‘Bridgital Nation – Solving Technology’s People Problem’ review: Fantastic bond

Two writers push for a virtual bridge to connect diverse India

March 28, 2020 05:22 pm | Updated 05:22 pm IST

Planners have long dreamt of building a bridge between education and work. The best that some of them could manage to create was a flyover — an approximate, long-range link between general skills that schools might teach and work opportunities in a flourishing economy.

To offer a bridge in the middle of an economic slowdown is bold indeed. N. Chandrasekaran and Roopa Purushothaman promise a multi-purpose bridge. Apart from schools and work, their bridge will help to link talent with opportunities, professionals with the masses, governments with the governed, and so on. The title reveals the versatile identity of the bridge _ it is digital.

This is not the first time we are being told about an all-purpose balm for all our miseries as a nation. Technology enthusiasts have been saying it all along, since the 1990s, to be precise, that old, time-consuming approaches can now be given a fair valedictory, simply because a brave, shining, corruption-free world is waiting to be inaugurated.

New words

The transition has now matured, having invented its own vocabulary. Words like change, problem and transition are out; they have been replaced, respectively, by transformation, challenge and disruption.

Although these verbal shifts have occurred globally, solution-advocacy is sharply national. That is why Chandrasekaran and Purushothaman call their book ‘bridgital nation’. They start and persist throughout the book that India can be treated as a unit, a cohesive entity, without conflicts or paradoxes, let alone contradictions. There is no room for acknowledging a political context either; everybody is presumed to be together in this search for solutions. The search is somewhat desperate, as it must be completed before our demographic dividend runs out.

Familiar though it sounds, the authors give it a distinct human, in fact, feminine character. Their style is that of purposive fiction, inhabited by characters chosen and carefully built to represent a problem, such as the socio-cultural constraints faced by women in the job market.

The plot or life-stories are well-crafted, to give a pan-India authenticity to the characters. All this imparts a seductive quality to the prose and a benign feel to its message.

The only irksome detail is the sub-title: ‘solving technology’s people problem’. It is all too transparent, suggesting that the technology is already there, leaping towards its next artificial intelligence. Its development is not going to wait for people or their governments to catch up. Hence, if people don’t benefit, it is their problem. Luckily, this unfortunate echo does not run through the book.

Two key areas

Education and health are the two key areas the authors hope will benefit most from the digital bridge they propose, in addition to agriculture, logistics, financial services and the judiciary.

Interestingly, they don’t seem to notice that in both education and healthcare, ‘bridgital’ solutions will deprive the main players, i.e. teachers and doctors, of the benefit that direct experience of diagnosis brings. If, for instance, a software can tell a teacher which specific activities will help different children, following their digitally evaluated performance in a test, why should the teacher worry about lack, or loss, of agency in a workplace jointly dominated by bureaucracy and corporations? In the fully bridgitalised world, professional agency and autonomy will be things of the past; a wealthy nation would regard them as memorabilia.

Bridgital Nation: Solving Technology’s People Problem; N. Chandrasekaran & Roopa Purushothaman, Allen Lane/Penguin, ₹799.

The writer is a former director of NCERT.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.