Friday, December 05, 2008

Can Telecom Come To The Rescue?

Vasu Reddy from Chicago

Communications users in India continue to grow at record pace with tens of millions of new users added every month. With hundreds of millions of people trying to reach them from within and outside of India, represent a potent force for personal and business uses. Each day the enormous outreach of this group of communicators is expanded, and will continue to expand. It’s December and with the holiday season coming upon us, it is time perhaps to look at what else can Telecom do to help the nation and its user base.

While looking at the benefits of communications and the valuations of these networks; enhancing both the shareholders and users, it is time for some social innovation that can be brought into helping with both user and national concerns. Each and every time we hear of advancements in communications or value addition, they typically cater to either a very niche segment of the market or trying to add numbers to the lower end of the market to the subscriber base. There is nothing wrong in building a bigger subscriber base which can someday attain 100% penetration of communications in the country, but the industry can introspect and start value adding to the needs of its subscriber base. India although democratic and capitalistic, is still a state with huge differentiation in classes of people. A lot can be done by some simple processes and value addition by the key players and operators to help with a multitude of things:

A Global Helpline: Many a death of Indian NRI, especially young Indians have been reported in the recent months outside of India. It is an unusual phenomenon that is new to the NRI community. Never before the frequency with which we hear of Indians killed by someone, possibly within their own family, or friends or some stranger, as we hear these days. Everyone is connected on the phone or Internet and the industry can think of a global helpline. There is no reason to believe that a well publicized and well organized helpline for Indians everywhere will stop any killing, but it certainly can bring forth the need for such service which might highlight the need for more protection. It can be a great value addition by simply highlighting the dangers and how one might protect self from possibility of an attack.

Accountability: The recent terror attacks on Mumbai clearly indicate that the terrorists used SIM cards that were obtained without proper verification. There are a number of instances including the Hyderabad bombings earlier this year where the terrorists used communications to destroy the fabric of India. With millions of users coming onboard every month there is no reason to cut corners in accounting for the users. Strictest policies should be put in place by 100% of the communications industry to account for every user. There should be no exceptions. The industry should actively cutoff subscribers who have not previously provided appropriate proof to purchase communications, and also implement measures to never add a subscriber without verifiable proof. The business of quick money making will lead to misuse, and the Indian telecom industry doesn’t need to make a quick buck in return for the destruction of its own people.

Help with Budget Balancing: India is democratic and fast growing country which still has a lot of its population who are not in the prosperity cycle. There is no need to just recount the evils of the politics, poverty, illiteracy or any other perils of our society nor must we continue to rehash the progress made with all the advancements in technology and communications. We simply should look at what can be done to extend the benefits of the country’s enormous growth to its entire population. A strong push to help with budget balancing will be a good idea. There is enough benefit to the shareholders of the expanding communications networks and those making a sustainable contribution to help balance the national budget will only make the country more adept to communications. While there is a strong lobby against any user based or revenue based fee structure, a voluntary team made-up of the largest stakeholders of the networks can caucus with the political leadership of India, and set an aggressive agenda that fosters a partnership to help eliminate the budget deficit. An imaginary scenario will be to have zero deficits to help fund development programs, which in turn enable more people to afford communications. The preaching is not just to the communications industry but to all high growth and highly profitable enterprise in India, where a select group of people control the scarce resources of the country. A cycle of development, enhancement, zero budget deficits and continued affordability will be to the best benefit of all concerned.

Emergency handling: The industry should deploy services in concert with all emergency and security agencies. Implementing definitive measures to prevent the misuse of communications is an absolute for national welfare. Coordination with the transportation, hospital systems, weather forecasting, air and rail systems and any government programs to communicate the good and bad to the users will make people better prepared in day to day living.

December 5th 2008
Vasu Reddy
Optus Technologies, Inc.

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