Accelerating Digital Transformation
in Challenging Times
Digital technologies sustain life, work, health and learning for billions of people. In the face of COVID-19, businesses, governments, and the digital community have proven resilient and innovative, helping to protect lives and livelihoods. These challenging times have accelerated the transformation everywhere. Yet 3.7 billion people – nearly half the world’s population – remain unconnected to the Internet, and of these, the majority are women.António Guterres
UN Secretary General
Human beings have an uncontrolled urge to communicate. Perhaps it is a trait with which humans evolved. In ancient times, sharing and getting connected was so difficult. Societies evolved by living together, and that is where community living has started. There is a record of people using birds for delivering the messages, many of them well trained for the purpose. With time things have changed. The last 150 years has changed the way the world communicates. With telecommunication methods emerging, people were able to connect. In the beginning, when the technologies were emerging, affordability and availability have been the issue. With people moving to different places searching for vocation and profession, getting connected to families has become a challenge to be met. Some of you who are not that young would recall booking trunk calls and wait for hours to talk to the near and dear for few minutes. Things have changed, and technology has made tremendous progress. Sitting in the corner of the world and with a small gadget, one can get connected to almost anyone. You need not go and wait in long queues for making financial transactions and not worry about what time or what day of the week it is. The transactions are practically at the tip of your finger. With the emergence of the Internet, access to information has become a lot easier. We are justified to state that we are all living in the information era. Of course, there are issues relating to these developments -information overload, privacy and bullying on the net, etc. Considering the advances in Information and Communication Technologies that impact societies and the way people live, it is a time to recall and celebrate all those who made it happen.
“World Telecommunication and Information Society Day” is being celebrated every year on 17 May. The day marks the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) founding and signing the first International Telegraph Convention in 1865. Initially, the day was observed as “World Telecommunication Day” since 1969. There was an appeal by the “World Summit on the Information Society” to declare 17 May as World Information Society Day, to focus on the range of issues relating to the Information Society. In 2006, the UN decided to celebrate both events on 17 May and rechristened the observation as “World Telecommunication and Information Society Day”.
This year the focus of the observation is on “Accelerating Digital Transformation in Challenging Times”. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the critical role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the continued functioning of societies. It has also brought to the fore the startling digital inequalities between and within countries. It has highlighted the urgency of accelerating digital transformation and advancing the goals and targets of the Connect 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind.
When you call someone over the phone, the word that lingers in your minds is Hello. It was supposed to be ‘ahoy’ if we have gone by what was suggested by Alexander Graham Bell. Thomas Alva Edison came up with the word ‘hello’ and was more accepted. When the Bell Telephone Company’s started selling the telephones in 1877, they could sell only six of them. FLAG (Fibre-Optic Link Around the Globe) is the most extended phone cable, 16,800 miles long and connects Japan to the United Kingdom. With the spread of phones everywhere, it is not believable that there are still about 2 billion people in the world who are yet to make a phone call. iPhone lovers would be happy to know that Apple’s iPhone is on the list of the world’s most sold phones. Not long ago, Nokia’s initial models were not far behind.
There is a lot more to telecommunications than talking on the phones. Radio is the first wireless service to be broadcast. Then came Satellite Communication System. Positioning and navigation (GPS), broadcasting, Internet, television broadcasting (direct to home). Today’s mobile phones are not limited to making calls but are integrated with numerous other Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, and FM radio features. Infrared communication is another commonly used wireless communication in our daily lives. Perhaps there will not be many who are not using IR for communicating in their day to day lives.
India’s telecommunication network is the second-largest in the world by the number of telephone users and one of the lowest call tariffs in the world. India has the world’s second-largest Internet user base, with ~750 million broadband internet subscribers in the country. It also has helped to initiatives like e-governance, deliver mass education programmes. It is reported that the telecom sector contributing to the extent of 6.5% of India’s GDP in 2015 and estimated to grow to 8.2% and support 3 million direct jobs and 2 million indirect jobs.
There is an Indian connection to this development. Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose was the person who first demonstrated the science behind capturing radio waves. The work of Bose has not got the recognition it deserves. It is attributed to him not patenting his work. Let us pay tribute to this great researcher.
The world is gaga about 5G. Much of the hype is to do with speed. There is more to it. 5G will have greater bandwidth, reduce latency, and communicate with cloud platforms faster and easier. Another technological revolution in the making is Quantum communication. It is going to make information processing and transferring faster and highly secure.
I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.Albert Einstein
Advances in ICT can provide solutions to development challenges, particularly in the context of globalization. Lead to foster economic growth, poverty eradication, and integration of the least developed countries into the global economy.