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India ConnectedHow the Smartphone is Transforming the World's Largest Democracy$
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Ravi Agrawal

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190858650

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190858650.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 01 August 2021



The Magic Device

(p.1) Introduction
India Connected

Ravi Agrawal

Oxford University Press

In the dusty northwestern state of Rajasthan, Phoolwati was visiting a neighboring village on business. She was addressing a small circle of women dressed in sarees. Together, they formed a kaleidoscope of reds, yellows, and pinks. The colors parted obediently when an older woman, in white, pushed her way through the huddle. “What’s going on here?” bellowed the wizened old lady, speaking the rustic Hindi of the region. She pointed at the wiry newcomer, the hub of the commotion. “Who’s this?” All eyes turned to Phoolwati. “I’m here to teach the village women about the internet,” she said, as she thrust her hand out, revealing a phone with a large screen of images and text. She encountered a blank stare. “In-ter-nate,” tried Phoolwati once again, spelling it out phonetically in Hindi. “It’s a wonderful thing. You can get all kinds of information and knowledge on it.” The old lady snorted in disdain. “We’re all illiterate here, child,” she said. “Why are you wasting our time?” This was a familiar refrain to Phoolwati’s internet evangelism. She was prepared. “Who says you need to read and write to use the internet? Who says you need to know English?” demanded Phoolwati. “This is a magic device. See?” She held up her smartphone and pressed a button. The image of a microphone popped up on the screen. (This might have been more effective had the village women seen a microphone before.) “Go on. Ask it something,” Phoolwati told them. “Kuchh bhi. Anything. This has all the answers! You must be curious about something, na?” The old lady looked on incredulously. She slapped the top of her forehead in an exaggerated show of despair. Another woman had seen a city cousin toying with a smartphone once. She felt emboldened in the presence of Phoolwati’s gadget. “Show us the Taj Mahal!” she exclaimed loudly in Hindi. To instantly summon an image of the country’s most famous monument—one that none of them had ever seen—seemed an insurmountable challenge. But Google understood. The phone came alive; a video appeared on the screen. Phoolwati pressed Play.

Keywords:   Aadhaar, China, Doordarshan, Gionee, HSBC, International Monetary Fund, Jio, Karbonn, Lava, Micromax

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