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|August 25, 1998
Education will benefit the most, big shots agreeMadhuri Velegar K in New Delhi
While the atmosphere inside Pragati Maidan was still warming up, there was much heat inside the tiny Connaught Rooftop at the Oberoi Hotel where a bunch of experts pow-wowed on the Internet revolution.
Pradeep Kar, chairman and managing director of Microland, and the brain behind this event, began the debate by stating that the Indian education system would benefit the most with the Internet.
"It will change the way children learn, and it will offer them what they want to seek and learn in the most informal manner."
Melanie Hills, founder and president, Knowledgies, believed that the evolutionary changes affecting the lives of American children are only a fraction away from Indian children.
"Imagine the interactivity between children if my child can speak to someone from here, visit India in a virtual way, learn and discover about whatever interests him, it will change the rapport between a teacher and his pupil, like it has in the US."
Education, of course, is just one area where the Internet tool can be used, because according to Tom Burns, director Asia Pacific, Content Group, Intel, "It would permeate into all fields of from sciences, space, research, medicine, defence, sports, you name it, and it will have its use."
Specifically though, T R Anand, director, India operations, IBM felt, "Once we get access, there will be no discrimination. Even those who do not have computers or cannot afford to get one, though the prices by then will fall even lower, can surf in the Internet kiosks."
"As long as we have talent and entrepreneurs, read ISPs, there will be potential and opportunity for children of this country," Anand said.
Plemmons offered an incident when he bought home a personal computer for his 76-year-old mum for Christmas.
"She loves browsing and whenever she gets the time, she even sends me email," he laughs. "Education can become lifelong with the Internet and it also works as a private medium."
The panellists, which also comprised Chris Vandenburg, technical advisor, Microsoft and Ian Huges, Computer Associates, spoke candidly of the Internet revolution hitting India in a couple of months from now.
In fact, Kar, who had the idea germinating since 1995, felt the event would coincide with the announcement of the Internet policy that would, in turn, generate more awareness and active participation.
Electronic commerce would probably be the next revolutionary thing to happen to Indians. Currently, Web friendly businesses are online, people are selling books, videos, cards and CDs but there are so many other consumer durables that are not Net-friendly.
The experts believe the retailers will never be replaced by virtual shopping, they will still be there.
They also believe India can learn from the mistakes they might have made in joining the Internet bandwagon. For instance, Hills said: "In US, companies who set up Web sites forgot to tell the users how to order, failed to provide support . The second failure was to integrate e-commerce into backend systems. Merchants who had older machines would actually sit and key in their order form, thus breaking the continuous pattern and reducing the value chain. But all this need not happen today."
They believe India is important today because of so many potential market areas. Burns feels that "If India does not have an Internet strategy today, they may lose out to someone from Latin America who may begin to do business with Bangalore!"
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