Friday, April 28, 2006

Have questions ? Seek Answers @ Yahoo India Answers

  • My fingernails are suddenly growing crooked,why?
  • Will yahoo games work on a Sony PSP?
  • Which is the best cooking oil one should use while preparing food?
  • Can cannabis be received in the U S Mail?
  • Cud u plz temme few gud U.S univ's who dnt ask wrk experience 4 pursuing M.B.A?

These are just a few of the questions that Indians have asked since Yahoo India Answers debuted earlier this week. India is the fifth country in which Yahoo has launched Yahoo Answers. Yahoo Answers was introduced in US in December, 2005 and later in UK, Canada and Australia.

The modus operandi of the site is simple. Register with Yahoo Answers and get started with browsing through questions and answering the ones you want to. You start of with 100 points. Addition of 2 points for every question answered. Minus 5 for every question asked. Plus 10 if your answer gets voted by public as the best answer for a given question.

'Ask questions on any topic and get answers from real people', is the punchline being used to populariz e Yahoo Answers. With the site being the sort of quick socializing place, a boredom dissolver, a cool place to get questions of all kinds of questions answered Yahoo Answers is turning out to be highly addictive too. Yahoo must have done a lot of research on the stickiness of this portal.

Check out the site soon and I can guarantee you that you will not be disappointed. After all as one user put it, "Where the wisdom of crowds outweigh the wisdom of one". Now excuse me while I go and check out if anybody has an answer for my latest question...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Wikipedia Kannada Registers Article No. 1000

Wikipedia never fails to impress me. Touted to be the first online editable, multilingual, free content encyclopedia, Wikipedia has been never out of news since its launch in January 15, 2001. It exists as a wiki, a type of website that allows visitors to edit its content; the word Wikipedia itself is a portmanteau of 'wiki' and 'encyclopedia'. Wikipedia is written collaboratively by volunteers, allowing most articles to be changed by anyone with access to a computer, web browser and Internet connection. It has replaced as my second best mine for online information digging after Google.

There is another reason now to celebrate, for Kannadigas like me around the world. Wikipedia in Kannada language recently registered its 1000th article. To celebrate the milestone, several volunteers of the Kannada Wikipedia group organised a meet on April 3rd at Bangalore. Prominent Kannada personalities like novel writer U R Ananthamurthy and poet G Venkatasubbaiah were invited to lend credence to the meet.

Get the full coverage of the event here (Courtesy: Thejesh Jain )

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

10 Key Things Every Computer Graduate must know about the IT Industry

Met Satish on the city bus last month in Bangalore. Not anybody I knew. Just another of the umpteen direction seekers, asking me for the bus that he could catch to go to Banashankari in South Bangalore. With me headed to the same place, I asked him to accompany me. He was a Hyderabadi who had just completed his Masters in chip design and was in Bangalore to catch up with some old friends. We struck a conversation and he wanted to know how one's approach to life and careers in the Information Technology field should be. Quite a broad based question, but a relevant one at that.

The best advice that I was offered came from an article, I had stumbled upon last year titled 'What every graduate should know before entering the IT industry'. The article succinctly put forth advice that has helped me and dozens of others with whom I shared the article.

For the thousands of Suresh's that make it out of college every year, here goes : the 6 key points of the article...

  1. Once you're pigeon-holed, it's extremely hard to break out, so choose your domain area carefully.
  2. Technical Skills are hard currency, so keep collecting them.
  3. Your whole career in IT will be spent updating your skills.
  4. IT is a volatile industry, so be on the watch for signs of an upheaval.
  5. You should get experience by working at bargain-basement prices.
  6. Get your vendor certifications to add to your credentials.
For the detailed article, go here

...and 4 add-ons from my experience
  1. Develop a wide network of friends in the industry.
  2. Develop collateral skills in tools like from companies like Adobe, Macromedia, Microsoft. you never know when they come handy, ( maybe to impress your new boss ).
  3. Maintain a wide reading habit and co-relate news items with probable effect on the IT industry.
  4. Interact with like minded people in special interest groups on Google groups/Yahoo groups.

Happy Sailing in the industry.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Indian IT Companies - Providing more than plain IT services

Globalization is forcing Indian companies to innovate. Among the first ones forced to innovate and stay ahead in the race to remain globally competitive are the Information Technology companies. These were some of the first kids on the block to embrace and expand into the grand global tap dance that is globalization.

