The Big B and the 2001 mantra

If
New Delhi’s December was relatively warm and fog-free, new year’s day made
up for it with a vengeance. Here was teamwork: nature and man working in synergy
to a common goal. There were clouds, rain, fog, and then the biggest failure of
the northern grid in recent history, plunging North India into darkness for over
12 hours. Our publishing headquarters, in infrastructure-challenged Gurgaon,
went without power for two days from December 31. (We didn’t notice, because
we do not have unreasonable expectations of basic services like electricity,
telecom, water and transport from the government.)

A dark new year’s day, bringing a dark new year? Probably not. After
everything, there’s still bandwidth to look forward to. This will be a
make-or-break year for India Inc, the year when we consolidate our gains and the
position of India in the services space, leveraging the small beginnings for the
brand, and backing it up with infrastructure. The biggest of these will be
bandwidth.

Everything from PC sales in small towns to e-biz infotech deployment in
enterprises is dependent on the available bandwidth in India. But the gains will
not be merely for infotech: they will be for the whole economy.

And businesses will be forced to undergo a basic shift, as they struggle to
compete with the world–and not just China–as borders and trade barriers open
up. If the network is the computer, the information is the enterprise, and
managing this information rapidly and efficiently is the big challenge for the
2001 enterprise. This will mean the elevation of infotech from support to key
strategic role in the many businesses where it does not already occupy this
position; the elevation of the CIO to very senior decision maker even in SMEs;
the overhaul of business processes and applications to bring them online; and
the critical dependence of the enterprise on bandwidth.

And the difference to the citizen? Access to information will be the big
change. It’s always a pleasant surprise to discover places this is already
happening. This month I found that our admin assistant tracked the progress of
my passport renewal application at www.passport.nic.in, discovered that it was
held up for an attestation on a photo, got it done, and then checked next day
online to make sure that it had moved on from there. He’s not much of a PC
user, but if going online saves him half a day of standing in queues, he’ll
happily go online.

So here’s to a 2001 where India will finally see the real power of the Big
B: Bandwidth, across its intercity backbone, on the Internet gateway, and in the
last mile. This will be the mantra for India 2001.

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