31. Social Computing for Development - University of Mysore

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31. Social Computing for Development - University of Mysore Powered By Docstoc
					Social Computing for Development

Dr. Ashok Rao
Head, Network project.
CEDT, IISc. Bangalore- 560012
Email ashokrao.mys@gmail.com
 Goals and perceptions of technology and its
  dimensions in III world
 Nature and context of Information Technology
  and its implications
 Social Computing: Its context and manifestations
 Applications in Indian (III World) context and
  results
 Road map of a relevant IT program and important
  issues in India.
Part I


Goals and perceptions of technology and its
          dimensions in III world
Technology and development
 The objective of every technological innovation is
  to ensure development of the contemporary
  society.
 Development is achieved by impacting on the
  Quality of Life.
Characteristics of Technology
 Some technologies retain their form through the
  ages.
   – Example: Agriculture and animal husbandry.
 Some technologies become “professional and
  institutionalized.”
   – Example: Habitat building has grown on to become
     civil engineering.
Characteristics of Technology

 A great majority of the population (close to 70%,
  mainly in the III world) continue to live and do
  things by themselves, in a manner little different
  from that of their ancestors, totally in an
  “unprofessional / non-institutionalized”
  framework.
 They have their own notion of institutionalization
  & professional values.
Characteristics of Technology
 many cases they do as good or better (more
  appropriate) than mainstream “modern life”.
  One excellent example is rainwater harvesting for
  domestic requirement of water, which today looks
  inevitable and very sensible (the only way?) for
  the entire world to be doing
Characteristics of Technology
 a great majority of the population will & continue
  to live as they are,
 Any technological innovation should be sensitive
  to this, then it is easy to accommodate this &
  SYNERGETICALLY support other
  supplementary & complementary efforts in
  development
Ethos of Technology
 Technological innovations have an impact on the
  ethos of the society.
 The rate of change in ethos (as reflected in the
  value system of the contemporary society) has
  been getting pronounced in the last century,
  significantly so in the last decade.
Ethos of Technology
 The change in ethos of a society due to technology
  is a continuous process and requires a few
  generations to be felt.
 The impact on individuals is more compressed in
  time and relates to the “flexibility/ adaptability /
  liberal or conservative outlook” of an individual.
   – The role of education in facilitating people to temper
     and effectively internalize these concerns is important.
Ethos of Technology

 Some typical ways in which people accept changes
  related to technology:
 Get seduced by the “new fashion” (with assistance
  from advertisements)
 Keeping up with the Jones syndrome
 Willing to use it because it is western / modern /
  hi-tech
Ethos of Technology
 Forced to accept it, because of regulations
 Willing    to use it, because nothing better/
  appropriate is available
 Supports “natural” human behavior (easy-going or
  addictive)
 Possibility of getting empowered (economically,
  socially, technically)
Ethos of Technology
 Really useful technological artifact
 A great invention or design, which truly improves
  the “Quality of Life”

 Thus, it is very obvious that a great majority of
 people hardly ever evaluate the long-term
 consequence of a particular choice of technology.
Ethos of Technology
 Some “policy makers” or other “experts” decide a
  particular choice of technology for the society.
 Particularly in the III world, such an imposition of
  technology, without societal participation, can be
  both an economic and a social problem (most
  western technologies are very expensive, and
  many are socially/ culturally / ecologically
  incompatible).
  Ethos of Technology
 An average citizen in the III world quite
  understands the beneficial aspects of science and
  technology, but is very helpless when it comes to
  meaningfully articulating his/her need, modalities
  and relationships with respect to it.
 This “alienation” of a sensitive common citizen
  over the years, unfortunately has had serious
  negative implications vis-à-vis technological
  (mainly western) percolation and acceptance.
Ethos of Technology
 This has resulted in an extremely superficial
  internalization of modern scientific values and
  attitudes.
 This has resulted in a great “by-pass” of a large
  population in terms of science and technology
  inputs and participation.
Ethos of Technology (III World)
 Philosophy of 3R (Reduce, Renew and Reuse).
 Harmony with nature ( Renewables and Organic
  products)
 Primary focus on social advantages (not individual
  or economic)
   – Most of the III world still focuses on realizing a good
     public transport system (unlike in the west, where
     individual cars are preferred).
Ethos of Technology (III World)
 Technology is viewed as a common property
  resource, just like rain, sunshine, air, etc.
 In the long run, the III world ethos is more
  sustainable.
 Western ethos of efficiency, cleanliness and
  orderliness needs to be built on top of the III world
  ethos.
Development: Practices and Trends
 Development is one of the most misunderstood,
  misrepresented and misinterpreted words.
 The question to be asked is “development for
  whom ?, and by what means ?”
 Too often, development is a zero-sum game,
  where development of one is at the cost of
  another, or together they will end up spoiling the
  environment or the social / ecosystem.
Development: Practices and Trends
 Development scholars like Daniel Lerner and
  Everett Rogers defined development in the 1950’s
  and 1960’s as “ a type of social change in which
  new ideas are introduced into a social system in
  order to produce higher per capita incomes and
  levels of living through more modern production
  methods and improved social organization”.
Development: Practices and Trends
 Modernization, or the “development” of the
  individual, was seen as “the process by which
  individuals change from a traditional way of life to
  a more complex, technologically advanced, and
  rapidly changing style of life”.
 This has the unfortunate but implicit assumption
  that “modern way of life” is superior.
Development: Practices and Trends
 One of the main difficulties in ensuring a win-win
  situation is the extreme importance accorded to
  money / profit as the only indicator of economy.
 It makes sense to include non-monetary factors
  also as economic indicators.
 This has been the practice with the people of the
  III world, even if the governments, in imitation of
  the west, have been practicing monetary
  economics.
Development: Practices and Trends
 Dr. Amartya Sen has shown that QoL related
  indices, like literacy levels, per-capita land, water,
  etc. are better indicators than GDP, GNP, per-
  capita income, etc.
 In fact, even the World Bank / IMF now recognize
  the relevance of including non-monetary indices in
  economic evaluation.
Development: Practices and Trends
 It is imperative that any new technology should
  not only address established issues (increased
  GDP, GNP etc.), but will also have to incorporate
  the newer indices.
 The difficulty lies in the fact that most modern
  technologies were not designed keeping in view
  the newer indices against which their success and
  relevance can be measured.
Part II