One strange innovation that came to my notice was the one that Wipro, the Bangalore based IT major has embarked upon. Cross Cultural Training, not just for its employees, but for its overseas clients too, as reported by Indian IT Industry blog. Call it extreme innovativeness or need-based experimentation, the program has caught on well with Wipro's clients with the program spread out to 421 customers in 35 countries, through 10 development centers. The company sends trainers abroad to interact with the staff in its MNC clients, apart from organizing training sessions for visiting clients, in Bangalore. This according to Ranjan Acharya (senior Vice-President, Human Resource, Wipro), is an initiative to see how Wipro could meet cross-cultural skills from both ends. "It helps the customer in understanding India and the Indian culture. There are some key differences between the cultures. For example, people in the West are rule bound, and we are relationship bound. The customers feel it’s worthwhile, and it helps the relationship"

Culture transformation that includes Language learning, neuro-linguistic sessions and cross-cultural sensitiveness are all a part of this unique program. The clients that are expressing the highest responsiveness to this program currently are the Japanese clients ( understandably so as given their reluctance to embrace alien work cultures and assimilate them as easily as their Western counterparts ).

Indian Information Technology companies are sure providing more than plain IT services. Understandably so given the stiff competition to retain customers. Leaving no stone unturned in providing 'Customer Delight' and not just 'Customer Satisfaction' is the way to go.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

5 Unique Indian Websites

This has been a long overdue project of mine. I was making note of Indian websites that were unique in terms of their content, design, theme, the service they provide or the audience they reach out to. I present the 5 best of them that I felt deserved a round of applause for the freshness they inject in to the Indian presence on the Information Superhighway.

1. Good News India -

"News from India : of positive action, steely endeavour and quiet triumphs ~ news that is little known" That truly summarizes the type of news that this site brings forth to its readers. If you are tired of the daily ramblings that our regular news sites carry of loot, rape, murder, unjust laws, corrupt politicians, crumbling infrastructure, etc, then make it a point to start your day with a dose this site. I can assure you that you won't be disappointed.

News samples from the site :
  • Bio diesel goes from lab to land
  • A magic wand to zap plastics
  • India to prepay World and Asian Dev Banks
  • The Ganga in the sky - Rain water harvesting in Tamil Nadu
  • Digging deep into Sanskrit - Uncovering the language's secrets

2. Indian Bloggers -

The best among Indian Blog directories that I have come across till time. With 22 categories ranging from Arts, Business right till Travel and Video Games, Indian Bloggers is unique directory that caters to the Indian Blogging Community. Any blogger can get his site listed under one of the 22 categories and is assigned a rank under the category based on the traffic inflow to him. However what is impressive is the list of great blogs that the directory encompasses. A good site to peruse through whenever you have time and the fingers are itching to do some quality browsing.

3. Indian President's Website -

An absolutely stunning site in terms of the look, the elegance and even the content. Upholds the dignity of the office of the Indian President. Contains a complete section devoted to the current president, his interests, his writings, his poetry, etc. A section too on the Rastrapati Bhavan, the grand home of the Indian President, the rich floral gardens surrounding the building, a panoramic view of the Bhavan, etc. A portion of the website also speaks of the Vision 2020 that the current president A P J Abdul Kalam envisions for India. A site that would definitely bring out the patriotism in you.

4. Mysore Palace -

A rich tourism site that will beat any foreign tourist website hands down. Crafted in Flash technology, the site is on the heavier side with respect to graphics, but that should be expected of a site in this legion aiming to bowl visitors over. The site, a government venture provides in depth information to tourists visiting Mysore, the erstwhile princely state known for its luxury, the opulence, the arts and the glamour in its hey days. It also provide package deals to tourists who can book Dussera festival tickets in advance. Overall a site that will throw you off your feet with its grandeur.

5. Kosmix -

A search engine launched by two Indians, Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman, both alumni of Stanford University is unique because of two things. One its search is based on categories like Medical , Technology, Travel . etc. Though limited right now to Medical category, the Kosmix developers plan to introduce other categories soon. The other, coz it is being touted as a Google Killer app. Now that's something we need to wait and watch..

