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Information and Communication Technologies (ICT): Hype or Reality?

Prabir Purkayastha

By D.K. Ghosh
UBS Publishers and Distributors, Delhi, 2006, pp. 283, Rs. 4475.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 10 October 2006

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is obviously one of the major forces currently shaping the contours of our society. It is changing the way we interact with others, the way we do business and the way we entertain ourselves. Obviously any technology which causes such profound change in the way we live would also have similar implications for rural India. D.K. Ghosh’s book seeks to provide a guide to the potential of ICT for our villages. D.K. Ghosh is an Executive Director in the Public Communication Networks Division of Siemens and is therefore well placed to judge the nature and impact on rural India digital technologies.   The problem, however, with the simple narrative that Ghosh provides is that it is a triumphalist account of technology, in which all possible gains are listed and it is assumed that all of this would automatically lead to a better future. Such a narrative misses out the complexity of both the society within which such changes take place as also the complex relations between technology and society. To enumerate all benefits of current digital and communication technologies for rural areas is quite simple. All one needs for such an exercise is to pick up the brochures of companies selling such technologies or reports of organizations promoting experiments using these technologies.   Undoubtedly, Ghosh’s book does provide a broad summary of various projects that are being done by the Governmental agencies, corporate houses and non-governmental organizations. Such an overview is certainly useful as a compendium of facts. However, if we pick up a book, we expect that not only should there be such a compilation but also a reflective view of the nature of changes that are likely to be brought about. After all, it is very rare in the world that we have unmixed blessings – any technological change, even if it is largely beneficial, is also likely to bring in some effects ill-effects in its wake. What Ghosh’s book misses is this critical examination of technology and its impact. What we have, instead, is massive doses of facts after facts after facts, statistics after statistics after statistics, till the reader is completely overwhelmed. What is missed is the woods for the trees. The only conclusion that Ghosh would like us to have from this relentless procession of factual information is that ICT would somehow generate employment, better health, food, economic ...

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