Thursday, July 9, 2015

Digital India week thoughts

Seminar on 'Digital India for Education & Training': Photo: Arun Upendra
The first digital equipment I owned was a wristwatch with digital display during the last part of 1980s or in the beginning of 1990s, I don’t remember the exact time. The very second day of my possession of the same, I opened it with much enthusiasm to find out some cuter machinery than the cute wheels that were either rotating clockwise or anticlockwise or just oscillating in my grand old HMT watch. But disappointing me a lot, it shown up only a hard and white plastic kind of material with a steel button like battery. Even though that poor thin digital watch put in much sincere efforts to impress me by displaying hours, minutes and seconds, I decided to give it up. Because, I wanted to hold the cute hour-minute-second hands and wheels of my old HMT watch with me.

A lot of people seemed to have thought on the same lines. Consequently the digital watch boom of those times faded away in around three-four years and the watches that were sold for many hundreds of rupees per piece initially ended up as a thirty rupee per piece deal with the street vendors. The cheapest price was also not able to push it in the marketplace and subsequently such vendors also disappeared.

However, the watch companies seemed to have identified the right issue. The major problem with the old mechanical watch was with its spring-tension energy system and the button screw used to wind the spring as well as to set the time. During those days, either you forgot to wind it or the low quality of the spring-tension system caused issues. In both the cases, your wristwatch showed untimely times. Another problem was with the winding button screw. With a little more force than usual during the winding or time setting process, you used to pull the screw out. Later in the timeline of evolution, the watch companies came out with a solution. They simply took out the spring energy system with battery and digital technology. So you had your cute hour-minute-second hands and wheels inside (tough plastic) again, even while using the digital technology. That tweak in the strategy for technology introduction helped the companies to ensure amazing market penetration to the digital wristwatches. Most of us wear this product now.

The lesson from the above is that, innovativeness and usability alone cannot ensure user acceptability. While designing projects and products for making digital India a reality, entrepreneurs have to take such lessons into consideration.

Digital India is the need of the hour at the threshold of evolving knowledge economies. The major peculiarity of a knowledge economy is the speed, precision and spread at which knowledge is transformed into the products of an economy. In a knowledge economy, innovations, factory setups based on such innovations, production, distribution and betterment should happen in a lightning speed. The major source of above speed, precision and spread will be digital technology. I know, I needn’t explain how.

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