I was just perusing the Economic Times editorial on Bill Gates' address at Harvard's commencement ceremony where he was talking about how market forces need to end inequity. What an irony - on one hand, Harvard dropout addressing the  soon-to-be post-graduates and on the other hand, world's richest talking about world's sharpest inequities.

Gates seems to have championed the "Creative Capitalism" to end inequity. (Well, I must admit that I could not make much sense of the buzz phrase. A little bit of surfing and I found one meaningful definition - Peter Quinn, of Creative Capitalism - an organization committed to the creation, production, and dissemination of art and music -  defines it as the idea of living a creative life within a system that rejects ideas not formulated by market need). As Gates points out, in a world where the power of influence is never in the hands of the poor, there is definitely a need for "Creative Capitalism". 

He brings in a shocking comparison where the number of children who die every year of Rotavirus in India is 300 times the number of people who die in plane crash worldwide. It is sad that billions is spent to make aircrafts safer while abysmal resources invested in discovering an affordable vaccine for Rotavirus.

Click here to watch his speech at Harvard.  

~ Santosh

 
 

Just last week HiWEL installed the first of the four ICT Playground Learning Station Kiosks in Africa. The project was sponsored by the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the Uganda and Indian governments. Click here to read more

Though as an employee, and more so as a stakeholder of HiWEL, I'm elated with this deal on the outset, there is a sense of uneasiness and doubt on whether this innovative technology in the hands of the African children is the need of the hour. Well, since the day I joined HiWEL, I'm yet to be convinced by the claimed relatively immense potential of an ICT intervention vis-a-vis that of a basic infrastructure initiative.

A recent panel at the 15th annual Wharton Africa Business Forum touched upon this very same issue of shortcoming of some of such international aid projects in Africa. The panel brings to light one such ICT initiative from a MNC in Africa that failed as the basic infrastructure requirements needed for this project to work was overlooked by the MNC. Click here to read more on the proceedings of the panel.

Anyways, for now, only the social impact created over time can justify the presence of HiWEL Playground Learning Stations in Africa.

~ Santosh

 
 

zhu men jiu rou chou
lu you dong si gu


Behind the gates of the wealthy
food lies rotting from waste
Outside it's the poor
who lie frozen to death
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As I stumble upon these emotive lines from Du Fu , a 8th century Chinese poet, on the PovertyNet website, I wonder whether such publishing of poems is an act of desperate attempt by WorldBank to sensitize the world  towards the deprived?

Well, diverting from the emotional to the rational side, the inevitable question that arise in my mind is whether there exists a Holy grail solution to poverty. If so, is it the philanthropy or the much-in-vogue enterprise solutions the call-to-action? It seems like the quest and the debate takes a new shape with the just published book "The Bottom Billion" authored by the Oxford Economist Paul Collier.

Click here to read more.

~ Santosh

 
 

It is disheartening to see that some of the best technological initiatives intended to bridge the digital divide more often than not lack a sound business model. The closely watched One-Laptop-Per-Child (OLPC) initiative lately seems to have fallen into the same trap. Working for a firm in the same space, I doubt how far the third-party payee model would take OLPC.  I'm curious to know how the best of the technological brains behind this initiative break the basic problem of willingness-to-pay.

Read more at NextBillion.net

~Santosh

 

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