          Nature and context of
     Information Technology (IT)
           and its implications
Issues in IT
 Large scale utility of IT now looks inevitable.
 What are the paradigm, choice, implementation,
  policies and impact (both intended and
  consequential) of the large scale utility of IT ?
 Also, IT is dominated by “social perceptions” to a
  far greater extent than what is currently perceived
  and acknowledged.
Issues in IT
 In evaluating any technology for its utility,
  factors like cost, power consumed, space
  occupied, natural and human resources needed,
  environmental impact, etc., dominate the
  considerations.
 In case of IT, these factors hardly figure in at the
  first or even the higher levels of evaluation of the
  Appropriateness of IT.
  Issues in IT
 IT now challenges the very concept of technology
  for large industries, with small systems creating
  wealth comparable to or better than the traditional,
  large, people-resource-capital intensive
  establishment.
 IT is the closest a hi-tech industry has come into
  the framework of “cottage / small scale industry”,
  which is the backbone of India’s manufacturing
  sector.
Issues in IT
 The evolution of any technology turns up many
  artifacts: some useful, some harmful.
 Some degree and period of utility has always
  shown that many technological issues have
  sustainability problems.
   – Example: Plastic carry bags, synthetic pesticides.
Issues in IT
 With respect to IT and its enthusiastic utility, it is
  definitely premature to comment on its form and
  style and nature of use, and when it will mature
  and stabilize (if at all it does).
 But one thing that contemporary practitioners can
  at least influence, if not decide, is the choice and
  range of applications of IT.
History of IT
 Perhaps the oldest analog (positional) computer is
  the abacus, which was in use as early as 2000 BC
  in China.
 The stonehedge near Salisbury was perhaps used
  to predict the change of seasons.
 Different types of almanacs have been in use for a
  long time for astronomical calculations.
History of IT
 The first step towards scientific analog computers
  was the invention of Napier’s bones by John
  Napier in the 17th century.
 This was followed by the invention of the slide
  rule by William Oughtred.
 Blaise Pascal invented the first mechanical adding
  machines, which used a series of connected
  wheels to do addition and subtraction.
History of IT
 Charles Babbage, the father of modern computing,
  heralded the shift towards digital computers with
  his revolutionary design of the analytical engine
  which anticipated all the central features of the
  present day computer.
 Joseph Jacquard introduced coded cards with
  punched holes to help automate the computing
  process.
History of IT
 In 1896, Herman Hollerith founded the computing
  tabulating recording company, which later merged
  with two other companies to form the
  International Business Machines Corporations
  (IBM)
 George Boole invented the binary logic which
  became the building block for modern computers.
 In the 1930’s Konrad Zude developed the Z series
  of computing machines using binary arithmatic.
History of IT
 During World War II, Alan Turing developed the
  universal machine concept, the forerunner of the
  computability theory.
 In 1946, John Eckert and John Mauchly designed
  the electronic numerical integrator and calculator
  (ENIAC), the world’s first all electronic digital
  computer.
 UNIVAC, the first general purpose digital
  computer, came in 1951.
History of IT
 Looking back, the invention of silicon transistors
  in late 40’s, which now manifest as
  microprocessors and other chips (memory, etc.),
  could perhaps be regarded, as one of the greatest
  inventions in the history of mankind.
 From the point of view of today’s topic, an
  important landmark is the DARPA/ARPA funded
  successful attempt at computer networking in late
  60’s - early 70’s.
History of IT
 In the 80’s, Microsoft launched Windows as a
  graphical interface for PC’s.
   – The human element started dominating technology.
 Intel came up with the first Pentium chip in the
  90’s, making computing super fast.
Popularity of networked culture
 Earlier (50’s - 70’s), “huge centralized
  mainframes” dominated, with 100’s of “dumb”
  terminals providing access to central resources.
 It was a typical centralized (powerful and all
  encompassing) and organization oriented type of
  structure, where users were not empowered to “do
  anything they wanted”.
Popularity of networked culture
 Late 70’s - 80’s saw a swing to the other extreme,
  with advent of individual, interactive PC’s
  (personal, owned, low power, low capacity,
  tremendous empowerment but little possibility).
 The limitations were soon realized, as “power to
  do anything” was limited even though the
  individual freedom to do was inherent.
Popularity of networked culture
 Finally the pendulum shifted to the middle path,
  where people had PC’s, but strategically preferred
  to get empowered through networking.
 This enabled people to have the power of
  organization and yet the empowerment at the
  individual level.
 This lead to the notion of groupware based
  computing.
Popularity of networked culture
 Another great synthesis to happen was the fusion
  of telecom with computer systems.
 A computer network has to be seen as a social /
  service structure.
 The recent trend of multi utility hand held devices
  (like PDA, Simputer, Mobile phones, etc)
 Heterogeneous and seamlessly connected
  networks, both wired and wireless is another
  strong factor in favor
IT: Perceptions and Myths
 IT fitted very well in the first world which was
  trying to manage surplus resources, provide faster
  responses to queries, provide information access
  to remote locations, minimize the role of a system
  (corporate, government, service providers, etc.) by
  downsizing and allowing individuals to make the
  choice by providing all the necessary information.
 Thus, IT was very compatible with the needs of an
  individual in the first world.
IT: Perceptions and Myths
 Historically, all IT applications were focused,
  triggered by and targeted only on value addition
  and sometimes newer way of doing things.
   – IT helped make civil engineering plans faster and more
     flexible.
 While IT helped in managing the inventory and
  distribution of food grains, it is very essential to
  recognize that it cannot make food grains grow
  faster or better.
IT: Perceptions and Myths
 The clarity about limitations of what a computer
  can and cannot do is lacking (mainly in the III
  world).
 IT is unfortunately being seen as magic pill for all
  ills.
 For every limitation in the contemporary situation,
  it is common to hear the standard answer: once we
  computerize, all problems will get automatically
  solved.
IT: Perceptions and Myths
 Never in history has so much faith and expectation
  been placed on a technology to solve such a wide
  range of problems.
 More interestingly, this expectation is shared by a
  large number of technologists, scientists,
  economists, planners, the common man, the
  lettered and the unlettered, in both First and III
  world.
 This is both scary and challenging.
IT: Perceptions and Myths
 Scary, because this technology has created such
  unreasonable demands and expectations, about
  which there does not seem to be any leveling, let
  alone an end.
 This can easily lead to distortion, frustration, false
  expectations and technology backlash.
 Challenging, because the world expects so much
  from this technology.
Dynamics
 Every system (social,economic, political,
  religious, biological, or a combination of these),
  reacts to inputs, and generates outputs (both or one
  of which could be internal).
 In a very broad sense one can see the society as a
  system with inputs and outputs, having a system
  model, which governs the response.
 Such analyses are common in economics, ecology,
  transportation, etc.
Dynamics
 We will use such system models for analyzing
  case studies related to IT.
 we will see the response of the system as the
  change resulting from the proper choice and use
  of IT (computerization) in the existing situation.
 Thus our input to the system is the IT component,
  and output is the result “measured “ in terms of
  some parameters (both quantitative and
  qualitative).
Dynamics
 At the societal level, dramatic changes take place
  when a choice of technology is made for the
  society.
   – Industrial revolution helped England and France
     replace Spain and Portugal as prime societies.
   – Printing technology made information available cheap
     and fast in printed form, and thus had a strong influence
     on the Protestant movement and French revolution.
Dynamics
 Earlier, the impact of a technology was slow and
  intermittent (from industrial revolution in the 17th
  century to nuclear power in 1950’s)
 The impact of the subsequent technologies
  (Electronics in 1950’s, TV and communication in
  1960’s, microprocessors in 1980’s, PC’s and
  networking and Internet in 1995’s, biotechnology /
  genetic Engineering in 1998’s) have been quick
  and powerful.
Dynamics
 Each society over the years has chosen to react to
  the impact of technologies in “typical” ways
  characterizing the “visible” part of that society.
 India, as a whole, has reacted enthusiastically to
  IT.
 The perception and practice of IT in India has
  been Conservative and mostly in appropriate
 While it is in the Top five for practice of ICT it is
  ranked 75th. in e-Governance the world over
 It reflects the highly feudal and stratified structure
  that is inherent in our system
Dynamics
 The growth of IT industry in India has been
  mainly due to the efforts of some innovators,
  without much government support.
 India missed the hardware culture due to lack of
  foresight and preparedness.
 The performance of the Indian IT industry has
  been impressive even though we have neither
  world class infrastructure nor a sound national
  policy.
Trends
 In the III world, IT has made little quantitative
  difference.
 Qualitatively, there is robustness and growth in
  economic sense and direct and indirect
  employment potential.
 Even while IT industry is creating jobs, there are
  more people losing jobs in the agriculture and
  manufacturing sectors due to their changing
  characteristics.
Trends
 This has resulted in increased net unemployment,
  but the wealth of country has increased.
 This is already leading to the polarization of
  wealth because of IT, which can lead to other
  unhealthy consequences if not addressed earnestly.
 The problem has to be addressed without
  hampering the growth and potential of the IT
  industry.
  Trends

