By Dr. T. Hanuman Chowdary
'Accelerating Digital Transformation In Challenging Times'
By: Dr. T. Hanuman Chowdary
The title of this article is the subject, the ITU (International Telecommunications Union, a specialist body of the United Nations) has advised countries’ leaders and intellectuals to deliberate upon 17th May, the World Telecom and Information Society Day. The world is facing the challenge of the pandemic, COVID -19 which has already taken more than 3 million lives world wide. It is still rising, especially in India; causing economic distress among middle and lower classes, psychological depression and anxiety among many are discernible. There is however a silver lining, occasioned by forcing people to work and live in a different way. Ubiquitous and affordable telecommunications and internet and smart phones are enabling people to face the challenge of disability, distress and death COVID- 19 is occasioning.
Let us assess the challenges and the change.
1. The most impressive change is that over 5 mln Indian IT professionals have been working from home since a year. They save on travel time and expense. India’s IT companies have reported 7-10% increase in revenues and profits during the fiscal 2020-‘21. 93% professionals have said they like to work this way from home.
2. The most impressive change is that over 5 mln Indian IT professionals have been working from home since a year. They save on travel time and expense. India’s IT companies have reported 7-10% increase in revenues and profits during the fiscal 2020-‘21. 93% professionals have said they like to work this way from home.
3. The second impressive response to the challenge is on education and learning. Children aged seven and above are receiving lessons from teachers on-line on the smart phones in their homes. Many homes have turned into work places – parents and children at different tables in the same home and at the same time. On-line classes can be alright for post -metric education for children above the age 15 years. But learning by children is to be cultivated by Gurus , teachers. Inquisitiveness, exploration, discovery , values , morals , ethics and humanness and spirituality can only be implanted buy Guru- Sishya interaction. Children under 15 need guidance. Later they can themselves cultivate jignasa ( inquisitiveness) instilled by the Gurus.
4. The cell phone in the hands of over 90% of the 1300 million Indians is doing wonders. Most payments, receipts and remittances are done online. Even the less “educated” are transacting money digitally. The average revenue per user (ARPU) per month is under a measly Rs.250, up from Rs. 125 before the pandemic and work from home. The pre-paid subscriptions and re-charging facilities from millions of shops have made transactions almost painless and instantaneous.
5. The conspicuous and deplorable exceptions to ease of work and life is electioneering and balloting which can be easily non-physical that is digital. Voting by shareholders of companies and members of scientific and engineering societies have been migrated to canvassing on social media and electoral voting, but not elections to parliament, state legislatures and local bodies. The current wave of elections in different States in the traditional manner; large public meetings, road shows , door to door visits, lining up before election booths have become super spreaders of COVID -19 striking Presidents, Chief Ministers, MPs, MLAs, cinema stars as well as the common folks - just as the death is the leveller, so has COVID-19 become the leveller.
Death, the Leveller:
The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things
There is no armour against fate
Death lays his icy hands on kings
Sceptre and crown Must tumble down
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor, crooked scythe and spade…
Only the actions of the just Smell sweet and blossom in the dust
-James Shirely, the English poet (1599-1666)
6. While death cannot be avoided, COVID-19 can be avoided by among others digitalized elections. The process is described in the note#1
7. It is amazing why the Election Commission of India and tech-savvy BJP have not implemented canvassing on electronic media only and balloting only on-line from homes/work places.
8. Marriages in India especially among the affluent are socially and nationally costly and vulgar. These can go digital avoiding physical movement. The suggested migration to e-marriages is at note # 2.
9. National and international conferences, inaugurations, trials in judicial courts, memorial lectures, are all going over webinars; zoom has been having booming business - saving on travel and hotel expenses, reducing pollution and energy consumption – all welcome developments. War is also going into digital form - enemies’ control and command networks, logistics will all be disrupted by injecting viruses. Israel’s repeated devastating attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities in Natanz are an example of such wars. Space is getting militarized and software is getting weaponized. Artificial Intelligence and robotization will profoundly influence every aspect of human activity. Human memory becomes unnecessary; it is getting outsourced to the world-wide web (WWW). All these developments in digitization can be human friendly if wisely and ethically used.
10. ICT can migrate the way we work, live and learn into new ways with economic and social benefits. People will communicate for work and commute only for pleasure. The migration is however, not without some pain. Inadequate bandwidth and falling signal strength; getting glued to inanimate devices, absence of emotionally elevating socializing; rising home electricity and telecommunication and expenses; home losing its ‘familyness’ by becoming a multi-functional work place.
11. Men learn to adapt. Evolution involves change. Those who cannot adapt will get distressed and decay. Long ago Poet Laureate Lord Tennyson wrote:
“The old order changeth yielding place to new Lest one good custom should corrupt the entire world”.
As a French lesson says:
“Nous verrons bien d’autres choses Encore! On n’rrete pas le progress”
(We will well see yet other things. One cannot stop progress.)
Note 1: IT & Elections Ref: See Para: 6
Note 2: e-Marriages Ref: See Para: 8
Thank you and please stay safe.
Dr. T Hanuman Chowdary