ICT4D: From Information and Knowledge to Empowerment and Justice

Healthcare workers have benefited significantly from ICT initiatives. Sample benefits include: reduced patient waiting time, more timely submshik is Professor, Management Deission of reports, new ways of alerting patients (SMS), new ways of splicing the standard data collected in the health centres, and better information for decision makers

The great hope of the ICT4D movement has been that ICTs will radically spur efficiency and innovation in socio-economicactivities. Some ICT initiatives have indeed positively impacted development processes via increases in productivity, reduction in costs and errors, improvements in human resource inputs, and increase in rich interactivity – but also have introduced new kinds of risks.

In a number of sectors, digital content and services have already proven to be beneficial when delivered directly to end-users or when used by professional communities serving citizens.

For instance, healthcare workers have benefited significantly from ICT initiatives. Sample benefits include: reduced patient waiting time, more timely submission of reports, new ways of alerting patients (SMS), new ways of splicing the standard data collected in the health centres, and better information for decisionmakers. There is also an improved self-esteem that comes with learning a new skill and performing it well and the knowledge that it contributes to a better national health information system.

ICT4D projects in the area of policymaking have had some difficulty in establishing sustainability factors. Policymaking and assessment followed by concrete actions take a longer time for planning and implementation. High turnovers among workers in organisations as well as unstable governments pose barriers in thinking about sustainability.

Some ICT4D initiatives tend to overlook the important but seemingly mundane aspects of project management and implementation, eg. ensuring regular and thorough backups of all data, cultural change management or expectation management, identification of early adopters of ICT among beneficiaries to enable speedier uptake, and better communication among stakeholders in multidisciplinary projects.

Publishing support and avenues such as research conferences and awards are important in generating and promoting high-quality knowledge generated by the ICT4D project researchers and practitioners. These include the annual MANTHAN awards, Stockholm Challenge, and the various national competitions held in countries around the world.

Care must be taken to build in appropriate metrics for monitoring and assessing the growth, impact and performance of such development initiatives. While much attention has been given to financial sustainability, social sustainability should be put on an equal footing. Such metrics typically fall into five categories: technology, process, knowledge, people and economics.

Tools for knowledge sharing, collaboration and peer networking (eg. based on Web 2.0) are now more readily available, and can also help better coordinate activities of ICT4D practitioners. Good examples here include blogging/microblogging sites and Wikis

ICT4D project assessment should also focus on the human interest angle via profiling successful social entrepreneurs and learning from their experiences, vision and passion. Successful ICT4D practitioners are inspired by the potential of ICT4D to elevate the potential of the human being, contribute back to society, support a community in need, and empower those with limited access to knowledge.

A common criticism of many ICT4D initiatives is that they rarely move beyond “perpetual pilot” or “perpetual project” stage, and do not scale up into effective programmes or policies at a broader level. Facilitating knowledge connections and activity networks between ICT4D project leaders is an important role for donors, governments, academics and consultants, so that the body of knowledge in ICT4D can be preserved and amplified.

Tools for knowledge sharing, collaboration and peer networking (eg. based on Web 2.0) are now more readily available, and can also help better coordinate activities of ICT4D practitioners. Good examples here include blogging/microblogging sites and Wikis.

A notable trend these days is the increasing presence of ICT4D in formulating global development agendas and development indicators. The United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have become widely-used benchmarks for development programs around the world, and a number of analysts have looked at ICT4D contributions and indicators within the MDG context. The ITU’s World Summit on the Information Society marked the first formulation of global goals set by the international community, in ICT areas ranging from basic connectivity to e-government.

Dr Madanmohan Rao is co-author of the forthcoming book,”ICT4D: Learnings, Best Practices and Roadmaps” (http://bit.ly/85Ak2r) He is member Grand Jury 2009. http://twitter.com/MadanRao

The few touching the many

Sidin Vadukut

What makes digital inclusion and digitally driven social change so exciting is also why digital technology is making giant media companies go broke. Digital distribution is cheap, instantly scalable and almost universally accessible. Given the ubiquity of mobile phones and growing rural penetration of computers, kiosks and broadband connections, the power to change lives through kilobytes is now a reality.

What exercises like the Manthan Awards reveal is the sheer of number of great ideas out there in the field of digital inclusion. The unlikeliest people from the unlikeliest parts of the country come up with digital solutions that can touch millions of our rural and urban poor. And because their ideas are digital they don’t need machines, factories, licenses, assembly lines, supply chains or human resource departments.

