What were they thinking when they banned all non-P2P-SMS?

On Wednesday (Sep 22), ahead of the Ayodhya verdict, the Government of India through the Department of Telecommunications banned all bulk SMS and MMS in India for 3 days. The Supreme Court then pushed the Ayodhya verdict out, and the DoT responded by extending the ban for an additional 5 days till Sep 30! The purpose of the ban was, ostensibly, to prevent mass mobilisation of people via SMS before and after the verdict.

What the DoT does not realise or understand is how mission-critical SMS has become in the past few years. Banks send passwords by SMS for Internet banking, credit card transactions and ticketing confirmations come by SMS, taxi bookings send details of the vehicle and the mobile number of the driver by SMS, people get their news and other updates on SMS, and so on. SMS has become part of an infinite number of business processes. A single unforeseen and senseless act of banning every kind of non-person-to-person SMS disrupts the flow of commerce in India. In 21st century India, why do we think like we are caught in a time warp? Why don’t we think through the implications of our actions?

As a company engaged in the business of SMS (both for enterprises and consumers), actions like these play havoc for us. There is no person to talk to, there is no alternative that is considered – a blanket diktat is issued, and that’s it. This is simply not done. But I forgot. We are a country with 21st century aspirations in people but a government that is still an extension of the British Raj.

Weekend Reading

This week’s links:

  • Friedman on China: in the New York Times. ““How can you compete with a country that is run like a company?” an Indian entrepreneur at the forum asked me of China.”
  • Debacle in New Delhi: by Sadanand Dhume in Foreign Policy on the Commowealth Games mess. The point to note: “The Indian middle class — at best, 300 million people out of a population of 1.1 billion — may not have the numbers to decide elections, but it needs to demand a greater say in the country’s governance. This means finding ways to translate its economic muscle into political clout.”
  • TIME magazine cover on the Tea Party: An interesting point that we could perhaps use in India – “Off-year primary elections tend to turn out just a fraction of the electorate, making establishment candidates vulnerable to even small popular movements.”
  • The Pen that never Forgets: from the New York Times. On the Livescribe. “One of the most complete ways to document what is said in class is to make an audio record: all 150-plus words a minute can be captured with no mental effort on the part of the student.”
  • Mobile in Retail: by Tomi Ahonen. ” Lets look at the real bricks-and-mortar retail establishments. What is the role of mobile to them?”