Yesterday’s politicised students, fighting for change… and relevant tech today

Photo Karina Vasquez

An ICT-for-development workshop got underway in Goa today.It is being organised by the St John’s University of New York and the Diocesan Centre for Social Communications Media. Expectedly, and in keeping with Goa’s size, it is a small event.

Dr Ashok Jhunjhunwala (green shirt, front row, fourth from left), known for his CorDECT wireless in local loop telephony solutions, and also for inspiring so many students to do innovative work at IIT-Chennai, was among those present. We spoke about how politicised students of the yesteryears had turned into the key movers and shakers in a movement to now make technology relevant to the common(wo)man. “IIT Kanpur was at the centre of it all. We were in between two movements, the Jayaprakash movement, and the Naxalite movement,” he said. And he also spoke of the latter influences of Gandhism and his links with the PPST (the Patriotic, and People-Oriented Science and Technology movement, with its inexpensive and hardly glamourous publications, which I saw as a young journalist … and which probably influence a whole lot of other youngsters too).

Of course, Dr Jhunjhunwala was someone who influenced me too… with his 2001 seminar on telephony for the ‘developing’ world. It’s interesting to see how, over the years, the possibility of using ICT for more than just export dollars is getting a serious re-look. But, what’s to be done to prevent the debate from being hijacked? ….

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