Urbanisation Needed in India

[via Atanu] Financial Express has an article by Janmejaya Sinha of Boston Consulting Group, India:

The real problem is that India has currently only eight real cities. These cities have civic amenities. They have schools, hospitals, running water, power for large parts of the day, public transport and a much better police force and security than the rest of India. They are not easy cities to live inby no means. But they are the best we have. This shows the skew as well as the opportunity for India.

My real point is, why are there only eight real cities in India? I know we have some urban conglomerations that have a million people. But when do we move to 100 real cities and 300 real towns? The operative word here is real?

Our population needs to move out of the village into real towns and cities. They dont all need to come to Mumbai or Delhi, as everyone in the US does not move to New York or LA. They need to be able to move to places where they can access real opportunities.

It is impossible to provide every village this opportunity, but surely we could develop 100 cities. Let us identify these cities and build proper urban infrastructure around them.

Transforming Education

My colleague, Atanu Dey, has a post on how he would like to transform education in India. “Want to transform education? Want to re-engineer the whole system of education so that it is effective, efficient, and relevant to the world of today? I have the business plan and the funding. I need committed smart people who want to accomplish an important task, have fun while doing it, and make a lot of money (exactly in that order.)” Atanu’s big idea:

Provide an end-to-end managed service to educational institutions which will make education more effective, efficient, and relevant.

The service will be to provide all educational content (rich, multi-media, massively hyperlinked across domains) and tools (learning, teaching, testing, evaluation, teacher training, administration, reporting), and the technology platform to host the content locally and to access it.

Microfinance

Knowledge@Wharton writes about a recent conference:

The business of making loans to poor people in underdeveloped countries is itself entering a critical period of development, according to panelists at this year’s Wharton Finance Conference.

On one hand, they said, foundations and other non-governmental groups have shown the private sector that there is money to be made in lending to some of the globe’s poorest populations. And, they acknowledge, only the private sector has the capital to do this at the necessary scale. But they also warned, at the panel and in interviews afterward, that the drive for profit could leave behind some of the neediest citizens — particularly those in remote rural areas — and thus defeat the enterprise. Meanwhile, as an indication that microfinance is indeed on the global agenda, economist Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 12.

Emerging Education Technologies

Smart Mobs links to New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report:

The four major trends that emerged are identified below and reflect significantly changing attitudes toward technology and communication that surfaced again and again in the research. The significance of critical thinking skills and participatory media literacy is mentioned.

Dynamic knowledge creation and social computing tools and processes are becoming more widespread and accepted.

Mobile and personal technology is increasingly being viewed as a delivery platform for services of all kinds.

Consumers are increasingly expecting individualized services, tools, and experiences, and open access to media, knowledge, information, and learning.

Collaboration is increasingly seen as critical across the range of educational activities, including intra- and inter-institutional activities of any size or scope.

Bottom of Pyramid Mirage?

Atanu Dey discusses a paper by Aneel Karnani:

Karnanis paper argues against the BOP proposition. He summaries the BOP proposition as: there are profits to be made by selling to the billions of the worlds poor, and by doing so, bring prosperity to them, thus alleviating poverty, and that multinational corporations (MNCs) should sell to the poor to do good while doing well for themselves.

First there is the disagreement regarding the actual size of the BOP market. The BOP camp estimates that the potential market at PPP terms is US$13 trillion. Karnani estimates a more modest US 1.2 trillion at PPP, and more like US$ 0.3 trillion at the financial exchange rate. Thats an order of magnitude difference there.

Furthermore, Karnani points out that the poor spend most of their income on food; the poor have little disposable income. Therefore, if their incomes dont rise, they cannot afford to consume more than they actually do. If there are ways of making stuff more affordable to the poor, it is certainly not by selling stuff in smaller packages. Smaller packages in fact have a higher unit cost, not lower. Pretending that smaller packages increase affordability is similar to pretending that selling food in very small packets will solve the hunger and malnutrition problem of the poor. He concludes that the single serving revolution is a dud.

