“India is the Idea of the 21st century”

What e-content means in India:

A: E-Content in India is a meagerly used word, meant mostly as the presence of content on the World Wide Web. In fact, website and Internet have been the most effective motivational medium for publishing content, and successfully so, it has attracted the whole new generation to use web as a medium of information dissemination, and global reach, not only in English but also in other major Indian languages.

What is the current status of e-content in your country, including national e-content development across all the sectors of the industry?

The current state of e-content in India can be divided into various medium, such as Television, Radio, Web, Movable like CD, DVD and other memory sticks, Movies, Mobile, Email, Information Kiosks, Physical Meetings, Conferences, Seminars and Workshops with “e”, E-Discussions, e-Publishing, Magazines with e-supplements, and so on.Let me explain each one of them briefly:
Television/Cable TV: TV is the only medium of content that has highest penetration and perhaps in all major Indian languages. TV’s penetration in India is more than 70%, and its success proves two most important lessons – one is the localization of content and language is inevitable, and second, technology should not come to the end consumer as it may require special training and learning.

Also, TV is one of those media, which is affordable, and offers value for money and appeals to even the most illiterate person in the remotest of the rural India. Not surprising, every single foreign channel is present in India with localized appeal including films and programs dubbed in local languages. As a matter of fact, from HBO, to National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet, MTV, all such channels are present in India with local flavors and parts of their program in Local languages as well.

Another lesson learnt from TV’s high penetration is that the entertainment content matters most if mass appeal is required, which incidentally is other mediums.

The only drawback with TV based content is that it has little interactivity and mostly content is pushed to the end consumer. News channels have tried to make TV interactive by often going live, at the same time involving audiences.

Radio: Ideally, India is a country, which is best exploitable as a huge knowledge rich country by means of radio, and like radio, India’s population is also oral. The so-called illiterate and un-educated masses of India are genuinely capable of information consumption and knowledge dissemination if the medium is oral.

Major initiatives have taken place in the last couple of years as FM radio has come up in all the major metros targeting the youth and office going people. Since the quality of transmission and content is often attractive, the FM radios have got significant mass followings. Some of the popular FM radio Stations are Radio City, Radio Mirchi, RED FM, FM Gold, and so on.

However, the concept of Community Radio covering small areas would a be final answer to India’s Information Poor society. Although the government has allowed community radio, but the cost of starting one is a bit prohibitive if you look at it from the point of view of a social sector and the fact that commercial activity and revenue earning is not allowed on community radio.

Web/Internet: The Internet as a medium is remains to be a killer application as well as a medium of information dissemination. Incidentally, the cost of ownership of both, establishing an information hub on the Internet and accessing it through desktop, is very high and prohibitive.

As it is known, India’s 70% and more population belongs to the rural sector and does not speak English. And so far, no ubiquitous application hascome up which crosses the language technology barrier, and cost of ownership barrier as far as ICT as a basic infrastructure is concerned.

It is a paradox that India being a non-English speaking country has more than 1.5 million websites in English, and a paltry 20,000 or so in various Indian languages. Incidentally, only 5% of India’s 1.3 billion population speaks English, and the rest of the population speaks other 11 major Indian languages.

Since the diaspora community of India, spread across the globe, is the most influential lot for India, most of the e-content presence on the web has been derived by NRIs (non resident Indians).

Although there has been a significant development towards innovating various language technologies for the localization of web and Internet applications, the standardization of the same has not been achieved so far.

There has been a mixed development on the Microsoft side as well to offer language enabled Office Suits, but what is desperately needed is the total conversion of operating systems in local languages. And some of the companies who are working in this area are CDAC, Mithi, IndLinux, MediaLab Asia, and so on.

CD, DVD & Movable Memories: For a country like India where basic information infrastructure is still in its developing stage, any digital media that is easily portable is economical to afford will be successful. However, all this media devices are not self- dependent. They need machines to run, and machines need power to function. Yet, movable drives have been the medium of information and content dissemination and consumption in the rural sectors using information kiosks, where net connectivity is either absent or non-functional.

Movies: The least used medium for e-content is movies as far as non-entertainment e-content is concerned. However, with the reach of audio-visual medium like TV reaching more than 70% of the remotest of India’s rural sector, small screen movies can be an effective medium of e-content dissemination.

