Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cellphone disassembly

This is from WorldChanging. Companies like Nokia are designing cellphones that can be disassembled within 2 seconds, as compared to the manual disassembly process of over 2 minutes. Computers and many other electronic goods are recycled, but the disassembly time required for cellphones did not justify doing it profitably, and therefore cellphones were normally shredded. But this attitude is changing, and there are research groups such as Active Disassembly that exclusively work on designing screws and nuts and bolts that can be simply heated with a laser and open up the device within seconds. Cellphone recyclying can surely become a lucrative industry, as also suggested by Keshav.

Using the sun to sterilize water

Villagers in Tanzania seal plastic water bottles and leave them under the sun. Within a couple of hours, the water is clean enough for drinking purposes! If the sun is hot and the water reaches up to 50C, then it is fit for drinking within an hour. The technique still faces some hurdles due to cultural quirks, but it is an excellent way to purify stagnant or standing water, and should be publized in other parts of the world.


Standing for Almost All Questions Answered, this was developed at IIT-B for helping farmers place queries at village Internet kiosks, which are then answered by professors and researchers working at different agricultural institutes across the country. It is a self-sustainable initiative where Rs. 10 are charged for each query, and replies come within a couple of days. A search facility is also available that is fully multilingual in nature. A good coverage is also available here.

Participatory Rural Appraisal

This scheme has been proposed by the World Bank to help assess the situation of rural people, and collaboratively come up with a set of remedial procedures. It seeks to tap into the local knowledge, and empower people to help themselves. The key tenets of the PRA include participation, teamwork, flexibility, information gathering at an on-demand basis, and triangulation of opinions from multiple sources to ensure correctness and reliability. A lot of the ideas are very similar to our vision of the global brain.

A prime organization supporting this movement is Insight, who have pioneered the use of participatory video as a tool for empowering communities. It is similar to Witness, but focuses more on training methods for making videos.

What we need next is a video version of the community radio.

The community radio movement is being pushed across the world by organizations like AMARC, and has matured to a great extent with UNESCO handbooks being available to set up appropriate organizational structures to initiate community radio programs, train the people to make new radio programs, and guidelines of technical steps to set up the systems. The whole movement is very active in places like Nepal, Bangladesh, and S. America, but the Indian government has still not given the go for it. Educational campuses are allowed to set up the systems, but NGOs and non-profits are excluded from it. However, the potential is well recognized, and there is also an online petition going on to open up community radio in India! The Community Radio Network maintains how-tos on setting up systems in India.

The costs to set up community radio mentioned in the handbooks are quite high, but I believe that they can be minimized to under 1000$ per station covering 15-20km by using PCI based FM cards. Such systems can be installed easily in village Internet kiosks, and programs can be recorded for broadcasting in the local community. Community radio forms an important component of the Global Brain project, and my aim is to use reputation, social networks, and content based routing to circulate local content in neighboring areas, and even across the world. In the long term, couple it with sousveillance systems to keep track of performance appraisal of government officials and politicians, and to give a more process oriented turn to media by building clever analysis tools that make it easy to observe trends and correlations.

Converting the community radio movement into a community television movement in a cheap fashion is really the next technical challenge. Tools like Democracy TV, Al Gore's Current TV channel, and IPTV, coupled with TiVO like DVR systems can potentially be one answer, even for rural areas.

Nearly half of Indian children are undernourished

Such statistics normally go uncovered by the media, just because there is a lot of fad to document other interesting masala newsitems. AIDS gets more coverage than TB or diarrhea, even though the latter two contribute to more child deaths than AIDS. Undernourishment is hardly noticed on the faces of smiling children, but it gets translated to increased vulnerability to other lethal diseases, a shorter lifespan, and retarded intellectual growth. Even this article simply states what the WB report found, without bothering to analyse the repurcussions of the report. Media has become too lazy. As P. Sainath says, the media of today is completely event based, and documents incidents as and when they occur. What is needed however, is a more process oriented approach, where situations are analyzed from start to finish, and learnings are derived from them for prevent similar mishaps in the future, or find long term solutions to problems.

