Register NOW for the Harvard International Development Conference

This year, I’m helping to run the Harvard International Development Conference (IDC) at the Harvard Kennedy School.  It promises to be an exciting event, with panel topics ranging from the role of mobile technology as a means of alleviating poverty to private sector-led, entrepreuneurial models for development.  If you intend on attending the conference, please do let me know – I would love to meet members of our readership in person!

More information follows below:

The 15th Annual Harvard International Development Conference
April 3 – 4, 2009   |   Harvard Kennedy School

Register Now!  www.HARVARD-IDC.com

We would like to introduce you to the 15th Annual Harvard International Development Conference (IDC) at the Harvard Kennedy School.  In light of an increasingly challenging global context, this year’s theme, “IMPACT: Turning Global Challenges into Opportunities,” delves into the need for the reconceptualization of existing development paradigms, as well as the importance of cross-sector, entrepreneurial partnerships.

We are especially pleased to present our keynote speakers for this year’s conference:

Mr. John Wood, Founder, Room to Read; Author, ‘Leaving Microsoft to Change the World’
Dr. Kyung-Wha Kang, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights
Dr. Howard Zucker, Former Assistant Director General, World Health Organization

The core programmatic elements of the IDC are our 13 Panels and 4 Workshops under 4 Topics, each consisting of four to five leading development experts from a multitude of sectors: government, private sector, academia and international organizations.  This year’s topics include:

A.    International Trade & Finance
B.    Science & Technology for Development
C.    Human Rights & Human Security
D.    Private Sector & Entrepreneurial Solutions for Development

Three (yes, 3!) Exciting Upcoming Conferences!

Looking for interesting conferences to attend over the course of the next two months? Well, look no further! Below are three upcoming conferences that we recommend you attend – The Harvard Business School Social Enterprise Conference (March 1, 2009), The Harvard Business School India Business Conference (March 15, 2009), and the Harvard Kennedy School International Development Conference (April 3-4, 2009). ThinkChange India will be live blogging at all three conferences, so if you are unable to attend, we will be sure to update you with key highlights from the three respective conferences!

Some brief information about each of the conferences follows below:

HBS Social Enterprise Conference – March 1, 2009

The Social Enterprise Conference provides a forum for exploring the synergies between for-profit, non-profit, and public sector approaches to addressing critical social issues. This goal lies at the heart of the Harvard Business School mission “to educate leaders who make a difference in the world” and the Kennedy School of Government mission “to prepare leaders for service to democratic societies.” The Conference is entirely run by students from these two schools.

Exciting speakers include Priya Haji, CEO of World of Good, Inc., Linda Rottenberg, CEO of Endeavour, and Bill Drayton, CEO of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. Expect to also see panelists from organizations such as the Clinton Foundation, Agora Partnerships, the Acumen Fund, One Laptop Per Child, IDEO, Skoll Foundation, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, TechnoServe, ACCION International, and many more! Click here if you would like to see the agenda in its entirety.

HBS India Business Conference – March 15, 2009

The HBS India Conference is one of the largest student-run conferences in the US and has a strong legacy of creating a platform to allow business men and women, policymakers, and those involved in academia to meaningfully debate and discuss how India can fulfill her global potential.

This year’s conference will feature presentations by prominent keynote speakers as well as twelve panel discussions / debates on the following areas: Building Brands in India, Energy, Entrepreneurship, Global Indians, Healthcare, Infrastructure, Knowledge Economy, Media and Entertainment, Private Equity, Retail, Social Enterprise and Venture Capital. In addition, the Conference will provide an opportunity for the attendees to network and interact closely with prominent members of the Indian business community and to learn about their industries and companies as well as gain insights on potential career opportunities.

HKS International Development Conference – April 3-4th, 2009 (website is yet to be updated)

15th Annual International Development Conference at Harvard University, which will be held at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts from April 3rd to 4th, 2009. The International Development Conference is a student-run event providing a world-class inter-disciplinary forum on global sustainable development. Each year the Conference attracts over 400 participants and serves as a forum to foster dialogue among various stakeholders, including senior level policy makers, academics, and practitioners.

Laptops and Local Trains

When I first heard the news, I was reminded of chaiwalas on local trains who chant, “chaiiii, chaiiiii, chaiiiii” and sell just the right amount of delectable tea in earthen cups for a very sweet price. Has the day come? Will a new army of “laptopwalas” soon be chanting, “laptopppp, laptopppp, laptopppp,” on local trains and markets, especially given the recent media flurry that the Indian government is getting ready to launch a $10 laptop as part of its e-learning campaign?

Admittedly, the idea of laptops being sold on local trains is somewhat preposterous. Unfortunately, the amount being quoted through the media – $10 – seems equally as preposterous. First, some background, courtesy of the Guardian:

The computer, known as Sakshat, which translates as “before your eyes”, will be launched as part of a new Rs46bn “national mission for education.” This envisages a network of laptops from which students can access lectures, coursework and specialist help from anywhere in India, triggering a revolution in education. A number of publishers have reportedly agreed to upload portions of their textbooks on to the system

There are plenty of skeptics, however, including Atanu Dey:

So what’s wrong with a $10 laptop? What’s wrong is that it flies in the face of all reasonable expectations about the world. It is disconnected with reality. The reality is that Nicholas Negroponte’s OLPC project tried desperately to build a $100 laptop and despite having access to considerable talent and expertise, the best it could do was a machine that costs around $200. What this tells us is that hardware costs, though they have fallen dramatically over time, are still high enough that it is virtually impossible to produce a laptop for around $100. If it were possible, they would have done it.