Mobile: Mobile phones are spreading in India like a wild fire. It is easy to operate, economical to afford, and available in local language as well if desired. Mobile is gradually becoming an information infrastructure and all efforts are being made to customize content to suit mobile apparatus’. For example, there are many efforts where the health, agriculture, and educational content are being disseminated through mobile. And, it has been successful as the mobile is interactive, anytime anywhere, instant and personalized. TeleDoc, which has been selected among the top 40 best e-content practices by WSA, is offering e-health services via mobiles and has been showing good results.

E-mail: E-mail, the way it is known today, and the way it is used today, is a big hindrance as far as its potential to reach masses is concerned. Considering India as a special case, where literacy is low, and e-mail requires one to be capable of reading and writing, the option of e-mail is a non-starter in the hinterland of India. In fact, for exchanging e-mails and messages, mobile phones are turning out to be a better option, and its penetration requires lower entry barrier.

Information Kiosks: Information kiosks are directly proportional to the rural sectors of India. In fact all the efforts in the area of ICT for Development (ICT4D) has been more or less in the form of Information Kiosks as a medium of content creation, dissemination in the form of various services. N-Logue, which is selected in e-inclusion category among the best practices by WSA, is offering various services in many parts of India’s rural sector through Information Kiosks.

Which e-content area is best developed in your country?

It is difficult to quantify. But clear indication has been towards e-business, e-inclusion, e-governance, e-learning, and e-entertainment, in that order, considering all medium of e-content.

Which sectors in your country are the leaders in e-content development?

Certainly business and private sectors are extremely aggressive followed by individuals. Civil Society has also been successful in using the various medium of e-content for information dissemination. The government has recently picked up, but there is only a handful of success stories that one can talk about.

Please describe the progress of e-content development in your country.

The medium of e-content in India has been through various media:
» 70s – 80s: Radio;
» 80s – 90s: TV and Movies;
» 90s – 00s: Internet, Mobile & Radio and cross media.

Please list the major initiatives which have influenced and spurred the development of e-content in your country.

» Establishment of Indian Institute of Technology and Indian Institute of Management in 60s;
» Establishment of IT companies in late 80s and early 90s;
» Proliferation of IT institutes, kick started by NIIT and Aptech in late 80s;
» Economic liberalization started in early 90s;
» Privatisation of Internet in 1995 and the dotcom boom thereafter;
» Mobile and Cellular phones mushrooming in late 90s;
» India emerging as second biggest software exporters in late 90s and continuing;
» India producing the highest number of English speaking human resources in the 21st century;
» India among top 3 for business process outsourcing business for back office operations of developed countries (2002-2003).

What have been the major bottlenecks in the development of e-content in your country?

» 25% of Indian population living below poverty line;
» Non-availability of ICT tools and applications in Local language;
» 45% of Indians are still illiterate and un-educated;
» Corruption in government and bureaucracy;
» Lack of leadership at all level;
» Poor planning and infrastructure;
» No vision how to exploit Indian knowledge power to create information society;
» Lack of self confidence and belief.

How do you see the future of e-content development in your country?

The e-content development is very promising for India but it may take a while before it happens with geometric progression. Following are some of the reasons why India may turn out to be one of the biggest hubs of e-content and information society:
» One-third of India’s one billion population is youth and buzzing to make a global mark with new technology, education, and modern innovations;
» India has the largest population of diaspora;
» Highest English speaking population;
» One of the biggest hubs of BPO (Business Process Outsourcing);
» Extremely fast penetration of mobile and cellular phones;
» Introduction of e-governance and good governance;
» Global realization about the power of India’s ancient knowledge and wisdom including Ayurveda, Yoga, and other natural health practices;
» India’s natural status of not necessarily depending on any country or economy on a day-to-day basis.

In a nutshell, India seems to be the idea of the 21st century.

As an expert in your country, what would be the five most important pillars of e-content development?

Pillars of e-content development could include:

Talent: Engagement of people with skills, imagination, experience and ideas;
Innovation: Research and innovation in media and media technology research;
Market access: Access to domestic and international markets for e-content material;
Technology: Education and use of emerging information and communication technologies;
Connectivity: Cross-sectoral, cross-industry and multi-national linkages.

Please explain which is the most preferred medium for e-content development: Print, TV, the Internet, Radio, Mobile/Wireless or a combination of some of these?

TV, Print, Internet, Mobile and radio respectively.

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