Education in India

International Herald Tribune writes:

he Indian educational system is locking millions of students in the bottom berth of a two-tier economy, critics argue, depriving the country of the fullest expression of their talents and denying students a chance to share in the fruits of reform.

The problem, experts say, is in a classroom environment that infantilizes students well into their mid-20s, emphasizing silent note-taking and discipline at the expense of analysis, debate and persuasion.

Students at second- and third-tier colleges suffer not because of a dearth of technical ability or intelligence, critics note. Most simply lack the “soft skills” sought by a new generation of employers but still not taught by change-resistant colleges: the ability to speak crisp English with a placeless accent, to design and give PowerPoint presentations, to write in logically ordered paragraphs, to work collegially in teams, to grasp the nuances of leadership.

Broadband as the new Utility

Australian IT writes:

BROADBAND internet access is becoming so vital for businesses that it can be seen as a new utility comparable to water and electricity, a new United Nations report has revealed.

The UN’s Conference on Trade and Developments 2006 Information Economy Report revealed that growing importance of high-speed internet access was “disturbing news” for the developing world.

The reports authors said that broadband access remained scarce in the developing world while technology was exerting an ever greater influence on global business trends, UNCTAD warned.

“It’s absolutely necessary for countries because without broadband, it is difficult to have e-business,” Genevieve Feraud, one of the reports authors said.

Dialler App on Mobile

Paul Golding writes:

In my book and some workshops, I give an anatomy of a mobile phone. A bit of modem here, an operating system there, a sprinkle of APIs, MIDP sauce and so on. I include a “dialler application”, which is not often found on the average handset block diagram. It’s the thingy that takes numbers from the user and passes them to the “call processor” software wotsit, which in turn invokes a protocol stack to go send a “set-up call” message to the switch in the mobile network. Incrediblty boring, mundane and obvious. So obvious, that it doesn’t often get a mention in the block diagram/handset overview in many (most) treatments of the subject. Is this perhaps why it is so lacking in innovation? After all, it’s a dialler – it takes numbers and green-button pushes and does its stuff. Why tinker with this?

Telco marketers have come up with grand gestures of customer satisfaction like the theme of “connecting people” (it has its variants). However, about the only parameter they fiddle around with is the billing arrangement – call home all weekend for free and so on. When I dial a number, why can’t I get useful info about the number I’m dialling? For example, the rating of this plumber on plumber-pages-dot-com [don’t look – I made that up], or the time zone of the person I’m calling (good for all those Indian/US/Euro projects)?

TECH TALK: 15 Years as an Entrepreneur: 2000-4

The next four years after I sold IndiaWorld were very disappointing from a results point of view. I spent a year at Sify and after that went back to managing Netcore, a company that had been set up in 1998 to focus on enterprise messaging solutions. I tried many different things as I have documented on my blog over this period. From our thin client software solution (Emergic Freedom) to an all-in-one open-source based small business software (Pragatee) to an IMAP-based RSS Aggregator to a Digital Dashboard to a blog search and analytics site (BlogStreet) to trying a create Lego blocks for business software (Visual Biz-ic) to grid computing to rural infrastructure and services, there was very limited market success for each of them. Some products did not even go beyond the development stage. It was a tough period.

There was one promise I had made to myself after the sale of IndiaWorld. The past was history, and I had to look ahead. I did not want to sit on the laurels of that single success. I happened to then be at the right time at the right place (benefiting from some smart foresight). I could not take that one success to mean that everything I tried would necessarily work. In fact, the initial failures had chastened me and made me realise that success and failure are two sides of the same coin.

For a brief period, I toyed with the idea of not being an entrepreneur, but instead setting up a venture capital and investing in other people’s businesses. A few months later, I decided that it was not what I liked at all. I actually liked the challenges of managing a business that was part of being an entrepreneur. Experience had taught me that bad times don’t necessarily last and good times are few and far between. But it is the daily thrill of facing up to challenges and finding paths around them that I liked. Failure was not alien to me. But I did not want it to be my constant companion!

Many people remark to me that it must be wonderful to have all that money (which I got from selling IndiaWorld). For me, money never was an end goal. Money has to be an instrument to bring about change, or more specifically, make the future come alive. For me, money gave me the freedom to experiment and live even more in the future. If I start thinking about money, I’ll probably never end up doing anything else in life. For me, ideas matters more than money. I don’t like businesses which need lots of capital. I like to look at blue oceans and think up things that haven’t been thought of before. The single success of the past gave me the freedom to do all this without having to worry about criticism of my business capability from the extended family (as my father had to in the period after I returned from the US).

The four years from 2000 to 2004 were tough. Almost nothing that I tried worked. But I never stopped trying and reading, thinking and writing. It was in November 2000 that I started the Tech Talk series first on, and then also on my blog. It gave me a reason to sustain my reading, broaden the thinking, and share my thoughts through my writing. It also helped me build a framework for the opportunities in the future.

Tomorrow: 2004-6

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