Tech swiped right & how!

Better connectivity, faster net speed… technology had a lot to boast about

 Roopinder Singh

A huge plant opened in India, there was a huge acquisition by an Indian firm and a large one of an Indian firm — 2018 was an interesting year for tech in India.

When Modi inaugurated the manufacturing unit of Samsung Electronics, there was the usual Make-in-India hullabaloo, even if it was more of an assemble in Noida affair. HCL Technologies bought software assets from IBM Corp for $1.8 billion. It needed them to beef up its presence in commerce, security, and marketing. Walmart paid $16 billion to acquire Flipkart and thus take on its rival Amazon in India.

More Indians became better connected with faster broadband speeds, and the country, thankfully, gave its crown of the most spammed nation to Brazil. The point of connection with the internet and the wider world remained the mobile phone for most Indians, where Reliance Jio’s marketing push resulted in cheaper data rates across the board.

Social media took on a more virulent form this year (see adjoining story). It has been the most polarising medium, offering an echo-chamber of like-minded views to users. Even as Facebook and its Cambridge Analytica scandal singed India, too, the real problem lay in the misuse of WhatsApp messages to spread disinformation, false news, and communal hatred. So much so that now it has become a standard operating procedure of local administrators to shut down net access, especially cellular, in disturbed areas.

OnePlus variations proved to be bestsellers among the smartphones, displacing Samsung’s offerings for the first time. Chinese smartphones ruled the roost, with the Korean giant giving a tough fight. Apple’s latest models did not draw in the anticipated crowds but still managed a strong show.  Online shoppers had it good with Amazon and Flipkart vying with each other to offer better discounts. The best deals were on electronic goods, especially mobile phones. The online inroads into the shopping consciousness of the Indian market continue unabated, notwithstanding the government’s regulatory noises.

Uber and Ola continued to provide transportation solutions, even as the dangers of unregulated drivers came to haunt them. A number of criminal cases were filed against cab drivers associated with these two companies, including those of sexually harassing their passengers or worse. There is grumbling about fewer earnings for drivers, traffic hazard posed by these cars and so on, but ride-hailing companies are here to stay.

Even as India prepares to move towards 5-G connectivity, it courts controversy. Initially, it had excluded Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE from trials while inviting Cisco, Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson. However, now the position has been reversed.

Indians have been learning to negotiate with unbridled freedom that the online world and technology seems to provide, only to realise that behind all that cyber world is the real one, with real-life consequences. Just ask those who lost their family members to mobs incited by social media, or those who were cheated of their fortunes through online fraud. On the other hand, there are those whose lives have been transformed by technology. It’s an imperfect world, isn’t it?

This roundup on technology was published in The Tribune special issue dated Sunday, December 30, 2018; titled 2018: The Year of Polarisation.

Tech swiped right & how!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.