by March 4, 2003 0 comments

Technology implementation is not about faster clock speeds and larger hard disks. It is about
making the choices that your business can sustain and grow on

CNet’s recently had a story on IT purchase by top corporates in America. To do this story, they talk to the CIO’s of these companies. Believe it or not, these top spending CIO’s seem to think in exactly the same line as small-time entrepreneurs in small Malappuram do.

Come to think of it, it was with a lot of reluctance that I agreed to make the trip to this northern most tip of Kerala. Considered to be not as advanced as the rest of the state, Malappuram was the staging place for an interesting experiment in IT-enablement and e-governance by the Kerala government.

The Akshaya project aims at attaining 100% e-literacy in a state that has already been the first to achieve 100% literacy.

Unlike most government efforts, this target is to be met through active private investment, with a few hundred entrepreneurs in every district setting up e-learning centers with at least five PCs and associated peripherals and Internet connectivity. These centers are to initially train at least one member of every family in the district, in using a PC and the Net. They are also to take up other income generating activities in order to become commercially viable.

And there I was, talking to the entrepreneurs setting up Akshaya centers on how to go about choosing and setting up their equipment, what to look for, what to avoid and so on. I had assumed that I would have a tough time explaining to them the innards of a PC and the workings of a network. That was where the initial reluctance mostly came from. 

What I found instead was a totally different picture. The questions they asked, and the reasoning they had for various counter arguments would have done a CIO with a multi-crore budget proud. In fact, those CIOs could very well have learned a few lessons from the folks at

For one, they were just not enamored with technology for technology’s sake. They were much more concerned that the business they were setting up continued to be profitable after the three month long Akshaya initiative. Most of them were questioning every component of the packages on offer from various vendors, and even sub-components like why so much of RAM, do I need a CD drive on every machine? Why should I spend money on Windows for all machines and why not Linux? It is not that they were tight-fisted penny pinchers either. For example, many of them were exploring higher bandwidth options than the minimum prescribed.

As I write this piece, I am not sure what will happen to the thousands of Akshaya centers that are being planned across the state, once the three-month e-literacy project is over. But if Malappuram is any indication of what is to come, they have more than a fighting chance of enduring beyond the immediate goal of e-literacy, and along the way of providing the rest of us with some interesting lessons in technology selection, implementation and usage.

Krishna Kumar

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