How to Jump from the stone ages to the future through Video Conferencing

May 3rd, 2017 by ali Leave a reply »

The wise use of IT technologies like video conferencing will allow India to deliver basic services to the population of over 600.000 remote rural villages in the next future.

In India, 75% of the population lives in rural villages and 95% do not speak English but local languages that sometimes are as different from each other as English and Chinese. Despite the fact that the Indian road network is the second largest in the world, its poor state makes communications between villages and towns difficult. Rural roads are generally made of clay, narrow and potholed. Therefore, they are unable to assure travelers proper travelling conditions especially during the season of monsoon, when they turn into impassable rivers of mud. The lack of good connections with the urban areas and the rest of the country is probably the main reason why rural Indian is still isolated and lost in its ancestral traditions.

Governance in such conditions can become an extremely tough exercise.  Consider, for example, the problem to deliver elementary education to each of the 317 million children living in rural India in 2008: it means to be able to take books, professors and schools in communities that sometimes still live in the jungle in the same conditions of the stone ages. Ensuring proper levels of services as tax collection, vital recording, healthcare and infectious diseases prevention are the other hot issue that the Indian government has been trying to address since the day of the independence.

The traditional approach should be to take roads to villages. Undoubtedly, the investment of the government on the road network has been massive: the Indian towns are now all connected through national highways that have reached 100.000 km of extension, and the value of the infrastructure industry was estimated  over 19 billion US$ in 2016.

However, IT technology in general and virtual conferencing in particular, has been proved to be able to provide India with a faster and more inexpensive solution. Digital roads cost less and are quicker to implement than traditional roads, and devices as mobiles and tablets can be connected also via wireless and satellite bandwidth.  Product like R-HUB`s TurboMeeting (http://www.rhubcom.com)  servers allows local communities to have easily and inexpensively communication networks through which it is possible to take to citizens some basic services as education and meetings with a distant public officer. Smartphones are decisively less expensive than a car, so that the cost of e-governance is decisively less burdensome than the traditional approach to take police stations, schools and post offices everywhere.

The considerations above well explain why the Indian government has recently invested a lot in IT infrastructures. Nationwide connectivity has now reached more than 600.000 villages: 670.000 km of fiber has been deployed  across the country, and the program Village Resource Centre program has mobilized ISRO’s satellite technology.

The outcomes of this effort have been a fast increase in e-governance programs of Indian states. In Karnataka, the Land Register was able to take back land registration from local notables through a project called Bhoomi, the core of which is an application in visual basic. In Punjab, it has been implemented a gateway to deliver over 120 public services through the net . In Kolkata, over 300 police local stations are now connected with their command through WAN. In this way, an important task as criminal tracking has been enhanced.

But one of the most remarkable examples of how IT technology has helped India is at the level of the central government and the judiciary system. In a country as large as Europe, video conferencing is the only way to assure fast and reliable one-on-one meetings to politicians, high officers and judges in most occasions. On the other hand, the new way to meet has become quickly viral to the whole Indian state apparatus through a classical top-to-bottom process; at the point that now video conferencing has become a daily tool also for local government. Delveer Bhandari, chief justice of Mumbai High Court, stated in an interview that video conferencing is regularly used among the judges of the court.  In Maharashtra, a good share of the communication between the central government and districts has shifted to video conferencing.

India is an interesting example of how IT technology in general, and video conferencing in particular, can offer great solutions to address problems that are considered to be of difficult, not to say impossible, solution. Even if it is tough to foresee the way the technological development will take of next years, India shows that this much is true, e-governance will play a more and more important role in assuring citizens adequate public services.

In conclusion, examples like India’s e-governance programs are very interesting to study, as they show us how technology could disrupt also the western bureaucracies and the way the western governments deliver public services to their citizens in the near future.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark
Advertisement

Comments are closed.