How is Kosmix different from other search engines? Hear it from the horse's mouth

"At Kosmix, we have taken a different approach to helping people learn and discover through searching. When you need to learn about a medical condition, you want to see comprehensive results from the most authoritative medical sources. You also want to expand your base of knowledge by tapping into sources that don't show up in the top ten queries on most search engines. Kosmix helps you discover new sources of great health information by showing a number of different health categories for you to learn from, and providing in-depth results for all those categories. So whether you are looking for expert information to clinical trials, Kosmix can help you find those results quickly and easily."

Hope you enjoyed surfing through the sites as much as I enjoyed compiling them for you.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Fast Food Order Outsourcing by McDonalds

I was just thinking that Americans had literally outsourced everything they could to India, when somebody brought to my notice what could be the next wave of outsourcing - Fast Food Order Outsourcing. Sounds yummy ?

McDonald's has started experimenting in a new direction in about 40 of its fast food outlets across America. Since the last one and a half years, McDonald's has been routing orders from its fast food outlets scattered across America in California, Hawaii, Mississippi and Wyoming to a hi-tech call center located at Santa Clara in California via the Internet. Operated by Bronco Communications, call center employees from this company process the order instantly and relay it back to the respective outlets where the orders are displayed on the TV console for the caterers to attend to the orders and dispatch them and for the cashiers to collect the displayed amount.

The experiment started as a result of complaints from customers across the US of the differences in English accents of the order takers that created gaps in communications, with the result that customers got served items that were not even remotely close to what they ordered. As a step towards solving this problem, McDonald's decided to establish uniformity in order taking, by routing the orders to call centers.

The CKE restaurant's chain is also set to try out this at five of the Carl Jr's restaurants in California.

Now, think what the next logical step would be for McDonald's and CKEs after the feasibility of the process has been established ? Save some money and outsource the Fast Food Order taking to India, right?. Don't be surprised if the next time you are at an American McDonald's drive thru to order food and a voice crackles out of the speaker, "Good morning, this is Vikram from Bangalore. What would you like to order today ?.............Would you like to have some fries with that? ....How about some coke on the go ?"

There's not much else you can say but, "I'm lovin' it."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

10 Myths the Indian IT industry can do without

Received an interesting listing of common myths that revolve around the Indian IT industry and a honest attempt to bring the actual facts to light.

India's booming information technology industry already hires more than a million employees and the numbers are set to grow manifold over the years. Yet, the Indian IT sector, which has brought India on the global map (far removed from the West's perception of India being the land of diseases, poverty and snake charmers), is still grappling with the issue of high-end and low-end jobs and seeking out ways to go up the value chain.

Here are the 10 myths and facts about IT industry that you must know. (Via e-mail from Ravikiran )

Myth #1
Company A has offered more salary than Company B, so it is better than Company B.
A bigger salary does not always mean better job-satisfaction. Big companies (with good cash flows) can afford to give more salaries than other relatively mid-sized or small companies or start-ups. Also some companies outsource loss-making units or less revenue-generating product and maintenance work to India to cut costs, so job satisfaction for someone more interested in work content than the money is going to feel low. For start-ups and small companies, salaries might not be very good, but they might offer stock options or bonus to compensate for this. Also work content in these companies might be better than big companies. Some venture capitalists in the United States, when looking to fund start-ups, have begun to ask those companies whether they have an India-specific plan. Since these companies work on new/innovative products, work content is likely to be good.

Myth #2:
Let me join Company A. If I don't like it, I will leave it and find a better job elsewhere.
Unless you are very clear about your goals and ambition you will keep changing jobs time and again. The best thing is to decide what you want to do quite early on in your career. However, this seems a daunting task. This is true for someone with less than 3-4 years' experience and has no idea about the industry and what one wants to do. In addition, most of the companies hiring from campuses do not decide in advance what project the selected candidates will be working on. Later on, when works get assigned it does not match one's ambitions. Also, most institutes/colleges put restriction on the number of job offers one can accept, so the selection of companies is not by choice. However, if you have joined a company that works on specific areas that are not to your liking then it is best to look out for another. It is quite difficult for the company to find something that is specific to your interest, as it is beyond its scope. However, for you next job search, you should clearly indicate to your prospective employer that you are looking to work in a specific area (it is advisable to specialize in one domain/work area) and whether the company does that kind of work and you can be involved in that work. Do not put off asking this after joining as it would be too late by then. It is best to give multiple interviews and decide on the one that best matches your aspirations. Don't let salary be the lone criterion when you make your decision.

