India Discovers Life On-Line
"The Institute", News from IEEE, Jan 1995, Anand Shroff

India is the latest country to go on-line in a big way. With Internet connections, on-line services and Bulletin Board Systems mushrooming up with surprising regularity, India is finally finding its way into Cyberspace.

From the late '80s and early '90s when information networking used to be a resource which only large corporations could afford, more and more users are now linking up to on-line services and BBSs. The reasons for this growth can be identified as the change of policy of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), falling modem prices, better telecom facilities, and of course, the growing need to share information. The DoT has relaxed its stranglehold over the Telecommunications market to a certain extent, and along with the Indian government's liberalisation policies, big players such as Motorola, US Robotics, Hayes and MicroComm have entered the growing modem market in India. This has led to a huge drop in prices, which were once as high as Rs. 1,00,000($ 3300). A high speed modem is now available for approximately Rs. 20,000($ 650).

India's link to the Internet is via ERnet(Educational and Research Network) which acts as the gateway. Relatively few users have full internet access as the cost for such a link is still very high. The more commercially viable services are commercial on-line services and BBSs. With the recent entry of India Online, a service designed on the lines of Compuserve and America Online, a number of services now offer information networking, teleconferencing, and e-mail at a relatively low cost. For the hobbyist, however, the BBSs are *the* place to be. At last count, there are about 25 BBSs in the country which have sprung up in a relatively short period of time. Says Suchit Nanda, System Operator (SysOp) of Live Wire! BBS(the first BBS in the Indian subcontinent), "the possiblity of chatting with people from different walks of life, along with a large collection of shareware and freeware is what attracts people to BBSs." Live Wire! itself is based in Bombay, with twelve telephone lines dedicated to modem calls. Delhi, with more than 10 BBSs, has the largest user strength. Among the Delhi BBSs is Primal Scream (a BBS for rockers and cyberpunks), Nebula Net(for Astronomy discussions), and Status which boasts of a medical forum. BBSs typically provide e-mail services, routed through FidoNet, brainchild of Tom Jennings (Fido, incidentally is the name of his dog).

ERnet has now started offering Full Internet Access to educational institutes at subsidised rates. As a result of this, many Indian colleges will be on the Internet soon. Other on-line services such as Axcess, GEMS400, ICnet etc offer various messaging and e-mail facilities. India is now well and truly in Cyberspace. On cards, is videoconferencing and easy access to the Internet for business corporations.

Last update: Jan 1998