Developing South Asia
SAARC is one of the poorest
regions of the world. Home to one fifth of the world, all eight
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries are
still developing. They have attained varying degrees of
development and poverty alleviation. But they do share many
problems and many concerns.
It is in this context that South Asians should welcome the
proposed SAARC Development Fund which is likely to be endorsed
at the Colombo Summit next month. The proposal was in fact
brought at the last Summit in New Delhi, but the final Charter
will be ready at this year’s summit.
This will fulfil a long-felt need as South Asian countries
have traditionally relied on Western and increasingly, Eastern
aid for developing their countries instead of pooling their
resources and helping each other. With the establishment of the
Fund, SAARC countries will be able to rely on each other.
SAARC countries must also strive to increase intra-region
trade, which is low even with the operationlisation of several
free trade agreements among individual countries.
The full implementation of the South Asian Free Trade
Arrangements in just a few years will address this problem to a
great extent. ‘Trade, not aid’ should be the SAARC countries’
motto and ambition.
SAARC is also still in its infancy in terms of developing
people-to-contact. In spite of nearly all SAARC countries having
the same cultural background, intra-regional travel has not
The easing of visa restrictions (or altogether visa-free
travel) and more affordable flights/ferry links and
accommodation would spur more South Asians to travel within
SAARC should also consider having a SAARC Visa for non-South
Asians, similar to the pan-European Schengen. This will enable
them to travel all over South Asia on a single visa, saving
money, time and the hassle.
Another excellent proposal that will be passed at the Colombo
Summit concerns the establishment of the South Asian University.
This too, is a long-felt need. This will give an opportunity for
future leaders and intellectuals of South Asia to receive higher
education in an atmosphere that will reinforce South Asian
It may even help save foreign exchange that could otherwise
end up in the West. SAARC does have a long way to go before it
reaches the level of the European Union, but we do see a renewed
commitment on the part of all South Asian leaders to take SAARC
in that direction. It is a sign of better things to come.
The future is online
Where does privacy begin and end
on the Net ? Is it possible to control the Net ? How does one
deal with the countless number of websites that solicit and
display private information ? And can anyone seek information on
individual users from websites ? These are questions that are
yet to be answered.
We pose these questions in the light of a US Judge’s order to
Google to turn over YouTube user data to Viacom. The verdict has
sparked an outcry from privacy advocates in the midst of a legal
showdown over video piracy.
Viacom, owner of movie studio Paramount and MTV Networks,
requested the information as part of its US$ 1 billion copyright
infringement lawsuit against the popular online video service
and its deep-pocketed parent, Google.
Judge Louis Stanton of the US District Court for the Southern
District of New York ordered Google on Tuesday to turn over as
evidence a database with usernames of YouTube viewers, what
videos they watched when, and users’ computer addresses.
This is a monumental task, given that YouTube counts tens of
millions of users all over the world. Millions are logged onto
YouTube any second of the day.
The verdict has far reaching consequences for the future of
the Net as a whole, not just video sharing and social networking
sites. There is no doubt that the Net is literally a convoluted
web which has personal details of millions of people, stored in
so-called ‘secure’ sites and servers.
Increasingly, most people are turning to the Net to manage
their lives, from online calendars and to web-based calling. As
the Net grows and the number of users rises, there will be more
such details online.
Besides, the Internet should be not be seen as a threat to
other forms of entertainment. It complements them. For example,
those who see a good movie trailer on YouTube will naturally be
inclined to see the full film at the theatre. The future is
online and the Net is likely to conquer any challenges to this