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Mr S V Raju (India)

3 Information dissemination and popular culture

Mr S V Raju | Khaled Ahmed | Raj Chengappa | Karamat Ali | I. A. Rehman | Arif Hasan | DISCUSSION


National boundaries are something people fifty years from now will laugh at!

A ministry of information and broadcasting is a contradiction in a democracy; you need such ministries only in a dictatorship.

The politicians never say no: they appoint committees – the surest way to see that things are knocked out.


Mr S. V. Raju focused on the effects of the communication revolution on the civil society.

He began with a personal definition of the communication revolution: not long ago our communication facilities outside the one to one communication were limited to letters, postcards and telegrams; then came the telephone, followed by the tele-printer. Radios were the first instruments of mass voice communication, dependent on powerful stations and hence dependent on the state. In the early sixties came the transistors, opening up wider horizons for the citizens in towns and villages who could now listen to the transmission in the areas which did not have electricity. All these could be censored. Teleprinters gave way to faxes, which cannot be censored and hence freedom from government control. Telephones are becoming more and more sophisticated, today having been followed by cordless and mobiles. Transistors took back seat as television became coloured. The latest were the satellites and computers. Instant communication had arrived. It gave birth to new channels on television and internet. Internet, like the civil society itself, is not commonly understood. It is neither a programme, nor a hardware, nor a software, it is really a place where you can get information and make information available instantly. It is estimated that over the world fifteen to twenty million people are using internet and it is growing so rapidly that in the next couple of years it is likely to increase over a hundred million. The main feature of the inetrnet is the electronic mail, and soon faxes will be out of date: again, you cannot censor the e-mail.

Today, all you need to acquire freedom of communication is a personal computer. Concepts like national sovereignty and solidarity, passports, visas, and papers telling us that we need to see the police when we come to Pakistan from India or vice versa, will soon become irrelevant. And so will be the national boundaries.

The sub-continent is in the middle of this communication revolution. It is sad that while the internet was in use by the US Army in the second world war and had been developed in the Europe in the sixties, it came to India only in the eighties when bankruptcy forced the rulers to liberalise their economic policy.

The politicians of the non-liberal type are thinking out ways of stopping the dissemination of information through technology – in Iran they have banned the dish antenna. But technology works faster than the brains of the politicians and bureaucrats. In the next ten years dishes may get smaller, even built in to the television sets themselves.

Mr. Raju narrated an anecdote to illustrate how national boundaries are already softening down. An individual from Los Angeles sent a message on the internet advertising the need for a software designer. The message was intercepted in Bangalore by two young computer programmers who struck a bargain with the advertiser, prepared the software and even sold it to someone in Paris. In the whole transaction there was exchange of money and a lot of negotiations but none of the three parties were ever required to leave there stations, and hence no passports, no checking at the customs and no waiting at the airports. This is perhaps how things are going to be in future.

Highlighting the importance of e-mails for NGOs, Mr Raju suggested that they could be the first step towards liberating them from geographical restrictions as well as the political whims of the local governments.

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