Training programme on “Governance and Management of NGO’s and NPO’s

An announcement in NGOpost calls for application for a six-week full time training programme on “Governance and Management of Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs/NGOs)”, scheduled between 6th July 2009 to 14th August 2009. The training is offered by Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII).

The training cost including accommodation is free for participants belonging to countries listed  in Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC). But participants from countries not listed can attend the training programme for the cost of $1500. Strangely, though the training programme is offered in India in partnership with the Indian’s government, India is not enlisted in ITEC. As a consequence, the fee applies to participants from India too!

Interested people can get more information on applying and information brochure here at EDII’s website.

Another failed development policy in the works?

A few headlines regarding the World Bank recently caught my eye, mostly because they are not the usual development headlines I am used to reading.  In the Business Standard‘s “Migration to urban areas is good, says World Bank,” and domain-b.com‘s “India’s rural job schemes are barriers to development: World Bank news,” the focus is on a new World Bank report that encourages a population shift from villages to cities.  More than that, the World Development Report 2009: Reshaping Economic Geography says that current schemes to improve rural life are contrary to development, as pointed out by domain-b.com:

The central government’s National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA) scheme and other poverty alleviation schemes act as policy barriers to economic development and perpetual alleviation of poverty, according to the World Bank.

In short, the report encourages the process of rural-urban migration.   This approach seems to be the  opposite of the upswing of efforts to address rural poverty and improve rural life so that the majority of India’s population has the same economic opportunity as in urban areas.  Instead of focus on rural schemes, the report advocates improving infrastructure in cities to boost economic activity.   Here is a quick look at the reasoning, as quoted by the Business Standard article:

“The world’s most geographically disadvantaged people know all too well that growth does not come to every place at once,” said Indermit S Gill, director of the World Development Report (WDR) and chief economist, Europe and Central Asia. “Markets favour some places over others. To fight this concentration is tantamount to fighting prosperity,” Gill added.

What does it mean for India when an international force such as the Bank supports a shift from rural to urban areas?  Will improving basic infrastructure in urban centers really address the pressure of large increases in city population?  While I’m not against migration as a whole, I remain skeptical about putting emphasis on encouraging rural to urban migration and discouraging rural schemes for poverty alleviation.  This debate also points back to an earlier post I wrote on urbanization.  Is this another development report gone bad?

E-governance Gaining Momentum in India

A few weeks ago, Vinay wrote about the growing business opportunities in the e-governance sector. An exciting recent development in this area has been the announcement by the Government of India of knowledge kiosks being set up in Panchayats. The project is sponsored by the E-governance in Panchayati Raj Institutions (e-PRIs) and is projected to be completed in three years. Such a large-scale introduction of information technology at the Panchayat level opens up the rural market for entrepreneurs. There are a number of possibilities for public-private partnerships in delivering solutions within sectors such as education, healthcare, micro-finance, etc.

The progress of e-governance models has been slower than expected in India. Some of the challenges facing this sector were discussed at the Lok Sabha panel on e-governance. At this panel, Prof. Bhatnagar of IIM-A discussed the flaws in the strategy on e-governance: Continue reading

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]

The Emergence of GovTech?

This is an excerpt from an email from Gunjan Sinha of SiliconIndia. He sent this to me the other day, and one part triggered some of my own feelings and thoughts that arose as a result of Obama’s recent inauguration.

In this new era, I see a strong role for entrepreneurs in reinventing our governments, and opportunities galore for those who are brave to take the plunge. Many here in Silicon Valley talk about mammoth opportunities in CleanTech, BioTech, and NanoTech; I personally see an equally substantial opportunity in what I would call ‘GovTech’ – the confluence of Government and Technology. The time is now to retool the government with creative entrepreneurial genius. Examples of business opportunities in this trillion-dollar market are abundant.

What Gunjan speaks of is even more important today, where we have witnessed the election in the US of a president who is in effect a social entrepreneur. In running his campaign, Obama utilized the power of community activism and grassroots organization to reach an astounding 1.5 million donors across the country and world. With initiatives like transparency.gov, he hopes to extend this new approach to governance beyond just his pioneering campaign.

IIT alumni plan social fund

[News Source: Business Standard]

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) alumni  plan to create a social fund aimed at supporting various projects that will create job opportunities for rural youth and transform India’s Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs).  PanIIT Alumni, which conducted the PanIIT 2008 Global Conference from 19-21 December, is working on three important projects in India – Indo-US collaboration for Engineering Education (IUCEE)IITians for ITIs, and Reach 4 India.

Quoting from the article about IITians for ITIs:

Ranjan Kumar, coordinator (India), IITians for ITIs project said the project was initiated by IIT alumni in association with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII’s) Southern Region and academia to push for sustainable excellence in technical/vocational training in India by creating institutions similar to the IITs, but focused on vocational education and highly-skilled workers.

As part of the phase I, over the next two years, around 40,000 students will be trained from around 300 government ITI institutes. It has also decided to set up a 24X7 call centre in one of the southern states to connect the workers with the experts and the industry.

This piece of news comes at a time when I have come across two interesting articles. One article published in Businessworld carried the byline “As IITians bring global glory, bright engineers from lesser-known institutes build the country.” Though the article was more about how engineers from “second-rung” colleges were the ones actually contributing to India’s infrastructure, it does bring questions related to contribution of IITians towards their nation’s growth. The second article is about a survey conducted by IIT alumni.

The brain drain has stemmed to a great extent, even leading to claims of reverse brain drain. I feel that the social entrepreneurship sector in India has just started gaining momentum and could benefit a lot by the entry of experienced IIT alumni and also of socially concious new passouts. In this context, I find initiatives like E4SI (Engineers For Social Impact) and MADD (Making A Difference Differently) trying to ensure that social development space gets the top talent it requires.

[TC-I Call to Action]: Rewarding Good Governance through Gram Panchayat Puruskar

Calling all gram panchayats in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka – Google.org‘s Inform and Empower Initiative wants to know the top five panchayats in each of these two states that are using innovation and good governance. According to the Google.org blog,

The prize will be awarded in one of six areas: education, health and nutrition, water supply, rural infrastructure, rural electrification, and resource mobilization. The winning panchayat must include a wide variety of social and income groups, share information with villagers, respond to citizen feedback, and track the quality of programs.

The competition is an opportunity to recognize good, effective governance and encourage quality public services. And if that’s not reason enough, the winning panchayats will receive a cash prize of Rs.5 lakhs (approximately $10,000 USD).

The contest is open for entries from December 12, 2008 through January 25, 2009. For more information, please see the FAQs and Rules.