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The promise of information and communications technology (ICT) to deliver change is attractive and draws practitioners to experiment and build. Academics and researchers too believe in such benefits but point to certain challenges: changing processes and people to adapt to a new technology, which is invariably an import from a Western nation; the conflicts arising from the changes introduced by ICT, with some groups benefitting over others; and ensuring that the social change that is desired is indeed achieved, while disrupting existing arrangements. The speakers in the panel highlight and provide examples of some of these challenges.
Q: I would like to go back to the topic which is societal impacts of ICT and bring a new dimension to this topic. I think IT is impacting society in a different way today. Just as there was the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution about two hundred years ago, there is the turmoil of the information revolution in society today, and we are a part of that turmoil. One aspect of the turmoil is that there is a lot of resistance to IT. For instance, inside companies when you implement a simple system like payroll, there is turmoil. That impacts the corporate harmony, and in turn affects society. Could the practitioners on the panel comment on the impact of IT in general, in the turmoil that it is causing today. Pramod Varma: Generally speaking, all technologies that have a broader reach have some negative impact. If you look at the Internet, there are privacy issues. The information revolution is travelling too fast, and we have still not studied the larger impact of a digitised society or a fully connected society—what it means to us, what it means to our life. I think it is a good area of study to take up. Srinivas Padmanabhuni: The positive aspect is that over the last 15 years, many students have come from remote places to institutions such as the IIMs for studies, and that credit goes to IT, to information penetration. Today a person studying in a remote place is equally empowered as an urban person. If he wants to do it, he will be able to do it, but that was not the case 15 years back. Sourav Mukherji: I thank all of you, especially all the panel members for taking time off and participating in this discussion.