The Greatest Technological Advancement of Last Decade and Its Impact

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Most of us have it; can’t spend hours together without looking at it. It is probably the 1st thing we see waking up from bed. Our heart will skip a beat when it’s missing from our pockets. It’s our all-time companion. Yes, Smartphones! These truly smart devices revolutionised the way we communicate. From phone calls and SMS to messengers, video calls, social media, e-mails etc, smartphones made many other devices like telephones, mp3 players, digital cameras, etc redundant thereby becoming an undisputed champion in electronics market.

Some 20 years ago we could not have imagined a thin compact device that can do multiple functions but today we can’t imagine a life without smartphones.

Smartphone’s success is because of its compact size and many-in-one concept. It started its journey as a portable phone, to become a status symbol, and now it has become almost a necessity. There are now more mobile-cellular telephone subscription (almost 7 billion), than people in the world.

In this Globalised world, Information is wealth and smart-phones have made access to information much easier. People in remote places and rural areas now feel connected to the mainstream world by accessing internet which is now available at a lower cost thereby breaking the digital divide.

There are no good or bad decisions, a decision is taken and made good.

Indian economy has been unique for its shift from agriculture over manufacturing to service sector. The decision although was made good by becoming the fastest growing economy in the world, it also left many of its unskilled citizens fend for themselves. Realising the importance of manufacturing, several initiatives were launched of which Make in India is very significant. Considering the availability of cheap labour, smartphone industry can help in job creation. For instance the newly inducted Samsung’s world’s largest phone factory in Noida reflects the potential opportunities of smartphone industry particularly in India.

Growth of smartphone industry combines both manufacturing and service sectors by making use of the vast human capital through the growth of BPO, fibre optic cables, mobile repair shops and smartphone accessories like battery, power banks, earphone etc.

It opened up new employment opportunities. Like, booking taxi has become easier through apps. It saves people of their time by booking in advance and also creates new employment opportunities for men as drivers, in customer care service, BPO etc. Foods and other items can also be booked online anywhere anytime making life more comfortable than ever. Similarly smartphone apps create demand for software developers and tester.

Smartphones also make transactions happen quickly and easily in businesses where payment and settlement system is a time-consuming process. Live and updated information is possible through tracking, monitoring and passing of other crucial information of produces in supply chain management easily through smartphones. Smartphones have already started to replace credit and debit cards in many applications due to growing popularity of payment apps like BHIM, Paytm, phonepe etc.

But these would not have been possible without the foresighted vision of government and industries.To fulfil the vision of Digital India and to make a transition to cashless and digital economy large investments in infrastructure like optical fibre cable and towers for wireless transmission is required. For this Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF) comes in handy to extend the reach of the mobile network to the remaining 50,000 remote and rural villages. To extend the services to North-Eastern region, government has come up with Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan for the uncovered areas in Meghalaya through USOF.

With smartphones becoming a device of necessity, a Gazette Notification was issued to make Panic Buttons mandatory in all mobile handsets (smart as well as feature phones) that are being sold in India from 01-03-2017 while GPS in mobile phones will be mandatory w.e.f 1st January 2018.

Considering the importance of smart-phones Chhattisgarh government launched the Sanchar Kranti Yojana to increase mobile penetration which is lowest in the state at 29% against the national average of 68% as per Social Economic Caste Census Data 2011. Similarly, Rajasthan government had launched Bhamashah Digital Parivar Yojana to provide Rs 1,000 in 2 phases to the families that come under National Food Security Act, 2013 for buying smartphones.

UIDAI also encourages smart-phone manufacturers to come up with Aadhaar-compliant devices as India aims to increase fibre network even more to around 2.5mn km by 2022 and set up 5 lakh WiFi hotspots as a part of BharatNet.

Although smartphones have become so vital that we feel like only half a person without it, it is not without disadvantages. Access to more information at fingertips makes people vulnerable to information leakage, safety and privacy violations. For instance, a simple search for items in an e-commerce website will make the searched items appear in the form of advertisements while visiting other websites. This can cause embarrassment when someone else is sharing the same device.

More seriously, craze for taking selfies have resulted in accidents and nuisance. Similarly apps like Bluewhale challenge and Momo challenge resulted in suicides. In less severe forms, information abundance can make people look for answers in the internet rather than thinking and trying it themselves. Basically we’re getting lazier as we know that we can access information anytime. It sometimes can becomes counterproductive particularly in case of self-medication matching their symptoms with the ones given in the internet just to save some bucks; but it can end up tragically.

Cheaper internet together with unemployment is a worse combination. It makes unmotivated people less willing to work. Apps like karaoke, stranger video chat, dubsmash and such similar although developed for entertainment it makes people unproductive by luring them into virtual world for short-term pleasure, and trivial recognition. This diverts their energy away from more productive avenues and retards the cogwheel of India’s growth engine.

Nevertheless ease in accessing information creates a knowledge society which is need of the hour to make the public aware of their rights, responsibilities and opportunities available before them. People get to know many things due to cheaper internet packages supported by increased rural electrification and uninterrupted power supply. With 5G plans to get rolled out in few years and government vision to connect 2,50,000 villages by 2019, smartphones can open up even more possibilities for instance in the field of  Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence etc. India needs China’s technology in rolling out 5G phones and also to make available cheap 4G mobiles. Since Chinese phones now dominate the smartphone market in India, this actually helped in building a better relationship although with a trade deficit. Good economic relationships can prevent war-like situations like the recent Dokhlam stand-off and diverts energy from uncertain political relationship to a healthy economic relationship.

With growing technological advancements come newer risks. Hence it is the responsibility of developers and government to ensure a safe and secure experience together with quicker complaint resolution. Fake news, rumours, mob violence etc have increased in recent times due to faster and quicker transmission of messages. Hence technology should be considered as a double edged sword, to be handled with care. Like a scabbard, there should be strong protection, rules and acts to handle challenges ramified through various predictable and unforeseen ways.

Thus smartphones can truly uplift the society in getting access to information, education, improve literacy and awareness. Even illiterates have started using smartphones for its craze and get to learn by experience. The irony and craze for smartphone makes people to use fingerprint scanners, iris and face recognition software but the same are looked upon with suspicion when asked by the government for Aadhaar.

Such a transformation is nothing short of a revolution and smartphone is definitely the greatest technological advancement in recent times.

Author: P. Goutham, Chennai

Winner of the Essay Writing Competition for the month of September

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