India experienced its dotcom moment in the early 1990s in the wake of the economic liberalisation policy. Since then, the country has seen an exponential rise in technology, specially the Internet. The Internet has been the fastest growing communication medium in urban areas of the country. By the late Nineties, the personal computer (PC) had come into many homes. The new millennium opened new horizons. There were several phenomenal developments in the telecommunication sector. These had some social ramifications as well.
The recently released book, India Connected – Mapping the Impact of New Media, published by Sage Publications, deals with these key issues. Edited by Sunetra Sen Narayan and Shalini Narayanan, it takes up many pertinent issues related to new media with special emphasis on India. The book is divided into three parts. The theme of Part I is Theoretical Perspectives, Part II is about Politics, Government and the Market and Part III deals with Historical Exclusions.
In the first part, digital divide, diffusion and the influence of ownership patterns in the new media environment are discussed. The first two issues are foundational ones and influence most other aspects of the new media environment while the latter relates to the specific contexts of public participation and influence in production and dissemination of news content. The section also focuses on development and working of government bodies pertaining to information technology and telecommunication, government programmes and project implementation through various projects in India.
In Part II, the effect of social media on politics, how social media has created a new context for political activism, social movements that took place in India, etc are analysed. The practices in e-governance though new media in India and how new media has been regulated by the government as well as Information Communication Technology (ICT) and how it can be used to impart education in schools are also covered here. Current practices of online advertising are explored, too.
The last part of the book deals mostly with injustices meted out to those who do not have access to the Internet, especially women and the disabled. Various projects and forums that have been formed to bring more women into the new media environment are considered. The section also takes up the serious issue of how physically challenged persons are using the Internet and their constraints in accessing certain forms of information. It also discusses the regulations the Government is bringing in to provide inclusivity for the physically challenged and the socially marginalised.
India has been travelling on the information highway for over 25 years now. Though there have been many books in the West on this issue, a comprehensive volume on new media in India was hitherto lacking. From history to regulations to impact, this book covers many areas of the topic. It is invaluable in understanding the current new media milieu in India and where it is heading.
(Reviewed by Sarita Bose.)
July – September 2017