Thursday, November 22, 2007

Brief Note on e Agriculture

E-agriculture is about how ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) can be used by the community of development practitioners (people from the government/s, NGOs, universities/schools/local bodies and donor agencies), scientists, farmers and other agencies in a modern institutional framework to share and manage knowledge and information (on agricultural practices, prices of commodities, soil condition and weather condition) in order to boost the growth of agriculture and allied activities for economic reasons. This is expected to improve the well-being, quality of life and income levels of those who are directly or indirectly depending on agriculture. In most of the developing and the third world nations, more than 60 percent of the working population derive its livelihoods, directly or indirectly, from agriculture and allied activities (which includes animal husbandry, dairy, forestry, fishing et al). The major constraints with developing countries’ agriculture is that it is traditional and subject to rain fed irrigation, apart from being subject to lack of investment, insufficient land reforms and rampant corruption. This is not to undermine the advantages of traditional agriculture over modern agriculture in the sense that the former is sustainable and more environment-friendly. However, with the advent of modern State adopting Green Revolution technology in various countries of the South, what has been found in reality are the lack of skills, storage facilities and marketing channels, which majority of the farmers suffer from. In this connection let us see the foodgrain production and yield per hectare in India (figures above).

Important initiatives in the area of e-agriculture are:

1. Geo-stationary satellites help us to forecast weather conditions, and perform GIS and MIS mapping. Initiatives by Government and private organizations in the spread of landline and mobile telephony are taking place thanks to the conducive atmosphere created particularly in India during the late 1980s that has helped the farmers in the rural hinterlands in communicating with the traders/ grain merchants, including their kith and kin.
2. With the aid of radio (including community radio) and televisions, farmers and peasants in the developing world of Africa and South Asia could be educated about modern farming practices. This is opposed to traditional system of farming when knowledge about farming practices (and alternative avenues of livelihood) used to trickle down from father to son, verbally/ orally.
3. Important ICTs related initiatives could help farmers in knowledge and information collection and processing pertaining to education, health and agriculture that will empower them in the long run. IT kiosks and telecentres in rural areas which are working in collaboration with local government and non-government bodies (comprising of development practitioners, and agencies, including rural banks and co-operatives) can help the agriculture-dependent communities in getting information on prices at which traders are ready to purchase food or non-food grains/ vegetables. Such telecentres also help in providing information on various government schemes pertaining to agriculture and rural development. They can help in e-registration (digitization) of land and housing records and village level agricultural production. Even RTI (right to information) forms, for ensuring transparency, can be filled digitally to check corruption pertaining to government-sponsored schemes in the area of agriculture and rural development. Information about prices and quality of inputs like fertilizers, seeds et al can also be accessed thru ICTs.
4. The importance of biotechnology and nano-technology [as a part of R&D by Government—Krishi Viswa Vidyalayas and private sectors] to improve agricultural productivity. Use of ICTs for storage, distribution et al.
5. ICTs can also be used for promoting organic farming and sustainable agriculture.

Remark/s: There is need to look at the techno-legal framework of WTO (World Trade Organisation), if one is interested. But how far IT-related development projects can help the poor remains a moot question, since there have been cases where public money meant for such projects are under/ mis-utilized. There are problems related to corruption present at the very roots of the society, since those who are involved in such projects are themselves not clean. People involved in such projects do not even try to learn from the past mistakes in order to scale-up or replicate. Moreover, people are hardly aware of the fact/s that poor people and the marginalized in the developing nations lack basic necessities including housing, livelihood, education et al. Until and unless, the poor and the needy get their basic amenities, it would be foolish to think that they can make full utilization of IT. How far the developing nations could achieve the millennium development goals (MDGs) by 2015, is another moot question. Moreover, there is need to invest in basic infrastructure in the rural areas. People should be aware of the concept of e-waste.


