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Virtual Worlds, NICT 2009 and the North East (India)

Am posting this from my room in Guwahati. All hail the new messiah .. the HSIA ( short for High Speed Internet Access) Device.. my Photon + . I brought along my lil Lenovo S10-2 netbook instead of my XPS and my shoulders have professed undying love already.. ! I was here on the invitation of the ABP Group ( Telegraph, Business World etc.) to speak on ‘Looking at Tomorrow – Emerging Entrepreneurs’.  Having had a packed week before the conference I arrived in Guwahati on the 27th of August without a single slide for the presentation on the 28th !

But I really wanted to test the power of virtual communications and productivity and sure enough as soon as the lights blinked green on my Photon + USB..I knew, I would be okay. This is what 24×7, universal access to broadband can do. Give you the confidence to prioritise work .. not on the basis of scarce resources ( i.e. Internet availability ) but on merit and availability of your time. So I worked through the night and early morning with Google, girl friend in L.A. and Ashi in Bombay to finish off the presentation.

The next day ..at the conference the presentation was well received ( thanks Ashi and Namita) . The accounts of other entrepreneurs such as Mr. Santosh Ostwal of Ossian ( Pune) who has created a mobile controlled device for water pumps which won a global award from Nokia made me think of convergence between mobile and computers again! With a slew IEDs ( Internet Enabled Devices) available in the market the days of ‘anytime access’ can’t be far behind..  India with it’s 441+ million mobile connections projected to grow upwards of 700 million by 2012 will be one of the first countries I believe to be significantly affected by this ICT revolution. For the first time in Indian history – ‘real time’ information will be available through various IEDS like netbooks, mobiles etc. at the doorstep of the ‘aam admi’  – the socio – economic – political implications of this are immense and I touched upon the same in my presentation at the summit.

Another thing I noticed during my first visit to Guwahati was the energy radiating from the youth. After years of separatist and insurgency marked violence the region, at least Guwahati, seems to want to get down to business. Interactions with another panelist Mr. Parthapratim Phukan , CEO of Gray Matter ( a marketing research and consulting ) company based out of Guwahati made me realise the youth here wanted to move on.. needed to move on..  Can Internet technologies like Social networks and Virtual worlds ( which are infact two facets of the p2p networking) bridge the alienation at the average youth in the North East of our country feels from the ‘mainstream’ India. What if ubiquitous IEDS and reliable broadband ( both of which are still unavailable – at most places in the North East and indeed most of India) could bring together people from all parts of India seamlessly without 3 hour flights, army barracks, terrorist threats and language barriers. Could we indeed build the future India as an ‘idea state’ with a sense of shared identity through a virtual universe?  Would this in turn solve the problem of alienation and lead to greater normalcy on the ground for the citizens of our country living in remote locations ( geographically) ?  It might be idealistic and naive to believe that ICT can be the cure to all problems of North East India but we can make a start by reaching out.. from the comforts our home to see if we can make ‘any’ difference.

I believe in the near future networks of people will form for social, business and other purposes seamlessly using 2D and 3D virtual worlds ( think Facebook, Linkedin and Second Life ) and companies like Indusgeeks needs to play an enabling role in the process. The government needs to make Internet access a priority as countless studies have shown the benefits to the overall population when this is done.

Final thoughts from this trip as I pack up… need to spend some time looking at the magnificent Brahmputra before I head towards the airport..

Note to self need to visit here more often..nudge nudge ABP Group.. NICT 2010?

– Sid