Tomorrow, we start a Ford Foundation supported four-day course on “How to engage in broadband policy and regulatory processes” at a hotel located in Sohna, Gurgaon. Gurgaon, a new city that sprang up in the last few decades and is a symbol of the new ICT-centric India, was where I thought we were teaching the course. But we’re more than 20 kms further into the interior of Haryana. Driving across the narrow and pot-holed roads to get to the location, I started to think about the immensity of the challenge of realizing the real benefits of broadband in India. The occasional cuts in electricity (always short because I am in a hotel with full backup power) reminded me of the punishment electronic equipment must be taking in the non-backed up outside.
If we have learned anything in the years of working on the subject, it is that for the most part ICTs contribute to growth in conjunction with other inputs. ICTs can make agricultural markets more efficient only if the roads connecting the buyers and sellers exist and form the basis of a working transportation system for agricultural produce. All over the world ICTs are reducing the transaction costs in tourism markets and are making it possible for home-stay providers and small guest houses to directly obtain reservations and payments from foreign visitors and have reduced the opacity of the markets. But for these benefits to be realized, air-travel and electronic-payment services of adequate quality must be in place.
My broadband is pretty good in the hotel room. But it is not enough, is it? More than I thought, the location is good for what we are trying to achieve in terms of understanding the issues.