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<nettime> [digest] 3 Reports from India
Frederick Noronha on Sun, 27 Dec 1998 00:46:19 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> [digest] 3 Reports from India


   1. Indian ISPs
   2. 'Free' software drive. . . 
   3. Net's role in the Third World....

Date: Sat, 26 Dec 1998 23:58:58 +0500
From: Frederick Noronha <fred {AT} bom2.vsnl.net.in>
Subject: Indian ISPs

Indian ISP Boom Expected To Boost Internet User Base, Ad Revenues, Services
Markets

by Madanmohan Rao (madanr {AT} planetasia.com)

Bangalore; December 12, 1998
"The rise of private ISPs will grow the domestic audience and increase ad
revenue opportunities for online Indian publishers," said Sunil Rajshekhar,
vice president of Times Interactive, the online publishing and marketing
wing of the Times of India group, at a media conference in Bangalore this
weekend.

Even though the domestic Internet user base has been small, online
publications in India find a ready audience among the 30 million
non-resident Indians (NRIs) living in countries across the globe.

For instance, an estimated 70 per cent of the traffic on the Times group of
sites (such as the IndiaTimes.com portal) comes from outside India. Most
advertising thus tends to target the NRI population. "The expected boom in
the Indian Internet market should tilt the picture in favour of the
domestic market," Rajshekhar predicted.

A couple of years ago, about 80 per cent of newspapers with Web editions
were from the U.S. But as Internet diffusion has increased more rapidly in
other countries, this percentage has now dropped to 57 per cent. 16 English
language newspapers in India and 44 others in 10 Indian languages now have
some form of Internet presence, said Rajshekhar. 

The growth in domestic audiences from the current half a million to an
estimated two million users by year 2000 should also lead Indian online
publishers to focus on sophisticated, interactive sites featuring chat,
discussion, audience profiling, dynamic ads, customisable features and
e-commerce services.

"Currently, it costs about Rs. 30 (77 cents) per hour to read an Indian
newspaper online, whereas the newspaper itself costs only Rs. 2 (5 cents).
So the online edition of an Indian newspaper must go beyond shovelware,"
Rajshekhar said.

In the financial year ending July 31st 1998, the Times of India group of
publications reported over Rs. 1 crore (about $250,000) in online
advertising revenues on sites like the Times of India
(www.timesofindia.com), the Economic Times (www.economictimes.com),
Filmfare (www.filmfare.com), Femina (www.feminaindia.com) and Education
Times (www.educationtimes.com). 

News headlines from the Times of India also appear on the popular Yahoo
portal, under the Asian news section
(http://dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/world/asian/).

In addition to publishers, sectors to quickly gain from an increased
Internet user base will be financial and investment firms, real estate
agencies, traders, and recruitment companies, Rajshekhar said.

Educational institutions have been using the Web to attract children of
NRIs who want to send their children back to India for education. Sites
like Education Times have also drawn loyal advertisers from overseas, such
as Queensland University in Australia, which has committed to advertising
on the Times site for the next six months.

In terms of revenues, the highest volume advertisers on Indian sites
consist of banking and finance companies, followed by the real estate and
information technology sectors. 

Some online publishers in India face challenges in the form of unauthorised
re-publishing of their material on other Web sites. Traffic audits - such
as those performed by ABC Interactive and Nielsen in the U.S. - are
currently not carried out in India. 

"These services need to be introduced to the Indian market at affordable
rates," Rajshekhar suggests; the rates are quite exorbitant by Indian
standards.

The annual Internet advertising market in India, currently worth about Rs.
10 crores ($2.5 million), could triple next year, according to Ajit
Balakrishnan, managing director of online service Rediff-on-the-Net
(www.rediff.com), who spoke at another recent media conference in Chennai.

With expected improvement in infrastructure and bandwidth, there also lie
tremendous Webcasting opportunities for organisations in the radio, TV,
music and video sectors, especially given the wealth of music and video
resources in the country. 

Other speakers at the two-day conference "New Information and Communication
Technologies and Changing Media Values" -- hosted in Bangalore by the Asian
Media Information Centre and the Asian College of Journalism -- included D.
Suresh, executive director of Chennai-based network solutions company
Computer Access.

Currently most Indian Web content - as much as 95 per cent - is hosted in
the U.S., but better infrastructure, more affordable hosting rates,
reliable service, and better quality perceptions should move some of this
hosting market back to India, Suresh said.