 In the I world, significant qualitative and
  quantitative differences in Quality of Life have
  been ensured by way of utility of IT. This has not
  happened in the III world.
 In the I world, IT addressed the societal needs
  already robust and reliable in terms of the basics
  that define the quality of life, like schooling,
  drinking water and sanitation, power, roads,
  infrastructure, communication, health, etc.
Trends
 Thus it amounted to adding further quality,
  reliability and speed and new peripherals to basics
  of life.
 This value addition enhanced capital, comfort and
  productivity value.
 Unfortunately it appears that much of IT related
  activities in India and in other III world countries
  seem to be just verbatim replication of what is
  done / needs to be done in the I world.
Trends
 In the III world, where only a tiny minority of the
  populace has telephones and where computers are
  still the preserve of the most progressive business
  organizations, the general public is as good as
  isolated from what is going on in information and
  communication technology.
 This might result in the technology bypass of a
  large population in the III world getting wider.
Trends
 Fortunately or unfortunately, IT has a streak of
  inevitability that is strongly recognized by one and
  all.
 To quote a recent research study, “we can say one
  thing with confidence: Information technology
  will change everything in the world in which we
  live. There will be no institution, no person, and
  no government that will be unaffected”.
Trends
 This means that unlike in the past where many III
  world countries choose to miss a technology, it is
  impossible to miss IT, as the rest of the world is
  connected.
 Consequently, it has a very expensive dimension of
  economic commitment just to stay afloat in the
  cyber world.
 The economic cost of just floating in the cyber
  world is very high for a country like India, with
  more needed primary issues still unsatisfactorily
  met.
Trends
 When there are no proper schools, primary health
  care system, high infant mortality, etc. at one end,
  at the other end we now have to find resources for
  high speed and high bandwidth connectivity
  across the nation.
 We have to find ways of managing this situation,
  as the writing on the wall is clear: Get connected,
  or else….
 Pragmatically it is sensible to be part of
  IT world but we need to adapt ways to do
  so. Blind copying is also not feasible.
  Characteristics of IT

 Every technology has its own characteristics.
   – Steam power:
      • Large scale mining of coal under very hostile conditions,
        transportation, pollution, etc.
   – Nuclear power:
      • Mining, radiation, waste management, etc.
 Generally when these intrinsic characteristics are
  not handled effectively they become issues. These
  could be technical, but could manifest as social,
  ecological, economic and even political issues.
Characteristics of IT
 The difficulty in identifying the characteristics of
  IT is that, unlike other technologies, IT is very
  abstract and hardly has any material value.
 More appropriately, we can say IT is value of
  knowledge.
 Thus it manifests with so many attributes
  associated with knowledge and the means and
  methods of harnessing, enhancing and evaluating
  it.
Characteristics of IT
 If one sees the present situation in terms of
  information revolution (similar to industrial
  revolution), we can say: “Just as industrial
  revolution shaped material resources (using
  thermal energy) for the benefit of humanity,
  information revolution shapes knowledge (based)
  resources (using human mental energy) for the
  empowerment of humanity.”
Characteristics of IT
 Information revolution has also been defined as
  the social transformations that are associated with
  information and communication technology which
  have changed the way people work, live, and
  communicate with other.
 It is well known that there exists a positive
  relationship between the level of development of
  information and communication technology and
  that of economic development.
Characteristics of IT
 By and large, technology is like a surprise
  package; with it, because of it, inside it, come a
  whole range of “additives”, majority of which is
  non-technical in context (dress code, language,
  even working time, style and culture, etc,).
 The difficulty with this is even the promoters and
  designers of technologies, to a large extent, are
  unaware of these hidden dimensions.
Characteristics of IT
 Technology is more than just equipment.
  Technology also incorporates a surrounding shell
  of infra-structural requirements, technical and
  managerial skills that are needed in order to
  operate it.
 With technological gap hardly present in ICT, it is
  the Soft Components that make the difference. In
  this a simple issue of English literacy makes a
  significantly big difference.
  Characteristics of IT

