Technology for the people, to the people and by the people
Asoke K Laha, President & CEO of Interra Information Technologies
Technological trends and tractions in technology have come to play an increasingly critical role in the human civilization over the last half century. It is not that I am without any evidence to substantiate my hypothesis. Those who have any doubt on the impact of technology, may look at the Google or any online sites giving details about the stock markets all over the world particularly in the US. It is no longer the manufacturing, real estate or finance companies, who can act as bellwether in the uncertain world of stock market. It is the technology companies, which calls the shot this way or the other, making stock holders happy or the other way round.
The other test of the importance of technology companies lies in gauging their reach and fame away from their country of origin. Which are the global companies known across the world? If one takes a global survey, I am sure the names that may crop up would be the technology companies like Google, Facebook,Apple, Microsoft, Intel and now perhaps, Huawei. Is this a trend in continuum? To the best of my knowledge, it was not so. Earlier companies those were known across the world were manufacturing companies like GE or pharma companies like Pfizer, electronic or telecom majors like Samsung, Nokia etc. The point of the arrow has changed for certain now.
I had a very interesting talk with someone who closely follows global movement of the stock prices, particularly derivatives, most potent instrument for speculation. He raised a point, which apparently to me seems to be quite valid. He challenged the supremacy of the technology firms. According to him, the market for plant grown fish, egg or meat, which are known by the generic term “beyond meat” has the potential to outsmart technology stocks in the coming years. I thought he was right since in the US itself the plant grown protein rich meat and fish are commanding huge demand and it can pick up quite fast. These companies are also doing quite well in the stock market. These products are hardly introduced in other parts of the world. No one has tested the market for those food items in the world’s largest markets like China and India, especially in the latter, where a huge chunk of the population are die hard vegetarians. Once these products capture the markets, which are untapped, demand for these products can rise phenomenally so also their stock prices.
On hindsight, I found his reasoning is flawed and is hinging on the wrong premise. How can one say “beyond meat”is not a technology product? Years of research has gone into genome, biotech and bio products to arrive at a product like plant meat or fish. Then what is the logic of calling such products as generic ones especially when they are grown under tested laboratory conditions and are technologically manipulated? Going by the quantum of research that had gone into developing such exotic products, they deserve to be called as technology products or at least products made by applying modern technology tools.
Look at the technology news. I am not talking about the movement technology scriptor controversies surrounding technologies, such as Apple vs Google or Intel vs Huawei? I am talking about technologies that are evolving across the world. News about such technologies may not immediately make headlines since they are not sensational like mishaps, war, terrorism etc. But technology news has a higher shelf life.
I feel technology companies have now to be more accountable since they can easily intrude into human privacy. Almost all technology companies in the US are facing various compliance issues with regulators across the world. A case in point is Facebook, which has been slapped with a meaty fine of US$ 5 billion by EU authorities for breaching their compliance norms or exceeding their briefs to have access to private data. They are also facing problems in the US and other countries for misusing the personal data. Facebook is not a one off company in that category. Several technology companies are also facing such problems.
A case in point is the present Government of India restriction to park the data collected by technology companies like Amazon, Walmart, MasterCard etc. locally to insulate any intrusion into the privacy of the people. This is tooth and nail resisted by the US corporations with the tacit support of the US government and a final call has to be made on this. The point I am making is that technology companies are increasingly subjected to new norms and regulations borne out of the realization that data and knowledge are going to make or break a civilization.
I have a feeling that the future wars will be fought on the basis of technology and not for money, wealth, land or any such things. I feel so convinced that it is because of the technology. Does it mean that technology is like modern world Helen of Troy , whose charming face and graceful conduct triggered a war fought with thousand ships.
Why the whole modern world is worshiping technology? Let us call the spade a spade. If technology does not deliver, people would dump it as an inconsequential device just like they throw an old model of a cell phone for a new one, which has more facilities and operations. That is what technology is. There is an overriding factor here, and that is affordability. One can indulge in these things only when the pocket permits and not otherwise.
An example is usage of mobile phones. When it was introduced in India, a Motorola phone used to cost quite a bit, leave alone its operating cost. It was a largely a status symbol. Now, look at the number of cell phones in use in India. How that was made possible? It was mainly due to affordability and of course, convenience. So utility is the key measuring word today the world over.
Will the technology bandwagon move on? I have no doubt it would, provided it adheres to two important norms. The first condition I have already explained: that is affordability. The second condition is innovation. Technology has a tendency to get obsolete very fast. For that there should be continuous focus on incrementally improving them. I might add a rider to these two and that is about technology having a human face. Technology should be for the people, to the people and by the people.