Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Thoughts From India

As we sit in Bangalore in the India IT capital, surrounded by technology, some of the brightest technology minds and a hive of activity, we are still aware that outside the door on the street there is the stark reality of the disparity of wealth and culture that is and has always been India. The lights flicker and the generator kicks in. Last night we sat in a restaurant that clearly had a problem switch over to their generator and were repeatedly plunged into darkness. Yesterday in Pune was no different and one office we visited even said their biggest headache was the shared generator they had with the rest of the building. Some of the things many of us take for granted shouldn’t always be so.

Bangalore suffers like many cities in this area from a shortfall of power to demand. Without generators offices would suffer power outages on a daily basis. The vast majority of offices, hotels etc. have their own generators and diesel.

The interesting point to consider is if all the generators and diesel and investment in assuring continuity of supply were to be fully exploited (it is often used for water) this would even offset a sizable amount of the environmental issues, but this is India and it isn’t going to happen in the way we would expect.
Collaboration and co-operation in any environment as diverse and complex as a city is difficult. That’s why we have utility companies to do it for us. In the emerging markets and third world these often fail to deliver for a variety of reasons but the main one is that everyone has to fend for themselves and can’t always rely on the municipal and service provision we expect.

So what has this to do with publishing and technology within publishing?
Publishing is as diverse and complex a market sector as any. We and others have long argued that it is not one, but several sectors that were merely joined together by a common format, the book, but that digitization accentuates these and creates divergence.

Collaboration is a word often used and rarely practiced. This is understandable given the sheer numbers of organizations involved and the huge range in the size of these. We have industry bodies that do sterling work but are often lead by those who can afford the time and perhaps this is all we can expect.

Don’t forget to switch off the lights when you leave.

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