Myth #3:
Infotech work is more of 'a routine job.' No high-end work gets done in India.
This might be true in many cases, but the opportunities to work on challenging and complex projects is increasing in India. Currently, very few companies (rough estimate: 10-15%) in India are doing this. If you are the brainy type, seek out such companies. Using the best brain to do routine jobs can lead to job-dissatisfaction soon. Also, most companies that launch their operations in India tend to give easy assignments in the beginning and you might feel that the job content is quite simple. But the important part is that is once you finish the project to the satisfaction of all stakeholders, the overseas management becomes confident in offshoring more complex work. If the management is not convinced, then you will continue to do the daily chore. So, the bottom line is that if your team delivers quality product on time, you will get good work in the future.

Myth #4:
Only product companies do exciting work.
The fact is that the typical work content in product companies involves a mix of routine and challenging tasks. In product companies, delivering a quality product is of great importance and as a result a typical product release involves multiple rigorous testing and bug-fixing phase. This is a typically mundane and repetitive task and not always interesting. But it is important to understand that this is a critical task from company's perspective, as nobody would want to deliver a buggy product in the market and lose customer confidence. So you cannot just focus on design and coding, and ignore testing and bug-fixing. Not only this, you should be flexible enough to work in any area whether you like it or not. You get both exciting and non-exciting work in the long run.

Myth #5:
The Indian IT industry cannot offer the kind of job requirement I am looking for.
It requires a lot of effort to select the company of your liking. With so many companies setting up shop in India, this has made things even more difficult. Don't follow the principle 'my friend is working there, so I should follow him/her.' The requirement of your friend might be different from yours and you should seek companies that meet your requirement. For experienced people, it is best to go through recruiters and indicate your exact requirement to them. If the recruiter is good, he will shortlist the companies that meet your expectations. If you find that the recruiter is not going by your interests, look for another recruiter.

Myth #6:
I received a mail from a placement service saying that the job openings it has matches my profile.
Most of the recruiters/placement services send bulk mail to all and sundry. They do not scan resumes properly and just match keyword(s). Personally, I have received mails from recruiters, who say that my profile matches the job they have on offer, but if I look at the opening it does not match at all. It is best to clear this with the recruiter before you agree to appear for an interview. This saves you the embarrassment of being on the ground that your profile/experience does not match the job profile. Most companies rely heavily on recruiters for non-fresher openings and if they do not filter the candidate correctly, then most likely HR will not filter it either and call you for an interview!

Myth #7:
Working abroad is better than working in Indian companies.
This might not be always true. If you are going to work as a consultant in the US, you might land up a worse job than what you were doing in India. With the IT doom of 2000 there is a very small pool of highly qualified professionals available in the US and they normally get better jobs than Indian consultants do. Typically, in product companies, consultants are hired to do less critical work or work that can be done easily. If your expectation is to do high-end work, you will have to wait longer to do it. It is a much better option to obtain a master's degree from top-rated university in the US to bag better jobs. Product companies usually hire the best brains from these universities to do the challenging work for them. Also the biggest advantage of working overseas is that you get to work with the best brains and learn a lot from them. It typically takes 4-5 years of overseas experience to get a good understanding of the overall execution of software products.

Myth #8:
Management ladder is a much better option than technical ladder.
If you are the kind who loves to be technical, look for an organization that encourages career growth for core technical work and pays salary at par with management salary for the same zone. The demand for senior technical and senior architect professionals will grow as more high-end, specialized work gets done in India. Some companies have both managers and architects in the same project. The manager takes care of the people and project execution, while the architect takes care of all technical aspect of the project. For complex and large projects, it is not possible for the manager to wear, both, the technical and the managerial hats, and hence the need to hire architects to take care of all technical aspects. If you find the employer saying that you will be doing 20 per cent management and 80 per cent technical work, treat the statement with caution. Most likely it might turn out to be the other way around!

Myth #9:
I am working abroad. If I relocate and work in India I won't get the same job satisfaction.
This is no longer true. The nature of the jobs done in India is as good as that in the US or other countries. The only difference is that the products that are futuristic in nature are not so prevalent in the Indian IT industry. In addition, career growth in India is much better -- and faster -- than overseas.

Myth #10:
My satisfaction with the Indian IT industry is not in my hands.
As stated in the facts to the above myths, you yourself are solely responsible for job satisfaction. You have to research well when making a career plan and ensure you are at the right place

LASIK Surgery - Candidate for Telemedicine in India ?