Case Study: Mobile phone penetration in Africa helps trade in agri-goods

The technology revolution may be coming to poor countries via the mobile phone, not the personal computer, as it did in rich ones. In Africa, technology revolution is expected to happen with the same kind of entrepreneureal ethos as it happened with the creation of dotcom firms in the rich nations, but it will be tailored to suit local needs and in the area of mobile telephony. TradeNet, a software company based in Accra, Ghana, is planning to introduce a simple sort of eBay for agricultural products across a dozen countries in West Africa. It allows buyers and sellers indicate what they are seeking for and their contact information, which is sent to all relevant subscribers thru a SMS text message in any one of the four languages. Parties which are interested could then reach out to others directly to do a deal. Mobile-phone use in sub-Saharan Africa has increased in the recent past. A number of other mobile-phone market-places taking shape also started as aid projects. For e.g., Trade at Hand, a project funded by the United Nation's International Trade Centre in Geneva, provides daily price information for fruit and vegetable exports in Burkina Faso and Mali, with plans to reach out to more countries. Manobi, another telecoms firm, based in Senegal, provides real-time information on agricultural and fish prices to subscribers who pays fee, is also backed by aid money. But TradeNet's approach is different as it collects valuable economic data—names, locations, business interests and telephone numbers—and then sells them to the advertisers. The economic logic behind all such projects is reduced transaction costs, with more informed markets.

Source: The Economist
Accessed from:

In India, there have been efforts by institutions such as Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, the World Bank, private organizations and individuals, to start up IT networks, which can help buyers and sellers (in retail businesses and elsewhere) to trade online, agri-goods and commodities. Such efforts also help in accessing information related to product quality, the place where it is grown and other useful information.

Similar efforts are being initiated in some of the African nations. The purpose behind introducing IT and ICTs in the developing nations is to reduce transaction costs in trading, and other official processes. IT also helps in stopping harassment of the poor people.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Voices for Innovation Strategic Meet, 15 December, 2006, New Delhi, India

The Prosperity through Innovation—Strengthening Entrepreneurship, Enterprise Ecosystem meet was organized jointly by Voices for Innovation (a platform by Microsoft), VIKAS, CSDMS, NMCC and Clusterkraft. The meet took place on 15th December, 2006 in Ambassador Hotel, New Delhi (near Khan market), India. The motive behind the meet was to share and disseminate knowledge from experts in the areas of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and information and communication technologies (ICTs) to promote cluster development, entrepreneurship and innovation. Ms. Jayalakshami Chittoor from the Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS ) opened the session by briefly introducing everybody about CSDMS. She informed that Voices for Innovation offers an online knowledge-sharing platform for the knowledge workers, which is relevant for entrepreneurship and innovation.

Honourable Union Minister of State (Independent in-Charge) for Science and Technology and Ocean development, Government of India Shri Kapil Sibal talked about the importance of innovation in the era of globalization, where market forces play a key role in diffusion of technology even in the rural areas. He said there is a need to see how global changes in technology affect lives, even in the rural hinterlands. He said that small-and-medium manufacturing enterprises play a key role in generating employment. In order to boost productivity, SMEs (small and medium enterprises) do depend on IT since usage of IT reduces transaction costs and improves productivity. The usage of IT also helps in communicating. The SMEs exists in various sectors of the economy such as information technology, textiles et al. There is need to have a legal framework to ensure investment in small and medium enterprises. There is also the need to look how the knowledge economy works. Mr. Kapil Sibal emphasized the need for cluster development at the village level, where IT can play a key role.
Shri Govindarajan (Member Secretary, National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council, Government of India) said that the economy of a modern nation under the modern development paradigm shifts from agriculture, to manufacturing and finally to services sector, over time, which means that at the initial stage of development, a majority of the workforce depend on agriculture, and the primary sector contributes the major portion of the gross domestic product (GDP). In the second stage, the majority of the work force depends on manufacturing (the secondary sector), and the majority of the GDP comes from manufacturing sector. In the final stage, services sector hold a majority of the workforce, and it contributes a major portion of the GDP. The economy reaches the final stage when the majority of the work force is skilled and the economy is termed as the knowledge economy. What has happened in the case of India is that the economy has entirely jumped from the initial stage to the final stage, leading to social tensions, since a large part of the population are lacking basic amenities like literacy, housing et al. The employment elasticity in the case of manufacturing sector has fallen between the successive NSSO (National Sample Survey Organisation) surveys. This can explain the case of India’s jobless growth scenario. Moreover, India’s manufacturing sector has not grown because of lack of competitiveness, access to capital and redundancy in technology at the firm level. There is a need to see how innovatively ICTs can be used in small and medium manufacturing units, and how ICTs affect productivities of SMEs. Investment in SMEs can be done through public-private partnership mode.
Mr. Doug Hauger (COO, Microsoft India), spoke about the use of ICTs in an innovative way to boost economic growth. He informed that mostly innovation happens in an informal way in small companies/ firms. He said that innovation ecosystem faces challenges. There is need to look at issues like patents, intellectual property rights, and taxation. Patents, copyrights and intellectual property rights help innovators to innovate, since they act as incentives to create new product. The tax structure should be such that it helps the innovators. He said that Voices for Innovation is a platform for the community to participate and exchange ideas and provide solutions to problems.

