An online home for all: a luxury or basic infrastructure?

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While millions of Indians are homeless and do not have access to electricity, not to mention, internet; I was recently fascinated with this news form Turkey wherein Turkish Government plans to have their own search engine and to provide a unique mail address (and 10 gb storage) to each of its more than 70 million citizens. The project is codenamed ‘Anaposta’.

Under this project, all of our 70 million citizens will be given an e-mail address with a quota of 10 gigabytes. Every child will have an e-mail address written on his/her identity card since birth. So, will have a mobile network that can be used thanks to id number match and foreign networks, such as Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail, will not be used anymore.

turkey

While the last part about not allowing popular web mail services in Turkey, and the banning of YouTube etc in Turkey that has already been implemented, may justifiably raise some eyebrows, the desire to provide an email address to everyone may be more than a marketing and political gimmick. By allowing people to communicate smoothly with each other it may be another infrastructure that may be rightly provided by government.

Of course it is a different matter altogether whether government should be leading the infrastructure segments or is there more scope for privatisation and private players here. But one thing this project highlights is viewing online communications infrastructure too as a critical national asset prone to security concerns just like the traditional transport or communication infrastructure is.

Which leads me to the Indian scenario.  We discussed national security concerns with respect to UID project earlier too. Of course suspecting Google, Yahoo, MS, with regards to national security,  is more of paranoia than truth; so I will not focus on security aspects, but will more focus on infrastructure aspects and why having an email id and public internet hotspot where you could use that email id may be a good idea.

Suppose the UID comes bundled with a public URL of the individual pointing to a page on the web that contains public information about that individual (the individual will have some say in what information he/she wants to make public) , along with a  contact form, just like the contact form you see on WordPress blogs. Also a private email id may be allocated to the UID holder and linked to the contact form.

Thus, using the contact form, anyone can potentially contact anyone in India  without knowing the email address or revealing his/her own email address publicly. Enabling communication between citizens to such a great extent is a potential game changer.

Of course security and misuse protection would have to be built in by means of captcha (to prevent spam) and senders’ email address validity requirements. Also provisions may be there to send the message/alert about the message  to recipient using SMS in case the person has more easy access to mobile than an email. The possibilities are endless and have the potential to cover at least the population that has access to mobile services if not internet services.

To me, enabling communications infrastructure like this has the potential of speeding up C2C business (consumers-to-consumers or peer-to-peer business) by effectively enabling anyone to contact anyone at the click of a button.

What do you think? Is dreaming of an online home( URL/contact form/email address for all) an unreal and insensitive dream even when millions continue starving and have no access to physical real-world homes?  If Turkey can dream, cant we? In a future I do see great innovation happening as a result of everyone having a digital online home- the million dollar question  is – how far in the future that is?

  1. Prashant Lakhlani says

    Hi Sandy And Madhav,
    Actually an authoring service would do the trick over here. A government should provide some URL that accepts person information and tell if that is true or not, and that’s it. That would work in same manner as openID, LiveID, or Google Authentication service works.
    But we need to focus on our basic problems like education, employment etc before we go this way…(This is just my thought)

  2. Madhav Shivpuri says

    Sandy, I can understand Turkey providing everybody with an email id like [email protected] if that will be a central email-id used by the Government for all official communication, reminders etc. However I do not necessarily understand the extreme view of to ban gmail, yahoo, youtube etc.

    Let me clarify what you mean by “UID comes bundled with a public URL”- is it your argument that everyone’s UID should be of public knowledge but their email-id should be confidential? Or do you mean provide everybody with a URL like http://www.india.gov.in/firstname_lastname ?

    1. Sandy says

      Yes Madhav, I too do not understand the extreme Turkey reaction against gmail, yahoo mail etc.

      By saying that UID comes bundled with a public URL, I meant more of providing everybody with a URL of type http://www.india.gov.in/firstname_lastname_uid and thus the UID as it uniquely identifies the person may be used in the URL and may be in public knowledge; however, the email should be kept private and confidential. but yes, I am aware that there may be concerns with having the UID visible in public knowledge.

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