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Development, Democracy, and the Village Telephone
Sam (Satyan) Pitroda
Engineer, businessman, and adviser to the Indian government, Satyan Pitroda was born and educated in India. He did graduate studies in the United States, where he later worked on digital telephone switches. After much success, he turned his eye to his homeland, India, which he wanted to help by improving telephone service. Although cell phones are a common feature in India’s large cities, the majority of Indians live in rural villages, the vast part of the country outside of the urban areas. In this article, Pitroda discusses the role of technology in developing countries of the Third World. He gives us his view of appropriate technology, technology which is suitable for the level of development of a country. In rural India, two examples of appropriate technology would be the water screw, a simple device to move water form a river to irrigate a field, and the inclined plane, a cable railroad to help trains climb steep mountain slopes.
Sam Pitroda gives a detailed description of why telecommunications are important to third-world countries and how ginving telecommunications to third-world countries can be achieved. Pitroda starts the article off by saying where he is from and gives some information on telecommunications, which includes the type of technology used with it and why it is as important as things like water and food for third-world countries. From there Pitroda gives a background of his life and how he got into the telecommunication business in India. He then gives the details of the hard work he puts in with politics and his life to achieve an advanced telecommunications in India, which was very successful.
The details that Pitroda give for why telecommunication are very important in third-world countries make it very easy to believe in his cause. He believes that it is important for third-world countries to have an advanced telephone system. It not only helps with the economy but it helps with a person’s own life. One of those things being that you can call a doctor when sick. Telecommunications would definitely help with bringing countries closer together.
Pitroda was born in 1942 and reaise in a poor village in one of the poorest areas of rural India, a place with kerosene lamps and no running water. In 1980, at 38, he became a U.S. citizen and a self-made telecommunications millionaire. By 1990, he was 47 years old and nearing the end of nearly a decade back in India as leader of a controversial but largely successful effort to build an Indian information industry and begin the immense task of extending digital telecommunications to every corner of my native country, even to villages like the one where he was born.
Pitroda’s method of developing technology remained controversial. The controversy has entered on the efficacy and logic of bringing information technology to people who are in global terms the poorest of the poor. The argument against him was that the Third-World farming villages need water, hygiene, health, and power, more than telecommunication. It seemed to him that they ignored technology’s profound social implications.
The writer considers three facts about Third-World development important. First, we need advanced technology for effective water sourcing, sanitation, construction, agriculture, and other development activities.
Second, modern telecommunications and electronic information systems are appropriate technologies in every regions of the world that still lack adequate water, food, and power. The reason is simply that modern telecommunications is an indispensable aid in meeting basic needs.
Third, information technology can end cultural barriers, overcome economic inequalities, even compensate for intellectual disparities. In short, high technology can put unequal human beings on an equal footing, and that makes it most powerful democratizing tool ever invented.
For instance, telephone services brought both economic and social benefits in Karnataka state. With this service, it was possible for a truck owner to chase his drivers, line up goods and labor by telephone, and monitor the movement of his vehicles. Local farmers could call nearby cities and get real prices for their produce. Artisans could speak to customers, machine operators could arrange for service and repairs, shopkeepers could order goods – all by phone and in real time. In the six months after the introduction of service, total bank deposits in the town rose by an impressive 80%.
Pitroda argues that by the turn of the century or very shortly after, almost all of India’s 600,000 village will have telephone access. He considers the community phone an instrument of social change, fundamental to the process of democratization.