Publishers will face challenges in attracting ad revenues from ad agencies
who are not yet Net savvy, Suresh said. Start-ups and Webzines in India
currently find it difficult to attract venture capital funding; most
funding seems to target large established players like Satyam Infoway and
Rediff.

Computer Access is publishing the Web edition of the telephone directory of
Vijayawada. The online directory publishing market is expected to become
quite lucrative.

The Internet is also the gateway to a whole host of other services that
Indian can tap into, such as software outsourcing and medical
transcription, said Ravi Marwaha, managing director of Tata IBM.

But unless the policy momentum is kept up, India may lose out on high-end
Internet market opportunities to other countries like Singapore and
Malaysia, warned AMIC secretary general Vijay Menon, based at the Nanyang
Technological University in Singapore.

The government ISP VSNL and private ISP Satyam Infoway, among others, are
gearing up to bring hundreds of thousands of users online in the coming
months. 

VSNL currently has 45 Internet access nodes across the country, and plans
to add 70 new nodes next year, according to L. Satyanarayana, general
manager (south India) of value added services for VSNL. 

The five-year plan for the period 1997-2002 will result in 18.5 million
telephone lines installed by the Department of Telecommunications and 5.2
million lines by private operators. 

By year 2000, 10 million new lines will have been installed. India has 45
cities with a population of greater than one million. In the cities of
Mumbai and New Delhi, telecom provider MTNL has 3.5 million telephone lines.

VSNL currently provides 322 leased circuits, with bandwidths ranging from
9.6 Kbps to 2 Mbps. Costs of these leased lines are also expected to come
down further. 

VSNL has also put in place a digital overlay network for Internet users in
Mumbai to provide better connection quality; a similar network for Chennai
will soon be rolled out.

Challenges remain in extending the benefits of the Internet industry to the
rest of India's vast population. "We have a booming software industry, but
the country's literacy rate is barely 50 per cent. The software industry is
almost a separate, elitist enclave. It is very English-centered, a language
which barely 5 per cent of the population is conversant with,"
Satyanarayana said.

Internet awareness in India is picking up - many newspapers have a daily
page on information technology, half of it about the Internet, according to
H.P. Sharath Kumar, head of Web services at Satyam Infoway.

Satyam Infoway plans to roll out its Internet access service - Satyam
Online -- in 12 cities in India by the end of the year. Last week the
service was launched in Pune, on December 10. The company has also launched
Web sites like CarStreet.com and CarMeet.com to target the automotive
e-commerce segment.

"In just a few hours we sold out all 500 connections in Hyderabad, where we
first launched the service," Kumar said. The service will be launched in
Bangalore on December 28.

Indian businesses and publishers should look at building and managing
online communities via distinctive content and managed discussions, he
recommended.

For online business clients, performance guarantees are important. "We have
dedicated lines for our already-existing e-commerce clients," Kumar said.

Circulated through: 
#    *********************************************************** 
#    frederick noronha, freelance journalist, fred {AT} vsnl.com
#    near lourdes convent, saligao 403511 goa india ph 276190 or 278683
#    *********************************************************** 
#    News from Goa      http://www.goacom.com/news/
#    Photos from Goa      http://www.goa-world.net/fotofolio/
#    GoaResearchNet      http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/1503
#    ***********************************************************

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Date: Sun, 27 Dec 1998 00:00:18 +0500
From: Frederick Noronha <fred {AT} bom2.vsnl.net.in>
Subject: 'Free' software drive. . . 

********************************* 
T h e   d r i v e   t o    ' f r e e '    s o f t w a r e
********************************* 
Date: 14-12-1998 :: Pg: 20 :: Col: d 

By C. Rammanohar Reddy 

CHENNAI 

A movement towards ``free'' computer programmes is threatening to change
the rules of the game in the software world. It has been strong enough to
have even stirred the software giant Microsoft. 

Earlier this month, scientists, computer programmers and software
aficionados gathered at a seminar at the Indian Institute of Science to
discuss the growing reaction against proprietary software. 

Proprietary computer software is unusual in that even after buying it a
consumer has no access to the source code - the set of instructions which
operates the software. To an ordinary user this does not matter. But it
does to programmers who need the source code to modify, add or customise
the software. For them the availability of the code is more important than
the cost of the software. 