A better article is from the BBC about water development. 20% of the world's population still lacks access to safe drinking water, and this is the prime cause of deaths due to water borne diseases like diarrhea and cholera. It says that governments, NGOs, politicians, and businesses, all have a role to play in executing successful water policies. Water quality is depleting due to receding watertables because of lesser rainfall, which in turn is caused due to increased deforestation. Urbanization has also been a great contributor to increasing the consumption of water. There is much to be learnt from people at the ground, but their opinions are never sought and incorrect policies are drafted that worsen the situation. In short, what the article recommends is that a holistic approach is required, and all stakeholders have to understand the problems from a bigger perspective and then try to solve them.

A related article on the WHO initiative to eradicate TB from the world -- it shows that government control actually works.

Orissa's Sambalpuri weavers: From boom to bust

There were many factors that contributed to this fall. The cooperative societies that organized the artisans together, were highjacked by the politicians through some clever manipulations in the elections, to be able to make an extra buck for themselves. The result was that the cooperatives closed down, and the artisans had to rely on middlemen to market their products. This reduced the wages that the artisians finally received. At the same time, the cottom boom caught up and gave though competition to the Sambalpuri materials. The result was that their fortunes turned, and what once used to be a happy, respectable, and profitable profession, now became quite the opposite. Rehabilitation efforts have been proposed, and include diversification into other materials and trading options. But this incident should be remembered as a learning experience for NGOs and weavers across the country because corruption and capitalism are not always to be blamed, but the people themselves can safeguard their future by increasing their awareness to trends and new businesses. The governments should also provide insurance support to entrepreneurs who are willing to take the risk and explore alternative options.

The woes of relocation

It is the same story, be it the Narmada dam or the Orissa steel plant. Land is usurped from tribals and villagers who rely on the natural resources for their sustenance. Meagre compensation is given, and sometimes promises are made for employment in the factories, but rarely do these things follow through. People are displaced from their land, alieneated from their communities, and hardly given anything in return to start their lives all over again. And if protests are made, then police brutalities bring up shocking pictures of human rights abuse. There is clearly no one single way out. The government, judiciary, NGOs, and the people, have all got to work together to make sure that promises are carried through and the people get what they rightly deserve.

Village for sale

The headline is not important, but what is important is to analyse the factors that led to this outcome. Farmers growing cotton in a small village in Maharashtra are so burdened by unpaid loans that they decided to sell all their land and possessions and move to the city. They were hoping that the government will pair a good price for their cotton, but that was never done. The government is also helpless in front of the laws of supply of demand. Cotton growing got lucrative in the mid-90s, and everyone started to grow cotton. The result was a flood of cheap produce into the market, which brought done the sustainability for all the farmers. To make matters worse, there was a drought in the late 90s, and cotton being very intensive on the soil, the poor farmers were forced to take loans that they haven't been able to pay back. Moving to the city is surely not a solution. Cities have always sounded lucrative to the villagers, but the reality is quite different. Squatter cities and slum areas have even worse living conditions than the villages. The government should take note and prevent this mass migration. The farmers should be supported in growing other crops and their loans should be excused or the interest should be cancelled. Most important of all, they should be educated to not just follow the herd, but analyse the factors and take consultancy from NGOs in the best crops to be grown for long term sustainability. I sometimes wonder though, if the Soviet way of a centralized planning system is the way to go!

Reconstruction and rehabilitation

This is an excellent article on things that went wrong in establishing temporary housing shelters for the tsunami victims, and guidelines that should be followed for subsequent disaster relief efforts. Some of the things that went wrong were:

- Inadequate attention paid to sanitation
- Use of tar sheeting, even though it was neither durable, waterproof nor heat-resistant.
- Improper choice of land for building shelters. Easily got flooded during rains, and drainage was poor.
- Inadequate medical facilities available to the victims.

Some guidelines identified for handling such situations in the future:

- Involve the community. Don’t go with fixed models. Follow government guidelines, but also take the local community’s expertise and needs into consideration. Remember, panchayats are not always true representatives of the entire community.

- Space is important. These houses are for large families, and working class families have to store gear and equipment in their houses. Generally, the profession decides the design, while differences in the need and size of the family should determine the space.

