Monthly Archives: March 2012

Open Government Platform: Beginning of A Great Journey

In the next few hours, the Union Minister for Communications & IT, Kapil Sibal, is expected to announce the launch of open government platform, in the presence of some representatives from the US government. This will be the first major announcement after the cabinet approved the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) 2012 last month.

The idea of open governance, spearheaded by the US, under then then Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, has been gaining popularity the world over. The Open Government Partnership  is a multilateral initiative that aims to “secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.”

The Open Government Partnership as a global partnership is not too old and started just about six months back. Formally launched on 20 September 2011, with an initial declarationby eight countries—Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States—the partnership now has 53 member countries, including the original eight.

With its time-honored policy of under-commitment, India is yet to formally join the partnership but is working with the US government to work on open access to data.  To become a member of OGP, participating countries must embrace a high-level Open Government Declaration; deliver a country action plan “developed with public consultation”; and commit to independent reporting on their progress going forward.

It may be noted here that publishing data collected by government is just one—though, at present, arguably the most important—aspect of the move towards this openness.

The Platform

While the actual beginning of the move towards open government began with President Obama signing the Memorandum of Transparency and Open Government on Day One of assuming office, it was with the appointment of Vivek Kundra as the Federal CIO that the real momentum started. Barely two months after his appointment in March 2009, Kundra launched Data.g0v platform (in May), for providing public access to raw datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government in order to enable public participation and private sector innovation. It drew from the DC Data Catalog launched by Kundra when he was CTO of Washington, D.C., where he published vast amounts of datasets for public use.

Though open government is a broader objective and is not just about releasing raw government data, this was nevertheless considered a major step, as the public availability of these datasets would not only help in transparency and openness, it also would allow anyone who wishes to do so—companies, individuals, NGOs—to create innovative applications using these data. And it actually did.

But when Kundra announced his resignation in June last year, there was a lot of apprehension whether the open government movement will lose its momentum. Many believed Kundra’s resignation was because of a drastic cut in funding for the e-government initiatives that he had undertaken. In a column titled, The Death of Open Government,  in Washington Post, renowned technologist, academician and commentator was drastic in his observation.

But, with Kundra gone, I am not optimistic about the program. Whenever a program loses its key evangelist, it normally dies. The Open Government Initiative is likely to suffer a slow, inevitable death.

But nevertheless the progress continued.

And when there is something around IT, can India be kept out of it? When the US government started to look at open sourcing the data.gov platform, India—the land of techies—was of course, the first stop. And this began around August, even before the Open Government Partnership was announced. India was not to be a member of that; it still isn’t.  But when it comes to tech work, the world’s most business savvy nation, surely knew where to turn to.

In December, it was publicly announced that India and US were working together to create a platform, called data.gov- in-a-box, an open source platform that would help governments globally to produce their own version of data.gov. This is what the data.gov site said at that time.

Among the actions in the U.S. National Action Plan announced by President Obama is an effort under the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue to produce “Data.gov-in-a-Box,” an open source version of the United States’ Data.gov data portal and India’s India.gov.in document portal. The U.S. and India are working together to produce an open source version available for implementation by countries globally, encouraging governments around the world to stand up open data sites that promote transparency, improve citizen engagement, and engage application developers in continuously improving these efforts. Technical teams from the governments of the U.S. and India have been working together since August of this year, with a planned launch of a complete open source product (which is now called the Open Government Platform (OGPL) to reflect its broad scope) in early 2012.

Today is that day, when that formal announcement about that platform is likely to happen by the Indian IT minister.

All the best for the journey together of two great nations, which are not just the most influential democracies in the world but are also the most competent when it comes to IT. And nothing marries democracy and technology like this initiative does. It takes the tool to be transparent on a platter to the governments around the world.

Additional Note: This should also convince critics of outsourcing to India (many within the Obama administration itself) that companies that seek Indian help in IT  do not do that just because it is low cost.

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The Importance of Being Shri Nandan Nilekani

If there was one proper noun that stood out in the budget speech of the finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee this year, it was undoubtedly Aadhaar. The speech had as many as nine reference to Aadhaar. Whether it is for subsidy being credited directly to beneficiary’s bank account, creating a more efficient public distribution regime by creating a PDS network, or for disbursement of government payouts—such as MG-NREGA payments, pensions and scholarships—the finance minister seemed confident that Aadhaar could be leveraged as a platform to deliver.

