Manish Dalal notes that in just 15 years, the Internet has changed the social and economic fabric of much of the world; we cannot imagine life without the Internet today! In 1985, the first .com domain name was registered and .com celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2010. In 1996, India’s first .com domain name went live: Rediff.com was registered and India was on the .com map. Today, the mobile phone forms the largest piece in the digital fabric in India, and far outstrips PC penetration in rural India.
Rajnesh Singh traces the sweeping growth of the Internet protocol, Web, and cloud computing. It is expected that the global Internet user base will cross the two billion mark sometime in 2011, and the number of mobile broadband users will reach a billion. But as compared with China’s 420 million Internet users and 364 million broadband users, India’s 80 million Internet users and 10 million broadband users are nothing short of embarrassing. India’s GDP could grow by Rs. 162 billion (US$ 3.6 billion) for every percentage point increase in mobile broadband penetration. The Internet is thus a critical component to India’s socio-economic development. For the developing world, cloud computing can be the great equaliser.
Srinivasan Ramani documents the early growth of the Internet in India via ERNET. It traces its roots to data communication initiatives at the National Centre for Software Development and Computing Techniques (NCSDCT). Eight institutions (including IITs, NCST, DOE) cooperated to create the nationwide ERNET in the early 1990s, to further academic R&D. More than the technology that ERNET brought to India was the cooperative culture it promoted among national institutions. The entry of VSNL was a turning point for software companies and other non-academic users in India, as well as the setting up of specialised Internet access facilities by the Software Technology Parks.
T.H. Chowdary traces how some of the early monopolistic and restrictive telecom policies of the past were overcome. The end to monopoly ushered in by the government in 1998 led to licensing of private ISPs, establishment of numerous Internet Cafes for public use, and later on approval of VoIP services. Chowdary also cautions that in the absence of international regulations and treaties relating to use of Internet, crimes are multiplying. Emerging challenges include ensuring affordable and ubiquitous broadband, and Internet security.
Amitabh Singhal recounts how the Indian Internet industry worked together over the past 15 years. The Policy Building Process (PDP) by the industry goes back to the early years of VSAT, VAS and email messaging services in the early 1990s. The Email and Internet Service Providers Association (EISPAI) was set up in 1994-95. The TRAI Act of 1997 resulted in the establishment of an independent telecom regulator. EISPAI made its formal transition to becoming ISPAI which was formally incorporated in 1998. Key contributions included opening up of private investment in building submarine gateways, and advancing the ending of VSNL’s monopoly guaranteed monopoly status. The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) became operational in 2003.
Suchit Nanda traces the grassroots growth of the bulletin-board system (BBS) movement in India, and its absorption into the global Internet. From analog phone lines and hobbyist communities to commercial licensing and social movements, India’s BBS pioneers have dabbled in a range of technologies and applications; some of them eventually became ISPs. Decades later, today’s broadband movement also shares some of the same early concerns of the BBS movement: overcoming digital divides, delivering appropriate content for a range of users, and fostering a sense of community.
B.G. Mahesh traces the growth of the Internet as a popular medium among NRIs in the 1980s and 1990s, and the Internet content boom in India after 1995. From email and Web to mobile and social media, the “killer app” of new media has evolved. The dotcom bust separated the serious players from the rest of the pack. Consumer social media (eg. bloggers) are booming, but corporates and government agencies need to embrace social media more pro-actively. Though there is much hype about the mobile Internet, PC/laptop-based Internet must not be ignored. Investors and startups need to work together to add scale to India’s Internet industry. The Internet industry in India will grow a lot faster if the advertising world also accepts this as a serious medium.
Tracing the birth, growth and acquisition of the IndiaWorld portal – the largest Internet deal in India’s dotcom boom – Rajesh Jain traces its growth from a single aggregation site to a number of vertical sites. He offers several useful tips for entrepreneurs (eg. it is important to know not just when to enter, but also when to exit!). Today, the startup scene in India’s digital space is buzzing again, thanks to social media and mobile phones. There are numerous opportunities emerging in “app” space and micropayments.
D.K. Jain outlines the key role ICTs can play in enhancing Panchayati Raj Institutions in India (PRIs). PRIs function at the village, intermediate (block) and district level. 250,000 Panchayats form the core of the governance structure in rural India. Citizen participation in PRIs would be more meaningful if people had timely access to information. Computerisation and IT enablement of government functioning has received a high impetus with the implementation of the National e-Governance Programme. One of the biggest constraints in broadband penetration is the lack of right applications and services.