- Build where people want to live. People have always gravitated towards locations that are best suited for their occupation.

- Transparency in budgeting, planning and design and community participation at all levels is necessary.

- Construction shouldn’t be contracted out to agents. A serious engagement with the community has to be taken up.

- Taluk-level quality committees should be formed to look into the quality of material used and check other discrepancies like commission and graft.

The Institute of Design of the Illinois Institute of Technology has a research group working things including sustainable housing: Design for the Bottom of the Pyramid. A book by C. Sinclair and K. Stohr is also available: Design Like You Give a Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises.

Fritz report

The San Francisco-based Fritz Institute has conducted a study on disaster response, and analysed the challenges that come up in the delivery of humanitarian assistance to affected areas. The main problem was the unpreparedness, lack of coordination, and poor supply chain management by NGOs, governments and the private sector. The report says that improvements can be made by training the local people in advance for efforts of rescue, identification/burial of the dead, debris clearning, medical services, and relocation. A pool of skilled logisticians should also be maintained globally, so that these trained people can help organize the relief workers.

The report also said that most people reported a nearly 50% drop in earnings, even one year after the disaster. This was completely due to aid being provided in an unplanned and short-term manner, as what I have previously written as well.

Message in a doodle

Comics are apparently the most simplest, effective, and low cost way of getting ideas across. World Comics India trains people in this art, and also develops educational content on basic sanitation, firstaid, parenting, and many other things. Narrating entire chapters in a story form makes the learning process interesting, and having pictures with that makes it even more engrossing. Simplest solutions are sometimes the best solutions!

Friends Without Borders

A very beautiful and touching initiative to encourage world peace. Thousands of children from schools in India have written letters of friendship to students in Pakistan, and they are replying back. The videos on the website are awesome. They even wrote the world's largest loveletter in the Chinnaswamy stadium at Bangalore! If the new generation is brought up with such strong ideals of love and friendship, then folks like bin Laden will never be able to find muster enough hatred into these warm and beautiful hearts.


The telecenter movement is aimed at connecting people across the world with eachother, who visit rural Internet kiosks for educational purposes and write about their experiences, including photographs from their respective villages. This carries the same potential for bringing about awareness and revolutions in the lives of the children, just like the television managed to abolish apartheid in South Africa by opening up the world for Africans and giving them courage and hope by showing that their brothers lived at par with the whites right across the ocean.

The "low cost" Solo Computer for Africa

A very interesting pointer by Rabin, and an extract from his email on TIER.

Key features:
- lower power - finally only 8.5 watts - primarily work on batteries etc versus upto 200-300 W for a regular PC
- rugged - small, in dusty env. etc
- no hard disk - FLASH
- LCD screen
- currently runs RISCOS - but will run Linux
- cost is aroun $1200 - but claim is that it will last for upto 15 years
- applications will include spreadsheets, word processing, PDF viewers

Screen: 13.3" TFT LCD panel at XGA
Power: 6-40v DC at 8 1/2 Watts,
Weight: 8 kg
CPU: 500 megaherts on an ARM processor
RAM: 256MB of memory
Disk: 2.5GB of flash drive capacity.

Designed by Fantsuam Foundation in Nigeria. The Fantsuam will soon produce Solo computers for the general market - deadlines are still awaited. Workshops and demos are underway. There is one problem though: it costs around US$1,200, far out of reach of the average African.

The only thing you might want to replace is your battery. These are nickle metal hydride high-temperature batteries. They are triple A battery size, and stacked in two sets, in a box with an intelligent processor, which makes it hot-swappable so you can swap one out when low on charge.

Health of Humanity, Larry Brilliant

Larry Brilliant, currently executive director of, gave a talk at UC Berkeley. Melissa diligently took some excellent notes of an excellent speech. Larry outlines four main threats facing the world today:

- Global Warming: He stated that all the excellent work done by Mohd Yunus with the Grameen Bank will all go to waste because 10% of Bangladesh will get submerged under water if the sealevels were to rise by 1m. The developed nations of the world need to take up the responsibility because they share this planet with everybody else, and their negligence can spell disaster for their brothers and sisters on the other side of the world who never did them any wrong in life.

