I attended a seminar on “Future of e-Access” organized by ISIM (International School of Information Management) as a part of their InfoQuiz ’07 last year. What attracted me to the seminar was eminent speakers from the industry like Dr.Prasad Ram (Centre Head, Google India), Ajit Balakrishnan (Founder & CEO, Rediff.com) and Deependra Moitra (Capital Analyst). I was a little disappointed that this was not like a discussion conclave where they could field our questions and there could be interesting arguments and counter-arguments. But it was interesting to get viewpoints of these 3 industry speakers on the e-Access phenomenon.
First to go was Dr.Prasad Ram, center Head, Google India. He was also center head for Yahoo India R&D before. He talked about democratizing the web where users are publishers, information access is frictionless and internet is like a computing platform available to all. He talked about how global economy and culture is evolving by creating a confluence of information, providing universal access and demanding new emphasis on information management. What was very interesting apart from the gyaan he gave on Web 2.0 platforms that Google owns (like YouTube, Blogger) is that he shared few of the challenges that Google has with regard to e-Access. Some of the challenges according to him were – Stemming (Google trying to guess the correct combination/spelling of words in case you search a typo), Google News (clustering and presenting the best news items from different sources), Google Scholar (Citation Analysis, Identification of duplicates) and Google Print (OCR Search). Overall it was an interesting session.
Next was Deependra Moitra, who is a Capital Analyst and was till recently with Infosys R&D. He said he viewed the future of e-Access as having two components: Democratization or co-creation and Consumerization of Information. He also said that important themes of e-Access are Information Architecture and Pervasive Computing. He said in future access will be more popular through devices like mobile phones,etc. rather than computers/laptops. He talked about the importance of portability of applications from computer to the mobile phone via GPRS or SMS.
Last but not the least was Ajit Balakrishnan, Founder & CEO, Rediff.com. I was really looking forward to meeting Ajit since a long time as I had once approached him for a project in 2000 which was related to e-Commerce and I planned to meet him up in Mumbai but it didn’t work out. He is also known to be the e-business guru in India so the anticipation for his talk was really high. And he delivered! 🙂 He started with the slide showing Ash-Abhishek wedding and claimed that Rediff first showed that picture within minutes of the wedding ceremony starting; as a rediff user took the picture on his mobile and uploaded it to rediff forums. He talked about how people are going to be the king of content and how there is a paradigm shift from editorial content to user generated content. He also gave an example of Rediff Q&A which receives close to 15,000 questions per day and each question gets answered by at least 3 other people. So what started out as a controlled activity grew to gigantic proportions once it was left to the users. He also talked about Sukanya Verma (suku)’s review on Aishwarya Rai’s “Provoked” which spawned discussions in the discussion board on that article; which themselves were excellently written reviews of the movie. He also talked about how a user provided the following picture of Sania Mirza on a pilgrimage at Haj, rather than professional photographers. In this way, he talked about the power of e-Access with people right now in the form of latest camera-phones, GPRS,etc.
He also talked about how the Wisdom of Crowds is reflected in the search Results. As an example, he did a Rediff image search on Mallika Sherawat and he showed that the search engine gives you related search results in the form of a sentence like this: “Related Images: Aishwarya Rai , Bipasha Basu , Priyanka Chopra , Sania Mirza , Pamela Anderson “. This determines that the search engines learn from the users and suggest new searches based on user patterns. He summed up his session by saying that “e-Access is all about bringing people, information and facilities together in the same place at the same time”.
All ‘n all, a very interesting couple of hours! 🙂