World Health Day Talk

Tomorrow is World Health Day. Dr. Aniruddha Malpani is organising a free seminar “Putting Patients First” in Mumbai. I will also be speaking. Here are the details.

Doctors may be failing to prescribe one of the most powerful treatments known to man ! While the doctor may be an expert on the pharmacology of the latest drugs, its a sad fact that most doctors today are guilty of not dispensing one of the most powerful therapeutic tools they have at their disposal information.

We all know that knowledge is power and that information can be is powerful medicine. Much of what happens in health care is about information – information about lab results, diagnoses, drugs, or referrals. Access to information gives the patient control over his own health and well-being. And the power of information grows when the patient and doctor are able to share it. Unfortunately, patient education is a concept most doctors just pay lip service too , because they are often too busy and dont have enough time.

Unfortunately, as a result of this, both doctors and patients lose in the bargain . Patients are often unhappy and dissatisfied when their doctor does not provide information. They then go to google to hunt for information on their own and often get lost and confused. Doctors are also upset when they are confronted with patients who carry tons of internet printouts most of which are garbage.

The best solution is Information Therapy Prescribing the Right Information to the Right Person at the Right Time . This is now routine in many clinics in USA. Don Kemper, CEO of Healthwise, USA (the world leader in this field) , will be presenting a seminar on Information Therapy, so that this becomes a routine part of medical practice in India too.

Patient education resource centers should be an integral part of all hospitals and clinics . Patients represent healthcare’s largest resource – and they have been untapped so far. Patient education can help patients to become better patients !

Speakers at this seminar include:

Don Kemper . Information Therapy the US experience. Problems and Prospects;
Dr Aniruddha Malpani, Medical Director, HELP . How can we get doctors in India to prescribe information ?;
Mr Rajesh Jain, CEO, Netcore. Helping patients become better informed the business opportunity for entrepreneurs in e-healthcare;
Mr Rakesh Jhunjhunwalla, Investor. Why I am bullish on health care in India

This is a free seminar which will be held at HELP on World Health Day, 7 April 2006, from 11 am 1 pm. Everyone is welcome to participate ! Information is Powerful Medicine !

The venue:
HELP – Health Education Library for People
Excelsior Business Center,
National Insurance Building,
Ground Floor, Near Excelsior Cinema,
206, Dr.D.N Road, Mumbai-01
Tel. No.:55852393 / 55852394

Mobile Ajax

Ajit Jaokar writes: “I strongly believe that the disruptive potential of AJAX in the mobile space is not fully appreciated.”

The power of Ajax lies in its ability to create widgets at the desktop level. Using the Opera platform approach, the same widget could be used for the mobile device. These widgets have the ability to harness revenue from the long tail. In the commonwealth games scenario, it should be possible to create a low cost widget catering for the lawn bowls fans. These widgets could run on the desktop browser as well as the mobile browser(using the Opera approach outlined above). There in lies the significance of the Ajax approach!

Improving Search Engines

Knowledge@Wharton writes:

“Soon search will be included with TV programming,” predicted Bradley Horowitz, head of technology development for Yahoo’s search and marketplace group. “The channels of today are artifacts of the analog age. In the future, you will have billions of TV channels. There will be a Quentin Tarantino channel, so you can watch what he is watching. You will also have a friends-and-neighbors channel.” In addition, “there will be voice response in phones, so you can ask your phone a question.”

Another improvement — to both users’ results and companies’ bottom lines — will arrive with local search, i.e., searches confined to a single city or even neighborhood. “It’s going to be huge,” predicted Michael Brady of Fast Search & Transfer. “Yellow Pages are a $14 billion a year business in the U.S. All the direct mail you get now is soon going to be driven by local search.”

Microsoft and Online Software

The Economist writes:

The threat to Microsoft comes from online applications, which are changing how people use computers. Rather than relying on an operating system and its associated application softwarebought in a box from Microsoft, and then loaded onto a PCcomputer users are increasingly able to call up the software they need over the internet. Just as Amazon, Google, eBay and other firms provide services via the web, software companies are now selling software as a subscription service that can be accessed via a web-browser., the best known example of this trend, offers salesforce management tools; other firms offer accounting and other back-office functions; there are even web-based word-processors and spreadsheets. This lowers the economic and technical barriers to entry for firms wanting to compete with Microsoft, as well as diluting the advantages the firm gets from controlling how the computer works.

Visual Analytics

WSJ writes:

Companies are being inundated with a tidal wave of information thanks to technology that can track every sale, every stage in a manufacturing process and every step in a supply chain. And that’s only a fraction of the information stored in a business’s computers. There’s too much data for any manager to easily make sense of it all.