- Diseases - zoonoses: A global early warning system is needed to check the spread of diseases. It is being realized that even AIDS came out from chimpanzees, and now kills thousands of men and women and children across the world each day.

- Poverty and Injustice: The Internet has played a great role in linking people together, and provides avenues to keep injustice in check by empowering the people themselves with tools and technologies to do better sousveillance.

- Religious and Sectarian violence - including but not limited to terrorist: Hate is like a virus, and love is like a vaccine. If we start loving them, they will stop hating us. 'We' being all of us in this world. And 'they' being all of them who encourage their followers to perpetrate violence.

The smart-card way to self-esteem

Melissa pointed us to this article in the TIER mailing list. A very interesting way being tried out by an organization in Mysore, is to give smart cards to sex workers, through which they can buy discounted clothes or beauty products they need greatly for their profession. The only condition is that to renew the validity of the smart cards, they have to show up for HIV tests regularly. Certainly a very interesting way, but there are many questions to this as well. Prostitution in India is illegal -- can this lead to prosecution of the sex workers? Will these cards isolate them even more from the general public? How many vendors will be ready to take part in this initiative? Whether it be successful or not, the approach surely highlights the importance of there being some kind of an incentive structure to encourage empowerment and awareness. Because otherwise, the general population is quite indifferent to changing their ways of living.

Going nuclear

A very interesting article by Patrick Moore, founder of GreenPeace, who now argues that nuclear is the way to go. Traditionally, environmentalists had always opposed nuclear power, given the high risk involved in disposing the nuclear waste, and the possibility of civilan nuclear technology being used for the development of nuclear weapons. This article, by an environmentalist, argues in favour of nuclear technology because it is clean, and technologies are now available to handle nuclear waste in a safe and secure manner. Alternative fuels like solar, wind, ethanol hybrids, and biodiesel are still not cheap enough for wide-spread usage.

Indian economy overview

This is a fairly neat analysis of the current state of the economy, and contains an outline of the essential to-dos in order to maintain the growth rate of the economy at 8%. The issue that most people do not realize is that if the growth rate were to drop to the regular 4-6% because of not meeting the requirements mentioned below, then the large amount of youthful workforce about to join the ranks of the unemployed, will never get absorbed. And the trickle down effect of the economic progress being able to touch the lives of the bottom 30% of the Indian population below the poverty line, will never go through. Some of the things that need urgent attention are the following.

- Simplifying procedures and relaxing entry barriers for business activities. IFC, a World Bank organization, has ranked India at 116 in terms of the ease to establish a new business.

- Relaxing the labour laws. Any decision to lay off more than 100 workers, has to be approved by the State government. This has prevented many manufacturing firms from hiring temporary workers, even though they are willing to pay three times the minimum wage for more than 100 days of employment per year.

- Checking the growth of population. The awareness work being done by grassroots NGOs is indeed very impressive in this regard. All initiatives like microfinance, watershed development, and fair trade practices, have become conduits for pushing techniques and ways of sustainable living to the rural population.

- Boosting agricultural growth through diversification and development of agro processing. Agriculture forms the livelihood of over 60% of the Indian population, and cannot be neglected, especially when sustainable agriculture has to be improved manifold into a second green revolution to feed the growing population.

- Expanding industry fast, by at least 10% per year to integrate not only the surplus labour in agriculture but also the unprecedented number of women and teenagers joining the labour force every year. No amount of software development or BPO services can provide the same amount of employment as the manufacturing industry.

- Developing world-class infrastructure for sustaining growth in all the sectors of the economy. Traffic jams, toll booths, and plain red tapism, have led to an average speed of 11 kmph for most transport vehicles that run on the Indian roads. Not just speed, but poor roads and inadequate penetration into rural areas affect each and every sector of the economy. Privatization is only part of the solution, but the government seriously needs to improve its investment in developing better transportation services. Not just transportation, but energy puts forth an even bigger question mark on whether the growth rates can be sustained.

- Allowing foreign investment in more areas

- Empowering the population through universal education and health care. Primary education forms only 3% of the annual government expenditure. This is certainly a shocking figure, given that education is the primary building block for just about any kind of economic or social progress.

