Emergic: Rajesh Jain's Blog

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RISC Rationale

June 25th, 2003 · No Comments

Atanu Dey writes more on RISC – Rural Infrastructure and Services Commons. “A RISC is located away from the majority of the population. You have to get on your bicycle and pedal for an hour to get there. But when you do, you find that you have come to a mini-city where you get everything that you need internet access, telecommunications, market services, distance education, agricultural extension, banking, health services…”

There is what can be called the first degree of poverty the absence of resources. To make matters worse, we have a second degree of poverty: the inability to efficiently use what little there is. Though there is no escaping the first degree of poverty, there are ways of preventing the second degree of poverty.

This is what motivates me: what can be done with the limited resources so as to make the best use of them.

Given limited resources, we have to put them to that use which has the maximum return on investment. Computing for the masses is a great idea. But can we afford that right now? Probably not. What we can do, and should do, is to bring computing to those that are most capable of benefitting from it.

It is a war out there, as they say. In that context, the concept of triage is very important. The big dic defines triage as “the sorting of and allocation of treatment to patients esp. in battle and disaster victims according to a system of priorities designed to maximize the number of survivors.”

Trying to do everything for everyone at the same time leads to nothing being accomplished at all.

So my thesis is this: build a bridge across the digital divide but don’t try to get everyone across the divide all at once. It cannot be done because the bridge we can afford to build will have a limited capacity. Try to get all of them on board at once, and we all end up at the bottom of the divide.

The solution is to provide a consistent solution that will be useful for at least some part of the rural population, rather than a solution that is all pervasive but of little use to anyone.

Atanu and I spent many days talking about RISC recently. We have to do it. In fact, listening to Atanu talk about RISC, I realised that many of the ideas he talks about can be applied to various segments – SMEs and their problems, for example.

A few thoughts to ponder over from J. Bradford DeLong: “William Gibson once famously said that the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. Guess what: The present isn’t evenly distributed, either. The human race today has a tremendous degree of wealth and productivity, with an extraordinarily unequal distribution. There are still more than a billion people whose lives look very similar to those of half a millennium ago. Bringing the future to the world’s leading-edge cities is a piece of cake. The challenge is bringing more than a few bread crumbs’ worth of the present to the rest of the globe.”

Are we up to the challenge?


RISC+T

Tags: Emerging Markets

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