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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" ~ Guy de Maupassant ~

Thursday, June 30, 2005

I read with interest a preliminary paper by Anikar M. Haseloff on Cybercafes and their Potential as Community Development Tools in India . From the abstract, the premise of the paper :

"Using public Internet facilities in order to access information and communication technologies (ICT) is the main model of use after the more common models of home use (individual ownership) and access at work or at school/university. Especially in developing countries, public and shared facilities help to create desperately needed access and are a main strategy in several Internet access programs. In the context of public access, cybercafes play an important role as the most common Internet access model, especially in the urban areas of India. It is often argued that cybercafes could help bridge the digital divide, as they provide Internet access to people who cannot afford to have Internet connections at their homes or who need help in order to make use of ICT."

Some highlights and excerpts from the paper :

  • While in their initial stage a mostly urban phenomena, cybercafes over the years have mushroomed throughout India, and today can even be found in small towns and some of the bigger villages. They seem to serve a crucial portion of Indian society as access points for the use of computers and the Internet, as can be seen when examining the size of this sector. As there is a lack of common definitions, regulations for registration, and authoritative measurement, the exact number of cybercafes in India can only be roughly estimated. There exist several such figures, but they have to be seen as estimates rather than exact numbers. In 2001 the Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB) estimated around 12,000 cybercafes in India (Achar, 2001). Since then the number appears to have grown steadily all over the country, and Caslon Analytics (2004, p. 4) estimates the number of cybercafes for all of India as approximately 50,000 in 2004. The same figure is given by Pasricha (2004). These estimates show that cybercafes are slowly becoming part of contemporary city architecture in India and may serve a large proportion of the Indian population as access points to the Internet.

  • Table 5: SECs and access place - (SEC = Socio Economic Classification which is a matrix of occupation and education used in research in India to reflect lifestyle, as opposed to mere income - A1 being the higher group and E the lowest). The table below from the report is interesting - it shows that SEC B and C uses more cybercafes than SEC A, as the latter group has greater access to the internet at home and work.

    SEC A1

    SEC A2

    SEC B

    SEC C
































  • The most frequently used service in the cybercafe was the World Wide Web (90.3 percent), followed by email (72.3 percent), phonecalls/netphone (52.1 percent), games (49.6 percent) and chat (48.7 percent). Almost half of those interviewed also used the cybercafe for educational reasons, which may be related to the high number of students. But it should also be noted that many teachers use cybercafes in order to prepare their lessons.

  • More useful stats on cybercafe use by age, gender, employment and education status

Here's a signboard I took a picture of, outside a 'computer academy' which actually turned out to be a cybercafe in a small town called Bakshi ka Talab in Uttar Pradesh, India :

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[Thanks Rajesh for the link to the article]

1:45:42 PM    comment []  trackback []

Kid's Day at Work

Alex reports on Kids Day and India at Pitney Bowes :

...Showed them pics of cellphones, malls and offices and lots of things that look pretty similar in India as in the US, then pictures of things that look different. Fun to see their reactions. They all noticed the Subway in the mall, and they all recognized the well in the village and understood what it was for and that the villages don't necessarily have running water or consistent electricity. Some didn't believe the monkey wasn't in a zoo...

Tried to get them to think about what stuff they might invent for India (power lines and water pumps were popular answers, didn't necessarily expect them to think so broadly). And also talked about other countries they have visited. What was so nice though is how open minded most kids are. They were into seeing pictures of another country, could see the similarities and differences, but at the same time were somewhat unconcerned about the differences. I mean, they thought it was cool and interesting, but not weird or "why do I care."

I don't know...hit them with anthropology and other cultures at an early age and maybe we'll have less problems in the world? Or maybe they just liked the sodas and cookies in the back of the room. [
A Visible City]

I smiled as I read her post ... maybe 10 years from now I won't be faced with a blank stare, when I visit a supermarket in the US, and the check-out clerk looks at my credit card strangely and asks me where I am from - and when I say India, she looks blank and asks me to tell her two things that are famous so they can trigger India to her.  And I say Taj Mahal and Mahatma Gandhi - and she continues to look blank.  Maybe I should have said outsourcing :)? 

Its a wonderful idea to have a kid's day at work - any organisations doing it you know of?  Am going to spread the word here :)

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Mobility is a Natural State of Being

Rajesh Jain reflects on CommunicAsia, a conference he attended in Singapore earlier this month - Bus. Std: Content, 3G, VoIP are Hot.  There are some excellent points he makes on an always-on world, the concept of mobility, and the role of convergence and ecosystem in delivering these.  He also lashes out at supposed "broadband" in India, as opposed to what he experienced in other Asian countries.  

Excerpts :

Two words that were heard a lot at the conference were "convergence" and "ecosystem." Convergence is finally becoming a reality as the next-generation networks with all-IP cores are making it possible to have triple play services (voice, data and video) flow over the same network. Convergence is also happening in terms of the fixed line and wireless worlds - in both the networks and handsets. Convergence technology drivers include SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and IMS (IP Multimedia System). There will be a time soon when our handsets will support WiFi and GSM/CDMA, such that in hotspots they would use WiFi to make and receive calls, while at other locations they would use the cellular networks.

Ecosystem is about the realization that there is no single company which has all the answers, and there is a web of relationships to deliver valuable services to consumers and enterprises. Operators control the networks (and the customer relationships), but they need a combination of cheaper access devices and compelling services to drive traffic and revenues. An ecosystem approach is about creating win-win scenarios for the entire value chain.

The vision for the future is simple, seamless and personal communications from wireline and wireless networks. Tomorrow's world will be one where users will be able to communicate anytime, anywhere from the device of their choice. Users will be able to define their own experiences, and the network will become more intelligent to bring highly personalised services to users. All of this will bring about a significant lifestyle change for consumers and also enable the real-time enterprise.

The dream of this world of seamless mobility has been there for many years. But the work that has been happening in the background is now making it all possible. Parallel trends in digitisation are making a huge array of content available to us on any of the screens - TV, PC or the mobile. The focal point is now shifting from the network to the user. What people really want is to be connected, informed, entertained and do so in their own way. Whether one is at home or work, commuting or in public places, the networks will connect us to friends, family, colleagues at work, and our business information.

As Peter Vesterbacka, founder of HP Mobile E-Services Bazaar, puts it: "All people are mobile, even when they work. They have needs all the time, either private or professional. They need access to services and information all the time, wherever they are. The devices they will use to access these services can be wired or wireless - the people are mobile ... Mobility is a natural state of being, not a niche market. The Internet is a subset of the mobile market."

12:39:54 PM    comment []  trackback []