India stands on the cusp of a revolution. There is optimism all-round and in certain quarters, even fear of the growing prowess of India. This is a good start, but only the first step in what is a long journey. This is an opportunity for change and growth that we in India can simply not afford to lose. There are a billion dreams at stake.
So, these are my suggestions to you. The goal is not to find fault with what is happening. Rather, it is to provide specific inputs so that you and your government can continue to catalyse the positive forces that have been unleashed in the marketplace.
1. Develop a 5-year vision for India’s IT and Telecom Infrastructure
Indias digital infrastructure is not going to be built with incremental policy changes. Over the past two years, the government did well to streamline the telecom policies. As a result, we are now seeing the world’s second largest growth with 2 million new users every month. A similar strategy needs to be taken to promote the use of access infrastructure technologies (wireless and broadband), access terminals, software and information.
We need to set goals for building out India’s domestic market in infotech and telecom. This is not just for the benefit of these sectors. The real beneficiaries will be Indians as technology spreads to schools, colleges, homes, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and rural areas markets which hitherto have had only limited adoption. While the market is expected to take care of providing the solutions, the right policies from the government can act as catalysts and the wrong ones (as I shall outline soon) can act as inhibitors.
2. Promote use of server-based computing and open-source software platforms
India is a country with little legacy when it comes to computing. Yes, we have an installed base of about 10 million computers, but that’s a fraction of what it should be. If India needs to rapidly adopt computing across the country, the government should give a boost to two platforms which can significantly reduce total cost of ownership server-based computing (using thin clients) and open-source software. Together, they can help bring down costs by more than 70%.
As a by-product of the adoption of this new and affordable computing platform, India can also then become a showcase for other emerging markets on how to build out their digital infrastructure. This will also create opportunities for domestic product companies to grow globally.
Will there be opposition? Absolutely! There are plenty of organisations which would not like to see a change in the status quo. But this is where we need to put our interests first. If India can bring down the cost of computing, we will make technology affordable to entire verticals and markets who otherwise will have to wait for many more years till either the cost comes within their reach or their incomes rise to meet the dollar-denominated prices. India does not have the time to wait we need to lead the way.
Tomorrow: Letter to Arun Shourie (continued)
TECH TALK Letter Atun Shourie+T