Importance of open-source

Most NGOs and small businesses are starved of funds to buy proprietary software, or employ highly skilled software people for inhouse development. Open-source and publicly licensed software is definitely the answer, but making robust and generic software is more of a cultural issue than anything else. The good thing is that the FOSS community is expanding out to places like India, and if pushed in the right direction, this definitely has the potential of placing cutting edge products in the hands of social entrepreneurs.

We at Udai are trying to start a similar initiative called the Technology Hub, where we will have highly skilled volunteers with 3+ years of job experience, visit NGOs and non-profit organizations and make detailed specifications of their requirements. We will then match the requirements with skill-sets of student volunteers in universities and elsewhere, looking for summer projects and other part-time work, to implement the overall systems. So far, we have identified friends and colleagues working in India, who are willing to spend some time in making these specifications. We are now trying to establish links with universities to gather volunteers. We already have a few NGOs in mind who need some help. TARAhaat, based in New Delhi, is looking for people to help design agricultural information services software, where farmers can come to the TARAhaat kiosks and place queries related to choice of seeds or choice of seasonal crop, and experts based in agricultural institutes can answer these queries. Pradan, a fairly large NGO working on rural empowerment techniques, including micro-finance, is looking for analysis tools to understand the utilization patterns of the loans they give out.

NHC: NRI Home Coming

A new networking initiative called IDCA (India Development Coalition of America) has lately come up, to connect organizations based in the USA working for social development in India. Definitely something to keep an eye open to. They recently organized a conference, and have a great set of people working on fantastic projects. It includes:

- Vikram Akula, who gave a great push to the microfinance movement in India.

- An interesting project on a mobile science laboratory to awaken the interests of students in villages who would normally never get to see a science laboratory in their schools.

- Virendra Singh, ex-chief of DuPont South Asia, who organized poor girls around his home-village in UP, and transformed their lives.

- Exciting ways to empower people in rural India by working hand-in-hand with each family and guiding them to uplift themselves.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


This is a very interesting startup that aims to bring the entire Internet on to your harddisk! Well, not exactly. They have products to prepare knowledge-packs of couple of Gigabytes on different topics, that you can download on to your laptop and access the resources without needing an active Internet connection. So, for example, if you were to download a knowledge pack on New York, then you will have access to all information about subways, restaurants, and night clubs of NYC, without requiring an Internet connection. They employ interesting information retrieval techniques to gather useful and relevant information through Google, Wikipedia, and other resources.

Such a tool can be very useful for rural Internet kiosks as well, where information can be downloaded and cached locally. This information can be on things like basic healthcare, or educational material, or agricultural information. My friend, Maheedhar Kolla, is quite interested in exploring these things further.

Women based ICT enterprises

Womenic Enterprise is a website that provides information and guidance about different women based ICT enterprises running in developing countries. It includes the following:

- A women's cooperative that assembles personal computers.
- An individual woman running her own cybercafé or telecentre.
- A female entrepreneur plus staff managing a shop selling computer supplies.
- A woman graduate designing Web sites for local businesses.
- Two women providing IT training classes and word processing services.

Some of these initiatives are private based, but most of then are initiated by the government or NGOs. For example, the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) of the Vishakapatnam district (Andhra Pradesh, India), where I went in May 2006 to do a pilot project of our research systems, is responsible for coordinating the 42 RAJIV (RAJiv Internet Village) kiosks. The first identify women entrepreneurs who are educated up to the high-school levels, train them in using the systems, and then provide loans of up to Rs. 90,000 from which the women buy computers, printers, scanners, digital cameras, and even photocopy machines. It is the women then who operate the kiosks, and they are able to earn up to Rs. 8,000 per month, from which they gradually pay back the loans they borrowed from the government and local banks. The kiosks run different e-governance services such as providing birth, marriage, caste, and income certificates; electricity and telephone bill payments; land records management; and even computer training, resume building, and other educational classes.