Ashis Sanyal argues that ICTs are an effective enabler for the development paradigm. ICTs can help deliver SMART (Simple, Moral, Accountable, Responsive, Transparent) government services to citizens. In addition to setting up Common Services Centres (CSCs), the Government of India is creating State Data Centers (SDCs) and IP-based converged state-wide area networks (SWANs) connecting all government offices. `Single window’ services of MPonline in Madhya Pradesh, eSeva in Andhra Pradesh, FRIENDS in Kerala, and eMitra in Rajasthan are some success stories at the state levl. There is a strong need for building the internal capacity in Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs).
Venkataraman Balaji highlights the challenges and some of the progress made in providing Internet-accessible production resources for farmers in India. ICTs can assist in providing information on the “3 Ms” of farming (materials, meteorology, markets), but a significant digital gap still exists in production content and services. Village telecentres and kiosks are only one part of the solution; institutional support, broad-based government initiatives and university participation are also essential. Some success stories such as those of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University are emerging in India, as well as Agropedia, aAQUA, DEAL and KISSAN-Kerala.
Usha Reddy provides in-depth perspectives of the Internet as a harbinger of the Information Society in India, especially from the point of view of technology in education and learning. From the SITE television experiment and Countrywide Classroom to Gyan Darshan and EduSat, waves of new media have enhanced education. Challenges arise in precise measurement of e-leaning outcomes, adapting pedagogic and administrative frameworks, and overcoming the digital divide.
S. Sadagopan traces the impact of commercial Internet and mobile services over the last 15 years in the educational institutes of India. The Internet has deeply impacted youth and the 4L’s of Learning: Lecture, Library, Laboratory and Life. Course video lectures address the needs of undergraduate engineering colleges in the form of NPTEL. Availability of laptops and Wi-Fi on campuses have improved the student’s learning experience considerably. INDEST (Indian Digital Library in Engineering Science & Technology) has “levelled the field” for Indian researchers.
Taking on the perspective of an economist, Amir Ullah Khan argues that India’s competitive advantage today clearly lies in the strengths of its human capital. India has established one of the finest education systems in the developing world, with some institutions as global stars (IIT, IIM, IISc, IRMA, CSIR, ISRO, BARC). The demand for employment in India in the year 2011 is estimated to grow to 380 million. India’s youth have a lot to offer: energy, enthusiasm, and above all the expertise to help bridge the digital divide. What the Internet offers is a huge advantage to an emerging economy with scarce resources and a large constituency.
Building on NASSCOM’s sentiments, Ganesh Natarajan advocates the importance of “Roti, Kapda, Makaan, Bijli and Bandwidth” for India. Despite some early failed experiments in e-learning, content repurposing will become a practice at the best academic institutions. Gaming is now becoming an integral part of e-learning. Built on three fundamental precepts – a learner centric model of education, employable and contemporary skills and conceptual grounding in the subject area that is being covered – and built on an Internet backbone, Natarajan proposes an Open Learning environment and an Innovation University for India.
Mira Desai provides an in-depth analysis of the school and college systems and literacy situation in India. Only 64 percent of Indians are literate. Having 70 percent of India’s population below 34 years of age makes education an essential service. A number of educational services portals have sprung up to address this issue: Minglebox.com, 24X7guru.com, Extramarks.com, 100percentile.com, SmartClassOnline.com, WebDunia.com, Prabhasakshi.com, and the Ministry of HRDs own Sakshat (www.sakshat.ac.in). Indian universities and colleges are now able to access journals online via INFLIBNET.
Arun Jethmalani explains that for millions of Indians, the Internet has indeed changed our lives – even if in ways we never imagined. The real Internet story in India is not about the number of billionaires, but the all-pervasive impact it is having on our personal lives, and on businesses like IT, BPO and financial services. Nearly 6 million retail customers are registered on NSE and the trading value exceeds 10% of all traded volumes. But Net usage and commerce cannot increase unless more people have a “personal” device to access the Net. The opportunity for mobile banking is unparalleled.
Sunil Saxena explains that the arrival of the Internet in India was a quiet arrival. Only in the late 1990s did major news providers set up a Web presence. A new group of media professionals has emerged, who are Web savvy. Broadband access gave a new lease of life to television websites. Many mainstream media in India encourage their staff members to write blogs. Many media houses now have their own dedicated short code for SMS news updates. Internet ad spends need to increase in India. Emerging frontiers include integration of tablet devices with mobile phones, and the rise of video content.