One of my friends in America recently had LASIK surgery performed on his eyes. While on the voice chat he was going excitedly reeling off the benefits of LASIK surgery that he has discovered and the ultra modern cutting edge technology that performs the surgery. Over the course of our discussions, we were wondering if the same benefits could be made available via Telemedicine for Indian citizens.

LASIK, an acronym for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, is a form of refractive laser eye surgery procedure performed by ophthalmologists intended for correcting vision. The procedure is usually a preferred alternative to photorefractive keratectomy, PRK, as it requires less time for full recovery, and the patient experiences less pain overall - Wikipedia definition

The operation is performed with the patient awake and mobile. Lasik is performed in two steps. The initial step is to create a flap of corneal tissue. The second step of the procedure is to use an excimer laser (193 nm) to remodel the cornea. The laser vaporizes tissue in a finely controlled manner. No burning with heat or actual cutting is required to ablate the tissue. The layers of tissue removed are tens of micrometers thick. Currently manufactured excimer lasers use a computer system that tracks the patient's eye position up to 4,000 times per second, redirecting laser pulses for precise placement. After the laser has reshaped the cornea, the Lasik flap is repositioned over the treatment area by the surgeon. The flap remains in position by natural adhesion until healing is completed.

Since the whole surgery is done through a computer controlled laser, the doctor's presence either in the next room or the next continent is of no practical importance. This surgery, though costly right now, will definitely become a routine surgery in due time. The benefits of such surgery that would help millions of myopic and hyper myopic patients are incalculable. If ICT ( Information Communication Technology ) can be harnessed to provide the right infrastructure and internet bandwidth, LASIK can turn out to be a major thrust area in the field of telemedicine in the developing world countries like India.

Useful Links
Lasik India

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What's Best for America is also Best for India

CNN Money has just released a survey of the Best jobs in America.

Software Engineering tops the list with its ability to attract young talent, offer creativity challenges everyday, low entry barrier ( a bachelor's degree is all you need ) and the rich compensation it awards.

CNN Money says of Software Engineering

"Software engineers are needed in virtually every part of the economy, making this one of the fastest-growing job titles in the U.S. Even so, it's not for everybody. Designing, developing and testing computer programs requires some pretty advanced math skills and creative problem-solving ability. If you've got them, though, you can work and live where you want: Telecommuting is quickly becoming widespread."

If this is any indicator of the future of software industry, then Indian companies and software graduates should be mightily pleased. After all, what's Best for America is also Best for India.

Same Language Subtitling - Innovative Measure to Up Literacy Rates

Way back in 1996, a certain Mr. Brij Kothari was watching a Spanish film on video with English subtitles. The love for grasping Spanish language made him wonder if he could have Spanish subtitles for the video to enable him better relate to the video. That thought sparked off a parallel thought process on implementing the same in Hindi film and song sequences, back home, and use it to boost literacy.

In a country where 500 million people of the billion strong population have access to TV, Dr. Kothari's PlanetRead organization has come a long way to prove that if implemented on a wide-scale, the idea of using 'Same Language Subtitling' (SLS) to make people literate would not be a mere pipe dream. An ex-IITian, Dr. Kothari today has been using Same Language Subtitling to reach out to nearly 200 million early-literate people. To aid him in the effort, Google foundation has come forward and provided him a huge grant under their flagship Google Foundation program that supports programs worldwide whose work addresses the challenge of global poverty in ways that are effective, sustainable, and scalable.

Working from Mumbai and Pondicherry, "Same-Language Subtitling” (SLS) methodology, provides automatic reading practice to individuals who are excluded from the traditional educational system, or whose literacy needs are otherwise not being met. This is an educational program rooted in mass media that demonstrates how a specific literacy intervention can yield outstanding, measurable results, while complementing other formal and non-formal learning initiatives of the government, private sector, and civil society", says Dr. Kothari on the official Google Blog.

If only all the TV channels in India adopt 'Same Language Subtitling' as part of their policy, we could be putting our best foot forward in turning India literate.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

3G Mobile Services to Bridge Rural-Urban Digital Divide

3G ( Third Generation ) mobile service is expected to enter the Indian market in a big way by the end of 2006, according to the 'Enabling India's Broadband Economy - The 3G Way' report published by CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) and the US-based Yankee Group. What this means is that the Indian mobile user will be able to relish high speed data transfer via his mobile phones. Transferring digital photos, MP3 music, and even files across to another user with a mobile phone will become a cake-walk. Internet surfing on mobiles will turn common-place. Voice quality of 3G services is several notches better than that offered by current 2G services.