The website has a handbook that can be freely downloaded. It has case studies from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, India, Ukraine, and Tanzania; and demonstrate many different ways of creating sustainable women-based ICT enterprises. The handbook is very comprehensive, and outlines best practices for setting up small scale enterprises, analyse demand and plan out expansion or diversification into other services, and even guidelines for agencies to coordinate such enterprises together.

Such initiatives are certainly useful for promotion of gender equality and women empowerment, and have a greater potential for the benefits to reach other members of the family. But just helping women should not be the one and only objective. I will write later about ILS booklets used by Pradan, an India based NGO, where they go beyond just providing microfinance loans to women, to actually working with the entire family and helping them change their lives.

Local content development

Content on farming practices, education, retail, housing, etc has a high degree of locality. Content developed in the cultural and geographic setting of some place is hardly directly relevant to communities elsewhere, even if language barriers are resolved through translation services. This position paper correctly argues on the importance of creating local content, but they plan to do so through dedicated agencies working on this task. I however believe that even greater empowerment can be gained by training the people themselves to create content. I have written earlier on things like community radio and grassroots journalism, that carry an even bigger potential to change things.

Filling the void

25 key social entrepreneurs who "solved some of world's toughest problems with creativity, ingenuity, and passion. Because they can't stand a vacuum". This list includes:

- BELL with remedial programs for low-income kids in the US, to bring down school dropout rates.

- PATH with technology transfer related to health care for the poor.

- Heifer International with microfinance without money, but with livestock.

- First Book with opening up new markets for book publishers in rural areas to create a self-sustainable educational system.

- New Community Corporation with creating employment by organizing the poor into doing jobs for low-income housing, healthcare, education, music clubs, and other businesses.

- ACCION International, one of the founders of the microfinance movement.

Africans pay $1800 for 1GB of data

A very shocking statistic indeed. Density of backhaul PoPs has always been a problem just about everywhere. I remember that when the ERNET backbone was being laid out, there were just 5 PoPs in the whole of India. Africa seems to be facing a similar problem at the moment, but increasing the density through fiber can be very expensive, simply because of the hugeness of the land mass. Satellite systems can be an answer, but only if the licensing costs are reduced. Meshes of microwave towers can be another possibility to route traffic locally instead of backhauling it externally, but there is much work on routing and fairness in wireless meshes that remains unsolved. But surely, anybody who solves this problem, is surely going to be a great winner. I wonder if our systems based on mechanical backhauls can prove useful here for certain key applications.

Long distance WiFi

My friend from UC Berkeley, Sonesh Surana, recently completed the deployment of a pilot project based on their research on long-distance WiFi links for Aravind Eye Hospital at Theni in Tamil Nadu, India. Remote medical services can now be delivered to many more people easily. The project has been a great success, and plans are underway to deploy it in other states, and create many more service clinics.

Melissa, also from TIER, gave a pointer to a company called Inveneo, that have set up similar long distance WiFi systems for VoIP and Internet access in Uganda.

Other similar initiatives are mentioned in this article from the NY Times. Yet another project, Green-WiFi, wants to produce under 200$ solar powered WiFi routers.

Site map

Writing this blog has mostly served as a learning experience for me. But there is a lot of information on this blog which I hope you will find useful. Just write to me if you want to discuss more about any particular aspect of social development -- I'd love to hear from you.

Politics, Policies, and Media
As P.Sainath said in the context of rural empowerment, "No amount of social work done by NGOs can produce the same effect as land reform schemes implemented by the government". In other words, small/large scale social entrepreneurial projects are great, but the government cannot ignore its responsibilities to formulate appropriate policies and provide a conducive operating environment for the economy. I also believe that media plays a great role in a democracy, and is responsible for voicing the opinions and needs of the people to the government.

The economic lives of the poor
The persistence of underdevelopment
Local content development
Raghav radio station
Indians find information too costly
Content development to bridge the digital divide
Citizen journalism
The year of the global citizen
Janaagraha: participatory democracy
Viplav Communications
Kalam's digital dream for India

Social Equality, Justice, and Corruption
Love (for other people) are justice are closely tied to one other. Apart from ensuring a just and fair environment, free from corruption, awareness must be created among people to preserve social equality and peace.