A new breed of “visual analytics” software aims to make it easier than ever to decipher all that information. The software takes data from multiple sources — including databases and spreadsheets — and creates simple visual representations, such as charts, graphs and maps. They’re easier to grasp than pages of data, and they are much more flexible than regular charts and graphs. With just a few clicks, you can manipulate the pictures, checking out the effect of different variables or testing alternative scenarios.

How Internet Changes Politics

The New York Times writes about the US. We can also expect changes in India when the next elections are called — especially in the mobile context.

Democrats and Republicans are sharply increasing their use of e-mail, interactive Web sites, candidate and party blogs, and text-messaging to raise money, organize get-out-the-vote efforts and assemble crowds for a rallies. The Internet, they said, appears to be far more efficient, and less costly, than the traditional tools of politics, notably door knocking and telephone banks.

Analysts say the campaign television advertisement, already diminishing in influence with the proliferation of cable stations, faces new challenges as campaigns experiment with technology that allows direct messaging to more specific audiences, and through unconventional means.

Those include Podcasts featuring a daily downloaded message from a candidate and so-called viral attack videos, designed to trigger peer-to-peer distribution by e-mail chains, without being associated with any candidate or campaign. Campaigns are now studying popular Internet social networks, like Friendster and Facebook, as ways to reaching groups of potential supporters with similar political views or cultural interests.

TECH TALK: Let’s Build a Business: 4. Computing Grid

On my blog, I have written about server-centric computing on a number of occasions. [Check the right panel sub-section entitled Affordable Computing and ICT for Development under My Best Writings on my blog.] One of the key elements of centralized computing is the need for a computing and storage grid. This can be a microGrid on the LAN for small- and medium-sized enterprises supporting tens of users or a bigger Grid to support a community or a city for thousands of users. These two grids can be thought of as a LAN-Grid and Net-Grid, respectively. Here is what I wrote about the Net-Grid sometime ago on my blog:

[The Net-Grid] is the way we access Googe, Yahoo and eBay so far, weve used these websites for services such as email, search and auctions. Now, we need to go a step further and even have computing delivered from the centralised bank of servers. We are already seeing this emerge in the second generation of application service providers (ASPs) like So, whats different about the Net-Grid?

The Net-Grid takes the LAN-Grid to its logical conclusion if bandwidth were available, the LAN and WAN would merge into a single network, and thus the locally hosted computing platform could be moved further into the core. The edges become simple presentation and input devices, while the core houses the complexity of the computing platform.

But there are big differences. The technologies that will work on the LAN-Grid in terms of data replication will not scale to the Net-Grid. The need is for a distributed file system which can support millions of users. There are multiple options available in open-source: Andrew File System, Coda, InterMezzo and Lustre are some examples. In a sense, the challenge here is simpler than what the likes of IBM and Sun have worked on solving treating a whole host of distributed resources across a network as one through virtualisation. In the case of the Net-Grid, all the hardware can indeed be centralised into a single location. The three challenges that need to be addressed for the Net-Grid are: providing scalable computing, scalable storage, and granularised billing.

The computing grid that we are discussing is very much like the architecture available in telecom: think of the LAN-Grid as the equivalent of a PBX, while the Net-Grid is the centralised switching system. (There is also an intermediate option that of a Centrex service from the local central office think of this as an Operator-Grid, hosted by the broadband operator over a last mile which is free of opex once the capex is done.)

In terms of costs, there are two key considerations: that of the computing infrastructure and bandwidth the assumption currently made is that open-source software would be used to provide the basic set of applications for the desktop. From a user point of view, assuming we would like to stick to the aggregate Rs 700 ($15) per user per month payment for the whole ecosystem of commPuting, the allocation for the grid will be about $2. [The rest is split thus: $8 for bandwidth, $4 for the network computer rental, $1 for support and reseller margin.]

Of this $2 monthly grid payment, about half would be spent on bandwidth and data centre costs. That leaves us with $1 to provide the computing and storage infrastructure. Is this doable? Let us do some back-of-the-envelope calculations. Let us start with the LAN-Grid which had a capex of $55 per user. We will get some economies of scale in pricing as we move computing to the storage. However, the real benefit that we will get is that much like a telco, we will not need to allocate that same computing power for every user. Let us assume that we design a system that assumes that a third of the users are online at the peak. This means that our capex will be a maximum of $18 per user (extrapolating from the LAN-Grid cost). Assuming that this can be amortised over a period of three years, and add financing and management costs, we will probably get to something like a total spend of about $24 over three years, or about $0.67 per month. This gives us an operating margin of $0.33 per user per month or about $4 per user per annum. So, in theory, it should be able to build, own and operate such a public computing grid.

Interested in leading or being part of this venture? Email me at or fill out this feedback form with a brief profile of yourself, your thoughts on the ideas presented, and your thinking about the role that you’d like to play in the venture.

Tomorrow: Project Gutenberg for India

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