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Archive for February 2015

The marginal utility of WiFi (terms and conditions notwithstanding)

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Life at business school for me was mostly about trying not to sleep in class and ensuring that I had enough grades to get out of the place with a respectable pass. But as with most things in life, the business school experience was not consistently low, there were intermittent periods of learning too.

One concept that I found very interesting and which stuck on to my head for all these years is that of “marginal utility”. It essentially says that the value of something does not depend on what it does for you now, but what a little more of it can do for you.

It is this concept of marginal utility that immediately came to mind when there was this uproar about how the Aam Aadmi Party had cheated the people of Delhi by promising them free Wifi and later qualifying it with “terms and conditions” once the elections were over. The problem as I see it lies in what exactly free WiFi means to various segments of society and how is it going to be used by them.

For the person whose primary needs of connectivity is met, free WiFi could mean unlimited bandwidth and unlimited download that he can use to stream Hollywood movies onto his Mac. However, for the person who has had no access to the net before, WiFi would mean something else altogether, The marginal utility of WiFi which depends on what use is it going to be put to, therefore also depends on who is going to use it.

Now, the Aam Aadmi Party positions itself as the party of the common man. Therefore we need to see what is the marginal utility of Wifi to the common man, be it only for 30 mins.

  • Free WiFi is the the two hours saved by not having to stand in a queue on a hot summer day to buy a railway ticket
  • Free WiFi is not having to face the grumpy Babu who believes he is gods gift to human kind, that the pay he gets is simply to reach office and anything else he does is a favour.
  • Free WiFi is the ability to apply for your ration card without having to pay a bribe and to also have an instant acknowledgement of the same.
  • Free WiFi is to be able to lodge a complaint about a corrupt government servant without having to fear being traced back by your phone number.
  • Free WiFi is to be able to reach the police and let them know of your exact location by the simple act of hitting a button when you are alone on the streets and being attacked.
  • Free WiFi is being able to download your text books.
  • Free WiFi is being able to get your board exam results without having to pay someone Rs.20
  • Free WiFi is being able to search for and apply to colleges you would otherwise have not even heard of.
  • Free WiFi is being able to file an RTI query.
  • Free WiFi is being able to operate your bank account without having to walk all the way to the bank.

30 mins of free WiFi can transform the lives of the common man. It is this common man who voted for the AAP and it is this common man who is going to evaluate them on what they deliver.

As I see it, those waiting for the inevitable backlash against false promises will have to continue waiting for some time to come.

Written by El Presidente

February 13, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Posted in Others