 Whilst the technology transfer process has been
  good at ‘shifting boxes’ from the west to
  developing countries, making those boxes
  operational at the other end is generally much
  harder because the necessary elements in the
  surrounding shell are missing.
 Odedra, for example, cites a case in Zambia in
  which computing equipment remained unused due
  to lack of necessary systems development skills
  within the recipient organization.
Characteristics of IT
 Technology also incorporates even less tangible
  factors. For example, technologies developed in
  west incorporate particular social and cultural
  assumptions that may not apply in developing
  countries. Lind, for example, blames failure of
  some information systems introduced into Egypt,
  on their western counterparts for the assumptions
  of a business environment in which formal
  information was valued, goods supply was
  relatively certain, and there was legislative
  stability.
Characteristics of IT
 The objectives and interests of technology source
  and recipient are often mismatched. In particular
  the western source of technology may seek a
  immediate profit from the sale, but have little
  interest in helping the developing country
  recipient make the technology work. Heeks, for
  example, describes the furore and problems that
  arose when a western multinational provided
  obsolescent, second-hand computing equipment to
  some Indian clients.
Characteristics of IT
 In IT transfer projects, technology choice is
  sometimes inadequate or inappropriate, and not
  enough time is spent assessing either the
  technologies available or their match to project
  needs. Partly, this reflects a lack of specification,
  assessment and choice skills within project
  organizations. Partly, it reflects problems with
  external assistance from consultants and agencies.
Characteristics of IT
 The promotion of technology, however much
  needed or asked for, has been very “uninspiring”
  for the society at large.
 What is essential is to stop the technology is the
  solution to all problems syndrome (I world) and at
  the same time get over Technophobia (III world).
 Both worlds (I and III) not only have much to
  learn form each other, we also have only ONE
  WORLD TO LIVE IN.
Drivers of IT
 Distributed work
  – Within a decade, telecommunications will, for all
    practical purposes, be free.
  – The drop in cost will lead to more decentralization of
    work.
  – The economic pressures on corporations to save money,
    the social pressures on workers to save time, and the
    great facilitation of information technology is expected
    to raise 4% of the workforce in distributed work to 20%
    by 2005.
Drivers of IT
  – In addition to employees, there will be people who
    operate small business out of their homes.
  – When 30 % to 40 % of the workforce no longer goes to
    work, there will be substantial changes in the way
    people dress, eat, socialize and travel.
  – The ripple effects of distributed work will be far more
    significant than the consequences of direct substitution.
  – The positive effect is that of reverse migration or de-
    urbanization. Unfortunately in III world we still have to
    reach the peak of Urbanization before this happens
Drivers of IT
 Increased computational capacity
   – Every time the computer becomes 10 or 100 fold more
     competent, it allows us to bring a traditional problem
     into real-time management.
   – (In the III world much of the failure & inadequacy even
     now is not because of lack of real-time management,
     but inadequacy of real, timely management.)
   – This serious gap in understanding is behind much of the
     false and unreasonable expectations raised about ICT.
Drivers of IT
 Smartness
   – At the extreme end of smartness, any element, device,
     component, or system will do three things: assay its
     internal conditions, assay the performance of the tasks,
     and then, if either of the first two is faltering, initiate
     repair or call for help.
   – Smartness becomes the invitation to further networking
     of these autonomous devices.
   – Smartness can only deliver solutions when aided by
     soft components, in which we are very poor and lack
     problem solving skills. This has helped us in Service
     sector where the emphasis is on routine and not
     innovation.
Drivers of IT
 Imaging technology
   – Focus on everything from bar codes to virtual reality.
   – Virtual reality will drastically alter entertainment.
   – It will lead to teaching and training material that will
     accomplish in weeks to months that which normally
     takes months to years.
   – It will lead to better simulation. (Boeng777 was
     designed, built, planned, tested, and evaluated in
     cyber-space, before any metal was bent.)
Enablers of IT
 The Net
   – The Internet is both over-hyped and undervalued.
   – Internet is perhaps the most transforming invention in
     human history. It has the capacity to change almost
     every aspect of our lives.
   – It is doing so far at far greater speed than the other
     “great technologies of the 20th century”, such as
     electricity, the telephone and the car.
   – The single device (hand held and portable) for all ICT
     uses, promises much but lacks in actual delivery as of
     present.
Enablers of IT
  – Yet, nearly seven years since the Internet developed
    mass market potential with the invention of a simple-to-
    use browser, it is easy to overstate its effect on the daily
    lives of ordinary people.
  – Even in the United states, the most wired country in the
    world, most people still lack, or choose not to have,
    Internet access. And even for most of those who have
    access both at home and in the office, the Internet has
    proved more of an addition to their lives- some times
    useful, sometimes entertaining, often frustrating- than
    a genuine transformation.
  – Choice of Entertainment over Education
Enablers of IT
 Value of organizations
  – Historically, gold, precious stones, trees, land, cattle
    etc., were treated as wealth. In the III world, wealth is
    still evaluated in these traditional norms.
  – Slowly, (with industrial revolution) stocks, shares and
    equity became prominent.
  – With the advent of IT, information - not data - will
    become the currency of this century.
Enablers of IT
  – In the past, companies would compete on the basis of
    assets like land and buildings. In the future, companies
    would compete based on information.
  – All companies are becoming information companies; all
    will have to compete as information companies.
  – The information about the content is often more
    valuable than the content itself.
  – This is comparable to the power of the superior local /
    domain knowledge that has helped typical rural / tribal
    communities in the III world survive.
Enablers of IT
 Nature of organizations
  – What we think of today as “Organization design” began
    to evolve in the aftermath of World War II.
  – Building on the research of the 1920’s and 1930’s and
    the experience of the 1940’s, the notion of the
    “organization as machine” gave way to a more subtle
    perspective on the social and technical aspects of the
    organization.
Enablers of IT
  – Historically, the purpose of organizational structures
    was to institutionalize stability; in the organization of
    the future, the goal of design will be to
    institutionalize change’.
  – The pace of innovation and the abbreviated strategic
    cycles will force companies to place multiple bets on an
    ongoing basis, acknowledging that a new product may
    be well on its way to obsolescence by the time it
    reaches the market. This implies that “traditional
    organizations, which work on the central theme of
    stability, are ill-equipped to grow based on IT.
Disablers of IT
Part III


