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
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of the inetrnet is the electronic mail, and soon faxes will be out of date: again, you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.