If the idea of a nation-wide bandh is to paralyse economic activity, then political parties better figure out a way to hire goons with a digital bent of mind.
The digital marketplace in India may be just months away from several significant leaps.
First of all, 3G and broadband wireless access services will make the Web more ubiquitous. Mobility combined with higher bandwidths will make a high-speed Internet connection just a matter of switching on your mobile phone.
Secondly, mobile banking will finally go from myth to reality. Some experts believe that real-time mobile-based financial transactions in India, using text or instant USSD messages, may be just 12 months away. Already at least one major handset manufacturer, in association with a scheduled commercial bank, is running a limited trial for a few thousand users. All that is really left is for the central bank to overhaul archaic banking laws. Or at least amend them enough to make direct phone-to-phone transfers and payments legal. (Our neighbours in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are miles ahead of us on this.)
What will elegantly pull together all these pieces will be reliable digital delivery. Not just paying for things online, but getting them to change hands electronically as well.
The signs are positive. According to estimates, 10% of tax filings, 40% of travel tickets, and around 20% of financial products are already being bought and sold purely online without a person walking into a shop before or after.
Electronic publishing will also soon hit the Indian market after setting Western markets on fire. Major local publishers such as Penguin have begun to seriously talk to authors about acquiring rights to publish electronic versions of books. This demand will only grow with broadening use of software and hardware readers—from phones to iPads.
Growing connectivity, smart platforms and reliable transactions are culling middlemen from supply chains as diverse as mutual funds, train tickets and thriller novels.
For rich or for poor, this is a gradual erosion of the hegemony of proximity. Distance can no longer cause distress.
After a day when buses were stoned and taxis burnt, it is comforting to know that not everything in life will require perilous trips to the market.
How much can the digital bridge the analog? Tell us at email@example.com