   Social Computing: Its context and
             manifestations
  Rural development

 Up to the 18th century, rural development was the
  only development.
 Afterwards, it has been the case of rural areas
  subsidizing urban development.
 Now, in India and many other III world countries,
  the entire rural ambience is only functional and
  helplessly surviving.
 A great majority is just waiting to reach some
  urban area to eke out another functional existence.
  Rural development

 This is reflected in growing urbanization every
  where, with cities like Mexico and Calcutta having
  already reached near catastrophic levels.
 It is clearly understood that this will continue and
  of the world’s population, urban sector will soon
  be at least 40%. This is a direct result of the S & T
  policies leading to stratification , which gets
  hardened with the kind of programs (economic,
  choice of technology,developmental) that is
  followed.
Rural development
 Unlike the west, III world is still dominated by
  rural way of life.
 Over the years, rural people have developed
  technology time tested in terms of relevance,
  empowerment, sustainability, effectiveness, etc.
 If one looks back, with this kind of technology, III
  world (India, China, Arabia, and little of Africa)
  dominated (without any aggressive colonization)
  the world in trade and commerce for a long time.
  Technology in rural development

 The crucial issues are
   – Penetration of technology into daily life, and
   – Affordability of technological support system by
     individuals.
 Technology has definitely made life more
  ‘comfortable’.
   – Television, for example, has enabled a great leveling
     across all sections of the society, providing equal
     opportunities for entertainment.
Technology in rural development
 Most rural technologies have always been great
  enablers and / or attempts at improving the QoL.
 The agricultural plough, water lifting devices,
  composted manure, etc. have done yeomen service
  to the evolution and longevity of human life.
 Other important tasks like boat building, fishing,
  arts and crafts, etc, have all been “successful and
  sensible technologies”.
Technology in rural development
 Practices with all modern technologies have
  always been showing big gaps on three counts:
   – The gap between destructive (more efficient and faster)
     and constructive (less efficient and slow) efforts
   – The gap between the response and effectiveness of
     modern technologies when the West (I world) needs it
     and when the Rest (III world) needs it.
   – The compatibility related to culture, relevance to needs,
     cost effectiveness and multi-utility capability that the
     III world needs and the I world technology provides.
Technology in rural development
 One of the more efficient ways to promote IT in
  III world is by linking TV and computer in one
  unit, preferably with Internet access through cable/
  wireless basis, in local language.
 But such products are not so essential for the West
  Thus even with sufficient awareness & sensitivity,
  this gap will always exist, and so it is essential,
  and beneficial to allow and even encourage
  “technologies for rural applications” to develop.
IT in rural development
 In 1991, UNDP launched the sustainable
  development network designed to provide an
  information exchange link in 115 countries in
  which it had offices.
 The initiative was based on the understanding that
  information and appropriate technologies were
  essential for developing countries to find effective
  ways of using their natural resources for
  sustainable development.
IT in rural development
 Technology is received differently in different
  settings, depending on such factors as education,
  awareness, diversity of cultures, and departmental
  barriers in an organization.
 Whatever innovations and advances that occur
  anywhere in the world are quickly absorbed into
  the consciousness, skills and cultures of the people
  of other nations that have the openness and
  capacity to appropriate such events.
IT in rural development
 The importance of IT in national development is
  heightened by the fact that IT cuts across and
  interacts with all strategic sectors of a developing
  nation.
 When setting national strategic priorities,therefore,
  IT should not be seen as an area competing for a
  position with health, agriculture, education, etc.,
  but as an area that can act as a catalyst in the
  development of these and other areas.
IT in rural development
 For many planners, this is difficult to quantify and
  thus allocate adequate provision (including budget
  grant).
 The value and role of IT in socio-economic
  development is often not recognized because of
  the absence of measures indicating the extent to
  which IT can accelerate socio-economic
  development.
IT in rural development
 The important thing to note is that IT, whether as a
  result of development or as a stimulator of
  development, is a key ingredient that acts as a
  catalyst in the development process.
 Although it is difficult to measure the extent of the
  impact of IT on socio-economic development, it is
  equally difficult to imagine the state of socio-
  economic development the I world would have
  reached without IT.
IT in rural development

