While I was pursuing my Bachelors in Computer Engineering in the outskirts of the city, each time I go back home for vacations, I would be asked the same question by some of the older members of my family “What exactly do you study?”. As much as computers continue to play an increasingly important part of our lives, I realised that for the computer-illeterate, its just a piece of equipment comparable to the television. So, they would, in turn, tell their peers proudly that I am learning how to make computers, and their friends would still be really impressed, not knowing what exactly a computer does or what you can do with it.
My fascination with computers started the first time I saw one while in boarding, way back in 97, running Windows 95. (I had seen others while in high school, but it was such a secure room, what with the “No footwear” sign and the AC running all the time, it wasn’t a really attractive option at the time when we had Nintendo and rented VHS cassettes for entertainment) I didn’t know what it could do then, but I sure as hell wanted to find out. It was hooked up to the internet, with a 56kbps dial-up modem, and it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. So, one night my friend, who was more computer-savvy, managed to get the keys to the lab from our computer instructor, and we spent the whole night surfing the internet, and to this day, I still use the email account we created that night, call me nostalgic… or not, whatever.
Today, I cannot live a day without spending time on the internet, checking my mails and posts online, keeping in touch with friends, etc. But when I went back home this time, I realised that even though we may have the knowledge and ability to exploit this technology as we needed, how does it benefit the people who don’t? Out state capital may be as technologically advanced as the next, but what we need to achieve is overall development for the people.
I’ve heard of projects started by the Indian Goverment in remote rural areas which allowed farmers to approach a goverment installation where a computer operator would check online for future weather updates, prices of commodities in the national market and availability of better and scientifically improved varieties of seeds custom made for the climate and terrain. Why can’t we do that back home? We have DSL now, we have satellite-enabled internet and statewide availability of Mobile networks. If we can’t apply the knowledge we have for the greater good, what good is it then? For chatting? Surfing porn and downloading media content?
I am a man of few ideas, but I know that we have highly-educated and brilliantly practical youths who could come up with effective and achieveable solutions to our growing problem of rural poverty and the means to implement these ideas on a large scale. If Assam can import their tea leaves worldwide to the extent of being uniquely exclusive, why can’t we do the same with our food products? We have various fruits and vegetables which are not known beyond the state borders, the same ones which we desperately long for when we move outside the north east. We need to find a way to introduce them to the world, which would bring overall economic growth to the state, and that’s something worth being proud for. I pray that we achieve this arduous yet attainable feat in my generation, or at least lay the foundation for the next generation to accomplish.