Four other key facts that I noticed in the news complemented this report.

  1. Handset costs to fall to $150-200 range, with low-end sub-$100 3G handsets available within a couple of years
  2. India to have 21.3 m 3G users by 2010 as stated in the above report.
  3. Special 3G content to be available. Doordarshan will be one of the first to offer three of its channels on all 3G mobile phones globally from April-end. namely DD National, DD Bharati and DD News. More multimedia companies to follow suit.
  4. South Korea, Japan, the leading players in 3G, ready to help plug India into 3G mobile tech
These 4 factors will ensure a spurt in the 3G services sector in India. The most heartening benefit would be the bridging of the digital divide between urban and rural India. Rural India is yet to see a spurt in computers and Internet access is still a dream, However with mobile penetration fairly high even in rural India, I feel that 3G services on mobiles will bring the much needed Internet access to rural India, thus paving the way for bridging the digital divide.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Telemedicine - Providing Rural India with Quality Healthcare

Dr. Devi Shetty ( renowned cardiologist, India ):

In terms of disease management, there is a 99% possibility that the person who is unwell does not require an operation. If you don't operate you don't need to touch the patient. And if you don't need to touch the patient, you don't need to be there. You can be anywhere, since the decision on healthcare management is based on history and interpretation of images and chemistry … so technically speaking, 99% of health-care problems can be managed by the doctors staying at a remote place—linked by telemedicine.

Telemedicine has been a technological takeaway for the developed countries. Defined as the use of communication networks for the exchange healthcare information to enable clinical care, it is increasingly being viewed as a tool for improving care and enhancing access to healthcare. Countries like India where the majority of the population lives in rural areas, where healthcare facilities are inefficient and inadequate, tools like telemedicine can contribute substantially in bridging the gap between the demand and supply.

India has come a great distance since 1999, when the Ministry of Information Technology launched a pilot project titled 'Development of Telemedicine Technology'. Following are a few programs that have hit headlines in the recent years

1. ''Sanjeevani'' - An integrated telemedicine application launched specifically to cater to the rural Indians, who live in an environment characterized by paucity of qualified doctors, almost non-availability of specialists and specialist care, several patients being serviced by unqualified practitioners, late discovery of ailment and delay in institution of appropriate treatment due also to greater time required for transport to urban/ district healthcare facilities and provision of healthcare by inexperienced primary healthcare service providers

2. HealthSAT project by ISRO ( Indian Space Research Organization ) : A project initiated by ISRO that provides infrastructure for rural areas as well as the communication bandwidth via its dedicated HealthSAT satellite. A telemedicine system in a small health centre consists of a personal computer with customized medical software connected to a few medical diagnostic instruments, such as an ECG or X-ray machine or an X-ray scanner for scanning X-ray photos. Through this computer, digitized versions of patients' medical images and diagnostic details (such as X-ray images and blood test reports) are dispatched to specialist doctors through the satellite-based communication link. The information, in turn, is received at the specialist centre where experienced doctors examine the reports, diagnose, interact with the patients (along with local doctors), and suggest appropriate treatment through video-conferencing.

3. Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation : One of the first groups to venture into the telemedicine arena in India, this group hopes to provide a successful working model of Telemedicine, which self propagates throughout India and into the developing world.

These telemedicine services will save costs in terms of the money that patients would have to spend on travel and accommodation. It is just a matter of time before broadband ushers in another revolution in telemedicine and Indian doctors would be able to perform telesurgeries sitting thousands of kilometers away via a remotely controlled robotic arm as is being already done in developed nations.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Mumbai Navigator - Helping you get around in Mumbai

Mumbai Navigator is one great tool that shows the kind of customization that is needed if Google Maps or Yahoo Maps or Microsoft MSN Maps plan to make a foray into the Indian market and be successful at it. Unlike the US or Europe where personal cars rule, getting around places in India is 80% via public transport or a two wheeler. So in India either you ought to be a localite or you must be accompanied by one who knows the city routes like the back of his palm. Tough ask, eh !!! Especially when you land in a new city, right ?

