Centre for Internet & Society

Ashish’s monograph follows the career of a priori contradiction, one that only mandates a state mechanism to perform an act of delivery, and then disqualifies the state from performing that very act effectively. This contradiction which he names as the Last Mile problem is a conceptual hurdle, not a physical one and when put one way, the Last Mile is unbridgeable, when put another, it is being bridged all the time.

This monograph provides a set of four case studies of the Indian State. The case studies address four technologies, television, telecommunications, networked higher education and the Unique Identity project. It also looks at Wireless-in-Local Loop (or WLL) technology that constituted the first revolution in telecommunications in the early 1990s, the arrival of satellite television also in the 1990s, the low-end IT ‘device’ with which the Ministry of HRD plans to use digitized distance education to increase enrolment of Indian students by five per cent of the overall population, and the celebrated Aadhaar.

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The Leap of Rhodes or, How India Dealt with the Last Mile Problem - An Inquiry into Technology and Governance: Call for Review

Re-thinking the Last Mile Problem research project by Ashish Rajadhyaksha is a part of the Researchers @ Work Programme at the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore. The ‘last mile’ is a communications term which has a specific Indian variant, where technology has been mapped onto developmentalist–democratic priorities which have propelled communications technologies since at least the invention of radio in the 1940s. For at least 50 years now, the ‘last mile’ has become a mode of a techno-democracy, where connectivity has been directly translated into democratic citizenship. It has provided rationale for successive technological developments, and produced an assumption that the final frontier was just around the corner and that Internet technologies now carry the same burden of breaching that last major barrier to produce a techno-nation. The project has fed into many different activities in teaching, in examining processes of governance and in looking at user behaviour.

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A provisional definition for the Cultural Last Mile

In the first of his entries, Ashish Rajadhyaksha gives his own spin on the 'Last Mile' problem that has been at the crux of all public technologies. Shifting the terms of debate away from broadcast problems of distance and access, he re-purposes the 'last mile' which is a communications problem, to make a cultural argument about the role and imagination of technology in India, and the specific ways in which this problem features in talking about Internet Technologies in contemporary India.

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Rethinking the last mile Problem: A cultural argument

This research project, by Ashish Rajadhyaksha from the Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, is mainly a conceptual-archival investigation into India’s history for what has in recent years come to be known as the ‘last mile’ problem. The term itself comes from communication theory, with in turn an ancestry in social anthropology, and concerns itself with (1) identifying the eventual recipient/beneficiary of any communication message, (2) discovering new ways by which messages can be delivered intact, i.e. without either distortion of decay. Exploring the intersection of government policy, technology intervention and the users' expectations, with a specific focus on Internet Technologies and their space in the good governance protocols in India, the project aims at revisiting the last mile problem as one of cultural practices and political contexts in India.

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