Keval Kumar shows how the Internet and mobile phone have opened up new channels for the news and entertainment industries – but also been used by local and cross-border terrorists. The rise of the Internet has given rise to a new language, and to new meanings for familiar words and phrases. Keval urges for critical pedagogy approaches in areas like checking for credibility of sources on the Net, use of advertorials, and dealing with spam. The Internet has become an invaluable resource for both lecturers and students; how it is made use of by teachers will depend on the strategies of their media pedagogy.
According to Alwyn Didar Singh, no country rode the technology boom in the United States more spectacularly than India, which created an $8 billion computer software industry from scratch in the last two decades. Gains via e-commerce for domestic and international markets will come from the appropriate legal and financial framework, and the political and business environment. An estimated 40% of e-commerce is accounted for by the travel sector. Indian Railways ticketing alone is said to account for a quarter of India’s e-commerce industry.
Arjun Kalyanpur discusses the potential of telemedicine in India, in particular teleradiology services for patients in global and domestic markets. The growth of the private hospitals, broadband Internet and the latest imaging technologies, coupled with the BPO boom in India, are opening up new opportunities. Internet connectivity to the remote hinterland must improve, where teleradiology services are most needed and can make the greatest impact. Internet utilisation in Indian medical schools should also increase. Healthcare IT development is another growth area with tremendous potential.
Fred Noronha provides case studies of two popular email-based news and discussion services, GoaNet and BytesForAll, started in the days of humble dialup modems. The Internet has opened up new work possibilities for freelancers and created local and global discussion forums – but also opened the door to spam and porn. The ‘gift economy’ of the Internet is an unparalleled asset, but calls for precious time and energy of volunteers. BytesForAll shares ICT4D news in South Asia and has helped build discussion and cooperation between a number of activists in the region.
Nirmal Jain claims that no other industry in India has been impacted by the Internet as much as financial services, and within that stock markets. 90% of the stock market’s size in India came into existence only in the last 15 years, powered in part by Internet revolution. The Internet has helped create new players like IndiaInfoline, and democratised equity trading for the common man in the stock market. For further success, India’s broadband penetration needs to increase, especially in rural areas.
Based on their Drishtee network of kiosks, Satyan Mishra and Nitin Gachhayat focus on the intricate web of relationships and services that need to be in place in order to successfully support Internet access models in rural India. Villagers in India are highly reliant on a host of government programs and services that provide them access to basic necessities of life. There is a dual need for providing access to information and services at the village level while generating viable employment opportunities. There can be no better way to spread IT than by creating micro-enterprises around the technology.
Pavan Duggal traces the growth of cyberlaws and e-commerce laws in India, starting with the Information Technology Act, 2000. It made email a valid and legal form of communication in our country, authorised the use of digital signatures, and recognised corporate electronic records. The Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 was implemented in 2009, and expanded the domain to all kinds of communication devices including mobile phones. There is still room for improvement in areas like spam legislation, privacy, and punishment for violators. Emerging frontiers include the Unique Identification Number, and legal support for its usage.
Sunny Ghosh and Sanjukt Saha maintain that the Internet is a key player in uncorking innovation, the new “iron ore” of India’s future. The need of the hour for India is more capital support systems and entrepreneurial incubation centres. A new range of innovators is moving into hardware and product space, and creating new frameworks beyond the Jugaad model. Cloud computing will not just provide productivity savings for existing organisations but create a new crop of Internet entrepreneurs, including social business innovators. Broadband Internet links now represent the new waterways of India.
Patrick Kane predicts that the Internet will reach 2 billion users in a fraction of the time it took to reach the first billion users. Emerging trends include the rise of online video; mobile media; and advancements in machine-to-machine interactions. Infrastructure operators have to operate at the leading edge of growth as well as cybersecurity. With the final remaining linguistic barriers associated with DNS falling away, Indian entrepreneurs and innovators will tap into new audiences and engineer new business models.
Vijay Shekar Sharma traces the growth of Internet opportunities from the view of an entrepreneur involved from the early days of ERNET and VSNL’s Shell Account. From Web design to animation, and these days from social media to mobile Internet, the Internet is opening up new vistas for Indian youth and innovators. Useful tips are provided for entrepreneurs in revenue share agreements and exit strategies. India has a terrific opportunity now to not just be a follower but world leader in the wireless and mobile Internet.
Wolfgang Kleinwächter providers a sweeping overview of Internet governance. The Internet is now in the Top Ten list of issues on the global policy agenda, for everything ranging from domain names and access models to intellectual property and freedom of expression. One of the biggest opportunities of the Internet Governance Forum is to stimulate informal and formal arrangements for sustainable Internet Governance solutions, to function as a laboratory, a clearinghouse and a watchdog und to develop a power of inspiration. Countries like India can play a key role in this arena.