Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hotel boy on Facebook

What I saw at a mall last week, gave me an indication of how technology could pan out this year. It has nothing do with the retail outlets nor the products displayed there. I saw a hotel boy, probably in his early 20s, who had taken some time out, checking his Facebook.

That he was on the world’s largest social networking site, was just incidental. What struck me was how pervasive internet has become. He could be making full use of all the benefits the web offers. Quite remarkable, considering that in India web penetration is very low -- 100 million users online is a small percentage compared to our population of 1.1 billion.

The web usage has grown exponentially over the years making our country the third largest, after China and the US. What I saw at the mall not only reaffirms this trend, but also smashes the myth associating internet with only professionals. The number of blue-collar workers making cyberspace their virtual home is bound to take a quantum leap.

From what I could make of the economic status of that boy, it’s unlikely that he had a data plan for his mobile phone. In all likelihood, he was making use of the free wi-fi access point in that area. A good indication of how such hot spots can help us make better use of internet.

Almost all mobile phones are wi-fi enabled; but it serves little purpose unless the hot spots in public places are freely accessible. One definite way of taking internet to the masses is to have large number of open hot spots. The benefits of its cascading effect on the economy can only be imagined.

Not surprising, Japanese soft drink manufacturer Asahi has decided to offer free wi-fi from its vending machines. Users can surf free for 30 minutes at a stretch, after which they will have to reconnect. They don’t have to buy the soft drink; revenue will come from ads.

If internet revolution in India has to become a reality then such innovative steps that would make the web universally accessible have to be taken.

(This article appeared in The Times of India, Bangalore, today)

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