EmTech Spl: And we can also make calls!

CIOL Bureau
New Update

NEW DELHI, INDIA: Balwinder Khokhar, director of Value Based Skills Academy, spearheads a project that delivers education to rural youth in western Uttar Pradesh over the mobile phone. Sanjay Swamy, CEO, mChek, has facilitated over 2 million people in India to pay their bills over the mobile phone. Vivek Mohan, president, Alcatel Lucent talks of creating a national identity number for all Indians which is linked to their mobile phone.


At EmTech India 2009, a conclave in Delhi to showcase emerging technologies, hosted jointly by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review and CyberMedia, it was brought home sharply how the mobile phone has ceased being just a communication device. Today it is showing signs of becoming your wallet, your school, your hospital and a passport to a better life for millions of Indians at the bottom of the pyramid!

At the conference, Khokhar, Swamy and Mohan were just some of the people who were showing what the mobile phone can do for India, and specifically for the less advantaged.

Vivek Mohan’s keynote on Day 2 of the emerging technologies conference, which has left US shores for the first time, gave exciting glimpses of how the mobile is going to be the future route to deliver solutions to our national problems - be it education, health or security.


Later sessions, where participants got to see development of new applications in the mobile space, showed how the future is already here.

Already people are getting education over the mobile phone, but post 3G which is only some months away, the numbers will go up exponentially, said Mohan.

In his presentation, Mohan touched upon how the mobile platform could be extended beyond delivering cricket and entertainment, and even used to deliver traffic solutions and health services. For instance, there could be nurse stations, where people can call and describe their symptoms and get a quick diagnosis.


But the most exciting news was the creation of a national identity number for every Indian linked to the mobile phone.

“We are working with the Government so that mobile number can be used as ID number of a person. It is significant since the number is unique and we already have around half a billion mobile customers in the country. It has the potential to touch the basis of human life, which is what an application should do," Mohan said.

Another exciting application that Mohan unfolded was how mobile telephony could be used to solve the traffic woes of a city.


If Mohan’s session was a window to the future, then further sessions gave a greater glimpse of how technology is unraveling in the mobile space. For instance, Sanjoy Paul, associate vice president and general manager - Research and head Convergence Lab, Infosys, described how the company was working on a host of mobile enabling Web applications.

“We have recently come out with a Middleware, which transforms the user interface based on the type of device being used. This has been used to enable mobile banking on Finacle, Infosys banking product,” he said.

Sanjay Swamy’s session on the mobile payment gateway created by his company mChek demonstrated how this gateway is not just for the rich or the literate, but is being used by people at the bottom of the pyramid. Swamy described how mChek has facilitated women in the slums of Bangalore to avail loans through a microfinance project using the mobile phone.


“Now they feel so empowered, they have come to us asking if they could pay their electricity bills over the mobile phone,” described Swamy.

As Swamy pointed out, while broadband penetration has stagnated at around 5 million, mobile phone connections are setting new records, which augurs well for mobile banking. The fact that RBI has laid out a formal policy on mobile payment is a forward step, he said.

At the ICT session, panelists, who included Venkatesh Valluri, president Agilent Technologies, Ajay Gupta, Director, IPG R&D Centre, HP India and Manish Gupta of IBM Research Labs described how India had added more than 15 million mobile phones in January, which is a world record, in terms of monthly addition.

As one participant pointed out, what we were seeing at the conference was only the tip of the iceberg – there’s so much happening in the labs in the mobile space that a revolution is only a short while away. As Sanjoy Paul pointed out, Infosys was working on a sort of an application factory in the mobile space, “where we can roll out many applications which can be later deployed.”

Hearteningly, what was brought home sharply at the conference was that many of the technologies and applications that companies today are working on is for the bottom of the pyramid and relevant to the specific needs of the Indian masses. An m-powered India is not too far away.