``Free'' software does not mean that no money needs to be paid for these
programmes. It means instead that the source code is available. Open Source
Software (OSS), as such software has come to be known, ``is not `free' as
in `free beer' but `free' as in `free speech' '' is how Prof. Vijay Chandru
of the IISc describes the distribution of source code along with the
software. 

``Free'' software has become a real possibility with the arrival of Linux,
an operating system that was developed in the early Nineties by a Finn, Mr.
Linus Torvalds. The distribution of the Linux source code over the Internet
meant that hundreds and thousands of software engineers joined in its
further development, refinement, expansion and correction of errors. The
result has been the development of a rugged, reliable and free operating
system which its users say is far superior to any of the proprietary
operating systems now on the market. Linux has been enjoying a cult status
among hackers as well as researchers in academic institutes. But it is now
being increasingly used in commercial enterprises as well. According to a
conservative estimate, 7 million computers worldwide now run on Linux and
the number is growing exponentially every year. Linux received the final
seal of respectability from the information technology (IT) industry
earlier this year when giants like Intel, Oracle and Netscape announced
their support in different forms for this ``free'' software. 

The growth of OSS like Linux has been explosive enough for staff at
Microsoft to have prepared a memorandum last month on the threat to the
software giant. The memorandum which was leaked and posted on the Internet
admits that ``free'' software is driven by the motivation of its
developers, that it has achieved a degree of complexity, credibility and
quality comparable to commercial software and that OSS now poses a
``direct, short-term revenue and platform threat to Microsoft.'' 

OSS in general and Linux in particular means many things to people. For
Prof. V. Vinay of the IISc, it heralds a new paradigm which could take the
software world back to the time before proprietary software was born in the
Seventies. For Prof. Gopi Garge of the IISc who also works with ERNET,
Linux is an alternative to expensive, commercial and ``un-understood''
operating systems and which also delays obsolescence in hardware. And Mr.
R. Sivakumar, the head of Intel's India Technology Centre, goes even
further when he describes the development of Linux as the most significant
event in computing since the movement in the early Eighties from
mini-computers to PCs. 

But can software firms be economically viable with ``free'' software? There
are many views on this. The most restrictive view is that only the
operating system - Linux - will be free. This basic platform will be used
by firms to develop applications which will be proprietary and priced as
usual. If this is only marginally different from today's world, there is
another possibility. Software firms can survive with OSS by selling
installation and customer support services. This is how some firms now sell
Linux, though it is also available elsewhere without payment. Firms can
also provide, at a fee, add-ons and customisation services. This too is
already happening. Mr. Arun Sharma, a software engineer with Intel, points
out that the developers of Sendmail, the software which runs 80 per cent of
e- mail services in the world, offer their source code for free but sell
add-ons to customers. 

Of course, those whose passion is programming say that no creation has ever
been done for money and that true programmers are more than prepared to
devote a part of their time to develop ``free'' software. This may or may
not be sufficient to keep businesses going. But one thing is certain. Many
in the world of computers now feel that the concern with intellectual
property (IP) has gone too far and that IP is inconsistent with the free-
wheeling growth of the computer world where the rate of obsolescence is
very high. 

Earlier this year, Mr. Scott McNealy, one of the founders of Sun
Microsystems, argued that the industry's obsession with IP is preventing
the use of new discoveries by customers and employees of the inventor firm
as well. ``IP has the shelf life of a banana,'' said Mr. McNealy, ``by the
time the people who need access get that access, it's so old that it is
effectively a banana that we wouldn't want to eat.'' 

(In India, there is a Linux users' group which can be contacted at
http://www.linux-india.org and a discussion on one of many strands of free
software is available on http://www.gnu.org) 

Circulated through: 
#    *********************************************************** 
#    frederick noronha, freelance journalist, fred {AT} vsnl.com
#    near lourdes convent, saligao 403511 goa india ph 276190 or 278683
#    *********************************************************** 
#    News from Goa      http://www.goacom.com/news/
#    Photos from Goa      http://www.goa-world.net/fotofolio/
#    GoaResearchNet      http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/1503
#    ***********************************************************

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Date: Sun, 27 Dec 1998 01:33:20 +0500
From: Frederick Noronha <fred {AT} bom2.vsnl.net.in>
Subject: Net's role in the Third World....

