Information, Communication and Technology are buzzwords today. With sweeping changes across the globe, the unthinkable is possible thanks to the invasion of technology in practically all areas of our lives.
How to use ICT to change the lives of underserved communities; allow it to play a role in environment, society, development and to address issues of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty; use it to bridge the digital divide and to allow it to partner the government in its objective of creating inclusive growth, were some of the subjects discussed by experts this afternoon.
Rajdeep Sehrawat, Vice President, NASSCOM set the discussion rolling by posing three questions: Is the role of ICT in social development over hyped, leading to a diminishing role of traditional mediums such as television and radio; Was India a “graveyard for successful pilot projects”; and could public – private partnerships last in the field of sustainable development.
Kiran Karnik, President, NASSCOM called upon Indian companies to turn aggressive in their quest to learn from countries that have leveraged ICT for development and not to be foolish enough to repeat their mistakes.
Saurabh Srivastava, Chairman, NASSCOM Foundation highlighted the growing need for the ICT industry to “engage with India”. This could be achieved by stepping up the involvement of companies in sustainable development, so that ICT could be that miracle agent that had the potential of changing the lives of underserved communities.
ICT must ultimately encompass a broader aspect of sustainable development. High industrial growth rates have to be directly proportionate to development. Technology should help bridge the digital divide and solutions should be customized for those who are illiterate, so that they too can access technology and information through enhanced visuals and voice applications.
Each initiative must be customized to suit the specific needs of the community in question. A large scale programme in a relatively smaller country like Sweden for instance may be considered a pilot programme in a large country like India.
Dr. R. K Pachauri, Director General, TERI, focused on the need for social sustainability in India to “grow differently from other countries”. With the “rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer”. He felt India had no choice but to put in place a system that would address this widening disparity.
He said that India requires a model, based on which ICT can work towards developing communities, especially in rural areas. Projects in a private - public partnership (PPP) model could be a success with a right mix of partners, identified through a process of due diligence and involvement of local communities.
Small entrepreneurs in India could be trained to leverage ICT to reach lucrative markets. He recommended that models should be designed to enable people implement them independently on a local scale.
The one thing, all panelists seemed to be in agreement with, was that given its reach and impact, ICT could be a “push for public access network”.