In the globalized age where boundaries have been nullified, where technology has made the World a small space, the impact of science and technology needs to be analyzed to get a better understanding of the influence it can create throughout various kinds of people and places. Technology is practically everywhere today-it has changed the way we prepare food, we buy our clothes, and we build our homes. It has changed the way we send our posts, we take our exams, we fill up our forms and the way we resort to comfort and entertainment. Computers, the most visible impact of technology have come a long way from being huge machines locked up in a room to tiny palmtops with more features added everyday. It has all the functions of a calculator, a music player, a home theatre, a video camera and practically a better tool than a pen and a sheet of paper. With more features and functions, computers have led to loss of jobs for millions. In this context, we can look at the impact of technology, especially computers, in the Indian context.
Computers arrived in India in the 1970s and with the formation of Hindustan Computers Limited (HCL) in 1976; India formally entered the computers club. Interestingly, HCL launched its operations in India a month ago before IBM came to the Indian market. By the 1980s, HCL introduced data operating and processing computers in Indian corporations. However, it was after 1986, when the then Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi took the initiative to lower duty on hardware and software, the Indian computer Industry began to grow. However, this growth was not smooth. In 1992, when Hindustan Computers Limited (HCL) organized a huge launch of their computers in a function at Calcutta displaying the need of every office in the state to use computers; there were huge demonstrations and protests. The reason- people were about to lose their jobs as the work previously done by them would now be done by the computers. This kind of outburst is not rare; every developing country where computers have now become an integral tool has experienced such protests which can not be termed as baseless. Many people, particularly in the accounts department of every office, lived in the fear of being sacked anytime-then he would either have to find himself another job or remain unemployed. The ideas of multi tasking and multi skilling have not yet touched the Indians and as a result, they remained skeptical about the use of computers.
Now, how much computers have touched the people, barring the urbane remains to be asked. In 2002, in Vardhaman district of West Bengal, the ruling CPI(M) government boasted of modernization in villages and availability of computers in every rural school. That was not merely a claim; the schools were actually provided computers. But the irony is that, in the district, which was declared the most literate district, literacy remains at writing one’s own name without even knowing the alphabets. So computers remained government toys without any objective of being there.
On the other hand, in Kerala, officially the most literate state in India launched a similar programme. There, most of the school kids not only knew why they need to know computers, but their parents also knew the usefulness of learning computers. They have an objective to learn computers-to be more equipped so that they get good jobs.
Now, the difference is clear, computers and technology can become useful tools, only if ones progresses knowing the need to learn that. Just by introducing computers without any objective can prove a loss, both of government money and human resource. The basic infrastructure needs to be developed to a large extent. Basic education must be ensured in each and every place in India, across diverse social groups, if India wants to feel the impact of computers and stay ahead in the race.
In the same context, we can look at the New Media students, the graduate ones in Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. When they were asked if would like to join New Media after they complete the course, everybody, except a mere five students replied in the negative. They cited the reason that Indians are still to accept the internet revolution and they do not want to compromise their careers for a bleak future. They opted for new media only because they knew it would help them to become good entrepreneurs or as it would help them in their business, not because any technological innovation has taken place.
The dotcom boom happened in India during 1999-2000, when new media actually picked up pace and made some real impact. However, convergence was yet to follow. We can safely say that Indians were so overboard with the internet revolution, they didn’t quite pay attention to the development of infrastructure and to plan out the basic objectives of learning computers. True that with the rise of the cyber cafes (starting as a coffee shop called ‘Coffee Day Cyber Cafe’ in 1995,in Bangalore, India have come up a long way to popularize the internet movement. Yet, the reluctance of Indian Companies like HCL and Infosys to continue with hardware development still makes it a distant dream for the lower middle class and the lower class to afford computers. Although India now has a huge global share of internet and computer users, it mostly due to the over populated metros. The economic issue has surely improved, but the infrastructure is still to be looked at more carefully and steps must be taken up to negate the impact of diversity in a huge and multifaceted country like India ; where only three fifth of the people are literate, most of them only able to ‘draw’ their names!
When we discuss the impact of technology, these questions need to be analyzed as they show the weaker side of the revolution. Technological progress can not be totally successful unless we increase awareness in the grass root level. It shows how far behind we have remained to catch up with the developed nations. We can not boast about a global village or the world in fingertips unless we show al the people what and how computers are used, technological innovations take place. Only then, the impact of technology will come a huge way forward and science and technology can touch lives, all over the country-not just in metros, but in the rural areas too.