 Meaningful IT applications have a great role to
  play in the development of III world if correctly
  employed.
 However, its successful employment requires
  careful planning, both on a short term and long
  term basis.
 Policies are a key factor in the successful
  incorporation of IT in national strategic plans.
IT in rural development
 Policy formulation in IT is a difficult task, with
  rapid technological changes, lack of continuity of
  policies and priorities, not to mention the required
  manpower.
 In India, with changing political and development
  ideologies, and the center (where policy is
  planned) and the states (where it is implemented)
  being on opposing terms, it is very difficult to
  maintain a consistent focus at the national level.
IT in rural development
 It has been noted that experts from developed
  countries tend to favor or develop IT systems that
  replicate those that have worked with in their own
  countries, without taking into account the local
  conditions.
 This is also true of donor agencies that donate
  systems that seem to replicate systems in similar
  organizations in developed countries without
  considering the local conditions.
  Some IT implementations in rural
  development
 HealthNet:
  – A telecommunications system that links physicians,
    researchers, medical educators, and other healthcare
    workers in the developing world with their colleagues
    abroad.
  – Has been successfully employed in 17 African nations.
  – HealthNet users connect to Low Earth Orbit (LEO)
    satellites using packet radio technology. The satellite
    passes within range two of four times a day for about
    fifteen minutes, facilitating message transfer.
Some IT implementations in rural
development
  – HealthNet, however has remained specific to the health
    sector.
  – Though connections are free, HealthNet
    implementation using Low earth Orbit satellites has
    become obsolete due to low bandwidth and difficult
    technology.
  – SatelLife, the operator of HealthNet, is considering
    other alternatives, such as public phones and a
    combination of LEO and telecommunications lines for
    improving access to the health community.
Some IT implementations in rural
development
 Government:
  – The objective of the Government project was “to utilize
    and add value to the existing electronic networks
    operating within the Commonwealth countries in
    Africa”. This was done as follows:
  – The introduction of electronic messaging between
    members of a tightly defined group of officials and
    experts.
  – The development of electronic mail directories grouped
    by interest and expertise.
Some IT implementations in rural
development
  – The provision of file transfer facilities allowing rapid
    sharing of draft policy proposals and discussion
    documents.
  – The provision of access to moderated bulletin boards
    serving as clearing houses for information requests and
    for the posting of notices concerning work in progress.
  – The provision of access to databases offering practical
    information concerning good practice in specific reform
    areas.
Disablers of IT in rural areas
 It is important to test the validity of the hypothesis
  that traditional culture is the root cause of
  organizational obstacles of IT in developing
  countries.
 To test the hypothesis, we need to study what kind
  of problems are encountered in the introduction of
  IT in developing countries, then study the
  traditional cultures in question, and finally analyze
  if there is a correlation between the two.
   Disablers of IT in rural areas
 Some of the observed problems are:
   – Environmental problems due to the hot and humid
     climate and dust.
   – Problems with electricity, telecommunication,
     transportation, etc., i.e., problems with inadequate
     infrastructure or a defective network of supporting
     activities.
   – Financial problems.
   – Bureaucracy, lack of awareness, politics.
   – Trend towards quick profits without after-sales services.
Appropriate technology
 About 70% of the world’s population, in almost
  all climatic and cultural zones, still uses
  appropriate technology (AT) in its daily life.
 It is known by various names like rural
  Technology, III world Technology, intermediate
  technology, sustainable technology, etc.,
 In AT, sustainability is a pre-condition in design
  and choice, not an afterthought.
Characteristics of AT
  – It permits local needs to be met more
    effectively, because local people are involved
    in identifying and working to address these
    needs; for the same reasons, it is likely to be in
    harmony with local traditions and values.
  – It means the development tools that extend
    human labor and skills, rather than machines
    that replace human labor and eliminate human
    skills.
Characteristics of AT
  – It represents a comprehensible and controllable
    scale of activities, organizations and mistakes,
    at which people without management training
    can work together and understand what they are
    doing.
  – It allows a more economical operation by
    minimizing the transport of goods in an era of
    expensive energy, allowing greater interaction
    of local industry and permitting greater use of
    local resources – both human and material.
Characteristics of AT
  – It makes unnecessary many expensive or unavailable
    finance, transportation, education, advertising,
    management, and energy services; and avoids the loss
    of local control that use of such outside services imply.
  – It helps to establish a self sustaining and expanding
    reservoir of skills in the community which begins from
    already existing skills.
  – It provides a region with cushion against the effects of
    outside economic changes (e.g., collapse of the world
    sugar market or the sudden unavailability of fertilizer).
Criteria for AT
  – Requires only small amount of capital.
  – Emphasizes the use of locally available materials, in
    order to lower costs and reduce supply problems.
  – Is relatively labor-intensive but more productive than
    many traditional technologies.
  – Is small enough in scale to be affordable to individual
    families or small groups of families.
  – Can be understood, controlled and maintained by
    villagers whenever possible, without a high level of
    special training.
Criteria for AT
  – Can be produced in villages or small workshops.
  – Supposes that people can and will work together to
    bring improvements to communities;
  – Offers opportunities for local people to become
    involved in the modification and innovation process.
  – Is flexible, can be adapted to different places and
    changing circumstances.
  – Can be used in productive ways without doing harm to
    the environment.
Paradigm for computing
 It is a fact that IT is treated as a synonym of
  computer science and vice-versa.
 The reason for this distortion is that people have
  the same image (paradigm) for both IT and
  computer science.
 This is because computer science itself is still
  evolving and stabilizing. Unlike Information and
  Communication which people for 1000’s of years
  have been doing. ICT is new and has added much
  confusion in the common mind
Paradigm for computing
 Thus while IT paradigm is itself in a nascent stage,
  expecting it to get further refined to IT specific to
  a particular domain like rural applications, that too
  relevant to III world is expecting too much.
 But without such paradigms, it is very difficult for
  people in III world to even think anything beyond
  very general terms, thus negating the possibility of
  meaningful attempts (let alone successful ones).
   Social computing

