RS2: India

How the ‘Silicon Valley of India’ is bridging the digital divide

In the article, “How the ‘Silicon Valley of India’ is bridging the digital divide,” Naomi Canton describes the digital divides that exist within India as well as the steps being taken to close them. Bangalore, also known as the “Silicon Valley of India,” has a reputation for being the most high-tech city in India. Being home to some of the world’s largest software companies, Bangalore is a hub for technological entrepreneurship and development, however, there is a hidden irony that not many people are aware of: a large percentage of Bangalore’s citizens have never used the internet before (para. 2). This shows that not only is there a digital divide between the different parts of India, there are also many digital sub-divides within the cities themselves. To put the crisis into perspective, “Internet penetration across the entire population is still below 10 percent,” whereas, “in the UK and U.S. it is 80 percent” (para. 3). One of the biggest hurdles that India faces in spreading internet technology is convincing people of its necessity. “One thing is the cost of buying a computer or laptop; another is that broadband infrastructure is not as ubiquitous in India as the U.S. and it’s costly for the common man. Paying a monthly data fee is also costly and they don’t appreciate how it can benefit them,” says Ankush Bagotra, chairman of ISOC’s (Internet Society) Bangalore chapter (para. 13). However, efforts by institutions like ISOC have convinced many of the promising nature of internet technology. They’ve helped hundreds of people in Bangalore gain access to the internet as well as a whole host of new training resources. For example, “Mr Kemperaj from Hennur in north Bangalore specializes in making lamp shades and pillow cases. He used to travel more than 70 km every day to get a sample of his work approved by his vendor. Now he sits in front of a computer, sends the photos by e-mail and surfs the Net to research new designs and discover new sales routes such as eBay” (para. 9). While programs such as this are greatly beneficial, it’s practically impossible for them to reach the more rural areas of India that don’t have a wired connection to the internet. This is an issue Raghavendra Sathyanarayana, a wireless communications engineer, wishes to solve. He registered a company, Cramnet, “which he hopes will empower Indians trapped on the wrong side of the digital divide. He plans to use unused spectrum to provide wireless internet free of charge to the digitally disenfranchised in India” (para 17). Other organizations such as DEF (Digital Empowerment Foundation) have also been actively trying to spread wireless technology across the rural parts of India. Canton concludes the article by addressing a major concern many Indians have about Internet technology: “Should efforts instead be made to provide clean water and electricity first” rather than investing so much time and money into something like the internet (para. 25)? Although this is a valid concern, people like Osama Manzar, founder of DEF, claim that “the entire country could leapfrog the developmental cycle if she were to forget about racing for the industrial revolution and aspire for an information revolution instead” (para. 21).

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