Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> BOOKREVIEW: Looking at the 'Internet economies' of India, Chin
Frederick Noronha on Sun, 20 Oct 2002 00:14:07 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> BOOKREVIEW: Looking at the 'Internet economies' of India, China..


This book, edited by an ex-IITian who is now a prolific evangelist of the
Net, promises us "snapshots" about what the Internet is doing in five Asian
countries and Australia. Using essays submitted by people who understand the
issues -- from South Korea, China, Singapore and Australia. 

"This book," argues editor Dr Madanmohan Rao <madan {AT} inomy.com>, is the first
to chronicle and dissect the unique role that the Asia-Pacific region is
playing today in the domain of the Internet economy, particularly during the
current transition."

Given the perfectionism with which he works, 'The Asia-Pacific Internet
Handbook: Episode IV -- Emerging Powerhouses' edited by Dr Madanmohan Rao
comes close to that aim.

Besides looking at the current state of the Net in these five countries --
three from the Far East, India and Australia -- this book also has a general
introduction that raises a number of interesting questions.

For instance: Are Asian countries, companies and citizens lagging behind
their counterparts in the US and Europe in Internet adoption, while yet
leading in some pockets? How fast is 'e-culture' permeating through the
region's corporate and government circles? And what is the human dimension
of the Internet economy across the ASia-Pacific, especially in these times
of the dotcom bust?

Rao traces the growth of the Internet in Asia in four episodes -- the birth
of the early computing infrastructure in Asia (1960-1980), the rise of the
early Internetworks, the academic Internet, and the Asia-Pacific Network
Information Centre (1980-1995), the rise of the commercial Internet and
datacom deregulation and early wireless networks in Asia (1995-2000) and the
rise of emerging Internet powerhouses of Asia, including the countries
covered (starting c. 2001). 

"With a population of over three billion people, the 23 countries comprising
the Asia-Pacific region represents a rapidly growing and lucrative segment
of the global Internet market," argues Rao.  But one could question how
evenly spread the potential is. Can Japan -- leading the West in a number of
trends -- be treated in the same basket as other lagging-behind parts of Asia?

Dr Madanmohan Rao is one of those IITians who went West, returned back home
early, and is going great guns in focussing on the promise of the Internet
here. His background, as varied as his writings, have taken him to
journalism (at the UN bureau of Inter Press Service), and even being
vice-president of IndiaWorld at Mumbai.

Still in his thirties, the Bangalore-based writer has dabbled in an eclectic
range of interests, even while taking part in the Internet lecture circuit
in some 40 countries across the globe. This, and writing skills untypical of
the techie, make him eminently suited to put together this volume.

Interestingly, his own e-mail address is digitalnomad {AT} hotmail.com. An apt
address for someone who roams the world like the current-day version of an
experience-hungry sixteenth century conquistador who has suddenly discovered
a whole new world out there.

(His story of how he shifted from a geeky, techie subject to studying the
politics of communications -- thanks to the 1990-91 Gulf war and the type of
coverage it kept getting particularly in the West -- is surely
interesting... But that's perhaps off-topic here.)

For this book, one rushed straight to the chapter on India, which begins
with an enigmatic quote -- "The orange that is squeezed too hard yields
bitter juice. Indian proverb translated from Kannada."

This chapter builds interesting pen-pictures, using a journalistic style to
which Madan is no stranger. For instance, there's Ajit Balakrishnan, CEO of
India's leading e-commerce site Rediff.com started by an ad agency of a
similar name. Working out of Mumbai, Balakrishnan replies to "a thousand
e-mails a day" from 3 to 6 am ... even before the sun rises.

Madan tackles the issues that matter -- connectivity, content, community,
capacity, culture.... ("In terms of content, the number of websites focusing
on India is estimated to be around 250,000, mostly in English, followed by
Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati and Kannada.") This is information.
This reviewer struggled to find some 2001 websites, when putting together a
compiliation of the same at the turn of the millenium (See

Even a cursory glance throws up some interesting snippets:

	* India is an extremely content-rich country with a very
	  free press climate, unlike some of its other
	  Asian counterparts: the news, culture, entertainment,
	  sports and medical knowledge base of this country can
	  easily sustain dozens of portals and vortals for a
	  content-hungry consumer marketplace consisting of
	  domestic users, NRIs (non-resident Indians, numbering
	  20 million in over 120 countries around the world),
	  international businesses, and enthusiastic Indophiles.

	* The Indian PC market differs from other Asian markets
   	  in more than just its low rate of PC penetration.
	  It is dominated by local assemblers rather than
	  national vendors like Legend in China (which enjoys a
	  26 per cent market share) and Samsung in Korea.

	* Indian PC shipments, according to IDC, were worth
	  about 1.88 million in 2000-01, but will grow to a 
	  fifth of the Asia-Pacific sales (excluding Japan)
	  by 2004. In 2004, Indian PC sales are expected to
	  be 7.5 million. (Will it really?)

	* For a country of a thousand million-plus, just 0.7 million
	  modems were sold in 2000-01.

	* India is likely to experience, perhaps as no other
	  country has, an explosion of cybercafes in the 
	  new millennium. Many people can afford Rs 30 (around
	  70 cents -- now the figure is one-third that) to
	  check their e-mail for half an hour every few days
	  in the local cybercafe instead of owning their own
	  PCs and Internet accounts.

	* Many Internet consumers in India are beginning to
	  derive significant local benefits by accessing local
	  content on the Web; sub-national content is beginning
	  to appear on sites dedicated to specific cities
	  and states (e.g. Goa, Kerala).

Other chapters in this book, as mentioned above, deal with the Internet in
Japan, South Korea, China, Australia and Singapore.

Madan writes to shape opinions and mould the future shape the new domains
like the Net could take on. He obviously cares about who reads his output;
and is one of those using his skills and knowledge to network people and
help find solutions that make a difference. 

His last co-authored book (with Osama Manzar and Tufail Ahmad) was The
Internet Economy of India, 2001. Reading this book was like browsing a
website -- it was catchy enough as a website, and as informative as one
would expect a book to be.

This new book is both informative and interesting. It's published in 2002 by
Tata McGraw-Hill. See www.tatamcgrawhill.com/digital_solutions/madan Other
contributors are IDG News Service's Tokyo correspondent Martyn Williams,
Softbank Research (South Korea) senior analyst Jin Young Kim, ZDNet Korea
Inc general manager Ms Jihee Nam, telecom consulting firm BDA China managing
director Duncan Clark, and co-founder of Editor.com Australia Grant Butler. 

The Asia-Pacific Internet Handbook
Madanmohan Rao (Ed.)
Tata McGraw-Hill
ISBN 0-07-044519-2
Pp 370. 


Frederick Noronha * Freelance Journalist * Goa * India 832.409490 / 409783
BYTESFORALL www.bytesforall.org  * GNU-LINUX http://linuxinindia.pitas.com
Writing with a difference... on what makes *the* difference

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net