And it was just a couple of months back that a section of the media was writing off the project when the National Identification Authority Bill met with some adverse comments from a parliamentary standing committee headed by BJP MP and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha! In a cover story in Dataquest, The Politics of Identity, I had unequivocally pointed out then that “the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s return of the National Identification Authority in its present form is not a mandate to scrap the project; though some vested interests portray it that way.”

And I was not exactly being prophetic. Anyone following the project would know that this has been the most important project for UPA II for driving its No 1 policy priority: inclusion. And the government would not easily allow it to fall by the wayside.

In fact, since 2009 (that is beginning of UPA-II), the finance minister has, in all his budget speeches referred to the project. Here is a compilation of what he said about the project, in each of his budget speeches.

The setting up of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is a major step in improving governance with regard to delivery of public services. This project is very close to my heart. I am happy to note that this project also marks the beginning of an era where the top private sector talent in India steps forward to take the responsibility for implementing projects of vital national importance. The UIDAI will set up an online data base with identity and biometric details of Indian residents and provide enrolment and verification services across the country. The first set of unique identity numbers will be rolled out in 12 to 18 months. I have proposed a provision of Rs.120 crore for this project – July 2009 Budget Speech

The 2010 budget speech referred to the progress and raised the allocation to Rs 1900 crore

In my last Budget Speech, I had announced the constitution of the Unique Identification Authority of India, its broad working principles and the timelines for delivery of the first UID numbers. I am happy to report that the Authority has been constituted and it will be able to meet its commitments of issuing the first set of UID numbers in the coming year. It would provide an effective platform for financial inclusion and targeted subsidy payments. Since the UIDAI will now get into the operational phase, I am allocating Rs.1,900 crore to the Authority for 2010-11 – Budget Speech 2010

 By 2011, Aadhaar project had established its potential, in the eyes of the FM, as one of the most important initiatives to improve governance

The UID Mission has taken off and Aadhaar numbers are being generated in large numbers. So far 20 lakh Aadhaar numbers have been given and from 1st October 2011, ten lakh numbers will be generated per day. The stage is now set for realising the potential of Aadhaar for improving service delivery, accountability and transparency in governance of various schemes – Budget Speech 2011

The 2012 speech, which was full with reference to the project, too saw it on top when it came to highlight plans for improving governance.

The enrolments into the Aadhaar system have crossed 20 crore and the Aadhaar numbers generated upto date have crossed 14 crore. I propose to allocate adequate funds to complete another 40 crore enrolments starting from April 1, 2012. The Aadhaar platform is now ready to support the payments of MG-NREGA; old age, widow and disability pensions; and scholarships directly to the beneficiary accounts in selected areas – Budget Speech 2012

This year, the FM allocated Rs 14,232 crore for the project.

It is now amply clear that as far as the finance minister is concerned, this is a project that is close to his heart, as he admitted in his July 2009 speech.

That is not too surprising, considering that the government has huge expectations from the project. What is, however, noteworthy, is the kind of importance the finance minister has given to the person driving the project: Nandan Nilekani.

In 2010, he was appointed as the chairman of a Technology Advisory Group for Unique Projects (TAGUP) in the Finance Ministry. The group submitted its report in end January 2011. In his budget speech this year, the minister informed the parliament that two of the projects are being implemented, including the ambitious GST Network. Soon after the TAGUP submitted its report, Nilekani was appointed as the head of a task force to recommend mechanisms for  transferring the subsidies directly to the beneficiaries. The 2012 budget speech also informed the Parliament that the task force recommendation has been accepted.

“The recommendations of the task force headed by Shri Nandan Nilekani on IT strategy for direct transfer of subsidy have been accepted. Based on these recommendations, a mobile- based Fertiliser Management System (mFMS) has been designed to provide end-to-end information on the movement of fertilisers and subsidies, from the manufacturer to the retail level,” the FM said in his budget speech.

And with that, “Shri Nandan Nilkani” had the honour of featuring in three subsequent Union Budget speeches. I doubt if there is any other example of this in independent India. While in 2010, only two people featured in the budget speech, Nilekani and Kirit Parikh, 2011 too saw two names: Sam Pitroda and Nilekani. This year’s speech had only Nilekani’s name.

And who knows what new assignment is in store for him this year!

