India: Asia’s Quiet Miracle

Bruce Gilley writes in WSJ about India’s economic reforms (link via Atanu Dey):

Almost unnoticed by the outside world, India over the past two decades has witnessed an economic transformation of staggering proportions. It is a transformation that has cut poverty to 20% of the population today from something like 40% a few decades earlier (estimates vary), while adding nine years to the life of the average Indian. Most important, it is a transformation that has been achieved through open processes of reaching a fair and consensual policy, which in the lexicon of the dissatisfied is now being disparaged as “politics.”

The democratic nature of India’s economic miracle, as frustrating as it is to those who like the stroke-of-a-pen changes of authoritarian countries like China, has ensured that reforms are more just and therefore more enduring. Inequality has remained moderate while opportunities have expanded for all. By bemoaning the incremental nature of India’s economic reforms, critics are liable to undermine the very foundations of the country’s stirring success.

India’s reforms are not just an economic issue. The country is forging a proudly democratic model of economic reforms. It is the kind of model that many developing countries, despairing that they do not have the dictatorship of China to force through difficult reforms, can hope to emulate.

The BJP government should be kept honest and chided when it falls down. But the politics that it plays are mostly the politics of balancing interests and views that, if not addressed, might threaten the entire movement. Those who criticize the consensual nature of India’s economic reforms risk undermining Asia’s quiet miracle.

Good to see a positive article on India in the international press.

First Rains

One of the joys of Mumbai life is the feeling just after the first rains of the season. Last night, accompanied by thunder and lightning, the monsoon arrived. Officially, it is still a few days away. But there was plenty of rain to bring down the temperature and create joy in one’s heart. The monsoon is an integral part of India’s climate as well as the lives of everyone. This year, there’s been a lot of discussion on rain-water harvesting all around, considering the water scarcity that much of the country faces.

My early childhood memories are of sitting in the window and just watching the heavy rains – go on for hours and hours. There is a magical hypnotic effect that the rains have – I guess one has to have grown up with the rains to feel it! Am looking forward to getting caught unexpectedly in the rains without an umbrella and getting thoroughly drenched – it happens to me every year!

India’s dependency on the monsoon is very high, and the past few years, the rainfall has not been adequate. Let’s hope that this year the rainfall is normal across the country.

Social Web

Business Weekhas a special report on the Net that we can’t live without.

Call it the Social Web. Through the dot-com bubble and bust, one trend has never wavered. Every year, millions more people around the world are using the Internet to interact in more ways than ever before — to date, find old classmates, check on medical ailments and cures, to read and express alternative views of the news, and even to get live sales help online. It’s happening at work as well: Want to check your 401(k), pay stub, or file an expense account? Increasingly, that’s all on the Web.

And these new trends complement some long-standing ones: Some 53 million Americans — one in six — now visit a chat room every month, according to market researcher Nielsen/Net Ratings, up from one in 10 in 2001, according to tech consultancy Forrester Research. E-mail is now the most popular online activity for 93% of some 4,431 Web regulars surveyed by Net consultancy Jupiter Research last September. Moreover, entrepreneurs are once again investing in ideas aimed at improving online communication.

Over the past two years, “there has been a significant shift from e-commerce to rediscovering e-communications,” says David Silver, director of the Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle. For subscribers seeking love on dating sites such as Yahoo! Personals, video and voice greetings can now be posted. And in the future, “the distinction between talking on the phone and watching movies and playing games will become blurred,” predicts Nolan Bushnell, the gaming guru who in 1972 founded Atari, which made the first commercial video-arcade game, Pong. Bushnell, who’s considered the father of computer entertainment, believes that eventually all types of media will combine to create a completely new communication experience via the Web. That will change everything from online shopping to dating to teleconferencing.

The Social Web’s ultimate impact is that “a whole generation is growing up without knowing what it’s like to live without [the Internet],” says Geoff Raslton, senior vice-president for network services at portal Yahoo!

One of the articles deals with weblogs, what BW calls “open-source media.”

International Entrepreneurial Finance

HBS Working Knowledge has a story on a research project by Walter Kuemmerle of HBS covering entrepreneurs in various countries:

According to Kuemmerle, there is one central question guiding his IEF research: how do entrepreneurial managers, and those who finance them, make sensible resource acquisition and investment decisions in an international context? Its an important question, given the rise of entrepreneurship around the globe over the last fifteen years, he said. His project complements the growing body of academic literature in three separate areas: international business (which is mainly focused on large multinational firms), international finance, and entrepreneurship.

An increasing number of entrepreneurial firms go abroad much earlier in their lives than ever before in recent business history, he explained.

There are three central ideas that have evolved from IEF, said Kuemmerle. In his words, they are:

Local context matters for the frequency and form of entrepreneurial activity.
A global perspective on opportunities by the entrepreneur enhances the performance of the entrepreneurial venture.
A global perspective on access to resources enhances the quality of deal structure for entrepreneurial ventures and thus the likelihood of venture survival, particularly in tough times when cash is tight.
Taken comprehensively, the argument here is that if you want to be successful as an entrepreneur, it is important to have a detailed understanding of the local context, but also to have a perspective on opportunities and resources globally, he said.