Ms. Sheetal Mehta (CEO, Innovative Social Ventures) gave an extensive presentation on innovation, entrepreneurship, policy making and IT. She said that there is a need to define innovation, whether it is a new one or a ‘fix it’ type. There is also the question of accessibility to resources (both economic and non-economic) and for innovation to take place. Experience plays a key role in innovation, since intrinsic knowledge is related to experience. For innovation to take place there is need for funding (both fixed and working capital), incentives to patent, adequate infrastructure and skilled labour. The return on innovation should be measurable for monitoring, deriving conclusion and planning. There is a need to look at the sustainability (economic) aspect of innovation. The main inhibitors of innovation are wrong government policies, and entrepreneurship culture. Ms. Mehta said that in order to generate innovation, there is need to look at the ‘ecosystem’ which comprise of the government, academics, corporations, financial influences (venture capital), entrepreneurs, ISVs, SMEs and analysts. There is need of co-opetition (or cooperation) instead of competition. There is a thin line of difference between social entrepreneurship and innovation. No longer greed (or profit motive) among the firms is termed good. Instead, day-by-day, firms are going for creating social goods, such as following environmental standards. Karma is a principal of action but innovation is about creating changes. Innovation is not about reacting to change. Corporate social responsibility is done for innovative social welfare as is being promoted by the UK government. Under the global entrepreneurship programme, dealmakers are going global. There is need to access smart money (venture capital), and promote technology and life sciences. There is also the need for attracting and matching talent. In UK, there had been efforts to enhance the entrepreneurial gene pool in United Kingdom. In India, efforts have been taken to promote economic growth through foreign direct investment. But now there have been efforts to look into areas like human capital, R&D, and spin offs. Innovations have taken place in sectors like Information Technology, biotech, wireless, semiconductor and pharmaceuticals. SMEs constitute 90% of all industrial units, 40% of industrial output and 45% of formal industrial employment. There is need to look at MINE Relief, Capstan Learning, Voices for Innovation. Ms. Mehta also mentioned about the launch of IMEA VFI, where there had been partnership at the local and at the global level. What is needed by the private sector is to initiate the process of dialogue with the government. For enhancing growth, there is need to implement innovative technology, and focus on competition. There should be focus on working together and closer. There is also the need to engage in prosperity thru innovation, and strengthening entrepreneurship.
Prof. Richard Duncombe (IDPM, University of Manchester) spoke about the ICT in strengthening innovation and entrepreneurship. He said that innovation should be seen as a change process. There are standard models for innovation. If somebody is working in the area of SMEs, there is need to look at the mature manufacturing sector, who have a strong domestic and export orientation, and face increasing global competition. The key driving force for innovation is determined by low ICT knowledge and skill. There is also the need to look at regenerated manufacturing base with greater competitiveness, productivity, export market and R&D, as they determine SME upgradation and development. The key internal drivers for ICTs are leadership and strategic focus. The key external drivers for innovation are market and customers. The constraints for innovation are generic constraints (that affect all firms) and specific constraints (largely internal and firm specific). The resistance to change can also become constraint for innovation.

Mr. Richard Duncombe said that the problems with standard model are:
Tend to be supply driven and technology led.
Over-simplifies complex innovation processes (push-pull)
Fails to distinguish between sectors and size.
People create change not technology
Ignores social dimension
For developing SMEs, one needs to keep in mind the above five factors (i.e. Organizational Readiness, Managerial Capability, ICT Capability, Motivation and Value Chain Positioning.) along with forward and backward linkages.
The key soft factors for developing SMEs is to emphasize upon:
Motivation—Respond to incentives via more effective commodity chain positioning
Awareness—Management Practices (e.g. intellectual property rights)
Leadership—Foster vision and commitment
Human resources—Key ingredients—can consider outsourced solutions (ISPs/ ASPs)—control and internal capability should be retained in the business
Financial Resources
Managerial Capability—the ability to link innovation
Policy suggestions by Mr. Duncombe were:
Support the enabling environment –manufacturing and social enterprise sectors (macro level interventions)
Awareness raising among SME support agency staff about the role of ICTs for productivity and competitiveness
Develop demand driven information services incorporating e-partnership
Develop an authoritative knowledge base of good practice on ICT innovation in SMEs.
Support the development of the localized ICT sector and ICT technical capability and the localization of IT support sector with a sustainability component
The meet ended with a discussion by participants (including the audience) to be followed by dinner hosted by the Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Release of OECD India Economic Surveys Report, 9 October, 2007, Hotel Imperial, New Delhi, India