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Indians Call Centres Selling Britons’ Personal Data: See Who is Buying the Story

“Indian call centres selling Briton’s personal data”—the headline was everywhere in the websites of Indian media throughout Sunday. While some put the sentence in a quote, implying that someone else was saying it, some others attributed it to a report, without naming if that report was by a reporter in a newspaper or was based on a study by some research agency. And no, none of those which I opened—I did open five of them, belonging to leading media brands—had any quote from any Indian company or NASSCOM.

What was the news? In a story, headlined in second person: Indian call centres selling YOUR credit card details and medical records for just 2p  (that all caps YOUR is not mine; it is the original headline), the Daily Mail UK reported that confidential personal data on hundreds of thousands of Britons “is being touted by corrupt Indian call centre workers”. The paper further said that “credit card information, medical and financial records are being offered for sale to criminals and marketing firms for as little as 2p.”

It said that two ‘consultants’, claiming to be IT workers at several call centres, met undercover reporters from The Sunday Times and boasted of having 45 different sets of personal information on nearly 500,000 Britons.

Now, that is explosive news. In an economy where job loss is constantly staring at you—and shifting of call centre jobs is a particularly sensitive issue—it immediately fuels resentment. And those opposing offshoring have a shot in the arms.

Am I sounding too dismissive? Maybe, I am. But here is a question that I would like to pose.

This kind of revelation is not new. In fact, this is very, very old. As long back as in 2005—that is seven years back—the same Daily Mail reported a very similar story, citing similar undercover reporting. “An undercover reporter was sold information on a thousand accounts and the numbers of passports and credits cards for £4.25 each, according to the Sun newspaper,” it reported then.

So, nothing has changed in India in these seven years. Corrupt call centre guys still keep selling personal data of Britons! And companies from there—a lot of them banks—continue to offshore to India!

And how many of their customers have lost millions because of these credit card and bank account data that is being bought from Indian call centres? I guess that number must at least be in thousands, if not in millions!

Time to grow up, for sure!

This is not to say that one is denial of such cases. Not to say that all Indians are saints. Not to say that Indian system is fool-proof.

But that also does not mean that “Indian call centres are selling personal data of Britons”.

It is like saying in the aftermath of Pamela Bordes scandal that Britain’s democracy and press are hostage to escorts and call girls.

It hurts.  Right? And as a citizen in a democracy that has borrowed a lot from Britain’s, I will be pained if someone says something like that.

And so am I now, when some undercover reporter manages to lure a couple of guys and a country gets a label like this.

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BPO: Losing Its Identity

Last week, Mahindra Satyam, one of the largest global IT companies in India bought the offshore business—that is in effect, most of the company—of vCustomer, one of the earliest BPO start-ups in India. It is probably not a coincidence that the man running the combined BPO business of Mahindra Satyam and Tech Mahindra—Sujit Baksi—once ran the India operations of vCustomer—during 2003-04.

The assimilation of vCustomer to the Mahindra group company will eventually happen, though the announcement is silent on the time of integration. In any case, it is too small a company compared to Mahindra Satyam for the integration to be anything complex. And most likely, with that, vCustomer will lose its identity.

Promoted by Sanjay Kumar, an ex-Microsoft techie in 1999, vCustomer will just be the latest in a series of BPO companies started by professionals in the early boom phase of offshore BPO—1999-2000—that have lost their original identities, due to acquisition.

The trend is interesting and ironic at the same time. Between 1999-2000 to today, this segment grew up from nowhere to become a $15-16 billion industry, employing more than a million people. During the same period, almost all the pioneer companies who started this wave have systematically lost their identities.

I give here a quick round up of all those pioneering, entrepreneurial start-ups, set up by professionals, during the years 1999-2000 and what happened to them. For the record, I also mention (separately) other significant companies that started BPO during that time but were not really entrepreneurial.

