GII: A group that tracks Indian cyberspace

June 9th, 2008 - 1:07 pm ICT by IANS  

By Frederick Noronha
Bangalore, June 9 (IANS) Does India have too many “cyber law experts”? What’s wrong with the Blackberry service in India? How is BSNL’s IPO shaping up? These and several such issues routinely crop up on India-GII. So what is India-GII? Located in cyberspace, it is a network of techies and others fleshing out cyber issues in the country, tracking its progress from one of the most expensive and monopolistic telecom markets to one of the most competitive.

India-GII describes itself as a “list (that) has existed since 1995″.

“There were no real expectations we placed on this list,” said IIT grad Arun Mehta - one of the list owners. “Other than to act as a forum to discuss matters important to us - the internet and everything around it in India.”

Why the name?

Those days, Mehta recalled, concepts such as the NII (National Information Infrastructure) and its global counterpart, the GII, were brought into currency by former US vice president Al Gore.

“We needed a short name for the list, part of which needed to be India, and we could not come up with a better suffix to indicate what about India we were interested in… we are perhaps the last group keeping the GII name alive,” Mehta said, with a smile.

Before India-GII came into existence and the internet wasn’t as popular or available as today, Mehta and his ilk used the Bulletin Board Services to make late night calls to exchange notes.

That couldn’t - and didn’t - last long, and Mehta approached the CPSR (Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility) network, which helped out.

Today, the India-GII list (online at, boasts of 352 subscribers - academics, bureaucrats, activists, journalists and, of course, techies - “people simply interested in India’s telecommunications and Internet growth”.

Mehta, co-owner along with techies Suresh Ramasubramanian, Udhay Shankar N and former editor and engineer VV Crishna, said at the time that the need for such a forum was very high, as mainstream media coverage of the subject was poor. “The quality was terrible, reflecting the poor knowledge among journalists.”

That has been overcome; India-GII experts examine each issue critically, separate the hype from reality and spot errors in published material. Said Singapore-based member Dinesh: “In technology, there are quite a full team of experts here.”

Dinesh said he wished “some serious networking plans were being put in place to help India, especially in the remote areas, where the network penetration is very small”, and small ISPs begun, using Wimax and mesh technologies, to provide quality service based on open-source applications.

Perhaps, it may not remain a mere “wish” for long. As a result of “quality information” provided by India-GII members, action has often been taken at official levels, said the Delhi-based Mehta.

Helping matters are the several information and technology officials on the list, who circulate relevant information to ministry colleagues. “I would like to think this may have had some influence on policy, but of course there is no way to verify this,” he said, looking back.

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