On 9 November, 2007, Angel Gurria, Secretary-General, OECD, released the first Economic Surveys, India Report, in the presence of D Subba Rao, Finance Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, Dr. Isher Judge Ahluwalia, Chairperson, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), Rajiv Kumar, Director and Chief Executive, ICRIER and Salu Kapila.. The Report was released in Hotel Imperial, New Delhi (India). The Academic Foundation published the Indian Economic Survey of the OECD for the Indian market. The Report release ceremony were attended by Shambhu Ghatak and J Chittoor from the Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS, Noida).

Welcome session
In his opening presentation, Angel Gurria informed that the OECD Economic Survey provides an overview of economic policies in India and proposes a number of reforms. The Report is the result of extensive discussions between the staff of the OECD and a wide range of experts in India both in the central and state governments, and in the private sector. He said that during the economic reforms in India, government control over business investment has been terminated; entry barriers to most industries have been lowered or eliminated; income tax rates have been reduced and public intervention in most forms of foreign trade has been ended, with tariffs being lowered markedly. Financial markets have been improved and the macro-economic environment made more stable. Globalisation and economic reforms also helped in the rise of IT (information technology) and ITES (IT-enabled services). Due to all these factors, India recently experienced growth rate of nearly 9.0%. While talking on reforms, Angel Gurria focused upon four major areas, namely: improving business environment; infrastructure development; public finances and labour market reforms. He also talked about red tapism in the government agencies, which hampers doing business in India. He talked on Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act and the current state of fiscal consolidation. He asked for labour market reforms in India, in the backdrop of restrictive employment regulation in the formal sector, and the growing unorganised sector where much of the employment is created. Dr. Isher Judge Ahluwalia while speaking about the OECD Economic Survey, said that the Report lacked focusing on India's ailing agricultural sector. D Subba Rao said that the OECD Report is very comprehensive, and despite its limitations, has provided a road map of what is needed for India's future economic and social development.

The OECD Indian Economic Survey Report
India’s annual economic growth could reach a sustainable 10 percent and be spread more evenly across the country if it pursues ambitious and wide-ranging reforms, says a new OECD report. In its first Economic Survey of India, the OECD says market-based reforms since the 1980s have helped reduce poverty and average incomes are expected to double within the next decade. Economic growth is currently running at a sustainable eight percent a year. India is now the world’s third largest economy behind the US and China when measured in terms of real prices and purchasing power. But red tape still holds back business. The survey says state governments need to become much better organised and build on improvements made at the national level. The new Competition Commission needs to start work as quickly as possible now that it has full legal backing. A modern bankruptcy law is also needed to simplify the restructuring of insolvent firms. Privatisation of more publicly-owned firms should resume to help improve productivity and profitability. In the meantime, public companies should be controlled by a government investment agency rather than by a sponsoring ministry, in order to separate ownership and policy-making. The report says the government should continue its programme of increased discipline in public spending. This will make room for higher levels of private investment. Spending on subsidies should be better targeted to help the poor. The survey also recommends reducing tax exemptions to allow more money to be transferred to fund public services in urban areas. “India’s infrastructure is seriously overstretched,” the survey warns. The country’s “high rate of economic growth is at risk if infrastructure development does not increase and keep pace with demand.” Electricity shortages are one such brake on growth. To boost investment in this area consumers should pay for all of their electricity, the report says. Business should no longer be forced to subsidise consumers by paying overly high electricity prices. Banks should be gradually moved out of the public sector while the government should stop directing bank lending. These moves would improve allocation of capital and boost growth. More foreign competition is needed in financial services. The report calls for the removal of the ban on foreign direct investment in retail shops. This would help improve productivity and supply chain management, reduce the high rates of waste of farm products and lower prices for the consumer. Labour market laws need to be reformed so that more people can benefit from economic growth. Existing laws are pushing jobs into low productivity small-scale firms. Reform would help ensure that India benefits fully from its abundant labour, the report says. To ensure higher incomes, India will need a better educated population. The OECD survey proposes ways of ensuring that all children complete eight years of schooling through such schemes as improving incentives for teachers and providing the poor with cash grants dependent on their children continuing at school.