  • Exl Service. One of the few companies in this list that still retains its name. Starting in April 1999, with its center at Noida, Exl began with a focus on back-office—the only company in that era to do so, when the opportunity was called “contact center” and not BPO. Exl was one of the first BPO companies to be acquired in 2001 by insurance company Conseco, but soon became independent again as the latter applied for bankruptcy. And did a smart comeback. Now a listed company, the promoters—Vikram Talwar and Rohit Kapoor—are still associated with Exl.
  • FirstRing. Few would remember this contact center company, started in May 1999, with its first center in ITPL, Bangalore because it was never very high profile and was acquired in 2003 by ICICI Onesource (now Firstsource).
  • Transworks. Set up in May 1999 by Rizwan Koita—an ex McKinsey consultant with friend Jagdish Moorjani—it was funded by the enfant terrible of VC investment those days, ChrysCapital (that time called Chrysalis Capital) and started operating in Mumbai. It was acquired by Aditya Birla group company, India Rayon in 2003, which later acquired Canadian company Minacs and renamed the whole entity, Aditya Birla Minacs.
  • vCustomer. Started by Sanjay Kumar, an ex Microsoft techie, out of Delhi and Mumbai, around June 1999, this was one of the longest standing independent BPOs before falling to Mahindra Satyam last week. It was a tech-led company, with high on employee satisfaction (winner of Dataquest BPO ESAT award for five years), but was too experimentative to get out of start-up mode and get growing.
  • Tracmail. Another 1999 start-up from Mumbai, set up by ex-Tata Infotech executive, Adi Cooper, Tracmail started with email support. In October 2003, it merged with Webhelp and Spheronemics to form TWS Holding, which was acquired by HOV Services in December 2006.
  • iSeva. Started in late 1999 in Bangalore, by young entrepreneurs—Gagan Sharma, Arun Santhebennur, Vaibhav Tewari, Sridhar Turaga and Vijay Narasapur, iSeva began operations around March 2000. e4e acquired it in June 2004.
  • Daksh. Daksh was started by Sanjeev Aggarwaal, a veteran in India IT industry, along with Pavan Vaish and M J Arvind—soon joined by another entrepreneur, Venkat Tadanki—in January 2000. It was one of the most high profile acquisitions of IBM in India, when it bought the company in April 2004. For long, it operated under the name, IBM Daksh, before finally losing its identity completely about two years back.
  • Infowavz. Started by ex banker Zia Sheikh, his brother and ex-McKinsey consultant Wasim Sheikh, and Vineet Mittal, in February 2000, this began operating in Mumbai. Stream acquired it in July 2004.
  • Spectramind. The most high profile BPO start-up set up by Raman Roy, the person who started the offshoring phenomenon when he was in Amex and who set up, for GE, their India offshore facilities, which in turn, made the world sit and take notice of what could be done out of India, began operations in March 2000. In 2002, it was acquired by Wipro and renamed Wipro Spectramind, before ultimately losing the Spectramind identity.
  • 24/7 Customer.com. One of the three BPO start-up pf that era, which has its identity intact, it was started by PV Kannan and S Nagarajan, both of who are still associated with the company, it did a small change in its nomenclature along the journey. Its original name was 24/7 Customer.com. It dropped the “.com” somewhere around 2002.
  • CustomerAsset.com Started by K Ganesh and Meena Ganesh in April 2000, it was acquired by ICICI Onesource in 2002. In fact, it is by acquiring the email support company that ICICI Onesource was launched.
  • Motif. Ahmedabad-based Motif, started by Kaushal and Parul Mehta in August 2000, has not grown that much in this period. But to it goes the credit of being one of the two BPO start-ups of the 1999-2000 era that has remained independent throughout.

Out of the 12 listed above, only two24/7 Customer and Motif—have remained independent all this while, whereas Exl has regained its independence, after losing  it briefly. The rest nine have lost their original identities. 

Of course, there were others that started during that period but they never grew beyond a threshold to make any impact. Also, I have not included the non-entrepreneurial BPO companies who started out during that period. That includes Intelenet—started as a 50-50 JV of TCS and HDFC—and GTL, an existing telecom equipment company. Both were in Mumbai. Both are no longer with their promoters but Intelenet, even though it has changed hands several times, somehow retains its name and its original CEO. Another start-up of that era, started by the Hiranandani group, Zenta, has gone through a lot of transformation and ownership changes before Accenture acquired it in late 2011. 

A few others had started even earlier, when there was no term called BPO,  doing vertical specific outsourcing. Significant among them are Vision Healthsource, which started in 1997 in Chennai to provide medical billing services, and was later acquired by Perot Systems in 2003. Another company—Techbooks—started even earlier, in late 80s, doing publishing back-office work in Delhi. The company still remains independent but sports a different name, Aptara.

Interestingly IT companies saw the opportunity and during 2000-2002, most of them jumped to the BPO bandwagon. But the identity change story applies equally to them as well. Most of them, realizing that BPO is a very different kind of work requiring different kind of employees, started with a different name but along the way, they too dropped those special names and today, almost all of them are known as XXX BPO, XXX being the parent company. Here is a quick overview of these companies.

