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Information and Development: Connecting the dots

Note - Following is an excerpt from a Guest Lecture by Anshuman Sahoo at Jagan Nath University, Haryana in February 2017 on 'Information, Development, and Blogging - A short talk'.

In the dense reserved forests of Sundargarh in Odisha, India, lives one of the most ancient tribes of the Indian subcontinent, the ‘Paudi Bhuinyans’. Shy and reserved by nature, and total strangers to the modern technologies, they are considered to be one of the most underdeveloped communities in the country.
I was sent there by an organisation to conduct some field study regarding the impact of some recently enacted legislations on their day-to-day lives. However, I went a step ahead and contacted some local NGOs to work towards various community rights in the locality.
Within a month, there was a visible difference. Almost all the villagers had got the title of their land rights, had written receipts for every transaction they had with government officials, and formed associations within themselves to ensure democratic governance.”
Now, let’s ponder over a simple question.
What was the thing that I and the NGOs had that the tribal people didn’t have? What made us seem like more developed? What did empower us to bring on reforms?
Information, it is. Simply put, I knew things that they did not! You may call it awareness, knowledge, know-how or anything. The name may vary, but the function and importance remains the same. The key recipe in the dish of development; the most important thing that differentiates the developed from the underdeveloped!

Have you ever wondered what is the basic difference between an unemployed graduate from your locality and a highly paid professor at Harvard? There are many, but the main difference is that he knows things that the unemployed graduate doesn’t; and that makes all the difference. Have you ever thought why you pay that dentist, or lawyer, or teacher? Because they know things that you do not. They’re paid for the information they have access to.
Now that we know what the basic ingredient is, why not try to utilize it?
Mass communication has been revered as a powerful tool of social change by many a leading organisations and occasions. Long back in 1958, UNGA called for a concrete programme of action to build press, radio broadcasting, and Television as agents of social change. Mass communication is considered one of the most powerful tools available because of its ability to reach a large number of people simultaneously and efficiently with little effort from the broadcaster itself.

And the good news? In the era of information technology, every netizen is endowed with the provision of social networking and digital media: and that makes every netizen a potential media broadcasting agent, an agent of change!
We all have an endless list of options before us to get started as agents of change: Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, YouTube, Instagram etc. The information era has clouded us with information; access to information had never been easier. And what that means?
We have been empowered. And, with great powers, comes great responsibility. It’s time to stand up to our responsibilities!

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