 The paradigm of social computing is based on the
  growing realization that technology and its solutions
  have significant non-technical dimensions,
  particularly in the context of development.
 Thus technological solutions for generating wealth
  (which can trickle down towards meaningful
  development) or an individual's comfort are
  different from that of the needs of a society in terms
  of direct development.
Social computing
 The notion of social computing relates to the use
  (including design, development, sharing, storing
  and actual use) of IT systems (Hardware /
  Software / Communication) which involve more
  than one person.
Social computing
 More precisely, social computing is any type of
  computing application in which software serves as
  an intermediary or a focus for a social relation
  such as:
   – When people communicate via news groups such as
     email or multi-user Dungeons (MUD’s).
   – When government devises policies involving software
     and network development.
   – When people learn and teach about computers.
Social computing
  –   When groups of people develop software;
  –   When private records are kept on individuals;
  –   When workplace tasks are defined by software; and
  –   When decisions of life and death are influenced by
      software.
Social computing
 With just the idea of social computing, it is
  difficult to make very specific tasks for
  implementation. One reason is the “too much of
  generality” of the concept, the other being the lack
  of focus from this angle even in the west.
 The first step is to build on the foundation of
  social computing, and change the context from the
  I world to the III.
Social computing
 Based on the “rich, diverse, intense and
  successful” fieldwork that we have done on issues
  like rural water supply and sanitation, agricultural
  land records documentation, low level computing,
  rural post office automation, etc., we are able to
  structure two important paradigms- development
  computing and rural computing- to clearly
  distinguish two major themes that badly need
  attention from the IT community.
Development and social computing
 In both development and rural computing, we are
  looking at some concrete situation, where such a
  concept would be essential and generalize it.
 A collection of such related concepts / issues
  would form a paradigm.
 This approach is related to action research, which
  we feel is more relevant to Indian conditions.
Development computing
 Development computing is any type of IT system
  (software, hardware, communication/interface,
  etc.) application which serves as an intermediary
  or a focus of an activity directly related to the
  development of the society.
 It can be in terms of some measure of the quality
  of life, or perhaps as some visible and / or
  invisible indicators (empowerers or enablers).
Development computing
 Examples are:
   – When people vote, express their opinion in referendum,
     use option of right to recall, all aimed at effective and
     vibrant digital democracy.
   – When IT system enables more timely and effective
     legal and criminal justice, without violating human
     rights (particularly with undertrials, detainees, and with
     multiple warrants). Extension to video conferencing
     with judges would enhance the quality of judgment.
Development computing
 – When IT system provides a excellent level playing
   ground for all socially and physically challenged
   people for better productivity.
 – When databases are created and people have right to
   information about the spending on various
   development activities and other government
   spending.
 – When IT facilitates people in exercising their duties
   (like paying taxes, bills, remittances, etc) and
   provides secure documents like digital ration card.
Development computing
 – When people develop IT systems for use in
   rehabilitation of affected populace during
   emergencies and disasters (natural and social).
 – When people are to have access to information /
   knowledge about their environment in terms of
   resources (quality and quantity, utility, common
   property control, conservation measures, risks,
   procedures under emergency), which can be provided
   by NRDBMS, GIS, Remote Sensed data.
Development computing
 – When IT provides complete and reliable information
   on ways and means for human mobility, logistics
   and comfort (Information on travel, public
   conveyances, choice of alternatives, hospital and other
   social sector services, etc.,).
 – When IT enables high quality, diverse and flexible
   mode of learning, skill imparting and employment
   opportunities. This includes formal learning at
   different paces and priorities including local language
   computing.
  IT for legal justice

 Typically most of the undertrials are form the
  poorer section of socio-economic strata (with 15-
  20% juveniles), majority from rural areas.
 Most of them remain undertrials because they
  cannot afford to get their cases heard.
 It is simple to have an IT system with a mechanism
  which records each and every undertrial data and
  upon a upper time limit, automatically sets them on
  trial, or sets an alarm at a human rights cell.
Rural computing
 It is any type of computing / IT system (software,
  hardware, communication / interface, etc.)
  application which serves as an intermediary or the
  focus of an activity directly related to the rural
  context of the society. For example,
   – When IT system is designed based on the paradigm of
     low level computing (it is more closely related to
     knowledge based computing, symbolic / GUI based
     rather than data and program based, it can even have
     sophistication like voice interactive keyboard).
Rural computing
 – When IT systems are designed to work in very hostile
   (dust, heat, poor quality and reliability of power)
   environmental conditions and user preferences (local
   language computing, text to speech and speech to text
   converters, touch screens,etc.,).
 – When IT systems provide a total and holistic solution
   for all basic tasks of governance at village level (gram
   panchayat office), including inventory and TPS with
   links to state government. This should in principle
   allow the “village to decide and design development
   agenda for itself”.
Rural computing
 – When a exhaustive database is created for all
   agricultural, animal husbandry, horticulture related
   activity, encompassing detailed facets of seeds,
   processing, marketing, diseases and their prevention.
 – When IT systems are designed to enable rural populace
   to know about opportunities, query their requirements,
   process their transactions and also provide emergency
   support (Tele-medicine).
 – When IT systems provide excellent support to formal,
   non-formal, vocational learning in rural environment.
Rural computing

– When Post offices in rural areas provide social,
  economic, opportunity connectivity to the populace
  through IT.
– When IT systems provide excellent support at rural
  areas to do virtual jobs.
– When IT systems provide secure digital documents in
  rural areas related to houses, agricultural lands and
  moveable and immovable assets.
– When IT systems are used for rural infrastructure
  development.
Rural computing
 Digital documentation:
  – It is very common for the less empowered strata of the
    society to be constantly harassed with respect to the
    little “economic and social security” they have.
  – . Missing entries, wrong entries, incomplete entries,
    illegible entries in documents (related to property,
    house, legality of citizenship, particularly in border
    areas, etc) cause enormous hardship, not to mention
    human rights abuse of the highest level.
Rural computing
 – This hardship can be greatly minimized if digital
   documentation was done, which cannot be processed
   unless all the entries are done and completely
   minimizes subjectivity of individuals’ handwriting and
   entries, which with large illiteracy is one frequent way
   to harass people.
 – Digital documentation is also helpful in land
   demarcation that is carried out after flood water recedes
   from submerged land.
Rural computing
 Agricultural marketing:
  – With regard to agriculture, India can be seen as a land
    of middlemen. From the producer, the product goes
    through a chain of traders, transporters and retailers
    before it reaches the consumer.
  – Recently, there have been attempts to reduce the role of
    the middlemen by through database updates at select
    villages and urban links, with promising results.
  Conclusion

 The relevance of IT for development and rural
  empowerment is unquestionable.
 It is to be recognized that urban / industrialized
  India alone cannot move forward efficiently: It
  would mean a one-legged race.
 The many empowering features of IT can be used
  to ensure higher equity, and to overcome some of
  the development ills that have plagued India so far.
Part IV


