Rich man's mobile

India is getting ready for 3G and I am waiting for N82 Black. I have to say I really surprise myself occasionally with my timing. I have been putting off buying a high-end cell phone because the features offered were not ‘mature’ enough. The camera was never a criteria, because without optical zoom it is next to impossible to take decent pictures at a distance. The last model I opted for was a second hand N-Gage. And when I decide to upgrade India is getting ready for 3G.

I was quite impressed with the features offered with N82, and the price isn’t too expensive. Wi-Fi, GPS, large capacity, 3G ready… it is an impressive list and yes, it has a 5-mega pixel camera. I would have passed it and stayed on with my 10x optical zoom camera, except for the geo-tagging feature. But then, we aren’t talking about my views on an ideal cell phone.

By providing high speed data transfer, video conferencing and a host of other services 3G is going to revolutionarize the way we use our cell phone. It is still not clear how much license fee will be charged by the government or, how much the consumer will end up paying extra, but it is clear that the government, read politicians, are intent on having their fingers in every pie. Even in developed countries in Europe 3G has not become a big success that it was supposed to, due to the huge license fees the operators ended up paying and also due to the cost of upgrading handsets. But in markets like Japan and North Korea it became a huge success, thanks to lower license fee. Rumors are in the figure of Rs.1000 - Rs.2500 crores (1000 crores = 1 Billion) per operator for a pan-India license.

Is it any wonder that India has been, is and will continue playing follow-the-leader for the foreseeable future. We talk about last mile connectivity issues, lack of access to technology to lower income groups and equality. When we are about to embrace a technology that could wipe out connectivity issues, provide global access to the common man and level the ground for the poor when it comes to information, why is it that the government is so hell bend on pushing the poor to a lower level. I didn’t think the poor could be pushed down any further, but if information is power and if the rich has the monopoly over information then I am afraid the bar of minimum information level would keep rising and the poor will be left behind.

It is understandable why internet and broadband access was not feasible. Even low computer penetration can be understood, but when something as common as cell phone is about to wipe out the deficiencies, it is the responsibility of the government to make sure that it is available at the cheapest price to everyone, even if it means government has to pay for it. In this case, all the government is losing is possible income; it is not going to suffer a loss. In fact in the long run the government will make a good profit on this investment anyhow.

This technology is going to connect the nation more closely. You might have noticed that you tend to find better offers than your technologically illiterate friends. When everyone has access to information, business will become more competitive, consumers will be able to demand quality and local good will be as good as international goods. A bit far fetched when it comes to Indian consumers, but the true potential lies not in business, but in harnessing the potential of humans in a better way. At present, there are thousands of children not realizing their potential due to the lack of access to technology and information. A 3G device is going to make the future generation smarter. This will end up in a larger middle-income group, more entrepreneurs and more skilled workers. With a population that is a billion strong, if 1% of the population increased their salary to 5 figures, that is not small change. Are a few 1000 crores too big a sacrifice to make for a better future?

Democracy is supposed to be for the people, but in India it appears as if the people are here to support democracy. It is supposed to be by the people, unfortunately in India it is by a different species called politicians. It is meant to be of the people; true, it is surviving ‘off’ the people.

The Babus need the bribe and the bureaucracy needs any extra income, poor be damned. As always, the government has shown that their foresight is only till the next election. Why else would we have bridges that would be too narrow 5 years from now? Why else would we have electric lines too low for container trailers? What about the uneven and unplanned roads that leads to wastage of petroleum? Why else would we kill the goose that could lay the golden egg? Answer is: to show this government made more money than the previous government.

Unless someone decides that enough is enough, I fear we Indians will live in relatively lower conditions than the rest of the developed world.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.