All they need is sometimes a stage on which to talk about their ideas and find believers. Manthan is that stage. The greatest ideas and inventions are also the simplest. They are innovations that make you wonder why no one else had thought of them. They make instant sense. My involvement with the Manthan Jury in 2009 involved many such eureka moments. I was dazzled by the passion of the organizers and jury members involved. I was dazzled by the quality of the ideas that were submitted and I was, most of all, dazzled by the existing maturity and expertise of the digital inclusion movement.

There is a silent revolution taking place in our social sector, all done with websites, databases and cheap electronics, and the larger nation has no clue about it. This must change. With greater visibility for these Manthan nominees and winners more smart, committed people in the country will come forward to participate and innovate. A community radio in a corner of Rajasthan might seem like a futile exercise for a software engineer from Bangalore. But what if his innovation in broadcasting takes community radio to a thousand more villages and millions more people? Then his innovation is a national treasure as vital as any scientific discovery or government policy.

But the greatest strength of the many award-winning ideas and concepts in this book is this: they are simple and they are free. These are not ideas that need angel investors. They just need angel activists.

The Manthan Awards recognizes innovators from all over the country. It gives them wind beneath their wings. Some of the award winners already improve the lives of thousands of people on a daily basis. Therefore you cannot help but wonder what would happen if all the young and bright of our country decided to think about digital inclusion. About ways in which to make supple, pliable technology, the same technology that powers BlackBerrys and email and Google, can empower and enrich our poor and distant.

It is a silent revolution waiting to happen. It is a silent revolution that must happen. And if Manthan leaves you with just one thought, let it be this: this revolution can happen.

Sidin is Managing Editor LiveMint.com. He is member Grand Jury 2009

ICT in India – Infrastructure or content driven

Rajen Varada

This article tries to set forth a landscape for the future of ICT in the Indian context. Will the investment being made in  infrastructure by state and central governments result in ICT becoming an integral part of government business or remain as an innovation in isolation? Information and communication technologies in India have been much debated and discussed in the past few years. To understand the Indian ICT scenario, a background of the evolution of the ICT movement in India needs to be understood. What was the process of the transition from small pilots by innovative individuals, CBOs and NGOs to a government development agenda and a national focus?

The commencement of ICT in the government agenda stated in the 1990s, when many state governments realised the potential of ICT in governance and made concentrated efforts to establish good governance as part of their development goal. Since there were already many small initiatives across the country which had shown promising outcomes such as the ITC E-chaupal, narrow casting of community issues by community radio groups and some initiative by multinational agencies using handheld devices etc. The promise of a transparent government mechanism was well accepted by the people and voting patterns inclined towards development oriented political parties. This brought about a sea change in political agendas. Thus the change in the government attitude to service delivery mechanisms through e government became the norm for all state governments. There has since then been a constant endeavour to provide better government to citizen services through ICTs. The large investment by government in infrastructure for ICTs and the opening up of the Indian economy induced the corporate sector to invest to tap into the potential rural market of India.

The central government in Delhi also commenced various schemes and through the department of information technology was able to develop a vision to connect villages in India on a broadband network with delivery points called the common service centres. The reference to the CSC here is not to argue its merits and demerits but to look at the investment for the CSC infrastructure as a catalyst for development.

ICT has brought in a new set of technologies which were unheard of twenty years ago. Just as the railways were introduced in India by the British, which set a paradigm shift in the ways people behaved with this new way of being connected across the length and breadth of the country. It brought about new rules and society oragnised itself along the railways lines with new norms and  structures. ICTs will and are doing to India the very same thing the railways did. Consider the mobile rickshaws which go around the world famous Puskhar fairs providing mobile connectivity to the last mile. This is ICT at its rural best.

I am idealistic enough to assert that regardless of the challenges of the government infrastructure, the old and new will continue to co-exist in this transitory time just as bad transport systems co-exist with mobile cell technologies. The idea of a woman in interior India communicating on a mobile phone while commuting on the roof top of a bus is still an accepted norm, is a telling point of the two Indias’ that co exist at the same time.

Rather then examine the end delivery mechanisms, such as the CSC, (which would require an article in itself) the one great success which will really matter in the long run is the establishment of the backbone network which will enable multiple service delivery points in the future. It would really not matter if the CSC delivery points fail as there will be other initiatives which will tap into the wide area network backbone and go forward.