We must keep these points in mind when we look to expand internationally.

MEMS and Nanotech

Boston Globe writes about the small things that are going to be making a big difference in tomorrow’s world: “micro-electronic mechanical systems, or MEMS, which builds at the micron level, or millionths of a meter, and nanotechnology, which works with materials measured in the billionths of a meter, or nanometers. Together, these emerging sectors are known as ”tiny technology.” Many engineers, futurists, and technologists believe it could become the type of transformational technology — like the Internet — that leads to broad commercial and social changes.”

Nanotechnology, which involves the manipulation of atoms and molecules to create new materials and machines invisible to the naked eye, has applications for a broad array of industries, from plastics to electronics to medicine. Already, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs are suggesting products such as ”smart” pills, tiny computerized drug delivery systems that are implanted under the skin and dole out precise doses of medicine at the right time; tiny generators that would last 20 times longer than batteries and could be refueled instead of thrown out; and microchemical processors to make small amounts of chemicals on site and avoid the costs and hazards of storing and shipping toxic materials.

In much of the 20th century, Martin Schmidt, director of MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories, noted recently, engineering seemed driven to make things bigger: bigger buildings, bigger airplanes, bigger bridges. But now, at the beginning of the 21st century, he said, ”a lot of the excitement is about making increasingly small things.

Merrill Lynch and Linux


Mark Snodgrass, vice president of Merrill Lynch’s in-house technology provider, the Global Technology & Services group, said that the company has found that rebuilding its information infrastructure using Linux can reduce administration costs dramatically. In fact, Snodgrass found that although the software licensing costs of Windows was higher than Linux, the highest cost was in managing traditional Windows infrastructure. “It’s the people that cost the most,” he said.

Merrill Lynch’s new plans for its information infrastructure call for running much of its Linux applications not on their own physical machines but in virtual machines running on high-end servers. Such a scheme simplifies management and allows for rapid deployment of new Linux “servers” by activating a copy of a stored preconfigured image in as little as 2 minutes 14 seconds.

Snodgrass said the next target for using Linux could be on the desktop. The company plans to do a pilot project that will allow thin clients–computers with minimal hardware requirements–to be used as workstations. The applications would actually run on Linux and Windows terminal servers. To a customer, the result would be the same, but to the company’s administrators, all of the client’s data would be centrally stored and thus, much easier to maintain.

The irony that companies may be moving toward an infrastructure that resembles the mainframe-and-terminal setups of several decades ago didn’t escape Snodgrass.

“It’s interesting when Solaris and Windows are the ‘legacy,’ and mainframes are the new big thing,” he said.

Some very interesting comments, especially the part about using Linux on thin clients on desktop. That is exactly what we are doing. Of ourse, for small organisations, they don’t need a mainframe as a server – a new desktop will be more than good enough.

TECH TALK: Constructing the Memex: MemexCentral

Along with the software tools for MyMemex and OurMemex, there are many global-level services and actions which are required. Think of this as MemexCentral. Here is what it offers:

  • There is a blog for each of the various popular news sites and magazines, allowing us to link to them in the event that they do not have a permalink for their articles.
  • There needs to a search engine for blog posts, which can help build out the people-expertise mapping, enabling users to get to expert bloggers and hence their outlines. This is where ideas like semantic indexing can be used.
  • There is an RSS generator, just in case the blogging tool that is being used does not generate an RSS feed. It is imperative that every blog have an RSS feed which others can subscribe to.
  • A blog neighbourhood calculator uses the blogroll and links in blogs to provide the wider network around a blog. This is very similar to what BlogStreet does.
  • A content recommendation engine, which serves as the base for providing the inputs for the Mirror Blogs.
  • A BlogRank which works like a PageRank for blogs, based on the incoming links to a weblog. Again, this is similar to what BlogStreet does.
  • It allows Search to be conducted in the extended network of the neighbourhood. Here perhaps it could use Google as the base, or it would conduct the search in its own collection of blog posts and RSS feeds which have been aggregated from the various blogs. An alternate idea is to make Search more distributed akin to how Napster worked. For this, blogs would need to offer search as a web service, and present the results in a standardised manner to MemexCentral. Maciej Ceglowski had presented a paper at Emerging Technologies on Peer-to-Peer Semantic Search Engines: Building a Memex.
  • It can also offer a full-service solution, with all the elements needed for the MyMemex and OurMemex. This would entail creating a virtual desktop as a hosted service. This way, users do not need to download anything to get started. Workspot already offers a Linux desktop in a browser it would be a small step to take that and put all the utilities for creating the Memex centrally. Think of this as a Hotmail for Blogs, RSS and OPML.
  • It would offer a centralised TextAds service, along the lines of Googles AdWords. The difference in this case would be that end users could be paid a small commission on ads displayed or clicked upon, thus creating potential revenue streams for bloggers. The TextAds could be a good tool to promote microcontent what bloggers themselves create. They could specify the neighbourhood in which they would like their ad to be shown. Today, there is no service to effectively promote the content that bloggers create.

    These are just a short set of services that MemexCentral can provide. While the MyMemex and OurMemex can work locally or on enterprise servers, a set of centralised services can add immense value.

    Tomorrow: Putting It Together

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