More discussion.

Education and the Web

[via Smart Mobs] Judy Breck writes:

Education practice today does little more than toy with the emerging innovation of digital connectivitywhen, in fact, a new knowledge ecology it causes will have to become central to global learning for education as an institution to remain relevant into the future.

You may believe that education does not belong in the open chaos of the emerging Internet. But thinking that misses a wonderful new cognitive order of learning that emerges from the chaos of connected knowledge. Education should be right in there with the other major elements in the ubiquitous mix of the Web world. The openness of the content within the Internet is a change for learning that is as complete as the invention of phonetic symbols was for language.

Education in India

Ramesh Jain writes: “The higher education system can not grow without the elementry education system. India needs education system for masses at every level. India does have excellent Institutions for higher as well as early education, but they are all only for a small fraction of population. It will be great if the current momentum takes India to build the infrastructure, including education infrastructure, in India.”

More on OLPC

Atanu Dey continues his dissection:

Since the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) proposal is being considered here, we have to have alternate proposals which can be considered in contradistinction to it. I propose, for arguments sake, the One Blackboard Per School (OBPS), One Teacher Per School (OTPS), and One Set of Basic Facilities Per School (OSOBFPS) schemes out of many potential candidates. First, we will consider how they stack up against the OLPC proposition. The next thing we do is to figure out which of the alternates is the one that is perfect and which therefore poses the threat to the achievement of the good.

Which of the twothe OLPC or the OBPSis the perfect and which the good? If OLPC is the prefect solution, then clearly it will impair the good solution of providing basic educational opportunities to many; if the OBPS is the perfect solution, then the OLPC, as the good solution, may be prevented. My position is the former: in an ideal world, where all children have the opportunity to gain a basic education irrespective of the accident of birth, giving all children laptops will be an unalloyed blessing. An ideal world, which in our case we have not got, would admit the perfect solution and no trade offs will be required. The imperfect world, which is what we have, requires we trade off the potential benefit of the few for the guaranteed benefit of the many.

India’s No to OLPC

Atanu Dey comments on India’s decision to decline the $100 laptop:

Tens of millions of children dont go to school, and of the many who do, they end up in schools that lack blackboards and in some cases even chalk. Government schoolsespecially in rural areasare plagued with teacher absenteeism. The schools lack even the most rudimentary of facilities such as toilets (the lack of which is a major barrier to girl children.)

Attention and funds need to be directed to those issues first before one starts buying laptops by the millions. Fact is that we need basic education (literacy, numeracy, etc) and secondary education. These have been provided very successfully without computers around the world. Every one who went to school and became educated more than a mere 30 years agoin the entire history of human civilization, billions of people in alldid so without having ever seen a computer. What they had was much less expensive than PCs: they had teachers and an environment conducive to learning.

Rural India and Reliance

Atanu Dey writes about Mukesh Ambani’s initiatives:

First, he talks about creating cities. Cities are the engines of growth since it is an urbanized population which has the productive capacity to create economic wealth and thus lead to development. Indias largely rural population has to be urbanized and since the existing cities are basically incapable of absorbing the population, new cities have to be developed.

Second, he talks about transforming agriculture by raising its productivity. Building a large number of farm-supply hubs will make the supply chain for agricultural inputs more efficient. Raising agricultural productivity will not only increase production but will also release farm labor which can then migrate to the cities and produce non-agricultural goods and services.

Third, the farm output will be more efficiently brought to the market. It is estimated that around 40 percent of farm produce never reaches the consumer. Introducing efficiencies in the supply chain of farm output and retailing it efficiently will translate into lower prices for consumers and higher realized prices for the farmers. This in turn will increase farm incomes so that the remaining rural population would be able to effectively demand more non-agricultural goods and servicesthe same stuff that is being produced by the labor released by the farms.

This is along the lines of Irma Adelman recommended long ago: Agricultural Demand Led Industrialization, or ADLI.