Participatory rural appraisal
Shame the corrupt with Rs. 0
Friends Without Borders
Health of Humanity, by Larry Brilliant
Kalam suggests study on judicial delays
Elections in Bihar
Narayana Murthy blasts corrupt politicians

India Shining (! or ?)
Some contemporary topics of discussion about India.

World Bank to give $944 million loan to India
Indian economy overview
President Kalam at the CII summit
Kalam for 10% GDP growth
Keep going... But how?

Social empowerment
This sections outlines many interesting and fantastic projects going on around the world. The characteristics of each successful project include, (a) having a holistic approach to social development, rather than a focus to solve a single point problem, (b) remaining operationally and financially self-sustainable so that the initiative does not die but produces long ranging effects, and (c) being replicable in other places by other people after having demonstrated a working model.

Some inspiring stories...

Effective social entrepreneurship
Some Ashoka Fellows from India working on ICT for development
Profits with a conscience
Unselfish technologists
Sarah Mclachlan: World on Fire
Filling the void

Developing technology
The poor do not need cheaply produced technology, but the best technology developed differently so that it is affordable by the poor.

Animal power
Development alternatives
Gadgets for the poor

Rural employment
Most following sections expand on initiatives that generate rural employment in different ways, but this section sets a context for them.

Village for sale
The woes of relocation
SEZ plans: Boon or bane
Bharat Nirman
Rural employment

Of primary importance to any economy, and it applies across multiple areas -- education, media, healthcare, finance...

Role of communication technologies in development
Africans pay $1800 for 1GB of data
Long distance WiFi
Motorola to offer services via post-office
Disaster warning pilot project
PCOs book 50 cr private call
Book: Wireless Networking for the Developing World
Microsoft to put poor online by cellphone
Fishermen in Kerala
Tetherless communication
Vegetable vendors to sell CDMA phones
Broadband on power lines
BBC on rural connectivity
Vanu Bose on SDR as an answer to rural communication
Pedal power to run VoIP on WiFi
Rural telephony in India
Cellphone use changes life in Africa
Options for wireless telephony in rural areas
Net and phone connection for every man and woman
GNU Radio, WiFi VoIP, AM/FM, and more...

Power supply
Economies like India and China are completely energy driven, and the tremendous growth rates being enjoyed right now can only be sustained if the energy requirements are met. Sustaining the growth rates is essentially if the poor living in the countryside below poverty levels are to be uplifted out of their age-old misery.

Going nuclear
Battery brigades
Airborne wind power
India's first community power plant
Ocean power
Setting up wind turbine farms
Fuel efficient stoves
Time to wake up
Perpetual motion machines
Vertical axis wind turbines
Bright prospects for renewable energy

Humans have always used up natural resources faster than they could be replaced. Unsustainable agriculture was responsible for the fall of the Mayan and Sumerian civilization, and today's civilizations seem to be heading down the same path with global warming having accelerated climate change, and GM crops rapidly destroying biodiversity.

Adaptation to climate change
Ocean reforestation to counter global warming
Fritz report
Dam realities
Watershed development
Sulabh International
Plastic waste recyclying
Waste Concern
Gram Vikas
Ship breaking industry

60% of the Indian population is employed in the agricultural industry, and it constitutes 28% of the annual GDP. No discussion on social entrepreneurism can be complete without a section on new agricultural practices for helping the farmers.

Arid area greenhouse
Sustainable agriculture
High tech mandis
Emerging agricultural missions
Food crisis
The story of wheat
Kalam calls for global monsoon research
Drumstick cultivation in drought prone areas
Agricultural development in ACP countries
ITC e-Choupals

Health care
Lack of appropriate medical aid operates in a cruel vicious cycle, and is alone the most important factor responsible for poverty.

Health and education in India
Nearly half of Indian children are undernourished
Using the Sun to sterilize water
Smart-card way to self-esteem
Birthing suit could save lives
Super-resistant TB
The other side of the story: rural healthcare
Rural practice must for doctors
Energy efficient water purifier
Awareness about health and hygiene
Mobile phones for detection of breast cancer
Zero infant mortality rates
Grand challenges in global health
Voxiva: connecting you and your world
Jaipur Foot
Selling soap: handwash or eyewash?
Aravind Eye Care System
Why are people poor?
Flying doctors to the rescue
Point-of-care diagnostic system
Barefoot College

Banking and finance
Microfinance has helped alleviate innumerable numbers out of poverty, but there's much more to it than just lending money.

