Recently, the Indian government decided to end the partnership with MIT’s Media Lab in MLA. Business Week writes: “At first glance, losing MIT’s Asian Media Lab looks like a heavy blow. Chances are, however, that now India will make its own advances.” This is a refreshingly different viewpoint from most of what I have read in some of the Western press.
In India, the incident has refocused the country’s attention on R&D, and some Indians are hoping that it could encourage the establishment of a domestic version of Bell Labs. It has also brought public attention to the technological innovations done in small corners of India, like Wi-Fi and geographic-information mapping systems that could greatly ease the hard lives of rural Indians and help make administration of these areas easier.
What’s clear is that with little or no support from multinationals, poor countries such as India will have to develop suitable new technologies and innovatively adapt existing ones to solve their own problems. That will put other nations on the path to progress, too. Same mission as Media Labs, but with a more home-grown flavor.
India and its organisations (academic and commercial) have an opportunity to lead the world in creating solutions for the next markets. Media Lab Asia started to get Indians to think in a focused manner about that, and perhaps that will be its legacy.