Who will enable the enabler?

by Sharon Lobo    Nov 08, 2010

Sharon LoboIf you have ever been part of any discussions pertaining to IT, you must have observed that many-a-times the conclusions of all these deliberations are, “IT should be an enabler”. Whether it is for enabling good governance, improving public services, or for that matter, improving anything under the sun, IT seems to have a solution. While it is easy to be seated on a cozy seat and deliver such statements, one need to check the ground realities, for in such times everybody conveniently forgets one fact - Who will enable IT?

Just like any technology, IT too requires resources at its disposal to function seamlessly. These include power, connectivity, hardware, software and of course, the determination to implement and run it. The lack of any one of these resources can seriously hamper the functioning of IT.

Electricity is the basic requirement for IT, but in a country where even the prominent cities are not spared from frequent blackouts, it is a bit absurd to expect IT to work without any glitches, forget about it being an enabler. For instance, last month, a report in one of the newspapers revealed that home buyers and developers in Ulhasnagar need to carry power generators to the government office where property registration are done. The reason behind this bizarre situation is that on Fridays there is no electricity through the day in the area, so people need to get generators to power the computers used for the registration process. And for those who think Ulhasnagar might be some far fledged remote village, they will be utterly disappointed to learn that it is in fact a town barely 60 km from Mumbai!

Lack of connectivity is another issue that successfully manages to hinder the functioning of IT. In spite of having one of the largest mobile penetrations worldwide, we still lack on the broadband connectivity front for reasons such as high cost of deployment and maintenance of cables and equipments, power scarcity, unfavorable terrain, inadequate number of users, etc. In such a scenario wireless does provide an option, however, the data transfer speed using the 2G technology that is currently offered by telcos is painfully slow; while 3G, which could offer a solution in this regards is still months away from deployment. Additionally, telcos would be more interested in providing seamless 3G coverage in populous towns and cities where the ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) is high rather than across the length and breadth of the country, so they are able to recover the exorbitant license fees they have paid for the 3G spectrum.

It’s not just power and connectivity but also expensive or pirated software and substandard hardware that cripples IT. People, due to lack of knowledge of open source or free software, prefer to stick to expensive licensed software. Most of them who either can’t afford licensed software or just want to save costs prefer to go the pirated way. Things tend to get gloomy in both cases, pirated software doesn’t come with any kind of support and it is open to malware attacks, while the pricey licensed software increases cost, thereby deterring the growth of IT deployment. On the hardware front, products of repute can be easily found in Tier I or II cities, while the rest of the country have to manage with whatever is available to them, which most of the times are shoddy products.

While every prominent personality from our software-governed IT industry stresses on the need to manufacture our own hardware products rather than rely on other countries for it, the sad fact remains that only a handful of these industry stalwarts have actually got down to producing hardware equipments, and then too; they aren’t marketed with the same zest as software products.

While all these materialistic issues still have a hope of being resolved, what about our mindset? A few weeks ago, an IT decision maker from a public utility company told that the major roadblock for IT in his organization is actually because of one of the benefits IT provides, namely, Transparency. He said that often it’s the employees in companies such as his, who consider IT an hindrance, as it would restrict them from indulging in malpractices.

There might be still other issues, however as the adage goes ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step’, similarly it is high time we get down to resolving ground issues one by one, rather than drone on in public forums on IT being be an enabler.