Spanning from January 2005 to December 2008 and set in the continents of Asia, America, Africa and Europe, Release 2.0 is an interesting science fiction novel and thriller concerning the Indian IT industry. This futuristic novel explores two possible outcomes of the Indian IT industry- both utopian and dystopian. From another perspective, it also chronicles the rise of the IT industry in India and its expected future.
The current contribution of the Indian IT industry sadly mostly pertains to the services sector. The ultimate contribution of the IT industry to India as a nation is almost nothing apart from the minor revenue earned. IT work is outsourced to India because of the cheap labour the country provides. India however faces competition from Hungary, Iceland, Morocco, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand as far as outsourcing is concerned.
Release 2.0 prophesises that if India’s IT industry relies heavily on services not only will it stagnate but bears a risk of actually being wiped out. The author has drawn a wonderful parallel with the mills in Mumbai that relied on cheap labour. In the 1850s India had a booming export business of yarn. The Japanese mills however improved in productivity by investing in new technology. Soon the Japanese mills superseded the Indian mills and took away the Chinese market. The author paints a grim image of the carcasses of the defunct textile mills in central Mumbai waiting to be sold for their land value. IT firms will face the same consequences if they don’t innovate. This is the dystopian outcome of the Indian IT industry.
A major part of Release 2.0 is set on the tiny isle of Mauritius. Mauritius, which is known as a tourist and leisure destination actually houses a backup centre for the software development centres in mainland India. It stacks seventeen and a half tonnes of back up batteries and its diesel generators has four thousand gallons of fuel to provide fifteen days of power supply in case of power failure India. A mysterious figure called Mr.Mauritius heads the operations out there. His real identity is kept under wraps and is only revealed at the end of the novel.
A special feature of Release 2.0 is that it is very grand in its technological vision. The author goes into intricate detail to lucidly describe these new innovative technologies.
Release 2.0 suggests that the Indian IT industry should follow the steps analyzing, designing, building and testing to innovate. The characters of the novel create a computerized hair cutting machine which creates a data base of every strand of hair. An electronic pair of scissors clips hair. An identical scalp is created bearing the desired haircut which was replicated on the human scalp. The customer is given the privilege to review the progress of the haircut by checking out its image display on the computer screen. This technology is furthered into the collection of data from across the world through wireless means using secure data-channels which itself is the most beautiful ramification of a seemingly simplistic technology. A concept as easy as putting ‘individual’ tags has been given an entirely new dimension in the wireless future.
The characters use RFID technology (radio frequency identification by electromagnetic and electrostatic coupling) to precisely identify any object or person any where in the world. This system bears a striking similarity to the futuristic technological system of global tracking shown in critically acclaimed motion picture Minority Report.
The inflowing information is stored in a mammoth data base. A brick wall astonishingly lights up to form a gigantic plasma screen. After all to exhibit mammoth data a screen which is the size of a wall is needed.
A normal ball point pen turns out to be a digital pen. It’s activated by removing the cap. It’s deactivated by replacing the cap. The pen has an inbuilt modem which is the size of a hairpin. The pen has an invisible digital camera. Its optical sensor captures any work done with the pen and duly registers the pen’s movements. A processor digitalizes the words and images. The data thus collected is then transferred to the ‘wall’ through the hairpin modem thus enabling the building of a huge database at the backend.
The book suggests an amazing networking strategy to help in the innovation. Like minded people are who want to want to see India’s IT industry innovatively flourishing are encouraged to be a member of the South Asians’ Network for Research and Development. The members may actively participate in the research or help by financing the projects. They must be well-coordinated like the Al Qaeda not in promoting terrorism but in evolving a sophisticated and secure system for information dissemination. Though the members of this network are not directly connected to the head person the IT related information that they send are reaching the headquarters. The back-end data may be available to the front end whenever required simultaneously maintaining top secrecy. This is only possible by the way of an emerging telecom provider. Banks and the President of India are also involved in the networking.
Beauty contests are eyed for choosing beautiful woman who has in depth IT knowledge. It is a refreshing change to see IT companies sponsoring a beauty pageant instead of cosmetic companies. Instead of asking clichéd questions on world peace, IT related questions are asked.
Release 2.0 suggests that new overseas markets like France need to be tapped by the Indian IT industry. If through innovation India seems to be a lucrative IT hub, the brain drain trend may be reversed. Indeed eminent IT personalities may be motivated to pack their bags and return to their mother land India.
The utopian future that the book envisages is IT people making a beeline for Bangalore, leading Indian IT companies merging thereby forming one of the world’s largest company, villages being digitalized and the IT industry providing a major share of the GDP. The key to India being an IT powerhouse according to the book is through innovation and meticulous networking.
Besides its visionary ideology, the book stands out for the way it has chronicled and caricatured some of the chief architects of the IT industry.
Though this book is set in the IT industry it is not meant for just IT professionals. Any person who enjoys thrillers should find it an enjoyable read.