some combination of television, computers and an intelligent network that would give consumers much more control.

For once, the visionaries were right. Video is popping up on cellphones, iPods, TiVo’s and Web sites. And as for blogs, photo-tagging sites like Flickr, podcasts and the rest of the bubbling digital stew, it’s clear that lots of media are coming together in lots of devices in lots of ways.

Yet for all the time that media executives – from the towers of Sixth Avenue to the back lots of Burbank – had to prepare for convergence, they are now scrambling to figure out what to do about it.

Tagging for Searching

WSJ writes:

Tagging…can cut through the online clutter to deliver more relevant bits of information. That is because many versions allow users to search only sites that other people have already deemed useful. It also makes it easier to find desired information again. Users says tagging services can simplify online endeavors like shopping for a new road bike or acoustic guitar because they allow a prospective buyer to quickly access saved information.

While tech-heads have been using the method for the past year or so, tagging is now moving into the mainstream. Silicon Valley heavyweights — along with a number of new upstarts — are now putting major resources into developing tagging services. Last month, Yahoo Inc. bought the popular tagging site Del.icio.us (pronounced “delicious”). Now, the Sunnyvale, Calif., company says it plans to allow Del.icio.us users to access their tagged links through My Web 2.0, Yahoo’s own tagging site.

One new site, Shadows.com, allows individuals to save their favorite Web sites under keywords that others can also search. The site, launched last October by the co-founders of Pluck Corp., based in Austin, Texas, attracts more than 275,000 unique monthly visitors, according to comScore Networks. Last week, iLor LLC of Lexington, Ky., launched PreFound.com. Like other bookmarking sites, it allows its users to upload pages they want to save into their own profiles or share them with the public.

Info on the Go

MercuryNews writes:

Yahoo and Google have been busy reshaping their search home pages so people can access them easily from a phone. But the services can still be clunky, in part because of the billions of possible results pages in their databases.

That’s where the start-ups come in. Many, including Synfony, inFreeDA and Jingle, are pursuing niches where they think they can complement or out-simplify the big companies.

And some are thinking more grandly. Take Pankaj Shah, chief executive of 4INFO, a year-old Palo Alto start-up. He wants to go head-to-head with Google by eventually building a portable home page for search.

A number of other start-ups are targeting the $8 billion a year that U.S. consumers pay to dial directory assistance. Several companies now offer free voice services to people via their phone.

Publishing Industry as the New Tech Industry

Tom Foremski writes:

The publishing industry that has been forming the last few years is a technology-enabled publishing industry made up of technology-enabled media companies. It is not the publishing industry of the New York Times, or Dow Jones.

The first wave of technology-enabled media companies are corporations such as Yahoo, Google, AOL, Amazon, EBay, and Craigslist. They publish pages of content and advertising. Except that most of their content is obtained for as low cost as possible; it is harvested by servers and algorithms or their content is contributed by their communities of users, such as at EBay or Craigslist.
…By and large, this first wave will give way to a second wave of technology-enabled media companies because of the effect of what I call “you can’t get there from here.” (This is a characteristic of all important transitions in industry.)

TECH TALK: India Rising: Lee Kuan Yew on India

Singapores former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew gave a lecture recently in Delhi. He is widely regarded as the person who built the Singapore as we know it today. To understand the implications of what he said, we will turn to our own Atanu Dey. Between them, we can analyse the reasons for Indias past failures and derive lessons for doing things right in the future.

First, a few quotes from Lee Kuan Yew.

What India has achieved since 1991 should not be underrated. There have been many successes. The Delhi Metro is one. Bharat Forge, the largest Indian exporter of auto components and the leading global chassis component manufacturer, is another example in the manufacturing sector. There are others. The question is why there are not many more of them?

There is no dearth of excellent analyses by Indians about this problem. An entire library could be assembled on the subject. I consulted two books: The Future of India by Bimal Jalan, who was Governor of the Reserve Bank of India from 1997 to 2003, Chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister and has represented India at the IMF and World Bank; one other book, Governance by Arun Shourie who has held several government portfolios and is a well-known writer. To sum up their arguments for the failings of the system in a single word: politics.

Politics is a fact of life in any country. And coalition politics is a fact of Indian political life.

It has been suggested that Indias slow growth is the consequence of its democratic system of government. Almost 40 years ago, Professor Jagdish Bhagwati wrote that India may face a cruel choice between rapid expansion and democratic processes.

But democracy should not be made an alibi for inertia. There are many examples of authoritarian governments whose economies have failed. There are as many examples of democratic governments who have achieved superior economic performance. The real issue is whether any countrys political system, irrespective of whether it is democratic or authoritarian, can forge a consensus on the policies needed for the economy to grow and create jobs for all, and can ensure that these basic policies are implemented consistently without large leakage. Indias elite in politics, the media, the academia and think tanks can re-define the issues and recast the political debate. They should, for instance, insist on the provision of a much higher standard of municipal services.

At stake is the future of one billion Indians. India must make up for much time lost. There is in fact already a strong political consensus between Indias two major parties that India needs to liberalise its economy and engage with the dynamic economies of the world. The BJP led coalition government of former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee continued and indeed extended the economic liberalisation policies of Manmohan Singh when he was Finance Minister in PM Narashima Raos government. India now has a strong, able and experienced team with Manmohan Singh as PM. The time has come for Indias next tryst with destiny.

Tomorrow: An Answer from Atanu

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