The internet and the developing world

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 11 April 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1111

Richard Smith talked to India's premier information scientist, Subbiah Arunachalam, about whether the internet will solve the information problems of the developing world

Subbiah Arunachalam, India's most distinguished information scientist, is a gentle fellow with a gift for controversy. When the New York Times covered a speech in 1982 by India's prime minister, Indira Gandhi, it quoted extensively from an article that Professor Arunachalam had written entitled, “Why is Indian science mediocre?”—just at the time that Mrs Gandhi was telling the world that India would soon catch up with the advanced countries with the quality of its scientific research. She was of course wrong.

Now Professor Arunachalam has been asked to go to Germany to debate with Nicholas Negroponte, the guru of the digital age, on whether the digital revolution will solve the information problems of the developing world. Professor Negroponte thinks it will. Professor Arunachalam says it might eventually, but first it will increase the gulf between the haves and the have nots.

Professor Arunachalam, who shares his time between the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras and the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, has also made …

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