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Synergising strengths of infotech, entertainment industries stressed at ICT 2002 conclusion

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The four-day Information Communications and Technology (ICT) 2002 symposium that concluded on Saturday emphasised the need for the IT and entertainment industries to interconnect through synergetic linkages

Organised by the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom), Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and Manufacturers Association of Information Technology (MAIT) in Mumbai over four days, the symposium brought together leaders of the infotech and entertainment industries.

Among the key points that came through in the discussions:

*Nasscom, Ficci, CII to form new alliance 

*Synergising strengths of infotech, entertainment industries required 

*The links connecting the platform between IT and entertainment need to be sourced

*Industry implosion continues

*Everything has to be digital for convergence to happen

*Future is interactivity 

The first session dealt with opportunities for information technology in the sphere of entertainment. It was during this session that Nasscom, CII and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) announced a new alliance. No details of what this alliance would entail were provided though. 

Editor Bombay Times Ayaz Menon noted that the overall mood was sombre and reflective, quite different from previous years. He noted the repercussions of dotcom bust were still being felt but said that what would emerge now would be of more lasting value. The media implosion continues albeit in a different manner, he said. 

The first session concerned the technology of entertainment. Chairman of Reliance Entertainment Amit Khanna, who chaired the morning sessions, said that the Indian entertainment industry had crystallised. He noted that 32 companies were listed on the stock exchange. It is important for the strengths of IT and entertainment be leveraged since leisure cannot exist in a vacuum, Khanna said. 

Filmmaker Subhash Ghai said that while technology was indistinguishable from magic, it must be grounded in reality to be a success. He said that he could visualise 2020 as being one nation, one world and one people due to technology. But technology needs a soul otherwise you will have a cold war. Technology should be seen as a means to an end, not an end in itself, Ghai said. 

Ghai also stressed the importance of education. This is why Mukta Arts has been developing its scope of operations for 21 years by procuring cutting edge equipment even though it might be costly, Ghai said. He cited the example of the Kodak Sound System used for his film Taal. Instruments being played in Madras and Hyderabad could be recorded in Mumbai. He also said that an institute for television, film and other arts - Vasliwoods International - was being set up. He added that religion and culture could be promoted through technology. He gave the example of film - The Ten Commandments - which made people aware of the virtues of Christianity. 

CEO Sony Entertainment Television Kunal Dasgupta delivered the keynote address. He spoke of the need for attempting to find the links in the platform between IT and entertainment. Citing the example of Microsoft's Bill Gates and Apple's Steve Jobs, Dasgupta pointed out that at the Las Vegas Convention held last month the two tech titans had emphasised only their own strengths. 

Dasgupta spoke about convergence where voice and data feeds would be combined. Everything has to be digital for convergence to happen, he said. The problem is that a lot of content in the past, be it sports broadcasts or old films is in analog form. So IT has to come up with a cheap way to convert analog to digital. IT has to figure out a way to send digital bandwidth through the analog line, he said. Dasgupta also pointed out that creating technology for high bandwidth is meaningless beyond a point. Rival China has the same problem of trying to digitize its entertainment content, he said.

Dasgupta also stressed the importance of interactivity. Kaun Banega Crorepati, the popular game show which used to air on Star Plus, would have been more impactful if the audience could play the game through their mobile phones, he pointed out. He also dismissed reports that the game show phenomenon was dead. KBC was merely the first step, according to him. Interaction will take the content to the next level. He gave examples of digital interactive entertainment all over the world. In Singapore for instance the airport has a game similar in theme to Who Wants to be a Millionaire. So people waiting for their flight can play and try to win $ 1000. In the UK if one avails of the new Sky digital package then one can follow the movement of a specific football player. Unfortunately in India a two-way addressability system is lacking. Dasgupta, however noted the popularity of SMS which has spread like wild fire.

Dasgupta proceeded to talk about the Rs 50,000 million that the government has set aside for Doordarshan in the 10th five year plan for digital terrestrial devices. This step would help devices like video on demand (VOD) and streaming media to become more active in nature. 

Nasscom head Kiran Karnik said his organisation was trying to facilitate small and medium scale enterprises take off. Karnik however warned that tech wannabes needed to form a sustainable business model. Nasscom will soon start a monitoring program, Karnik said. Harish Mehta, a former chairman of Nasscom, briefly touched on the role of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE) - an initiative put together by Silicon Valley-based NRIs. TIE has 40 chapters all across the globe and aims to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship.

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