India

“In the next 5 years there would be a geometric progression in e-content creation”

How would you define e-content in India?

E-Content in India is a less profusely used word, meant mostly as the presence of content on the World Wide Web. In fact, using website and Internet for getting information, entertainment materials from these mediums have been the most effective motivational medium for publishing content. 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 regional Indian languages

“TV is the only medium of content that has the highest penetration and perhaps in all major Indian languages. TV’s penetration in India is more than 70 %”

What’s the status of e-content in India?

The current state of e-content in India can be divided into various medium, such as Television, Radio, Web, Portable media 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 them briefly:

Television/Cable TV: TV is the only medium of content that has the 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 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 in 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 flavours and parts of their programme 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

 

“The concept of Community Radio covering small areas would be a final answer to India’s Information Poor Society

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 be a 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 slowly emerging as a viable instrument for 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 has come up which crosses the language technology barrier, and cost of ownership barrier as far as ICT as a basic infrastructure is concerned.

It is 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 other Indian languages. Incidentally, only 5 % of India’s 1.3 billion populations speak 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 enable Office suits, but what is desperately needed is the total conversion of operating systems in local

“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”

languages. And some of the companies who are working in this area are CDAC, Mithi, IndLinux, MediaLabAsia, 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 percent 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. Two of the best practices from India are from the mobile category offering content in the field of entertainment and science.

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 email 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

“Civil Society has also been successful in using the various medium of e-content for information dissemination”

are turning out to be a better option, and its preparation 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 2003, is offering various services in many parts of India’s rural sector through Information Kiosks. So far, it is estimated that the installation base of Information Kiosks in India is 10,000. Each information kiosk serves at least 1-3 villages. Most of such information kiosks or telecenters offer content like e-governance, education, entertainment, and IT literacy. Telecenters in India are in fact showcase models for the rest of developing nations across the world.

Which area of e-content (e-health, e-biz, e-culture, e-government, e-entertainment, e-learning, e-science, and e-inclusion) is best developed in your country?

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

Which sector (business, private sector, government or civil society) in India is advanced in developing e-content?

Certainly business and private sectors are extremely active in developing contents for varied purposes. This is 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 are only a handful of success stories that one can talk about. It is expected that in the next 5 years there would be a geometric progression in e-content creation as almost all the state government and central government have gone ahead with their e-governance initiatives and seriously putting all possible infrastructure in place. Besides, major effort in

How would you describe the gradual progress of development of e-content in India?

The medium of e-content in India has been through various media:

1970s-80s: Radio
1980s-90s: TV and Movies
1990s- 00s: Internet, Mobile & Radio and cross media
2000 + : Radio FM, Cable TV; Interactive & Live TV; Broadband, Telecenters & Information Kiosks; Mobile & GPRS; E-commerce Websites

What major initiatives have influenced the development of e-content in India?

• Establishment of Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) in 1960s;
• Establishment of IT companies in late 1980s and early 1990s and its mushrooming subsequently;
• Proliferation of IT institutes, kick started by NIIT and Patch in late 1980s, followed by the emerging National Institutes of Technology (Nits) as center of excellence in recent times;
• Economic liberalization started in early 1990s and its subsequent progression;
• Privatization of Internet in 1995 and the dotcom boom thereafter;
• Mobile and Cellular phones mushrooming since 1990s;
• India emerging as one of the biggest software exporters since late 1990s.
• India emerging as one of the important source of human capital, with the reserve of the highest number of English speaking people;
• India among top 3 for business processing and outsourcing business for back office operations of developed countries.

What are the major bottlenecks in the path of e-content development in India?

• 25% of Indian population living below poverty line;
• Non-availability of ICT tools and applications in local languages;
• 45% of Indians are still illiterate and un-educated;
• Corruption in government and bureaucracy;
• Lack of leadership at many level;
• Poor planning and infrastructure;
• No clear vision as to how to exploit Indian knowledge power to create information society.

“The ICT scenario in the country is gradually picking up. The infrastructure is being built up in terms of increase in teledensity, broadband connections, PC penetrations and so on”

In most countries, especially developing, e-content development is significantly dependent on ICT infrastructure and ICT facilities. But, in some, ICT has become pervasive and e-content development is primarily subjected to the initiatives of an individual/organization/government, etc. What is the situation in India?

The ICT scenario in the country is gradually picking up. The infrastructure is being built up in terms of increase in teledensity, broadband connections, PC penetrations and so on. Government has allowed increase in private participation in spreading the ICT network. Civil society organisations are doing their work in availing ICT at the grassroots level through both push and pull information. Government is providing PCs at a lower cost. The cost of Internet facilities are coming down. Software in local languages are being provided free by the government.

How would you describe the ICT scenario in India in terms of infrastructure, penetration, and policies?

The ICT scenario in the country is gradually picking up. The infrastructure is being built up in terms of increase in teledensity, broadband connections, PC penetrations and so on. Government has allowed increase in private participation in spreading the ICT network. Civil society organizations are doing their work in availing ICT at the grassroots level through both push and pull information. Government is providing PCs at a lower cost. The cost of Internet facilities are coming down. Software in local languages is being provided free by the government.

What’s the future of e-content in India?

The e-content development is very promising for India. However, it may take a while before it moves in 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 an buzzing to make a global mark with new technology, education and modern innovations;
• India has the largest population of diasporas;
• Highest English speaking population;
• One of the biggest hubs of BPO (Business Process Outsourcing);
• Extremely fast penetration of mobile and cellular phones;
• Introducing of e-governance and good governance;
• Global realization on India’s ancient knowledge base and wisdom in many areas like health;
• India’s growing self-sufficiency and independent status in many areas;
• The growing world recognition of India as one of the emerging powers in Asia in the 21st century.

Which is the most preferred medium for e-content production in your country?

How do you recognize and appreciate e-content producers and best practices in India?

There are tens and scores of ICT related awards that exist in India for several years as a result of India being IT superpower. However, most of the awards and recognitions are quite technology centric. It is now only that many of the awards are recognising the best practices on the basis of deliverables, return on investment and sustainable business models.

Fortunately, under the influence and partnership with World Summit Award, we started looking at best practices on the basis on content and creativity, especially where the producers could be bottom up.

At the end of 2004, Digital Empowerment Foundation under the guidance of WSA launched the Manthan Award as the national selection process for recognizing best practices in e-content and creativity. The manthan Award felicitated 27 best practices from across India, out of which, 8 were nominated for WSA and ended having one selected among the final 40 WSA awardees.

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