   Applications in Indian context and
                  results
Case studies
 Rural water supply and environmental sanitation
 Computerization of agricultural land records
 Social sector computerization of post offices
 Computerization of voluntary and developmental
  agencies
 Low level computing
Rural water supply and environmental
sanitation
 The number one issue in India today is that of
  drinking water and sanitation.
 The design and implementation of IRWSS
  (Integrated Rural Water Supply and environmental
  Sanitation) was done by JSS consultants.
 When we started (Jan 1993), there did not exist
  anywhere in the world, an integrated package,
  with all features of financial and optimal designs
  for rural water supply.
Rural water supply and environmental
sanitation
 Computers were used in this project for two major
  applications:
   – To establish a management information system for
     effectively managing both the physical and financial
     aspects of the project.
   – To implement design procedures for the design of
     various elements of water supply and sanitation.
Rural water supply and environmental
sanitation
 Features of this package:
   – To the best of our knowledge, this is the first,
     completely integrated environment for the design of
     such tasks anywhere in the world.
   – Field tested successfully in design and estimation
     involving more than 200 villages.
   – Adapted now in more than 2000 villages.
   – Overall productivity increased to 20 PD from 44 PD
     (person days) required in the manual mode to finish the
     same task (more than 100% increase).
  Rural water supply and environmental
  sanitation
 Benefits of this approach:
  – Helps in rapid prototyping and interactive approaches
    to design, which otherwise is not possible or time
    consuming and cost intensive.
  – Generation of accurate and detailed estimate for
    material, labor, etc. can be done in spite of wide range
    of quality specifications and material costs.
  – With small modifications, it can be used for urban
    water supply design (for small communities and new
    urban localities), for which such packages are currently
    not available (spill over benefit).
Computerization of agricultural land
records
 Land has been one of the most coveted permanent
  resources. It is also a resource greatly abused and
  something that can never increase.
 The need for land reforms is universally felt and
  no socio-technical-political-economic system is
  insensitive to it.
 Any small step in this direction will bring about
  significant change in QoL, particularly to the
  small and marginal farmers.
Computerization of agricultural land
records
 Updated and accurate land records are crucial for
  the effective implementation of land reforms
  programs like implementation of ceiling laws,
  ensuring the security of the tenure of tenants and
  share croppers, afforestation , social forestry etc.,
 Correct land records are also important for variety
  of purposes like provision of agricultural credit,
  distribution of fertilizers, food procurement etc.,
Computerization of agricultural land
records
 Thus the basic land record and statistics have not
  only to be collected accurately but also need to be
  updated periodically.
 It is in this context the scientific and modern
  methods of maintenance, storage and quick
  retrieval of revenue records become relevant.
 RTC (Record of Rights: Tenancy and Crop
  Certificate) is the basic document about land.
Computerization of agricultural land
records
 Results of the project:
  – The impact on QoL is impressive. This is one
    significant way in which human rights and security of
    property can be ensured to about 100 million people in
    this country.
  – According to the feedback, it minimized the scope for
    mischief and other unintended problems by at least
    75%.
  – It was greatly appreciated by many sensitive officers
    and village accountants.
Computerization of agricultural land
records
  – The effort required for the project was 6,75,000 person
    hours. This directly counters the argument that IT
    reduces jobs.
  – By careful planning, IT can be made to increase job
    availability.
  – Also, 70 % of the workforce was women from the
    middle and lower socio-economical-educational
    background, with typing skills in Kannada.
Social sector computerization in Post
offices
 We took up this investigation because of the
  following factors:
   – India has an amazing infrastructure of postal system
     which is slowly loosing its pivotal role.
   – planners are searching for a mass based, low cost, rural
     penetrative connectivity for the country.
 The fieldwork involved a traditional social science
  type of study. This was a complete system
  analysis and software engineering exercise.
  Social sector computerization in Post
  offices
 Purpose of the study:
   – To study the impact of IT on postal services.
   – To study the scope of computerization of postal services.
   – Find whether computerization has become a case of
     'replace the typewriter’.
   – Investigate the pros and cons of computerization.
   – To generate requirements and specifications for both
     computerization and non-computerization.
   – To investigate the modalities of computerization.
  Social sector computerization in Post
  offices
 V-SAT:
  – A great majority of people who depend on MO’s are
    laborers, working on daily wages (typically paid once to
    four times a month).
  – It is known that average distance an MO is sent over is
    about 300 K.M. The typical extreme cases are from
    those who send to interior villages in Bihar and
    Rajasthan and Himalayan parts of U.P.
  – A delivery time of 30-45-60 days is not uncommon.
    These people have to wait on average, 45 days to
    receive their functional monetary sustenance.
Social sector computerization in Post
offices
  – These sections of the society do not have the strength to
    withstand long delays. They end up reaching out to
    money lenders who charge a killer interest of 10 % per
    month.
  – With V-SAT, MO between any two points in the
    country can be delivered within 3 days. Socially, this
    empowers people with tremendous confidence in
    Modern Communication.
  – This success story is similar to the “mobile phone
    revolution” in Bangladesh.
Computerization of voluntary and
development agencies
 If one needs to make significant headway
  regarding development in III world, it is essential
  that voluntary and development agencies are
  greatly empowered.
 Their empowerment will go a long way in
  enhancing the QoL in rural areas, not to mention
  the strength of vital resource base (environment,
  self help groups, micro enterprises, gender
  sensitivity, etc.).
Computerization of voluntary and
development agencies
 The investigation was along the following lines:
   – What is the degree of IT familiarity and use in such
     agencies ?
   – Is there a genuine need for IT in such activities ?
   – What is the true need and impact of such utility ?
   – What will be the “useful boundary conditions” needed
     for them to take IT assistance in their work ?
   – How to go about if such IT penetration is to be
     achieved ?
Low level computing
 A very important way to attempt IT-based
  transformation in III world is to address children’s
  capability related to IT.
 While computer education in schools is not well
  organized, it is popular in urban schools already.
 In rural areas, it is totally missing, or in a
  protected environment (like special schools run by
  government, in select rural areas, which is like a
  urban setup transplanted to a rural area).
Road map ahead
 Provision & development of low cost & reliable
  connectivity, with excellent & widespread rural &
  remote connectivity including Post Offices in
  Rural areas, with “effective Hardware”, Training
  & Reliable maintenance made available
  throughout the country (useful to share Bandwidth
  with Railway infrastructure).
 This can be achieved by a restructuring of the
  150,000 – 200,000 post offices in the country.
Road map ahead
 This no doubt needs the supplementary support of
  Excellent, Reliable and Cost effective TELECOM
  infrastructure which reaches every nook and
  corner of the country with better than 256 kbps, at
  least up to taluk (cluster of villages) levels.
 A sound Integrated IT policy for the nation with
  clear action items for all, both at state and the
  national level (incorporating local & global
  features).
Road map ahead
 Indian Scientists, Engineers and Planners must
  shift from the University (sterile) mode of
  Research to Action mode of Research, so that at
  least in future Reality and Genuine needs related
  to Development are research priorities.
 Sufficient focus, funds, activities & programs be
  initiated and valued regarding Rural &
  Development tasks in general (& IT based in
  particular) be taken up.
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