Is the Elephant Learning to Dance? The Diffusion of the Internet in the Republic of India

Published in conjunction with the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC), Georgia Institute of Technology.

From the Introduction:
"The election of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1997 signaled renewed interest in IT and the Internet. The BJP advocated economic liberalization and listed IT as one of the government's top five priorities, along with more traditional issues such as the provision of potable drinking water and education [10]. "Indian IT has had many small voices, but the BJP is attempting to give IT a national voice" [10]. In May 1998, Prime Minister Vajpayee organized a national IT task force to make recommendations for a comprehensive policy overhaul. The task force's recommendations were instrumental in initiating wide-ranging and fundamental changes in Indian IT policy.

The speed with which the Indian National Task Force on Information Technology and Software Development moved was indicative of the changing government attitude. Within 90 days of its establishment, the Task Force produced an extensive background report on the state of technology in India and an IT Action Plan with 108 recommendations [10,11]. The Task Force could act quickly because it built upon the experience and frustrations of state governments, central government agencies, universities, and the software industry. Much of what it proposed was also consistent with the thinking and recommendations of international bodies like the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and World Bank. In addition, the Task Force incorporated the experiences of Singapore and other nations, which implemented similar programs. It was less a task of invention than of sparking action on a consensus that had already evolved within the networking community and government.

Prime Minister Vajpayee captured the changing attitude toward technology in India in his claim that "IT is India's Tomorrow" [13]. This assessment offers a vision of a 21st century India substantially different from that of the 20th century. With its high levels of poverty, bloated and corrupt bureaucracies, protectionist policies, and large size, 20th century India was like the Asian elephant, plodding and turning slowly. At the dawn of a new millennium, Vajpayee and a growing number of politicians, bureaucrats, industry leaders, foreign investors, and bright-eyed entrepreneurs are trying to teach this Asian elephant to dance [14]."