The backbone network set up for the CSC may very well serve the burgeoning creative content market which is emerging. This will, I believe fill a much needed gap in the ICT sector. It will spur further investment in making ICTs an enabler with content at the core rather than infrastructure.

The World Summit awards on e-content are a UN body which documents and acts as a catalyst for e content development across the world. The India chapter called “the Manthan Awards” commenced in 2005 and throws a very interesting light on the content evolution of ICTs in India.

The nominations for content in the year 2005 were just 95 with participation of a few states most of whom were from the southern part of India which are considered the “developed” states. The year 2009 has seen nomination from 24 federal states across the categories of Community Broadcasting,e-Business, e-Culture & Entertainment, e-Education, e-Enterprise & Livelihood ,
e-Government, e-Health, e-Inclusion, e-Learning, e-Localisation, e-News, e-Science & Environment and m-Content.

The range of content development itself is mind boggling and puts at rest the argument that India will not be an innovative creative content developer. The total nominations for 2009 have been 360. This is an indicator of how much the various players in the ICT space have invested in not only technology but content to enable the effective use of ICTs.

One interesting fact is that in 2005 there were only 26 nominations for the e-government category. In 2009 there were 89 nominations for e-government including those from the so called “beemaru” (sick) states. The mind set that underdeveloped states can not achieve or contribute and take advantage of ICTs to leapfrog into better governance needs to be examined against the light that the best e governance award for 2008 went to the State government of Chattisgarh, a state considered backward and low on development indicators. Their very innovative “Unified Ration card project” through the department of Food & Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs of Chhattisgarh Government has computerized
the entire food grain supply chain in Chhattisgarh, starting from paddy procurement from farmers, its storage, milling and distribution of rice and other commodities to 3.4 million ration card holders through fair price shops.

In the current year the best e-governance projects for 2009 came from the state of Madhya Pradesh which got 3 awards and one each from Bihar and Orissa. It is revealing to note that ICTs have not only helped accelerate the change in government but enabled
“backward” governments to make a quantum leap into good governance through ICTs.

The current focus by the government will spur growth in the education and health sectors. Both are poised for a growth through multiple delivery points such as community service centres, telemedicine centres and the proliferation of cell phones. Business will need to be innovative to take advantage of this e-dynamic landscape.

Then there is the oldest ICT of them all, the radio. Community radio seems to be emerging as a surprising player in the ICT scenario in India, with civil society adopting community radio as a means to disseminate knowledge and share information. The freeing of the Community Radio policy has seen a jump in the number of applicants. A proactive endeavour by the government has induced many community based organisations to use
community radio as an effective tool to empower local people on local government issues. The Right to Information Act and its impact is seen through the number of CR stations which broadcast the RTI details to citizens. Mobiles phones have enabled a larger
phone in audience. The coexistence and advantages of both ICT technologies will probably be a enduring feature of ICTs in India.

There is no doubt that the sector that will see the largest investment in hardware in the coming years is  telecommunications. The cell phone market has beaten all assumptions of numbers. The number of players in the market has ensured a competitive market giving the end user multiple choices and spurring the number of subscribers.

The future of ICT in India will probably have mobile technology leading the way with Internet and community radio not far behind. The reach of mobile has far exceeding any forecast and no one was able to predict the immense jump in use of cell phone in India. Regardless of the global recession the telecommunication industry in India saw unforeseen growth. Mobile ownership surged in December 2008 with a record 4.5 million new users making India the 3rd largest in the world. Indian operators added another 15.41 million customers in January 2009 and 13.45 million users in February 2009 taking the mobile users to 391.8 million. The market is just the tip of the iceberg as businesses start exploring local language markets both in voice and standards in text messaging. The mobile industry has opened up call centres for local language users and a new market is set to grow in this sector. Rural BPOs are already emerging as local markets grow.

To return to my point of view that content will drive the ICT industry it is obvious that mobile content will grow to meet the demands of the end user. Taking the data from the Manthan nominations, the category for mobile content did not even exist in 2005. It was introduced in 2007 taking into note the emerging mobile content in India. There were 6 nominations in 2006 for M-Content. In 2007 there were seven nominations and in 2008 it has jumped to 19 nominations. The numbers speak for themselves and will continue to grow.

