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BW Businessworld

Information And Revolution

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Are we in the middle of an information revolution that dominates and shapes virtually every aspect of our lives? Or is this just the very beginning of a revolution that will change our world every five years or even every two years?

How much further will this take us? How prepared are we to handle this unending and ever increasing flow of information?

We get impressed with new technology rapidly and we also get blasé about it equally fast.

These are superfluous questions at a level but also very fundamental. The pace of change in the information age is so rapid that we barely have the time to reflect on how we are hurtling towards a profoundly new way of life.

The Internet is just 20 years old. Mobile communication devices are slight younger. Wireless access of telecom for data and multi-media is still evolving.

As we enter the third year of the second decade of the third millennium, it seems that managing information will be the most challenging activity for all of us. At the institutional and individual level. For governments and corporates. For families and societies. The best way to manage the revolution created by information is to harness it.

Let me take the liberty of offering some suggestions on how to cope and co-opt the digital world.

For Governments
: Embrace social media, don’t fear it. Ensure that each ministry, department and official understands that social media is as much a part of our life as telephone has been in the past. Traditional forms of communication will not go away. Diamond cuts diamond. Online and social media is as benign and as malignant as the people who use it. Be nimble enough to react fast to developing situations. Don’t censor it or shut it down. You will fail.

For Corporates: Don’t overwhelm your consumers with information. Play it subtle. Yes, the new digital media is a great vehicle to reach out to your target audience. But information overkill will drive them away. A few thousand likes will not translate into a better topline. Constant pestering will not endear you. It will just add to the clutter you want to break. In the end, the quality of your product and service will decide your success. Everything may change, but there is nothing like a happy consumer to ensure continued success.

For Societies: The revolution of information will not automatically support every revolution you want to support. Every cause may bring thousands to the fore. But there will be millions who will stay away. Causes will have to be inclusive for revolutions to be effective. The conservative corners of societies will soon find that the world is a circle. There are no corners left. Everyone will be open to scrutiny and question. Be prepared to be answerable and accountable. Those who want to hold on the past, will find themselves grasping at straws. The blizzard of information and knowledge will sweep away most cobwebs of the mind.

For Connected Individuals: It’s great to have an ever increasing digital footprint. But sharing pictures and offering opinions and creating online connections will not necessarily make you a more accomplished person. It is easy to choose your interests online. But don’t let that make you insular. Browsing news in a paper will help you know more about the world around you than being a subscriber of selected feeds. Remember, you don’t know what you don’t know. The virtual world can’t replace the real world.

(Pranjal Sharma is a senior business writer)