Chairman’s Column

Profiling the unconnected
Digital World | Osama Manzar 09:00 PM | November 27,2011

Technology is as good as what it does. That is the basic principle on which we started our journey at the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and instituted the Manthan Award. The idea was to identify initiatives that use information and communication technology (ICT) tools to achieve specific goals with the long-term target of empowering the masses, especially in rural areas. Our nominees are less about mind-boggling technology and more about the beneficent use of basic information tools such as landline or mobile phones, SMS, community radio, LCD projectors, television, local language Read more >>  |  For e-Paper click here >>

Change literacy’s definition
Digital World | Osama Manzar 01:15 AM | November 21,2011
India’s literacy rate has increased six times since the end of the British rule—from 12% to 74% in 2011. Yet, India has the world’s largest population of illiterates and, at the current rate of progress, it will take until 2060 for India to achieve universal literacy. Global literacy experts say 70% of Indians are functionally illiterate—that’s twice the official government estimate. Last year, the ministry of human resource development announced it would establish state resource centres (SRCs) in Orissa, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Assam on a pilot basis. SRCs are supposed to facilitate organizations that would Read more >>  |  For e-Paper click here >>

Community radio as a means to empower rural masses
Digital World | Osama Manzar 01:15 AM | November 07,2011
There are no school dropouts in the Gop block of Puri district in Orissa and it has nothing do to with the efforts of the government. For several years, nobody applied for work under India’s rural job guarantee scheme from the area; recently, 123 families applied on demand from the local administration and 120 farmers received job cards. Last year, a primary school was opened in Tailo village so that children do not have to walk to another school 2km away, Read more >>  |  For e-Paper click here >>

Mobiles can save India’s poor women
Digital World | Osama Manzar 11:21 PM | October 30,2011
India ranks 122 out of 138 nations in the United Nations Development Programme’s gender equality index—and for good reason. Only 65% of Indian women are literate, compared with nearly 83% men. A third of the married Indian women are underweight. Maternal mortality rate is high (450 per 100,000 live births) in part due to inadequate antenatal care coverage. Women now account for 39% of HIV infections, and awareness of prevention and treatment still lags. Can any technological or communication tool help change the scenario? The answer Read more >>  |  For e-Paper click here >>

Let’s make the Internet equitable
Digital World | Osama Manzar 09:59 PM | October 23,2011
In the year 2000, when I was compiling a book titled Internet Economy of India, my team calculated the money invested in the country for the Internet and related businesses. Dominated by the dotcom business, the total amount was estimated to be $22 billion, or more than India’s software exports at that time. Although most of those investments did not produce successful enterprises, what they did, with the help of the media, is to spread awareness about the Internet. Today, perhaps every person in the country knows the word Internet and understands what it is all about. India has the world’s third largest Read more >>  |  For e-Paper click here >>

Aakash may not help bridge the digital divide
Digital World | Osama Manzar 12:08 AM | October 17,2011
Developments in the information technology world have been catching the headlines in the last few days. We lost “magician” Steve Jobs​, the co-founder of Apple Inc., none of whose innovations I see being used by poor people. The Indian government launched the $35 (Rs. 1,700) tablet called Aakash, which Union minister Kapil Sibal​ called a “tablet for the poor.” Also, the government released a telecom policy that, perhaps belatedly, proposes to give infrastructure sector status to the telecom industry. All these developments are related. While Jobs’s gifts to humanity are not affordable to everyone, the $35 Read more >>  |  For e-Paper click here >>

The next big challenge for social entrepreneurship
Digital World | Osama Manzar 08:36 PM | October 09,2011
Social entrepreneurship has become a buzzword today. But two broad trends may be changing the way we understand the concept. One is its Western orientation, and the other is corporatization. If you search “social entrepreneurship” on Google, most of the definitions and examples you will get will be from the Western world. Wikipedia quotes Bill Drayton​, founder of “Ashoka: Innovators for the Public” as the “person responsible for the rise of the phrase ‘social entrepreneur’, a concept first found in print in 1972”. While giving Read more >>  |  For e-Paper click here >>

Can we “Plug and Play” in India?
Digital World | Osama Manzar 08:31 PM | October 02,2011
They call themselves “Silicon Valley in a Box”. They define themselves as an “accelerator”. They are located in a building with a space of 170,000 sq.ft. There are hundreds of people working in the building. They have 250 companies stationed within the building, along with 70 data centres. They have 170-plus investors and venture capital companies among their partners. They have an in-house support system for accounting, book keeping, legal support, recruitment, talent acquisition, banking and technology services and support.Their ecosystem includes government, universities, corporations and Read more >>  |  For e-Paper click here >>

Globalization versus glocalization 
Digital World | Osama Manzar 10:52 PM | September 25,2011
I am in a situation where I cannot but compare India and the US to bring perspective on how the information economy driven by information communication technology and digital tools will be led by India to make the world a better place. And the onus will be on India and Indians across the globe, and not the obviously assumed America. I am on a three-week trip in the US as an invitee of the US state department to what they call the International Visitors Leadership Program. We are a group of 18 entrepreneurs from as many countries. All of us are from underdeveloped or developing countries. As soon Read more >>  |  For e-Paper click here >>
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