You don’t have to be an expert to make a difference

K.M. Basheer’s educational qualifications make him an unlikely leader of a medical movement. He has not studied beyond Class X. But this farmer from Nilambur in Kerala’s Malappuram district heads a society that arranges for home and neighbourhood-level care for the chronically ill. His venture, the Nilambur Palliative Care Society, has inspired several other groups.

This story is one that reminds us that you can become a successful social entrepreneur even in a space where you may not know everything there is to know. The entire story can be read here on OneWorld.

Transfer money after the beep

Here is an interesting approach to the technological hurdles of mobile banking. Called Cashnxt, this venture in Kerala, uses high-pitched sounds via mobile phones to encrypt and decrypt the secure data needed to perform a financial transaction. An article on ReadWriteWeb, explains it as such:

As a customer, if you and a vendor are a member of the Cashnxt network, you can conduct transactions using your mobile phones. The merchant dials CashNxt’s IVR number, enters their PIN and transaction amount, and then hears a high pitch sound on their mobile phone. The customer does the same – calls the IVR number, enters their PIN and hears a high pitch sound. The two phones are then brought together, held close enough for CashNxt to encrypt and decrypt the sounds. 

Go after the jump to see a youtube video of the process:

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I’ve been innovating on the railroad

I came across two articles today where the railroad industry in Kerala is pushing some small scale innovations of their own.

Here is the first story.

The railways is providing broadband Internet connection in the state through the Railtel Corporation of India. The biggest incentive for those taking the net service of Indian Railways is that they can download education material free, reports IANS.

And in the second story,

Nagaland University and Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management of Kerala (IIITM-K) have been linked through India’s longest terrestrial connection over the Indian Railways optical fibre cable (OFC) network for enhancing technology education in the state.

It almost seems fitting that railroad companies are the ones involved in building out communication networks in various parts of the country. For much of the early to mid 20th century, railroads were a symbol of industrial progress as they connected previously unconnected parts of the terrain. Likewise, today, these efforts are trying to build and develop a virtual network that will only shrink India further.

[Source for both: iGovernment]

Midday Newsfeed

  • The UNDP is organizing its 6th annual forum of the World Alliance of Cities against Poverty (WACAP) from March 26 – 28th to “engage municipalities on local plans of action in reducing poverty through fostering local democracy.” Various facets of poverty expected to be addressed by participating municipalities are sanitation, child mortality, maternal mortality, diseases (particularly HIV/AIDS), and gender gaps.  Source: ProPoor
  • Yesterday, Intel donated 300 PCs to Chattisgarh to “enable government-run schools to reap full benefits of effective technology integration in teaching and learning.”  Intel is also actively training uninitiated teachers to integrate technology into their curriculum by conducting “refresher courses, enhancement workshops, technology workshops, and principal seminars.” 
  • A recent study shows that black carbon, “emitted from biomass burning, diesel engine exhaust, and cooking fires” has a “warming effect in the atmosphere three to four times greater than prevailing estimates.”  The leading contributors of black carbon emissions are India and China, contributing approximately 25 to 30% of the world’s emissions. 
  • The Citi Foundation recently launched their “Citi Network Strengthening Program,” a three-year, $11.2 million program in collaboration with Small Enterprise Education and Promotion Network (SEEP) to “advance the integration of microfinance into the mainstream economies of developing countries.”  Participating networks include Sa-Dhan (India).
  • In an attempt to combat the the effects of globalization, climate change, and natural disasters, the Kerala state government has decided to implement a pension scheme for farmers.  The scheme is called Kisansree, and will provide insurance cover to farmers free of cost.

Late Night Edition


Mumbai based investment firm Quantum Equity Advisors has launched a $500 million private equity fund focused on infrastructure in India. The fund christened – Q India Fund – will focus on investments in infrastructure projects and companies in India. The country needs about $500 billion up to fiscal year 2011-12 to upgrade its infrastructure, and a 30 per cent of the total spending is expected to come from private firms.

Tata BP Solar today announced that they had signed an agreement with Calyon Bank (Credit Agricole CIB) and BNP Paribas and among others, to raise 78 million dollar to fund its 128MW Solar Cell Expansion Project, which is in the advanced stages of implementation, eventually totaling 180MW solar cell manufacturing capacity.

Indicating how deep illegal kidney trade has penetrated into the country, Amritsar police on Monday claimed to have busted another racket with the arrest of six people.

The situation in Kuttanad where thousands of acres of paddy fields were submerged by summer rain over the last few days is turning out to be worse than expected. While initial estimates by the district administration pegged the loss at around Rs.5 crore, unofficial estimates point towards a loss of at least Rs.10 crore.

Kanavu – Where Dreams are Built

In the words of Paulo Freire, Brazilian educator, activist, philosopher, and author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

Self deprecation is … characteristic of the oppressed, which derives from their internalization of the opinion the oppressors hold of them.  So often do they hear that they are good for nothing, know nothing and are incapable of learning anything – that they are sick, lazy, and unproductive – that in the end they become convinced of their own unfitness. 

They call themselves ignorant and say the ‘professor’ is the one who has knowledge and to whom they should listen… 

Almost never do they realize that they, too, ‘know things’ they have learned in their relations with the world and with other women and men.

Such is the nature of the battle for Kanavu, a non-traditional school for Adivasi children in the Wayanad district of north Kerala that, according to its founder, K.J. Baby, aims to “not only educate [Adivasi children], but also cultivate a sense of pride in themselves.”  There is no official curriculum for this school, no classrooms, no syllabus, no rote-learning, no memorization-driven exams.  The teachers are the students, and the students are the teachers – quite literally, as the school is now run by graduates of the program, who do everything from managing the school to teaching.  Inherently, the school is, in Freirean terms, liberatory in nature:

More after the jump. Continue reading