  • Mphasis. Mphasis was one of the first to see the opportunity and started its BPO business under the name Msource. It ultimately became Mphasis BPO.
  • HCL. Another early entrant to BPO, HCL started this business in 2001, under the name E Serve Technologies, which became HCL E Serve, before finally becoming HCL BPO.
  • Infosys. Phaneesh Murthy, then in Infoys, was instrumental in setting up Progeon, Infosys’ BPO business. And why, it even got 20% equity investment from Citicorp. Today, it is called Infosys BPO.
  • Wipro. Wipro got into the business through acquisition of Spectramind. After running as Wipro Spectramind for some time, it became Wipro BPO.
  • TCS. TCS was one of the first companies to get into BPO business way back in 80s. But its distinctt identity in BPO were Intelenet, a JV with HDFC from which it got out and AFS—its JV with SwissAir, where it bought out the Airline’s stakes. Today, its BPO business is called TCS BPO.
  • Satyam. Satyam too started BPO business under a new name, Nipuna. Keeping with the trend, it too became Satyam BPO.
  • NIIT Technologies. NIIT Technologies started its BPO as NIIT Smartserve but is called NIIT BPO these days.

Maybe, the growing importance of BPO to the IT industry, became its nemesis when it comes to retaining its unique identity. Today, the erstwhile captives such as Genpact and WNS lead the independent third party BPO companies. But their numbers are limited.

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Digital Divide is Now Political. And That Can Be Dangerous…

The power of Internet and social media in bringing about political change is now no more unrecognized. The role social media activism, led by the likes of Wael Ghonim, played in the uprising in Egypt that led to fall of the Mubarak regime, has convinced many of its potential.

But it could be a double edged sword. In many countries across the world the penetration of Internet is extremely low. Penetration of social media is even lower. Take India for example. The number of regulr Internet users is less than 8%. The number of Monthly Active Users (MAUs) of Facebook in India as of December 2011 was 46 million. If one takes into account only the individual users, the number of Indian people on Facebook would be somewhere between 2-3%. In a country like India, that is not bad at all, measuring purely from the point of view of ICT penetration.

In fact, a consumer product company trying to market a lifestyle product, there is no other media that is as efficient as Facebook for reaching out to say, affluent youth aged 18-25.

But the danger lies in assuming that the opinion of this tiny section of Facebook users is the opinion of the citizens of India. While many ordinary people do that fairly innocently, there are pressure groups who know this and do all they can to manipulate the activities on social media—often camouflaging their message as popular opinion.

Sometimes, even if there is no concerted effort, there can be huge disconnects between the kind of people who arre today on social media and other sections in the society.

I myself learned it the hard way. During the Anna Hazare agitation, the road in front of my house was converted to a virtual Dharna ground for 3-4 days, when Anna was in Tihar Jail. My house is very close to the jail. Seeing so many autowallas, vegetable vendors, and rickshawwallas among the protesting crowd, I asked a few of them what they were agitating about.

And I was shocked by the commonality in their views—and how different was that from “our” common view. For the Bedis, Kejriwals, Bhushans and most of us—whether someone is a supporter or detractor of the Anna movement—there was no doubt that the whole movement was against corruption.

But to the people on the street, I was stunned to find out, corruption was, at best, one of the issues. And it was not even the top issue. Mehngai was the issue. Anna, to them, was a mascot of the common man, not a mascot of anti-corruption, as his team had projected and many of us had accepted.

Whoever I told this to in my “friends’ circle” thought I was making too much out of it—by speaking just to a handful of people. I do not blame them, as I myself was shocked when I first heard it from a couple of the rickshawallahs. But when one after another started getting into the pain of mehngai setting aside corruption, I was convinced about what was really hurting them.

But have you even seen one FB post on this, leaving aside, possibly, comments about the petrol price hike?

So, in hindsight, it does not look so surprsing to me that they saw as the villain, not just the ruling UPA government, nor the political class alone but what they termed as “jyada padhey likhey log”, “bade bade log” and so on—the elite class in general. The same elite class which was spearheading the Anna movement on Facebook.

Today, much is being made of “people’s opinion” in social media. But who are these people? They represent a tiny section of the population. There is a real danger of getting overinfluenced by their opinion, when it comes to deciding on crucial policy matters.

