As just a happy coincidence, around the same time Chennai hosted a workshop on Development Implications of the Diffusion of Information, Technology.” Can journalism’s core values survive the onslaught of the new media, which is increasingly becoming digital/ interactive/multimedia? No doubt, the number of Internet users in India may be negligible, but things may not be static, with IT boom impossible to be checkmated.
Will the new media “outflank” conventional media as there are growing instances of proliferation of news- providing websites destabilising conventional media in countries like the UK? Nothing could be predicted in the far off future but one can aver that in the foreseeable future, the conventional and online will co-exist.
How did the Internet begin? The abbreviated term internet, uncapitalised, began to be used in the early 1970s. It was a shorthand term for the communications’ circuits and their controlling software which linked together the separate computer networks comprising the US military ARPANET (Advanced Research Project Agency Network) system.
By the early eighties, the number of linkages had grown rapidly to include many universities and other research bodies; by then the word gained an initial capital letter, referring to the set of computer systems connected in this way as a single unique entity.
From the early 1990s onwards, the Internet grew extremely rapidly to connect many millions of users fuelled by the rapid increase in the ability of commercial enterprises and government agencies to connect to the system. Electronic mail or e-mail was introduced in 1972. Elizabeth sent her first e-mail in 1996.
The second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society held in Tunis (Tunisia) on November 16-18, 2005 called for the greater democratization and globalization of the Internet in order that the benefits of the revolution wrought by Information Technology percolate down to the remotest corners of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
It was the consensus at Tunis that the digital revolution should seek to bridge — and not to widen — the gulf between the privileged and the underprivileged in different continents.
This indeed was what the UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan himself wanted to convey to those who are reluctant to loosen the strong hold of technological monopoly. “The world needs the internet to unleash the true potential of its people, but the lifeblood of the digital revolution is freedom.”
Mr. Paul Twomey, President and CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), admitted in Tunis that the mechanism for reform had been built into ICANN and it would continue to be broad-based and global in outlook. “We will never interfere in the way any country administers its Top Level domain (TLD),” he said.TLD is a mechanism by which nation such as India, for example, operates its own the World Wide Web—with the “in” web address.
To address the vital needs of the develops countries, the Tunis Summit has seen the creation of Internet Government Forum to ensure that all the stakeholders including governments, corporate, civil society and lay citizens have a say in how the Internet is run. This indeed is a great leap forward for the developing countries.
From what participants from different parts of India showed to the international audience in Tunis, one could fathom the roots the Internet and digital revolution have already taken in India.
By working in tandem, the Government, the corporate and the rural community can mainstream rural India. At the Tunis Summit, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an arm of the United Nations, formally accepted India’s Mission 2007 programme as part of the ‘Connect the World’ initiative. Mr. Robert Blois, ITU’s Deputy Secretary-General, formally signaled the global telecom body’s sponsorship of the programme. Speaking at the launch function, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, one of the top brains behind mission 2007, said that the programme sought to “include the hitherto excluded and reach the hitherto unreachable — by providing access to technology.”
Mr. B. Shadrach, Delhi-based Director of the “one World South Asia Organisation” — the operational secretariat of Mission 2007, said, the challenge before the Consortium of over 100 NGOs, 22 Government agencies, 34 private players and 18 academic institutions, is to network 1.2 million Indians — one man and one woman in every village and then use them a vehicles for IT-based services and knowledge sharing
Inspired by the Indian model, India’s neighbour, Nepal has started its own programme and Bhutan is starting its own.
Grassroots level women volunteers from pondicherry, Andhra Pradesh and Nepal brought alive to the rest of the world the fundamentals of self-help groups, legal aid and micro-financing. At Tunis, India showed that it was slowly closing the digital divide between the cities and the country side.
The Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) at Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) was also very much in focus at the summit. The telemedicine live link at the RCC — was demonstrated by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing.
On comet was projected as the model telemedicine system that could be adopted in any hospital setting. The way in which the telemedicine operates in Thiruvananthapuram — how specialist doctors at the RCC get in touch with patients at its five nodal centers in the State, how the X-rays and microscopic slides of patients in distant Kannur (Kerala) are examined by doctors sitting at the RCC through teleradiology and tale-pathology — were relayed live in Tunis.
RCC received a lot of enquiries from African counties following the demonstration of the telemedicine system atTunis.The RCC is already providing its clinical expertise to many far-flung North-Eastern States, Sri Lanka and Maldives through its telemedicine link.
The Indian exhibition also saw ITC showcase award winning “e-chapel” rural e-biz solution; NIIT drew many visitors with a glimpse of its “Hole in the Wall “experiment teach computer usage to children, and the Chennai- seed Midas Communication Technologies joined with another city-based player, to show how broadband base station equipment could be used to fuel single PC kiosks and telemedicine patient data collection systems.”
“Made in India” solutions such as an intuitive gesture-based keyboard for Indian and South Asian languages and a solution that printed out text to accompany education programmes on TV were showcased by the Bangalore-based Hewlett-Packard Labs.
Now there is a global effort to take the internet technology into the heart of even the remotest part of the world. On November 17, 2005, the UN Secretary- General, Mr. Kofi Annan and Information Technology expert Mr. Nicholas Negroponte unveiled a brighter green and yellow working prototype of a $100 laptop aimed at millions of schoolchildren in poor countries. The robust wind-up laptop with low power consumption is meant to be the backbone of an educational project to distribute Internet-connected computers at no cost to their future owners.
“It holds the promise of major advances in economic and social development, but perhaps the most important is the true meaning of one laptop per child,” said Mr. Annan at the Tunis Summit. He added: “Studies and experience have shown repeatedly that kids take to computers much more readily, not just in the comfort of warm, well-lit rich country living rooms, but also in the slums and remote rural areas of the developing world-
Mr. Negroponte of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory said he was aiming to launch the cheap laptop in about two years.
The number of people who use Internet search nines to find information has jumped over the year? 004 in the US, claiming a solid No. 2 spot behind e- II among online tasks. Of the 94 million American adults who went online on a given autumn day in 2005, 63 per cent used a search engine, compared with 56 percent in June 2004, the Pew Internet and American Life Project said on November 20, 2005. Use of search engines was higher among users who are richer and better educated, as well as those with broadband connections. E-mail remains the most popular application, used by 77 per cent of the daily sampled population.
We may not know exactly as to how many people in India are having the Internet facility but we know that this new technology has transformed every facet of Indian life in the last ten years. The Age of Internet has taken India to new heights of excellence in education, medicine, communication, public services and almost all walks of governance.