Well, Prof. Abhiram Ranade and his students Mayur Datar (BTech 99), Koustubh Tilak (MTech 2000) and M. Srikrishna (MTech 2002) in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at IIT Bombay have come up with the kind of tool that addresses the unique Indian dimension to commuting in cities. Taking up Mumbai ( previously Bombay ), they have created a huge database of 2053 key points across the city. A visitor has to just choose his starting point from the left column and destination from the right and click on "Get Plan". The program spews out detailed plans to get from the origin to the destination. The best option of a direct bus without any changeovers is presented first along with the estimated time for the journey. Buses which get you to the destination with 1 changeover in between is presented next with information of where exactly you need to change buses. Similarly the plan presents options with 2 changeovers, etc. The route the buses take is also presented vividly. Sound Great !!! Check it out here

Users also have the option of punching in bus numbers directly in case they are aware of them.

How I hope other cities come up with similar plans. I was also wondering the possibilities that would open up if such a software gets integrated with something like, say Google Maps....Is Google listening ?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

SMS in India - Triggerring Off New Age Protests

And you thought the Indian SMS generation used their SMS culture to just forward jokes, one-liners and funny graffiti, right ? Wrong. SMS has proved to be quite an effective tool to drum up support for a social cause as was shown in the Jessica Lal murder case and more recently the protest against the Central government's bill seeking 50% reservation to SC(Scheduled Class), ST(Scheduled Tribe) and OBC(Other Backward Classes) in prestigious educational institutions like IITs and IIMs

"Compelled by SMS messages strategically multiplying through ever widening circles of Delhites, close to 2000 people showed up for the Tehelka’s Citizens Demand in support of reopening the Jessica Lall murder case, at an informal rally protesting the gross miscarriage of justice"

Outlook India
A section of students at the Delhi University have already launched an SMS campaign and planned protest march to lodge their anger over the controversial move to reserve seats in Central Universities, IITs and IIMs which has revived the 'merit vs quota' debate in the country

The power of such silent revolutions has sent many a ripple across establishments. both political and non-political. The Jessica Lal murder case has been re-opened following a TV channel submitting a petition to the President on behalf of the thousands of SMS messages it received during a live show conducted by it. The reservation issue has triggerred off heated debates across media circles following a spate of SMS out-pourings. Hi-Tech is the way to go.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Mapping India Via Google Earth

Embroiled though as it is in a controversy with the government, Google Earth does not cease to capture my imagination. Still in its nascent stages in India, I am sure it will be just a matter of time before street level details start appearing for the whole of India, just as the case is with the United States. With Google going ahead and mapping the Moon and the Red Planet, Mars, I sometimes wonder where Google is headed.

Whatever their long term plans, mapping India, would bring in a whole new dimension to how people in India view their surroundings. Following are the several fall-outs I presume and hope, would transcend.
  1. Addresses would stop being arbitrary and turn more specific with proper house numbers and street names. ( A welcome change that our postal authorities would be thankful to Google :-) )
  2. Private and Public sector institutions have a quick way of checking reliably if an address supplied by a candidate, vendor, client , etc is valid.
  3. A mini revolution in the automobile sector would be imminent given the GPS* tracking craze that would be born.
  4. My favorite one that I earnestly hope for, is the miniaturization of the GPS device to an extent that it could be accommodated in our already jam-packed mobile - another step forward for the mobile to turn into a uber** device.
However for the time being, I content myself by treating guests at my home to the visual treat that is Google Earth. You must look at the jaws drop as I zoom into the globe right till I am able to show them the U-shaped bend the river Tungabhadra makes at my native. Here is the snapshot for you...

Foot Notes
*GPS - Global Positioning System - A tracking system developed originally for the US Defence Forces, it consists of 64 satellites that orbit the earth and appear stationary at a fixed place. Using this system, any object's location on the planet can be pinpointed to the accuracy of within one metre....Read more here.
**Uber Device - An all functionality encompassing device

Friday, April 07, 2006

Electronic Elections - Indian EVM V/s the American Diebold

Everyone's heard of the Electronic Voting Machines ( EVM's ) used in the 2004 Indian elections. They were more successful than initially thought and the Election Commission plans to make their usage more regulated and wide spread.