[Madanmohan Rao, Principal Consultant, Planetasia.com; Editor, Indialine;
Columnist, The Economic Times; Bangalore, INDIA
The author can be contacted a madanr {AT} planetasia.com]

"Virtual Networks Are Now As Important As Railway Networks"

Madanmohan Rao, on tour in Washington, interviews World Bank consultant
Tara Vishwanath 


Tara Vishwanath grew up in Bombay, received her Ph.D. in information
economics from Northwestern University, and has been with the World Bank
(www.worldbank.org) for the last three years. She is one of the principal
authors of this year's 250-page World Development Report, titled "Knowledge
for Development." The report was unveiled last month, and Tara has just
returned from rolling out the report to a dozen countries in Asia and
Europe, including India.

Q: Your report argues for the importance for developing countries to reduce
technical knowledge gaps and improve quality control information via
appropriate national policies and new media technologies like the Internet.
What is the overall context which has shaped the way your report addresses
technologies like the Net?

A: In a globalised economy, issues like lifelong learning, training and
retention of skilled workers, transparency of government and financial
institutions, and rural as well as distance education are key for success. 

We note that developing countries lag to some extent in communications
infrastructure, technical know-how and information processes about the
economy and the environment -- at the same time, we note that
communications technologies like the Net are continuing to become more
affordable and powerful. 

In this context, we see the Net as a key facilitator for commerce,
globalisation, knowledge management, and any activity which requires rapid
communication. It can help remove the exploitative nature of situations
where only a few people and institutions are in control of vital information.

So whether you are talking about information regarding the quality of milk,
crop inspection standards, databases of importers, global economic
indicators, or government spending by politicians, publishing on the Net
can effectively augment traditional communication channels. 

In fact, information and communication deficiencies are partly responsible
for the recent Asian economic crisis; comprehensive and transparent
accounting via the Net could have helped ameliorate some of its effects by
creating "multiple eyes" monitoring the situation. 

Q: How was the Report rolled out and received in India and other parts of
the world?

A: In Asia, I rolled out the report in India, Bangladesh, China, the
Philippines, and Thailand -- followed by France, Germany, Britain, Austria
and Switzerland in Europe. Everywhere the response to the report was
positive and enthusiastic. 

Even from our Web site, we notice that there have been over 2,000 downloads
of the report in the last month. One question we have been asked by almost
everyone is: Now what? 

We have identified several follow-up areas in our report: assisting
in creation of knowledge-building capacity, initiating policy dialogues
regarding knowledge (especially in areas like public health and food), and
building consortia. We plan to more actively assess and assist information
infrastructure projects; we are already involved in the African Virtual
University project.

In India, we chose to roll out the report not just in New Delhi but also in
Hyderabad -- a first for the World Bank. It was important for us to
recognise and commend the efforts of leaders like Andhra Pradesh chief
minister Chandrababu Naidu, who clearly seems to have demonstrated the
understanding and political will to increase the diffusion of information
and communication technologies like the Internet. He has been pushing very
strongly for broader access to these technologies by citizens, and more
transparency in practices of government agencies -- both of which are key to
the development process.

Q: What key challenges did you face in putting together the Report? If you
could go back in time and do the Report again from scratch, what would you
do differently the second time around? 

A: It was hard to bring closure to the report, since knowledge - even just in
the context of development - is a diffuse concept, and encompasses culture,
politics and technology. In hindsight, more consultation during the
production process would have helped. 

We could have included more material such as case studies from the field,
and broadened the scope to more countries. We should also have added more
material on knowledge management to avert disasters, and during the
disaster itself. 

In fact, as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has rightly pointed out, the freedom
of the media in India has helped early detection of disasters like famines,
unlike the case of China. We could have added more material on the role of
the media, but that may have taken the report in a rather different direction.

And finally, it would have been nice to include more URLs in the report,
for development-oriented resources.

Q: What are your recommendations for the interaction between government and
private sectors in the information economy?

A: Government and civil society also play important roles in an
information-enabled age -- everything is NOT market driven. But governments
should unleash, and not stifle, the private sector. The creative energies
of entrepreneurs and the resources of corporates need to be harnessed in
the overall national design. 

The opening up of the ISP market in India is definitely a welcome, though
long overdue, step in this regard. There needs to be not just agreement but
commitment and ownership of information agendas from governments. Future
regulatory moves must sustain the momentum of the ISP market, and not choke
it. Such measures help open up the bottom-up and peer-to-peer communication
that are so vital to the development process. 

