Realising the digital dream
By Jayalakshmi Menon
Asian Age, Dec 9, 2003
"In India, we had only screwdriver technology, where everything was merely assembled, not invented or manufactured. It is really weird how we do nothing and blame everything on our country. I have heard business presentations where every member has a global vision, but when speaking of the Indian perspective, the common opening statement employed is. ‘But in a country like India…., mouthing the collective pessimism in which we drown development in India,” says Shivanand Kanavi, first-time author and executive editor of Business India.
Clear observations, facts and research-based information form the essence of his first book, Sand to Silicon. He traces the history of the expedition that has made information technology and communications central to modern existence. “There are three aspects to this book, it gives the popular exposition on technology, highlights the Indian contribution in the revolution and the impact of technology on the lives of people,” he explains.
With 300 years of history to be told, Kanavi’s approach has been “slightly evangelical.” As he asserts, “I want the word of technological developments to spread across to people young and old. So I have used simple terms and language to explain technological advances to readers.”
Kanavi has mixed feelings about becoming an author. He says, “ Journalism and authorship is a lonely form of communication because you don’t get to see the result or people’s reaction to what you write. I remember bribing colleagues to read my article, when I was new in journalism,” he laughs.
Sand to Silicon covers the entire gamut of developments in semiconductors, fibre optics, telecommunications, optical technology and the Internet, while highlighting the achievement of people, who played a crucial role in giving life to the digital dream. Sand to Silicon also focuses on the role played by Indian scientists and engineers in the evolution of the digital revolution.
Kanavi comes from a family of well-known Kannada writers, but brushes aside talk of literary genius. “I had a very liberal, hands-off kind of upbringing. I attended several literary conferences and grew up in an environment where I was allowed to read a lot.”
The book also pays homage to the role played by two Indian institutions, ISRO and C-DOT, in promoting research and development in technology, in India. Interestingly, Sand to Silicon has a chapter on the role of Bangalore. India’s IT capital and home to the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, which as Kanavi asserts, was one of the first universities in the world which offered a Ph.D. in communication technology. On his future course of action, Kanavi adds, “I have two or three books planned out. One will be about quantum mechanics and another on the Bhakti movement in India. Let’s wait and see how things shape up.”