Killing Two Birds with One Stone: Expand NREGA

Last month, we posted about the expansion of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) to all districts in India starting on April 1. Even though the government chose to expand this program, the scheme has its share of pros and cons. A recent article in The Economist highlights the strengths of NREGA as its ability to allow participants to self-select themselves, the fact that the majority of participants are from lower castes, and the impact of the scheme in mitigating migration to urban areas.

On the flip side, there are a number of problems that exist with the NREGA, such as corruption, as Prerna previously highlighted. The Centre for Science and Environment put forth a more detailed policy paper on NREGA, as well as a series of suggestions for improving on the program. CSE suggests not only viewing the Act as a means for employment generation, but also thinking about how this can be linked with local development and creating assets for communities. This is an interesting approach, as it recognizes that while the rural population needs employment, there are also a whole host of other issues that the population itself can help in addressing. NREGA can be expanded not just in numbers, but also in terms of what the program can achieve for the rural population of India.

Another problem that CSE brings attention to is the fact that while 769,582 projects are under progress, only 158,277, or about 21%, are actually completed. Read on for CSE’s recommendations.

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The Economist Innovation Awards – Accepting Nominations

The Economist is accepting nominations for their 2008 Innovation Awards. Nominations are welcome until April 7, 2008 in seven different categories, including “Social and economic innovation.”

More details, including the criteria for selection, can be found here.

Adoption not the same as democratization with regard to technology

The Economist had an article today on the challenges that emerging economies face with making initial adoptions of new technologies widespread. While it is easy to overly simplify the phenomenon that is technology transfer to the developing world by glossing over mobile phone stats or internet users, the harsh reality is that much of these technologies have still failed to become ubiquitous.

The article depicted the typical situation of a rapidly adopting emerging society in India:

In frenetic Mumbai, everyone seems to be jabbering non-stop on their mobile phones: according to India’s telecoms regulator, half of all urban dwellers have mobile- or fixed-telephone subscriptions and the number is growing by 8m a month. The India of internet cafés and internet tycoons produces more engineering graduates than America, makes software for racing cars and jet engines and is one of the top four pharmaceutical producers in the world.

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