TECH TALK: Best of Future Tech: Part 3

The June 16, 2004 column took the discussion to what was needed to transform rural India not between two generations, but between two elections. It discussed a paper by Atanu Dey and Vinod Khosla on Rural Infrastructure and Services Commons (RISC). Instead of trying to solve the problem at a scale of 600,000 villages, the RISC model advocates the creation of 5,000 hubs in rural India each catering to about 100 villages with a population of 100,000 people in a radius of about 15 kilometres, a distance commutable by bus or bicycle. These hubs are about 10,000 square foot in size, built at a cost of about Rs 2 crore each. They have state-of-the-art infrastructure including 24×7 electricity, broadband connectivity, security and sanitationThis standardised infrastructure reduces the costs of operation for service providers in rural India. From the point of view of the rural populace, there is one place in which they can get multiple services services which were hitherto not available or too expensive.

The June 30 column talked about the ADAM problems of computing and the need for EVE: One of the primary challenges that we face is making computing a utility, by bringing down the cost of usage to that of a cellphone. We need to provide access to a connected computer accessible to every family, employee and student in India. How can we do it? To start thinking about possible solutions, there are four challenges that need to be addressed simultaneously. Think of them as the ADAM of computing affordability, desirability, accessibility and manageability We need EVE to tackle ADAM a combination of Entrepreneurship, Venture capital and E(i)nnovation.

Broadband has been the buzzword for the past year or so. The July 14 column discussed a blueprint for India. What India needs is a complete unshackling of all regulation to ensure that every Indian household and enterprise has access to affordable broadband by 2010To make that happen, we need to think disruptively. India needs to become a hotbed for next-generation wireless and other technologies which can deliver broadband to homes and enterprises rapidly. It does not matter if others have done it or not. We need to lead the way. Just like South Korea did a few years ago Let us set a goal of providing a whole solution of hardware (access device), software, broadband connectivity and tech support for Rs 700 per user per month. Of this, broadband access (512 Kbps or higher) should cost no more than Rs 250 per month. Now, let us work backwards and figure out what we need to make this happen. If we can imagine 100 million users in five years, this is a market of Rs 30,000 crore per annum for broadband service providers to fight over.

The July 28 column was about Black Swans, which are outliers, events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations. Google is one such example, having built an alternate computing platform and created tens of billions of dollars in wealth in a short span of time for its promoters, investors, employees and shareholders. A Google happens once in many, many years. It is almost impossible to predict before hand that such a company will at some point of time in the future occupy a position of great power and influence over not just across its vertical but across the industry. Because, if we knew, we would do something about it. Competitors would seek to put roadblocks and hurdles, or failing that, try and possibly acquire it. Even otherwise helpful partners may think carefully if they realise they are going to help in building the next big behemoth. In other words, events and circumstances which lead to the creation of the once-in-a-lifetime companies are rare and almost unpredictable Can the next black swan in the technology space come from India?

Tomorrow: Part 4

TECH TALK Best of Future Tech+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.