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Kamat's Potpourri

Kamat and the Digital Divide

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Vikas Reflects on Kamat's Potpourri
As Appeared in Net Culture Diary

 

"Our message is heard as loudly as theirs, if not louder!"

"Low Tech Website Gets High Marks in India" 
- Net Culture Diary at About.com

The beauty of the Internet is not only its pervading nature, but also how inexpensive it is to publish Websites. In the last three years, we are able to publish and maintain the Kamat's Potpourri Website just by a small family's savings.

All along (last 30 years), we had struggled to publish photographic works in India due to the high cost of publishing pictures. The country being large, and the literate population being geographically dispersed, it was difficult to reach a niche audience. But when the World Wide Web came about, it provided an open platform. We were able to document hitherto unpublished works and ideas very easily.



Pictures of Common Indians at Kamat's Potpourri

Publishing pictures has had a very important use. In India the illiteracy rate is over 30%, but pictures, people understand ! Pictures also overcome the great barrier of languages in India (which run into hundreds), and I certainly know of instances when the pictures have broken the traditional barriers of communication. Consider the example of the Konkani language. It has no script! But when we published the Konkani Heritage Album, Konkani people from different parts of India (who spoke the same language, but used different scripts and hence could not communicate) were brought together, although through a third language (English). People discovered the origins of some of their words, their faiths, and their common heritage.

I am not saying people should just use low technology in poor countries. But we are a good example of how low technology can be used effectively to achieve high returns. I sincerely believe the Internet will fill many holes in the Indian society. It already is doing so. With its complex system of castes and supercastes, finding brides and grooms is an Himalayan task for arranged marriages in India. I see that Internet marriage bureaus are popping up.

Government inefficiencies and regulations prevented the population from availing themselves of knowledge and tools freely. This is changing too. There will always be dot-coms. The first of Indian portals went public recently in the USA - Rediff.com External LinkIndia Ltd. (REDF), going after the consumers, but I think that making information and opportunities available to the have-nots is the greatest promise of the Internet. It is a great equalizer. Some of our competitors (if we can call them that, ours is a no-ad, no-commerce content site) are large government institutions (with thousands of employees) or media conglomerates (with deep pockets). But our message is heard as loudly as theirs, if not louder!

-Vikas Kamat
July 20, 2000

 

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