Rural banking
Online donations
Deutsche MF focuses on rural India
Microfinance creating roads to energy
Philanthropist Google
Micro venture capitalism
Grameen Bank
Micro-financing: The Gains and the Resistance

This is the building block of any progress made by humans. Learnings by our ancestors have been passed down over the ages and improved continuously and rapidly because of the evolution of speech and writing.

Carnegie libraries
Message in a doodle
Games and education
Kenya pilots handheld education
Sure Start Child Care

Better infrastructure enables faster economic growth, and transport forms a big chunk of it.

India's superhighway into the 21st century
The despairing infrastructure

Information technology
Computers have revolutionized the way the developed world works, and are fully capable of doing so for the developing world.

Open source speech recognition
Cellphone disassembly
Very low cost Internet access in rural areas using KioskNet
OpenFM: Open source FM radio station
Low cost Solo computer for Africa
Importance of open-source
Women based ICT enterprises
Computer access for the blind
Bill Gates mockes the 100$ laptop
Microsoft on rural development
Software for NGOs
PCs for the poor
e-Gov projects
The 100$ laptop
The 99$ Ubuntu computer
Bug free PC from Intel

The very first asset required by all. And one of the greatest contributors to economic growth because of its indirect requirements from many other sectors.

Inside Dharavi
Reconstruction and rehabilitation
Designing better shelter
Construmex: building homes

There is a lot of fortune at the bottom of the pyramid, and if tapped properly, it can help generate even more fortune and reduce poverty.

Rural FMCG sales outrun towns
The public distribution system
HLL Shakti dealers
Casas Bahia

Fair trade
Prevent exploitation, generate employment, and also produce some of the most beautiful handicrafts -- what else could be better?

Orissa's Sambalpuri Weavers: From boom to bust
Mirzapur carpet weavers
World of Good

Disaster relief
Natural disasters will always occur, but they can surely be handled in better ways.

Disaster relief communication kits
Knowing the problems

Disclaimer: None of the above categorization is hard. Many articles belong to more than one category.

TIER Workshop 2005
Conference on broadband wireless access for rural areas
Schwab Foundation
NHC: NRI Home Coming

I believe that both economic upliftment of society [4,8, 9], and creation of a political state condusive to economic development [1, 2, 7, 9], are essential components to bring about a social change [3, 5] in the developing countries of the world.

[1] On Policies and Paradigms [Aug 2007]
[2] A Proposal to Provide Media Services in Rural Areas [Jul 2007]
[3] The Sisyphuses' of Today [May 2007]
[4] The Big Bang: Globalization plus Social Entrepreneurism [Jan 2006]
[5] The Nature of Education [Jan 2006]
[6] Socialist Companies for a Socialist Democracy [Dec 2005]
[7] What India Needs: The Role of Media and Society [Dec 2005]
[8] Social Entrepreneurism: A New Perspective to Development [Sept 2005]
[9] India: A Democracy? [Jul 2002]

Things that I am involved in directly.

Contribute at NGO Post
India trip [May 2006]
Micro-finance and the Need for Understanding Society [Udai SJC presentation]

Call for pointers
If you come across any interesting information that you feel should be mentioned here, then please email me about it: aaditeshwar AT gmail DOT com.

India trip [May 2006]

I made a trip to India to set up the systems for rural wireless connectivity that our research group at the University of Waterloo has developed. I had written a bit about our work earlier. The trip was quite successful, and also very educative and interesting.

- A detailed description of our solution
- Photographs from the deployment
- Notes from the trip

I also went to the anti-reservation protest rally in New Delhi, organized in the Ramlila Maidan on the evening of the 27th. It was very peaceful and well organized, with some great speeches and lots of participation from the youth. Hopefully the government will get better sense and rollback the decisions, otherwise the spark can become a flame very easily. Some photographs from the rally are also here.