Regardless of whether this innovation is as cost-effective as it claims to be, which is doubtful, it is still important to keep in mind that technology is simply a tool, not the ends itself. I can’t say emphasize this point enough – should the Indian government roll out a shiny, new, cost-effective laptop with Wi-Fi and 2 GB ram (which I highly doubt), I hope they also have plans to actually implement the technology effectively. Most difficult is not the “what,” but rather, the “how,” which is, in this case, unclear in both respects.

[Check our previous coverage on the topic: Prerna’s Op-Ed on the Logic of Laptops in Education, Story featuring affordable PC maker NComputing, OLPC’s entry into India]

Upcoming Conference: “Microfinance from Below,” Tufts Fletcher

This upcoming March 26th – 28th, 2009, the Tufts Fletcher School will be holding a conference entitled, “Microfinance from Below: The Power of Savings and Savings Groups in Frontier Economies.” Registration is free. More details follow below:

The Center for Emerging Market Enterprises (CEME) at The Fletcher School, Tufts University—with support from Oxfam America and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—will host a conference in March 2009 that explores the dual nature of savings groups. As a subject of debate within the microfinance sector, groups constitute both a target of and shield against exploitation, a market for and competitor to commercial alternatives, and a means of both communal unity and division. The “Microfinance from Below: The Power of Savings and Savings Groups in Frontier Economies” conference will examine the potential and limits of financial self-service, the social nature of savings groups, and the best ways for institutions to form, strengthen, and serve them—and then let them go.

Changing the Face of Public Health: Click Diagnostics

This winter, through the gracious support of the Social Equity Venture Fund (S.E.VEN), I will be working in Cairo, Egypt with Click Diagnostics, a mobile tele-health social enterprise venture that recently won the $100K Entrepreneurship Competition hosted yearly at MIT. As mentioned in previous posts relating to cellphones and development, mobile technology seems to be the next frontier in terms of poverty alleviation. In this case, the focus is on the delivery of high-quality, affordable healthcare to rural populations in developing countries.

Currently, the organization is in the start-up stage, and is piloting its implementation model in several areas, including Egypt. For the benefit of those who would like to learn more about Click Diagnostics’ for-profit model, a more detailed description follows:

The Need: The confluence of four critical factors has led to what Click Diagnostics believes is a global health mandate – 1) a severe scarcity of doctors in rural areas, 2) the relative abundance of medical expertise in urban areas, 3) the presence of trainable community health workers and local-level micro-entrepreneurs, and 4) the rapid penetration of relatively inexpensive mobile technology into the markets of developing countries.

The Model:
Click Diagnostics employs a mobile tele-health model to connect locally trained community health workers with a remote, web-based network of medical specialists. Through the integration of inexpensive technology, locally trained community health workers, and remote medical expertise, Click Diagnostics aims to provide a sophisticated end-to-end healthcare service delivery chain for “remote diagnosis and consultation, health risks screening, early warning systems, and health data analysis.”

The Vision: Click Diagnostics aims to “provide quality medical advice to every household in disadvantaged regions of the world at an affordable price, and develop cost-effective solutions for gathering critical data needed for planning and executing public health interventions.”

[TC-I Call-to-Action]: Monitor Inclusive Markets

Monitor Inclusive Markets is looking for a new Chief-of-Staff! More information follows:

Monitor Inclusive Markets a new practice within the India office that aims to establish Monitor as a thought leader, both in India and globally, within the realm of market-based solutions for social change. We will do this by identifying commercially viable business models that have the potential to address some of the enormous social challenges that face India and similar emerging economies at scale – for instance, low cost health care, low income housing, high quality education for the poor, the enhancement of agricultural livelihood’s, and more.

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Ashoka: Change Agents Urgently Needed!

Ashoka is looking for agents of change. Are you a potential candidate? Read more below:

Ashoka is growing. We are looking for creative, entrepreneurial people to lead major initiatives worldwide. We are looking for people who demonstrate the highest ethical standards, a deep sense of collegiality, and a strong self-image to lead positive change.

If you have started your own endeavor, or significantly transformed the operations of an existing institution – a corporation, media outlet, or a citizen sector organization – then you may be a fit with Ashoka’s culture of entrepreneurship and social innovation.

Ashoka is urgently looking for leaders in the following “emerging hubs”: Europe, India, Brazil, and the United States.

Among the projects that are seeking leadership:

  • Leader of Financial Operations Team (CFO)
  • Global and regional leaders for program enabling Citizen Sector Organizations to build a sustainable base of support (Citizen Base Initiative)
  • Leader for Global Development team
  • Leader for Global Fellowship Selection Program

Apply now at recruit@ashoka.org.