Useful lessons can be learnt from countries like Chile and Ghana, whose
progressive telecom policies have led to widespread cell phone and Internet
access. South Africa's Universal Service Agency, set up in 1996, provides
two years' worth of start-up costs for entrepreneurs who run community
information centres, many of which provide Internet access. 

Better regulatory environments can help get more telecom access to people.
Currently, an estimated 28 million people - almost all of them in
developing countries - are on waiting lists for telephone installation!

Q: What are some notable case studies of how the Net is being used in
emerging economies for the development process?

A:Open universities like the Virtual University of the Monterrey Institute of
Technology in Mexico, which enrolls 9,000 degree and 35,000 non-degree
students from Latin America, use the Net for student-faculty communication. 

We are involved in the African Virtual University project, headquartered in
Nairobi, to increase access for African researchers to educational
resources like academic journals through the Net. 

Singapore Network Services' e-mail based services, which helped improve the
efficiency of Singapore's ports, are now being adopted in India, Malaysia
and Vietnam. 

The Net has helped create globally-dispersed communities of interest in
development issues. For instance, the recent Global Knowledge conference,
co-hosted by the World Bank and the government of Canada, has led to the
creation of the Global Knowledge Partnership site (www.globalknowledge.org). 

Another useful online resource is OneWorld Online (www.oneworld.org), a
Web-based clearinghouse of issues related to sustainable development. It
receives inputs from organisations in countries like India, Italy and
Britain, and has about 70,000 articles in six languages. It also has a
search engine and directory solely dedicated to sustainable development. 

An NGO called Peoplink (www.peoplink.org) uses the Web to publicise the
handicrafts work of women in countries like Panama. Computer networks have
dramatically helped improve policy making processes in countries like
Morocco. 

Challenges arise in areas like copyright protection on the Net; for
researchers, an ongoing challenge is being able to authenticate online
information and consistently refer to documents from a continually changing
Web. 

Q: How is the World Bank using Intranets and Extranets for its own
knowledge management activities?

A:The World Bank currently uses technologies like videoconferencing for
knowledge sharing. We need to re-assess how Intranets can help us in this
regard. We also plan to use Extranets to communicate with our stakeholders
and partners around the world, who are working on collaborative projects.
Such platforms can be very useful in managing knowledge and meta-knowledge
for things like assessing aid initiatives.

Q: For decades, media analysts, development scholars, and more recently
computer professionals have been stressing the importance of media and
communication technologies as knowledge enablers in the development
process. What took the World Bank so long to come out with this report?

A:Perhaps our earlier models focused mostly on attaining rapid economic
growth, and thus concentrated more on physical, tangible aspects of the
economy. Now we have realised the importance of information economics also,
and have begun to include knowledge policies and communications
technologies like the Internet in our projects.

Virtual networks, after all, are now as important as railway networks. 

Q: Any parting words of advice or comments to Indian Internet professionals
and policymakers?

A: At a time when some Asian economies are going through a temporary rough
patch, it is important that India stay focused on the proper lessons: boost
exports, increase governmental and corporate transparency, and increase the
pace of opening up the telecommunications sector. 

The momentum in sectors like the Internet economy must not be allowed to
slacken. A gap between the Internet haves and have-nots must not be allowed
to grow. 

Nurture and retain local talent; focus on global markets as well as
indigenous relevance in areas like software. Develop a national knowledge
strategy, and migrate up the value chain from cheap software shops to
high-grade information sectors in the Internet economy. 

Information failures will always persist, even in the most
information-savvy economies. The key is to use processes and technologies
to help ameliorate these failures. It is important for organisations -
government, corporate and NGOs -- to become more open. 

It is sad to note that most of the world's poor are in South Asia. Every
process and technology possible, from the traditional to the modern, must
be harnessed to eradicate this poverty.

#    *********************************************************** 
#    frederick noronha, freelance journalist, fred {AT} vsnl.com
#    near lourdes convent, saligao 403511 goa india ph 276190 or 278683
#    *********************************************************** 
#    News from Goa      http://www.goacom.com/news/
#    Photos from Goa      http://www.goa-world.net/fotofolio/
#    GoaResearchNet      http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/1503
#    ***********************************************************
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