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Home > City Resources > Computers and Internet > Feature

New era in handheld
Indian English Via Voice
Taking IT to the Masses
A Social Dimension
Dr Sankaran P Raghunathan
N. Parameshwaran
A Akthar Hussain
At the CSI 2000 convention, Professor H.N. Mahabala and Dr. S.V.Raghavan from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Chennai, spoke about the need to take IT to the masses.

Professor Mahabala started off with interesting anecdotes about, what IT really means.

We already know of cars that talk to us, give us directions if we are lost and remind us of our anniversaries. But what follows really beats everything. In Japan, each time a person uses the toilet, the toilet sends a report to his doctor and if required makes an appointment for him (this facility is available to those who can afford it). So now we are talking about Intelligent toilets here.

Professor Mahabala and Dr. Raghavan touched upon issues that affect the masses.Questions were thrown up in the forum. Who are the masses? What information do they need? There are about 800,000 villages in India. Is it possible to reach all the 800,000 villages?

Clearly the masses are not the people who attended the convention. They are not the thousands of students who throng the IT training institutions with dollar dreams. The masses live in the villages of India with bare minimum facilities.

The information they need is requirement-specific, which include:
  • Market data
  • Weather forecast
  • Agricultural advice
  • Job opportunities
  • Educational/Training advice
  • Health practices
  • Up-to-date medical advice
  • Data Communication
Indian language adoption has to happen in a big way, so that a farmer sitting somewhere in rural Bihar or Tamilnadu is able to have access to information relevant to him.

A few experiments have been conducted in this regard:
  • Ekalavya. Health monitoring for rural children, in concurrence with St John's Colleges and Rotary club.
  • Expert system for pesticide recommendation.
  • Rural reach programme and the Tata Consultancy Service literary programme.
Professor Mahabala also spoke about other enabling technologies apart from Internet, which are technologies of the future

  • Mutimedia PC
  • Wireless communication
  • Mobile computing
  • GPS
  • Voice Input/Output
  • Touch screen
"Who will pay for this?" was the next question to be thrown up. Dr. S.V.Raghavan had a ready answer for this.

There should be no compromise made on requirements, due to cost considerations. Technological advancement is hampered if you bring down your requirements to suit the budget. Requirements should remain, affordability should be tackled with technology. Find the cost suitable to you and work around it with technology.

Author : Anuradha Sriraman
Photographs :V Ganesan
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