Thursday, December 27, 2007

Inside Dharavi

The article presents a very vivid description of daily life in Dharavi. These stark realities of individual people about poverty and hardship and that fire for survival normally get lost in statistics and we hardly think about them. But they hit you hard in the face, especially when seen against the backdrop of a glittering display of affluence by the newly rich in India.

Rural banking

The Indian banks plan to use many innovative solutions to expand their footprint into the rural areas. Smartcard and biometric based authentication, and voice driven transactions, will be used to cater to the largely illiterate rural population. The actual exchange of cash will probably be through mobile ATMs at kiosks, or by a bank official who will make periodic trips into rural areas. Access to banking facilities will make it easier for the poor to build savings and a good credit history to help them tide over domestic financial downturns.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Adaptation to climate change

Much activity with regard to climate change is targeted towards the long term, to achieve energy efficiency, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, etc. But in the short term -- maybe within the next two decades itself -- there are likely to be considerable adverse impacts of climate change because of the rising sea levels, river flooding, and changes in rainfall patterns. The people who will face the greatest challenges to adapt to the changing conditions during this time, will be the poor people in developing countries. However, no government is looking at comprehensive adaptation strategies for this purpose, such as creating relief funds and weather insurance policies. Without such programs, the poor will face increasingly challenging times, and so much funds spent on healthcare and education and housing could just go waste.

Ocean reforestation to counter global warming

Here's a very interesting project whose outcome could change the world! More than 20 tons of iron dust has been dumped into the water near the Galapagos Islands. The idea is to revive the ocean plankton that absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and then sink down into the depths of the ocean. Apart from the technical aspects, it is probably also an example of social entrepreneurship -- making profit by selling carbon credits. But there is also huge skepticism that this could have adverse effects on other ecological processes in the ocean, because so little is understood right now. The project has similarities with thoughts by Freeman Dyson, where he talks about the regeneration of biomass on land to reduce carbon dioxide.

Effective social entrepreneurship

Given the huge amount of interest in social entrepreneurship and non-profit activities these days, we still hear of only a few success stories. The evidence of huge social change is absent, despite the big hype about working for "social good". This article talks about 6 keys to the success of such activities:
1. Advocacy for political change
2. Make markets work in sectors where they are buggy
3. Inspire and coordinate volunteers for effective work
4. Work together with other non-profits
5. Learn to adapt to changes and correct assumptions
6. Share leadership across different organizations.