This is digital divide of the worst class. This political divide is far more dangerous than the economic divide that we keep talking about.

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The Naive and the Sentimental Journalist

For a long time, I have been thinking about writing this piece, for my other blog, Nothing to Declare, where I write mostly on music,. books, and culture. Though in terms of content, it belongs more to that blog, I did not put it there because of a promise that I had made to myself when I started that blog: that I would not write pure thoughts and reflections there but would highlight less discussed aspects in the above mentioned areas, with information and facts. Something that would help the readers to research further and add to our collective knowledge. This piece, as you will agree, does not exactly satisfy that requirement.

What do I mean by The Naïve and the Sentimental Journalist? Many of you would recognize that the beautiful headline is lifted and paraphrased slightly from the title of the Nobel Prize winning writer Orhan Pamuk’s book, The Naïve and the Sentimental Novelist. Pamuk himself borrows the words from a famous 18th century German essay by Fredrich Schiller, called Über naïve and sentimentalische Dichtung (On naïve and Sentimental Poetry). “The word Sentimentalisch in German used by Schiller to describe,” Pamuk explains, “the thoughtful, troubled modern poet who has lost his childlike character and naïveté, is somewhat different in meaning from the word sentimental, its counterpart in English.” Adds Pamuk, “Schiller uses the word Sentimentalisch to describe the state of mind which has strayed from nature’s simplicity and power and has become too caught up in its own emotions and thoughts.” The sentimental poet, according to Schiller, is exceedingly aware of the poem he writes, the methods and techniques he uses and the artifice involved in his endeavor.

The underlining is mine. Actually, it is this definition of the so-called sentimental—now that we have understood what it really means—poet that I apply to what I would like to call the sentimental journalist. If the English language meaning of that word bothers you too much, you can call him by any name, as long as you appreciate what I am saying: the journalist who is extremely concerned about how his work would be received and is exceedingly aware of the tools and techniques that he uses to influence that.

A journalist, of course, is no poet. And unlike the poet of the nature, he cannot be naïve and innocent. But here, I would urge the readers to equate, in their minds, the fundamental beliefs and values in journalism, to nature. And the journalists I refer to are the ones who are—or are expected to—stray away from these beliefs and values.

There are a very few universal beliefs in journalism, though how they are defined may vary. And they are complete loyalty to the reader, complete loyalty to the facts rather than a journalist’s own thoughts of what is right, and a simple and uncomplicated writing that would not conceal the facts. Every journalist knows these.

Over the years, there have been tools and techniques to beautify journalistic pieces to make them more appealing, to attract more readers and so on. But all along, the reader always remained supreme, even as what should be done with him—entertain, inform, educate, sensitize…—kept getting debated.

But of late, with some fundamental changes in the way information is reported and consumed, that basic belief is getting threatened. Even as the world, by and large, is celebrating the freedom for common people and the diminishing impact of the filters such as traditional media establishments because of the advent of Internet—and there are some very good reasons for that—this has led to dilution in certain basic assumptions about what to expect from media. Credibility is one example of that.

The raison d’être of this piece—however unfashionable, conservative it seems—is to sensitize about that credibility crisis and not at all to argue for the old order. The change Internet has brought about is, by and large, positive but it is not wise to overlook the issues that are/may be there.

The idea of this occurred to me when I heard a “new media” expert urging the young journalists in a training session to “forget the reader and write for the search engine”. Call me by any name, but I am unable to digest that, even after a few months of hearing it, and what with all the new developments happening in Internet and social media all around.

And his entire session was devoted how exactly to do that. To be fair to him, he just put it crudely enough to “shock” me. But increasingly, that is what many media organizations are trying to do, when they are trying to “reinvent themselves”–teaching young journalists to forget the concept of a reader. I remember one of the editors in my early days of journalism telling us to think about a real person while conceptualizing a feature and think how and why it would help that person.

We have drifted 180 degrees away when we say you do NOT need to worry about the reader. In fact, you need not bother who he is. What you should worry about is keywords, headlines, how many links you are putting, how you should have your headline—does not matter if it does not reflect what you are saying in the text below.

Pamuk’s (actually Schiller’s) Sentimentalisch novelist/poet is not doing it with an explicit objective that is anything other than appealing to his reader; but the new journalist is doing it to achieve some other objective—to compete, as many would proudly describe it.

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