Chapter 1: India’s key challenges to sustaining high growth
The Indian economy has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past two decades. The growth rate of average incomes has increased from 1¼ per cent prior to 1980 to 7% by 2006. Between 1999 and 2004, the absolute number of people living under the national poverty line has fallen for the first time since Independence. Faster growth has been brought about by a paradigm shift in economic polices that has opened the economy to foreign trade and markedly reduced direct tax rates and government influence over most investment decisions. Despite this favourable performance, there is still much room for improving policy settings to further raise growth potential. This chapter first looks at India’s past reforms and the main sources of its improved growth performance and then identifies a number of key challenges that could make growth faster, more sustainable and more even across the country: i) making goods and service markets more competitive; ii) enhancing employment in the formal sector through broadranging labour market reforms; iii) further liberalising the banking sector; iv) improving public finances to achieve more rapid growth through a more ambitious fiscal consolidation, reducing subsidies and further reducing tax distortions; v) improving infrastructure and facilitating urbanisation by involving private players more intensely; and vi) upgrading the quality of educational outcomes through institutional reforms.

Chapter 2: India’s growth pattern and obstacles to higher growth
India’s growth performance has improved significantly over the past 20 years, but it has been uneven across industries and states. While some service industries, notably the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, have become highly competitive in world markets – yielding considerable gains for employees and investors – manufacturing industries have lagged and improved their performance only recently. A divergence in performance has taken place, with firms in those states and sectors with the best institutions gaining, and those in the more tightly regulated states and sectors falling further behind. As a result, the competitive landscape is uneven across sectors and states and a high degree of concentration continues in different industries. While this is partly the result of the legacy of licensing, change has been politically difficult, making it harder for the manufacturing sector than for the service sector to expand. The need for further institutional reforms is urgent, focusing on product and labour market regulations at the central and state levels.

Chapter 3: Reforming India’s product and service markets
The degree of competition in product markets has been found to be an important determinant of economic growth in both developed and developing countries. This chapter uses the OECD’s indicators of product market regulation to assess the extent to which the regulatory environment in India is supportive of competition in markets for goods and services. The results indicate that although liberalisation has improved the regulatory environment to international best practices in some areas, the overall level of product market regulation is still relatively restrictive. In addition, estimating the product market regulation indicators for 21 Indian states shows that the relatively more liberal states have higher labour productivity, attract more foreign direct investment, and have a larger share of employment in the private formal sector in comparison to the relatively more restrictive states. The chapter goes on to review various aspects of India’s product market regulation and suggests a number of policy initiatives that would improve the degree to which competitive market forces are able to operate.

Chapter 4: Improving the performance of the labour market
Over the past decade, labour market outcomes have improved in India, with net employment rising markedly for the economy as a whole. However, these gains have arisen primarily in the unorganised and informal sectors of the economy, where productivity and wages are generally much lower than in the formal organised sector. It is only India’s organised sector that is subject to labour market regulation, and here employment has fallen. The role of employment protection legislation in affecting employment outcomes is controversial both in the OECD area and in India. This chapter looks at the impact of employment protection legislation and related regulation on the dynamics of employment in the organised sector of the economy, using newly constructed measures of national regulation and state labour reforms. We find that while reforms have taken some of the bite out of core labour laws, more comprehensive reforms are needed to address the distortions that have emerged.

Chapter 5: Reforming the financial system
This chapter examines the performance of India’s financial sector and compares its structure to that of other emerging economies. The financial sector went through a period of considerable re-organisation during the last 15 years. New regulators were introduced for all sectors of the market and this has boosted the development of highly efficient equity and commodity markets. The health of the banking sector has also improved and competition within the sector has increased. Nonetheless, costs remain high in a sector that is still dominated by public sector banks. The corporate bond market is still underdeveloped, as is the foreign exchange market. Considerable scope exists for improving efficiency in the financial sector by opening it to more foreign direct investment and removing a number of regulatory constraints that impede the development of a full set of financial markets.

