Population: Emerging Potential Market

World Summit Awards: Why is it important? It provides excellent backdrop to WSIS, searching for, and identifying practical case studies from around the world on what is worthy of emulation. This book captures the experience and perspectives of the authors and that of grand jury members and provides a kaleidoscopic view of societal status and viewpoints from around the globe at this point in history, when ICT is providing a unique opportunity to accelerate achievement of MDG and contribute to the quest of every country to move towards information society, immaterial of what’s state of development it is in.

It is a worldview coming from the players themselves, that’s what makes this volume unique. It’s timely, gives wake up call to all of us and articulates the diversity of views in turn reflecting the varying levels of progress and aspirations in different countries as they have entered the 21st century. We can all learn from each other; yet each of our contexts are different. ‘Think global, Act local’ phrase captures this essence aptly.

ICT infrastructure is important – be it telecom or Internet or information infrastructure (encompassing, as it were, back-end computing and communication infrastructure) and human resources from curios and those used by nerds, from POTS which has evolved over the last hundred years, the new generation information infrastructure is moving into mainstream life and we all are coming to depend on them. Scalability, maintainability, robustness, inter-operability, and security have all become fundamental. Applications, contents, user terminals and interfaces with associated affordable access solutions (be it wireline or wireless) have moved in rapidly at every way of this technological revolution with its own convergence phenomenon. New business models and technological innovations are bringing in new opportunities, new markets and new players all the time.

It is only fair to see where people figure in this and how far their ‘real’ needs are met by these gizmos and underlying cyberspace that Internet have come to encompass. At every inflexion point, some ‘killer apps’ come to capture the imagination of people to fuel further growth and bring the ‘normally difficult’ ‘brave new world’ that is much friendlier, easier, and irresistible to new and old generations alike.

I personally believe in the trigger effect of ‘public good’ model to stimulate investment in infrastructure which in turn becomes the breeding ground for entrepreneurial, innovation driven and productive consumption of ICT products, solutions, and services at different price points. The business model and socio-economic paradigm will invariably be different in different times and context. Developed countries have access to investible capital and, even there, intervention role of governments to ensure equatible access to infrastructure services applications and content have become inevitable to ensure that geography, lower income strata and other barriers are lowered and inclusion principle is insured besides, national competitiveness in and through ICT (as seen in current emphasis on broadband access) is seen as important. Economists constantly look for correlation between investment in ICT and productivity gains, GDP growth rate, employment, etc. Sociologists look for benefits of ICT in terms of quality of life empowerment, gender equality, good governance, efficiency in service delivery and what have you.

At the other end, developing countries see a great opportunity in ICT in breaking the barriers of distance and time, emancipation, poverty alleviation, employment creation, enablement of exports, better quality of life, national competitiveness, etc. Singapore has been betting on this area for over 30 years and has become a role model. Large countries like India and China do not anymore see it as threat but as an opportunity. Governments, public and private enterprises have accorded high priority to this area. Investments have also been flowing in more in the nature of production of goods in China and in software and services area in India.

I am reminded of ‘Prahlad Pyramid’, wherein Professor CK Prahalad had propounded that the large developing country populations have to be seen as ‘emerging, potential markets’ by entrepreneurs and be leveraged rather than be ignored.

Digital Divide is an issue of real concern. We need to move forward sensitization to capacity building; resource mobilization for infrastructure and scaling up of successful; field models; and adoption in different sectors – not just in enterprises but in e-governance, education, health, rural urban e-commerce, agriculture, and practically all walks of life. Many agencies – governments, bilateral multilateral donors, NGOs/Civil Society organizations, academia, and R&D labs and users are contributing to this process. We need to understand the need for accelerating these efforts if opportunities are not be missed.

This book, ‘e-Content: Voices From the Ground’ could not have been more timely. At a stage when we are at a cross point, as to the impact of cyberspace on our daily life be it in office or in home, be it in urban or rural areas, be it in advance or in developing countries – and are looking for best practices, models to follow inputs to policy makers and lessons on what worked and what didn’t, this collection of points of views, facts and insights from leaders and thinkers in the field, from so many countries in diverse parts of the world is great contribution. My congrats to both the authors. They have been part of the WSA which selected the best e-content practices from across the world, and were well-equipped to undertake this effort.

A word on CDAC and why it is sponsoring this excellent and timely effort. CDAC is the largest R&D lab under government of India, department IT, Ministry of Communication and IT. It was originally set up 1987 to bring out high performance computing solutions to the scientific community through parallel processing root. Since then, it has developed a very high level of expertise and skill sets in this area and is known for its PARAM series of computers supporting a range of applications with peak performance scaling up to a teraflop. It is a pioneer and a leader in language computing. Progressively, its range of expertise and offerings to the market place have spanned a wide range of software computing, applications and communications solutions.

The last few years ICT for Development (ICT4D) has attracted CDAC, as well. We have the first Research and Training (R&T) center of DGF (Development Gateway Foundation), in our Bangalore center jointly with IIT Bombay, Mumbai. And, we coordinate India Development Gateway. We believe, we have a duty and an opportunity to this area through innovation of relevance not only to India but also to the entire developing world.

We look forward to continued progress in this area and partnership with all stakeholders.

Executive Director, CDAC
Ministry of Communication and Information Technology
Government of India

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