TECH TALK: Best of Future Tech: Part 2

I wrote about technologys power to bring about disruptive change in the February 25, 2004 column: Two key factors offer India an opportunity to leapfrog into the digital world: affordable products and broadband networksAs the digital infrastructure gets built, a process of creative destruction and reconstruction will take place. It will be possible to deliver music, movies, software and games electronically from centralised computers, thus combating piracy which has been the bane of the various industries for long. Video-on-demand can open up new opportunities not just for the entertainment companies, but also for training and education. The combination of 802.11-based wireless networks and VoIP have the potential to offer flat-rate telecom access.

I explored the world of wireless in the column of March 10. India needs a million WiFi hotspots and this cannot happen with the current restrictions on access points. In the coming years, technologies like 802.16 (WiMax) and 802.20 (MobileFi) will extend coverage to a complete neighbourhood (15-20 km), getting past the 100 metre limitation of the current generation of WiFi protocols. At the same time, the speeds available are rising to support tens of megabits per second. This will enable a few towers to blanket entire cities, or a single tower to connect tens of villages in rural India Radios of a different kind delivered news information to much of India in the previous century. The new radios promise to bring the future to the next generation of Indians provided we make the right choices today.

The March 24 column was about some of my thinking as I stood on Sandhill Road, the home of Silicon Valleys venture capitalists, and wondered how to engineer the next tech revolution. The challenge for entrepreneurs is to think on how to create solutionsfor the twin engines of future growth – rural India and the small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)Indian entrepreneurs have the opportunity to shape history only if we begin to start looking at the market within. Rather than trying to only focus on providing services to the rest of the world, we need to start producing hard and soft goods for Indians to use and leverage.

Two columns on April 21 and May 5 discussed how to construct the memex an idea first outlined by Vannevar Bush in 1945. Imagine if we could bridge directories and search engines, making them much more customised based on our likes and the trails that we leave as we surf the Internet, and also taking into account all that we write in emails, blogs and elsewhere. This system would use our memory and knowledge as the starting point This is an evolving information base built not by a centralised organization, but in a distributed manner by each of us. Each of us would have a microcosm of the information space, created and updated continuously by what we did. It would ensure that our ideas would have a context, that we would never forget something, and that we could leverage on similar work done by millions of others like us. This is the real two-way web linking not just documents, but people, ideas and information The platform exists today to construct the memex built around millions of personal directories and weblogs.

Selling software in India has not been an easy exercise for most vendors. The May 19 column discussed the challenges and offered suggestions. India is a market where 90% of population has to do with non-consumption of software. Of the remaining, 90% use pirated software. Legal software in India has only a 1% marketshare. So, even as India creates software for the world, our domestic market languishesTo build the ecology of computing and software in India, there are five issues which need to be addressed: availability, desirability, affordability, delivery and localisation.

Tomorrow: Part 3

TECH TALK Best of Future Tech+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.