Chapter 6: Improving the fiscal system
This chapter examines areas of government spending, taxation and fiscal federalism where further reforms are desirable to reduce economic distortions and improve the provision of public services. As to government spending, it finds that a large share is used to subsidise commercial undertakings, agriculture and food distribution and that there is much room to improve the quality of spending and target it better to reduce poverty. On taxes, which have undergone major reforms since the early 1990s, it points to the large number of loopholes and suggests that a broadening of the tax bases would allow further reductions in tax rates and make the system simpler and more efficient. Reforms of indirect taxes should focus on creating a common market within India so that goods can move between states without border controls. India’s federal structure has led to a well-developed system of tax-sharing and transfers, both through constitutionally empowered bodies and delivered through the annual budget. Overall, this transfer system has worked well; moving resources towards the poorest states, but the system has become very complex and, in the past, weakened fiscal discipline. Furthermore, it has not been able to create an effective local government system; this would be important for improving accountability and responsiveness to citizens’ needs as three-quarters of the population live in states with over 50 million inhabitants.

Chapter 7: Removing infrastructure bottlenecks
With high rates of economic growth and low public sector investment, India’s infrastructure is in short supply and potentially a major constraint on future growth. To alleviate fiscal constraints and improve infrastructure productivity, the government is turning increasingly to the private sector to finance and run infrastructure projects. In some infrastructure sectors in which the regulatory environment is conducive to private sector involvement, performance has improved significantly. However, although infrastructure policy is moving in the right direction in some sectors, there are still a number of ways in which the regulatory environment could be improved further. This chapter outlines a range of policy initiatives that would increase private sector participation and improve infrastructure service delivery to international standards. It begins by discussing the role of public-private partnerships in the provision of infrastructure services before moving on to review the regulatory environment in a number of infrastructure sectors with a focus on regulatory settings that constrain competition.

Chapter 8: Improving human capital formation
The provision of high-quality education and health care to all of the population is considered a core element of public policy in most countries. In India, the government is active in both education and health but the private sector also plays an important role, notably for heath, and to a lesser extent in education. At present, the quality and quantity of the outputs from education, and also form public health care, are holding back the process of economic development. Steps are being taken to draw more children into primary education and the chapter considers ways to keep children in school. The chapter also considers institutional changes that may help to improve the performance of the educational system and so boost human capital formation.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

WSIS 2003: A Forum for 'Democracy' !

The negotiations at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in December 2003 proved to be a loss for the third world nations. This is because: 1. A mutually convenient alliance of powerful governments blocked action to tackle the erosion of civil and human rights in electronic space; 2. The United States did not provide support for development-friendly, free, and open-source software; and 3. Community-driven and decentralized approaches for access to and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) did not find much importance. However, there was the call to reroute huge volumes of Internet traffic generated in Southern nations internally instead of via the United States. There was acceptance of the idea of an open archive for scientific research, and there was agreement on the development of regional strategies for the information society, during the WSIS 2003. The wealthy nations from the North could not decide that the “digital divide” is reinforcing educational, income and health divides instead of alleviating them. A decision on the Digital Solidarity Fund demanded by poorer countries was postponed (rather than rejected outrightly) only in order to prevent a collapse of the summit.

