Info highway and employment




The information superhighway can provide village-based jobs to nearly 35.5 million educated unemployed and help the country earn US$ 60 billion, say Internet specialists.

With ever increasing competition and saturation of domestic markets, the multinational corporations and other small and big enterprises have set their sights on the hitherto unexploited global markets as a survival strategy and are, therefore, on the lookout for specific market information. Such information not only helps the companies in locating their potential customers in a global village but also to foresee the needs of their customers accurately. Moreover, it helps companies to go for result-oriented strategic alliances and to reach customers with the "right menu" on their doorstep.

According to an estimate, more than 1,00,000 US companies are trying to reach the booming markets of Pacific rim countries and Asia.

"It is just a matter of time before everyone has their own infor- mation agent on the market," says Mr. Jodi B Cohen, an authority on interactive communications. "This is the area where Indian info-workers can make money by selling filtered and accurate market specific information to the needy companies of the world. India with its rich human resources is the ideal place under the sun to put up information laboratories," says Mr K J Francis, a Delhi-based info-highway specialist.

"Anyone with a personal computer, a modem and a telephone can now drive on the information superhighway and can tap computer data banks and communicate via electronic mail (E-mail) to anyone else on the Internet anywhere in the world," says Mr Henry N Mendelsohn of the United States Information Service (USIS).

While conceding that access to Internet is not yet widespread in India, Mr Mendelsohn says economic liberalisation has led to a surge of interest in the information highway among Indian busi- ness men, academics, government officials, students and lay peo- ple.

"More and more homegrown home pages are being added to the high- way every day. Internet access and E-mail are being introduced to colleges, universities and schools," he says.

INFOPRENEURS: And thanks to the efforts of a few "infopreneurs", who have realised Internet's potential to provide employment to millions of their jobless fellow countrymen, India is very well on its way to become the silicon valley of information labs.

The world's first 'very small information village' (VSIV) is being set up at Vazhapally village in Kottayam district of Kerala by Atlantic-Pacific Market Research Inc (APMRI), a think-tank on the information superhighway.

"Each info-worker stands to earn Rs 3000 to Rs 4500 a month," says Mr Francis, founder director.

The proposed VSIV will have in built software to assess the intellectual capital of the info-worker, the capability to access information from anywhere in the world besides sending value- added information to anywhere in the world.

BASIC PRE-REQUISITES: The basic pre requisites for establishing viable VSlV are that it should have about 1000 educated, prefer- ably unemployed, persons possessing good reading habits and able to understand international business language.

"Moreover, they should be computer literate with capability to read, subtract, store and retrieve information manually as well as electronically", says Mr Francis, adding that the village should have ten telephones, one post office, a functional library and a Cooperative bank.

Explaining the system, Mr Francis says the job aspirants would be initially trained to commercialise information collected from whatever they are reading, seeing and experiencing. Thereafter, they will be given a business address consisting of a post box number, a telephone number, a voice mail - number and fax mail and E-mail address, besides accessibility to a - modern computer- ised network.

Each VSlV system would have 100 network computers which would be programmed for ten hours a day. Each info-worker would be given a time slot of one hour to feed the information they have collected, in the process enabling 1,000 workers to work every- day.

The information thus collected are customised to the information seeking client's specific needs and would be stored in a super computer with parallel lines across the globe through satellite networks and strategic alliances.

"The idea is to build 'information depots' throughout India with extended franchise agreements in other parts of the world for marketing processed information," says Francis.

"Even if Indian workers succeed in tapping a meager five per cent of the estimated US$ 24 trillion global trade, the business is worth US$ 1200 billion, and at five per cent commission they gain US$ 60 billion annually, which in turn would mean a monthly income 6f Rs 4000 for 35.5 million infoworkers," says Mr Francis.

The APMRl director explaining the reason for choosing Kerala for the first VSIV said, "telephones in all the villages, libraries in 80 per cent of the rural areas and a large number of educated unemployed, mostly computer literates, makes it very economical to set up a VSIV in Kerala," he says.

He added that APMRl is preparing a list of one VSIV, estimated at Rs three crore, in every State. As a first step towards realising the ultimate objective of a "library on information highway for every kitchen' (life kit), the APMRI has compiled an index using the resources and facilities of the American Centre Library in New Delhi to help students, researchers and the just-plain- interested to find articles and stories about the information superhighway.

"The indexed articles come from a variety of sources including newspapers, magazines, scholarly periodicals and books drawn fr- om the literature of many disciplines and library members can obtain photocopies of the articles for a modest fee from any of the American Centre Libraries in India," says Mr Mendelsohn of the USIS.


SOURCE : Deccan Herald (Bangalore) August 7, 1996

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