To quote Mr. Shashi Tharoor from his book The Elephant, The Tiger and The Cell phone. Mr. Tharoor commented in defence of New Delhi “For all its inadequacies, it is a symbol of a country on the move, the urban flagship of a better tomorrow. It will lead India into the twenty first century, even at the price of forgetting all that happened in the other twenty.” The same could be said for the ICT movement in the country as well.

Where does all this lead to and what will be the future key areas that ICTs will continue to drive and affect? A small Primary Health Centre (PHC) in the process of developing a website with content that was unheard of even a few years ago. It is putting up all its day to day operations on a website in the local language of Chatttisgari. The PHC is located in a remote corner of interior Chattisgarh.- a so called backward State Yet it hopes to show the way for other Primary Health Centres with transparent use of drugs, list of doctors available and timings and most important the supply chain of medicines stocks. All information will be seen on the website or requested for by text messaging. They also plan to use local community radio to disseminate information of health and disease breakout. This initiative will plug the possibility of the leak of drugs into the local medical, provide citizens with information and be more accountable. Whether it sustains or fails is not important. What is important is that the PHC has set a trend in a health system to bring about transparency and accountability. Which I believe will continue in small pockets making small ripples but in the end making a big difference. This is a telling example of how ICT can bring change and effective content can change how government functions at all levels.

Rajen Varada is Resource Person, ICTD Community, UN Solution Exchange. He is member Grand Jury 2009

Where is Mobile Content?

Shubhendu Parth

Being part of Manthan Award South Asia Jury has always been a great learning experience; more so this year as we huddled in New Delhi with 22 other jurors, I was exposed to over 360 best
e-Content initiatives, a lot of them complex in nature, some innovative and not so inventive ones and a few that were quite disruptive. What surprised me most, were few mobile based applications from Bangladesh so simple in nature that one tended to ignore them. And yet, they were there, on the ground, solving some of the basic issues, using cell phones to reach out to the bottom of the pyramid. In fact, the country always surprises me with its amazing understanding of the mobile platform, and their ability to keep things simple and focussed.

Rolled out for the sugar mills in the country, the Purjee Management System is one such deployment. The solution developed and implemented by Wintel aims at simply solving one
critical problem—to ensure that sugarcane growers do not have to waste time queuing up for days, waiting for their turn to unload their produce. And in the process it also cleansed the system of touts who would simply collude with the clerk issuing the token or the Purjee to bypass the First in, First out system for those who were willing to pay. The key to the success of the rollout and its quick adoption was the use of mobile platform for delivering the ‘e-Purjees’ directly as an SMS to the farmers on their cell phones, with a fixed three days schedule for everyone—from the time the token is issued—to supply their produce to the sugar mill. However, what the sugar mills also got as part of the solution was a two way communication system that has helped them directly connect with thousands of suppliers, thereby removing any possibility of miscommunication and mismanagement in their procurement process.

The Purjee Management System enables the sugar mills to inform farmers about change or delay in schedules, and also allows the growers to submit their complaints using a predefined format by simply sending an SMS to a given number, at anytime and from anywhere. The compliant thus generated is automatically routed to the concerned official for required action and necessary report generation. To make life simpler, the solution has a webenabled
reporting tool that allows officials at the various procurement locations of a mill to access all kinds of reports—from complaints to numbers of Purjees issued and the procurement
schedule to alterations made and alert notifications.

Another major success from across the border is the Cell Bazar, the entry that won year 2008 Manthan Awards in the m-content category, and rightly so since the project has emerged as a true leveller of digital divide in Bangladesh. Cell Bazar (http://www.cellbazaar.com) as the name suggests allows buyers and sellers to complete a major portion of their transaction in a mobile marketplace. While a seller can post things that they want to sell, buyers can view them and access more info on their cell phones, and finally directly contact the seller to complete the deal. What this means is that nearly 20 million users in Bangladesh can use the service to buy any agricultural product—from rice, fish and poultry— as well as large ticket items like an apartment, land or a car, not to talk about consumer goods and any such ware. Interestingly, people have also found out innovative use of
this service, with users offering services as wide as tutoring to automobile and white goods repair to video rentals. Besides, the recruiters have also found the service extremely useful.

