TECH TALK: Best of Future Tech: Part 1

My Business Standard Future Tech column celebrated its first anniversary recently. In this weeks series, I will look back at some of the ideas discussed over the first 27 columns. There will be a more succinct summary in the next issue of Business Standards ICE World on Wednesday. Note: The dates mentioned correspond to the print publication dates.

The first column (December 17, 2003) laid out the agenda for India and called for India Technology Missions. The country must rise above individual and local self-interests. It is a kind of agenda that is ideally pushed by a centrally created team which decentralises execution and is able to get the best from different elements that have specific expertise. We need a few, focused missions. The five key ideas outlined for these missions were: a Rs 5,000 computer, Indian language desktop applications, industry information and process maps, fixed-price broadband bundles and locally relevant information and services.

The next column (December 31, 2003) outlined the need to rethink three the technology platforms that form the foundation of our digital lives. The communications platform needs to be built on IP (internet protocol) and be always on The computing platform needs to focus on affordability so that a connected computer is accessible to every family in urban and rural India, and every employee in corporate India The information platform needs to become real time, event driven and multimedia-oriented.

In a way, these two columns set out the tone for Future Tech. What I said then holds as true today: India has an opportunity once again to do things right. What is needed is a generation of entrepreneurs to think beyond the curve and outside the box to create technology platforms and solutions for tomorrows world.

On the portal front, there were specific ideas advocated in my column of January 14, 2004 built around RSS, blogs and publish-subscribe concepts — NINE (New Indian News Ecosystem), PIN (PIN-code-based India Network) and STIM (SME Trade Information Marketplace). The foundation for the next-generation information platform needs to be built on the two pillars that have driven the open-source software movement user customisability and distributed collaboration.

The next column (January 28) took the publish-subscribe idea further: The PubSubWeb makes possible a new class of information that has the following four attributes: it is frequently updated (as opposed to being static), it needs to be repeatedly distributed to a continuously interested set of entities (as opposed to one-off, need-based access), it is incrementally accessed (as opposed to getting the complete chunk and figuring out what has changed), and it needs to be “pushed” in real time (as opposed to demand-driven “pull”) In essence, the PubSubWeb establishes an information stream between information producers (publishers) and consumers (subscribers), making possible a whole range of new applications and servicesJust as HTML powered the request-response web, rich site summary (RSS) will power the PubSubWeb.

SMEs were the focus of the February 11 column, with a focus on providing them with a scalable backend infrastructure which provides instant, personalised and cost-effective communications, secures the enterprise and provides simplified administration of the technology resources; a computer for every employee provides the foundation for personal productivity enhancement and creates the base for electronic capture and flow of information; and, a suite of applications that powers an information refinery and ensures an intelligent, event-driven, real-time enterprise.

Tomorrow: Part 2

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.