The Ripple Effect of Technology

DQI Bureau
New Update

Every year, the World Economic Forum announces a list of twenty-five

technology pioneers. This is the Booker Prize of Technology. Previous recipients

include Google, PayPal, and Infosys to name a few. Bangalore-based Neurosynaptic

Communications is the sole Indian company in the list for 2008 awardees. Why

were they selected? It is because of ReMeDi (Remote Medical Diagnostics), which

provides telemedicine solution to rural areas. Developed by Neurosynaptic

Communications, in collaboration with the TeNeT Group of IIT Madras, it is a

health diagnostic kit that performs five tests, including ECG, for less than Rs

35 per test. A high school graduate can operate it and send the results to the

nearest hospital via the Internet. ReMeDi saves the villager from the hassle of

traveling to the nearest town, waiting at labs and meeting the doctor, which is

expensive and time consuming.


Unfortunately, very few of us are even aware of this company or their

product. If this is the situation of a company that has got the top award, one

dreads to think what numerous inventors must be going through due to the lack of

media coverage. The remedy lies in a TV show like American Inventor. Maybe we

could have something akinan Indian Inventor? At least this might be useful in

spreading awareness of the existence of such products and would be much more

useful considering that we have Indian versions of other programs like American

Idol, etc.

Technology, and the importance and concessions given to technical

corporations are having a ripple effect on the Indian society. Let us examine




By encouraging growth of the tech sector, especially the BPO sector, many

people, mainly in the middle class, are able to afford things that their parents

could only dream of. It has also reversed the brain drain of the 80s and

increased foreign investment in India.

A TV show like Indian Inventor will provide a platform for inventors and

inventions irrespective of region, language, age, or gender. Since TV shows get

more eyeballs in India than any other medium, itll provide increased awareness

of the available products, companies and the benefits of technology, even to

those who are illiterate.

It will provide visibility to all inventors with a good idea and/or product

and maybe even funding. For inventors, it might get them university or corporate

backing to pursue their dream without having to do dreary jobs to support their

families, or for some other reason.


Finally, it may remove the access barriers for those without networking

contacts, technical pedigree or alumni status.


The salary divide is causing increasing resentment among those in

non-techie, non-IT fields, especially those who have majored in languages,

humanities and social sciences. The salary soar for those working in the BPO &

IT sectors is causing a huge social divide and is having its own ripple effect.

The movie, Tamil MA, documents five major social problems due to this ripple

effect. These are:

Insiders become Outsiders: Increasingly, India is being divided into two

categoriestechnical and non-technical. The respect accorded to the Indian

techies by the society and their pay packets have seen considerable increase

over a decade, while those of the non-techie have changed little or remained the

same. The effect is twofold. It leads many to pursue engineering, especially the

software and BPO lines, even though they arent really interested in it. This

has created a sharp increase in rent, prices of essential commodities, real

estate prices, etc, thus displacing people as many, especially those working in

field like education, agriculture, etc, cannot afford the cost. Increasingly,

insiders (natives) of an area are becoming outsiders due to the salary divide,

which is causing deep resentment.


Brand vs Bread: While non-techies are mostly looking to earn their bread,

their techie counterparts are pushing up prices of commodities. This is causing

the next generation of Indians to be brand conscious and peer pressure is

causing several children to pursue the wrong path.

Value vs Salary: Why do BPO employees who functions as Indian telephone

operators speaking in a foreign accent paid several times more than a high

school teacher who actually imparts knowledge. Determining salary not on the

value of the job, but on the ability to not speak in ones own voice and/or

language isnt value for money.

Urbanization=Aping the West: Creating an artificial value on the ability to

speak in a foreign accent does not help the Indian society improve. This is

particularly true in urban areas. Tamil Nadu has urbanized 44% of the state and

is ranked #1 in India in terms of urbanization. However, increased urbanization

has only resulted in more people aping the West in terms of food habits, dress,

and even cultural practices. As the next generation tries to be more like

Americans than Indians, there is an astonishing pride in such behavior, which

wouldve been considered shocking a decade ago. This makes one wonder if Indians

have any understanding of what urbanization is all about other than aping the

West or splurging on goods.


Land of Techies= Lack of Essential Services: If the divide is not bridged

then increasingly people will want to be techies just for the sake of money. And

if they do so, who will take care of our essential services like education, food

production, social administration, police, defence, etc.

The danger in lopsided importance given to technology without bothering to

see the social ramifications can be summed up in the statements of two people

who I interviewed for this column. The first is Lalitha Ramaswamy*, a student in

Chennai as to why she opted for Computer Science, This is the field where the

money is. No, my dream was to be professor of history but they pay them peanuts.

Just 10 years in the BPO line and I can have my own school or if I marry well my

own college.

Govind Kaushik*, a software executive from Bangalore said, What culture? I

could care less about all that. Im in this field only for the money. As far as

Im concerned culture is a non-issue.


Most techies I talked to were open about them being in the field for the

money only. Many are actually surprised that there can be another reason to even

get into the field, especially passion for the field! There is lack of awareness

and at times indifference that their lifestyle is making life tougher for

others, especially those people who are non-techies but equally hardworking.

Among the non-techies, mostly there is either resentment against the techies or

shrug off as my children will be techies. Few expressed concern about the rise

of cultural ignorance and imposition of western culture due to the IT boom while

all including techies who are in the non-IT group expressed concern over the

spiraling price rise of commodities within the past decade, cultural

degradation, and the increasing importance and allowances given to just the IT


What Lies Ahead

Apart from the usual factors, four things need to be taken into account for

the IT boom to continue.

If the IT sector wants to grow, it shouldnt dislodge those in other sectors.

This can be done only by bridging the salary divide, to a certain extent, among

various sectors and re-examining the present salary structure. Salary should be

based on the value provided. By doing this, one can stem the increased

resentment in the society by opening the field to all. Otherwise, education of

future generations is bound to suffer, making continued growth impossible.


According to Sawarkar, CEO of Neurosynaptic Communications, Today we touch

approximately 50,000 people with our centers. The deployments are in Wardha,

Maharashtra, in collaboration with the Acharya Vinoba Bhave Rural Hospital and

in Sivagangai, Tamil Nadu, with various partners. There is a good amount of

interest from the government, but no sale yet. There is also interest from

institutions for large-scale deployments. Our strategy right now is to

collaborate with various stakeholders in the primary healthcare and to make this

enabling platform available.

Only 50,000 when millions can benefit? Mass deployment of ReMeDi kits and

other such inventions should be done by the government so that everyone can

benefit. It isnt development otherwise. By having shows like Indian Inventor,

one can provide an opportunity for the talented, irrespective of their

background, language, region, or gender. Such shows will help make it a more

inclusive society for those in the non-IT field.

Rapid urbanization without vision should be avoided. When urbanization is

done, it should be for the people of the area and not for some corporation that

is willing to invest money to make profits by displacing those very people. If

there is indifference on the part of the administrationlocal, state, or

centralthen the increased dislodgement of people will result in chaos and


I remember my class 8 history teacher used to say, Wherever poverty occurs,

communism enters. Today he would have modified it to, Wherever poverty is

legally enforced in the name of development, chaos enters.

As we enter 2008, the corporate sector and the government should keep this in


*Last names changed to protect identity

Deepa Kandaswamy

The author is the founder-moderator of the IndianWISE e-group.

(c) Deepa Kandaswamy. First serial rights, CyberMedia 2008.

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