Surprisingly, despite a massive 500 million mobile subscriber base, India does not have a single case of any deployment to match either of the two projects that have a huge social
and equally important business impact. Sure, there are one way channels, rolled out by lot of companies, including most of the banks, but a two-way, push-pull platform is largely missing. Maybe, it’s appropriate that organisations and enterprises in India think afresh about their technology strategies and take a leaf from the neighbours on how to effectively use ICT for those at the bottom of the pyramid.

Shubhendu Parth is the Executive Director and Founder Editor of iGovernment.in, Editor of IT Next & Consulting Editor of CTO Forum. He is member Grand Jury 2009

e-Content Movement in South Asia has opened New Doors

Prof. Vijaya Kumar

The role of ICT and the internet in improving health and education, providing employment opportunities to youth and the reduction of poverty is well understood. However, while 58% of the population in developed countries have access to internet only 11% have access in developing countries. The United Nations Millennium Development Goal “In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications” was formulated in an attempt to address this digital divide.

However developing countries, even those which have made great strides in ICT development have a far more vicious digital divide to contend with within their own borders. While there is hardly any difference in internet penetration in the urban and the rural sectors in developed and newly industrialized countries, internet penetration in other developing countries is lopsided with the benefits of ICT and the internet largely restricted to the urban sector. In South Asia, while 70% of the people live in rural settings, internet access is available to less than 25%, whereas the in the urban sector, the situation is quite the reverse. Furthermore internet access in the rural sector is of low bandwidth, often dial-up, and unsatisfactory for many applications. While Finland has made broadband internet connection a right of every citizen, broadband penetration is 3-4% in most South Asian countries, that too at the lower end of the broadband speed spectrum and restricted to the urban sector. Rural connectivity with its inability to generate large profits is of little interest to the private sector.

Governments too while paying lip-service to the need for rural connectivity seldom have the inclination or political will to make the large investments necessary for better internet penetration. With WiMax becoming readily available and providing a cheaper alternative, rapid advances to better connectivity for the rural sector in developing countries has become a distinct possibility.

However mere access will not bring the benefits of ICT to the rural masses. Not only must the rural sector be empowered to mobilize ICT for its own development through awareness and training and motivated to innovate but rural ICT must be made sustainable through income generation. Without sustainability, it would be impossible to attract investment and the experience has been that projects often fail because trained ICT professionals become frustrated and migrate to the cities. ICT can contribute to a better life for the villager through E-government and E-health projects and improved ICTbased educational strategies but such projects when city-inspired, outsourced, and city-implemented by city-professionals do little to empower the rural sector on ICT. It is therefore crucial that this sector be mobilized to analyze its own needs and create its own content which would further development and provide opportunities for income generation in the village.

The e-content movement in South Asia has opened new doors for the rural sector to become involved in ICT development. Large numbers of youth living in remote locations are learning how ICT can facilitate development, being trained in ICT, creating innovative programs and web-sites and examining novel avenues of income generation. Some urban companies which began ITenabling services or Business Processing Outsourcing projects in rural areas as Corporate Social Responsibility Projects have seen these projects spin off into viable business enterprises.

Many rural activists are exploring the use of new media in order to successfully take their messages to growing numbers of like minded citizens, many of them previously marginalized by society and in the process, developing innovative strategies to improve access and provide content.

Such initiatives are contributing to the expansion of the knowledge society into the remoter areas of developing countries and since information is power, creating a better informed rural sector which can contribute to the development of a better more inclusive society in their countries.

Prof. Vijaya Kumar is member Board of Directors, ICTA, Sri Lanka. He is member Grand Jury 2009

Evaluating ICT for Development: Insights

Dr Anjali Kaushik & Lekha Kumar

The information and communication technology (ICT) revolution is opening up new  opportunities for growth and development. In certain cases, it is transforming the fundamental structure of industries and services. However, despite the holistic role of ICT, much of the research and assessment of ICT applications focus on separate elements of this transformation. This is a fragmented approach to assessment where the focus may be on separate aspects related to operational and efficiency parameters. It is important to monitor and measure the impact of the e-governance initiatives and align them more effectively with the project development outcomes. There can be different approaches to evaluation of e-governance projects such as a techno-centric, governance-centric and outcome-driven approach. A holistic approach to evaluation of e-governance initiatives will consider parameters across each approach. However, the existing evaluation frameworks are mostly based on narrow aspects of project performance and the outcome-based development aspects of e-governance projects are not entirely clear in the evaluation process. It may also be possible to identify certain key development indicators as part of the project objectives and assess the e-governance initiatives against them. These development indicators are critical indicators of the e-governance initiative and are long-term. The choice of indicators will depend on the nature of intervention and the type of project. The larger impact and linkages related to development also need to be studied and can be taken separately. In the long run, it may be possible to build a matrix of likely development indicators for different category of e-governance initiatives. Such a matrix can be used for comparison, review and benchmarking of e-governance initiatives.