For people new to EVMs, go here to know all about it

Designed and developed indigenously by two Government Owned Defense Equipment Manufacturing Units, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), EVMs went on to challenge the largely criticised Diebold system used in the American Election system. The Diebold system is a extremely complex piece of election paraphernalia that makes use of costly hardware comprising of touch screens, extensive GUI functionality, PCMCIA storage cards, servers and makes use of equally complex software like SQL Server loaded on top of Microsoft Windows CE and linked up C++ code, DES encryption, etc. The list goes on.....All for a cost of $3300 per piece.

The Indian EVM achieves similar results with a $230 piece that has assembly level code written and burnt into a circuit board.

Here is a wonderful analysis of the two systems

That reminds me of the famous urban legend of how Americans after years of costly research came up with a pen that could write in the micro-gravity environment of space. The Russians just decided to use pencil. Doing it the hard way is not always the sanest thing to do at times.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Stockholm Challenge - Common Man Benefits from the Best Global IT Projects is a website that aims to identify and promote Information Technology solutions for governments at both the local and state level. This Stockholm based site also holds an annual worldwide competition that invites candidates to present their Information Technology based solutions that make us of the benefits of Information and Communication Technology to help the masses and the governments.

The 2006 version of the competition received a wide variety of entries that were placed under categories of Health, Public Administration, Education, Environment, Culture and Economic Development.

The public administration category has 23 finalists from 15 countries, that range in scope from Mexico's Digital Government Strategy and the U.S. Government's Web portal, to Computers on Wheels, a project from India that delivers wireless Internet connectivity by motorcycle to 21 remote villages, and Dialog With the Grassroots, a combination of radio and Internet connectivity between isolated communities in the Himalayas.

Guess which country had the maximum projects in the pipeline....Not the US....It was INDIA.

The following is a list of the Indian projects. ( For a full list of finalists - Click here)

ITC eChoupal
Knowledge Networking for Rural Development in Asia/Pacific Region (ENRAP), Phase II
Rajeev Internet Village - e-Commerce model for poor people
HISP India
AIDS-Awareness: Patent Wars on AIDS Drugs
Lokvani(Voice of People)-An E-ffort to Empower citizen through E-Governance.
HimBhoomi(Land Records Computerisation)
Computers on Wheels (COW)
Information Kerala Mission (IKM) for strengthening decentralisation and local democracy in Kerala.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Get Jobs via Satellite Placement Service

Engineering Graduate students in Karnataka never had it so good. First it was the clubbing together of the six universities* in the state to form a single state-wide university, the Vishweshwaraiyya Technological University ( VTU) in 2001. Students were spared of the torturous decision of which university to join in addition to what college they need to choose.

Now VTU has gone a step further and made their post-graduation life much simpler. The first challenge that any graduate faces when he is one the threshold of stepping into the job world, is that of a decent job. Traveling to urban cities like Mysore, Bangalore and Hubli, attending numerous interview calls, writing all sorts of tests that evaluate one's skills were all tough for students scattered across the state. And to top it all, the anguish resulting from a corporate/company visiting a neighbouring college and ignoring the students of other nearby colleges.

Now information technology has come to the aid of these students. VTU authorities have come up with a VTracU ( We Track You ) program that aims at providing a placement service to the benefit of students of the 120 odd engineering colleges affiliated to the University. The key points of this program are

  • Use the EduSAT network of Indian satellites to beam to the colleges, pre-placement talks, assessments and orientation talks by companies to all the colleges.
  • Conduct a one and a half hour assessment test for all candidates to asses their verbal, quantitative, analytical and communication skills.
  • Publish the results to be analysed by the recruiters who will then publish then intimate the short listed candidates.
The advantages seem to be many
  • Recruiters need not hip-hop across the state visiting all the colleges
  • Each candidate will be given a unique score-report that also indicates areas where he can improve to enhance his employability rates
  • Colleges can be given a summary report of how there candidates fared vis-a-vis the other college candidates.
  • Rural and Urban candidates stand an equal chance in terms of opportunities.

VTU plans to roll out this program on April 7th this year when companies like Hewlett Packard (HP), Cognizant, IBM, Accenture, Intel, TESCO, Verizon will be providing pre-placement talks via EduSAT to all colleges. B.E., M.E. and M.Tech. students are eligible to participate.

A level playing ground would please and boost the interest in this unique experiment by the VTU authorities.

Foot Notes
* Banaglore Univ., Kuvempu Univ., Mysore Univ., Gulbarga Univ., Mangalore Univ., Karnataka Univ.

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