Digital Darwinism

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Published: May 16, 2016 5:34:24 AM

India’s indigenous mapping software, Bhuvan, has little to persuade users away from a Google Maps

The debate of videshi versus swadeshi has once again taken centre-stage, but this time in the context of technology. BJP MP Tarun Vijay urged “patriotic Indians” to use the Bhuvan mapping software developed by Isro. Bhuvan, developed in 2009, allows users to explore 2D/3D maps, especially of India, over the web. While the software certainly entails benefits for the government given that it provides for mapping for disaster services, climate and environment, etc, the layman-user may find little of interest. The Economic Times wrote about how the software is easy to load, but lacks basic features like location-tracking, traffic updates. Bhuvan also is not handy when it comes to services like locating ATMs or sharing location over the internet. The only place where it trumps a Google Maps is that it provides services in four Indian languages—Maps can do it only with Hindi.

While the software is chiefly directed for government-use, to attract the lay user, it will have to do better than providing just location data and clearer images of rooftops, because in a free market, people will lean more towards a technology that offers a larger spectrum of uses and is widely-used already. Pleading patriotism just won’t cut it for Bhuvan. Example of digital Darwinism abound today—Blackberry, though offering one of the most secure communication services, lost out in the long run to smartphones from the likes of Apple and Samsung, simply because the latter offered much more. The best the government can do for Bhuvan is to keep adding features that excite general users, and hope that people take to these. A good way to start would be to hold competitions to come up with new and improved features.

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