The existing approaches on evaluation of e-governance initiatives focus more on the quality of project design and implementation. These assessment parameters are techno-centric and include project based parameters such as the number of transactions processed, cost/ time taken for each transaction, number of trips to offices, accuracy of output, reduction in errors, issues in managing change etc. The project assessment parameters may include some development parameters also- but generally, the development impact assessment comes from the agency perspective and less from the end users. In certain assessments, the governance aspects of reform such as accountability, transparency, participation and level of corruption are also covered. However, most of these parameters are based on narrow aspects of project performance. The development aspects of e-governance projects are not very clear from these assessments and need to be highlighted. Also, very little is done to analyze the long-term impact of ICT on development in the existing approaches. Such a need has been recognized from recent evaluations of projects in which issues of long-term impact on human development have been raised. Efficiency in techno-centric parameters may lead to effective governance if applied to appropriate goals. The risk in the techno-centric view of
e-governance is inherent because use of ICT is merely a necessary condition for good governance, but not a sufficient one. To become a meaningful agent of modernization of public services delivery and modern governance, e-governance must abandon its technological bias and focus on socio-cultural transformations. ICT has transformational potential when they are applied to appropriate and specific goals of governance. The wider understanding of development includes economic policies and agendas for poverty reduction, economic growth, spending on health and education, environmental policy etc. It is important to develop an outcome driven assessment model which includes different dimensions of development so that the impact assessment is more holistic.

Therefore, the challenge is to integrate the development parameters in the evaluation in a more effective manner. At Manthan Awards, the endeavour of the jury is to focus on the critical outcome based parameters in identifying the Award winning applications which without doubt is a more holistic approach to evaluations.

Anjali Kaushik is Professor, Management Development Institute; and Lekha Kumar is Commissioner (systems), Income Tax Department. Both are members Grand Jury 2009

Local Language Content is Biggest Concern

Meera Shenoy

Technology today touches every aspect of our life and impacts the world in which we live. If you ask what is common to the traditional priest in the temple; the software yuppy on the motorbike; the suntanned maistry rounding up his labourers and the enterprising chaiwallah – the answer is all of them can be seen constantly conversing on the cell phone. So there was the internet revolution; followed by the mobile mania. And now the new words in our lexicon are twitting, blogging; youtubing!!!! Businesses keep up with this rapid change in technology for efficiency and profitability. The challenge is to takes these tools to the masses, to remove the divides between the rich and poor; rural and urban; to create a more inclusive society.

There is a broad consensus that providing poor with access to information and knowledge through ICT, popularly called ICT4D (ICT for development), is increasingly important for improving the livelihood of communities and creating a thriving democracy. Governments and multinationals are looking at these applications and solutions which meet business and development goals for varying stakeholders. The stumbling blocks here are connectivity, capacity, capital and culture. Myths that the poor or rural and tribal people do not have the capacity have been dispelled by SHGs handling financial transactions through hand held devices; domestic BPOs moving rural to employ rural youth for greater productivity or rural women wielding the video cameras to capture their own stories. The biggest concern is making available content in local language, giving importance to their local cultures.

There are innovative solutions emerging out of laboratories, field tested and scaled, which cut across technologies. In the Manthan award, we saw cutting edge solutions to improve lives of rural farmers from far flung provinces in Bangladesh to farmers in remote Madhya Pradesh. Tools of media in the hands of rural community are breaking their silence; giving them a Voice. Crossing geographical boundaries, barefoot solar engineers from India are teaching rural women in Africa to assemble and install solar panels to electrify villages without electricity for years. At a recent conference, an IIT alumni in MIT spoke of his research which converts any surface into a computer – the wall, a table, your hand and he would like this to be open source and affordable for the Indian masses! It is these technology innovations, tailored to remove the divides ,be it digital, gender, social or economic, which will help make India a global power by 2020.

Meera Shenoy is Executive Director EGMM (Employment Generation & Marketing Mission)

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