It is well known that the “official” debate on the information society (then called the “post-industrial society”) dates to the early 1970s. During that era, academics demonstrated that information workers had become the largest block of workers in wealthy countries, that an “intellectual technology” infrastructure was emerging alongside industrial infrastructure, and that increasing numbers of goods (invisible in nature) were, in fact, “packaged information”. There were also debates surrounding 'information society' and 'technological determinism'. It was in the 1970s, the world for the first time debated and contested the role of communication in society, embracing matters such as media governance, freedom of expression and human rights, spectrum and satellite use, journalism ethics and news, and cultural diversity. During the mid-1990s, the European Union started to launch its efforts to compete with the Global Information Infrastructure of the United States. The importance of private sector as a main actor, while government playing merely a facilitating role was uncritically adopted in the new vision. After this model reached its limit, in 2002, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) reported that the growth rate in new telephone lines (still the basic means for people to access the information society) had for the first time came down, and that, with half the world’s telecom operators in private hands, most of the “easy” privatizations had already occurred. The telecom sector failed to cater the needs of the mass of people with less income in the backdrop of massive privatization. A narrow profit-driven agenda and the absence of effective universal-service policies left the majority of poorer (resource poor) people with little prospect of joining this information society. The WSIS December, 2003 was a platform where the rich and the powerful nations decided not to move away from the prescribed model. Hence, the Digital Solidarity Fund was not created. Many NGOs attending the WSIS in Geneva in December 2003, brought issues like: concentration of media ownership and its focus on profits, the ever-lengthening duration of copyright and exceptionally powerful criminal laws to enforce it, the commercialization of knowledge creation to WSIS etc. When issues raised by the NGOs was not accepted, they produced their own Civil Society Declaration. However, WSIS still offers a better platform to raise key issues related to human rights, free speech, open access to information etc. compared to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund etc.
International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has recently released a major publication titled 'Trends in Telecommunication Reform: the Road to NGN' (8th edition), which talks about the trend reports on the evolution of circuit-switched telecommunication into "next-generation" networks, as operators around the world fight to remain competitive. The Report's objective is to enable regulators and policy-makers in developing countries to better understand the changes transforming the ICT sector so that they can evolve their policy and regulatory frameworks to leverage today's technological and market developments.
Next-generation networks (NGN) symbolizes the shift from "one network, one service" approach, to the delivery of multiple services over a single network. Based on the Internet Protocol (IP), NGN builds on the expansion of broadband networks, the rise of Voice over IP (VoIP), fixed-mobile convergence and IP television (IPTV). NGN is regarded as an effective tool to achieve the goals of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), especially to provide universal access to ICT. By enabling new businesses to flourish in rural and urban areas in both developed and developing countries, NGN helps the underdeveloped and developing countries to achieve the broader development goals, promising socio-economic growth, reducing poverty and integrating citizens into the global economy, while preserving and promoting local content and culture. Associated with Internet access at higher transmission speeds than ADSL, NGN will thus facilitate a full range of public services such as e-government and e-health. These new networks are being developed using a number of technologies, including wireless and mobile, fibre and cable, or by upgrades to existing copper lines. While some operators are focused on upgrading their core—or transport—networks to NGN, others are tackling their access networks that reach the end user. Fixed-line operators are facing increased competition from wireless telecommunication operators, providers of cable television networks and large Internet content providers with strong brands and more financial support. The search for new revenue streams from the increasingly popular triple or quadruple play bundled package of IPTV, voice calls and ultra-high-speed broadband Internet access has resulted in the rolling out of fibre networks closer to homes and offices. Operators are seeking to collect advertising revenue from the range of user-generated, social-networking and other content running on ever-higher speed broadband networks, dubbed "ultra broadband" or "broaderband" technology. Simultaneously, mobile operators are upgrading their networks to find new revenue streams fed by offers of seamless connectivity to bandwidth-intensive applications like mobile TV. Developing countries are going for the NGN bandwagon to bridge the digital divide and join the Information Society. The developing countries, however, should not imitate the NGN adoption as the West did, but harness the potential of new technologies to meet their ICT development goals.

This present write up by Shambhu Ghatak is based upon an article by Seán Ó Siochrú, who is a media and communication writer, activist and consultant, and is a spokesperson for CRIS (Communication Rights in the Information Society; see For more info, go to:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Brief Note on ICTs


The term “digital divide” refers to gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access information and communication technologies (ICTs) and to their use of the internet for a wide variety of activities.

----Understanding the Digital Divide, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2001

The dominant ICT discourses are: (i) ICT evolution is more or less a linear process where there is a possibility of leapfrogging; (ii) ICT is expected to carry the solutions for a wide range of social problems and challenges; (iii) If a country do not get on the ICT train and adapt quickly, it will run into severe trouble (Ekdahl and Trojer, 2002)2. Loader (1998)3 states that it is not unreasonable to suppose that the digital divide will be a significant feature of the political dialogue in the near future, where the present benefits of ICTs are unevenly distributed and the disadvantageous are particularly concentrated in the 'black holes of human misery'.

In March 2001, UN General Secretary Kofi Annan expressed his belief that ICT has great potential of reducing poverty in the world. The project named UNITeS started by Annan was criticized by Anriette Esterhuyse, Head of African Progressive Communication, saying it is dangerous to identify ICT as a miraculous medicine for poverty (Ekdahl and Trojer, 2002)4. Vandana Shiva (1998)5 once said "New technologies travel on old social relations." This meant that unless the old forms of discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, race or gender stop, ICT is not going to produce prosperity for all.

In End of Millennium, Volume III, Manuel Castells (1998)6 discusses the power battles of the 'information age', claiming that these battles are in fact cultural battles--

Power, as the capacity to impose behaviour, lies in the networks of information exchange and symbolic manipulations, which relate social actors, institutions and cultural movements, through icons, spokespersons and intellectual amplifiers […] Culture as the source of power, and power as the source of capital, underlie the new social hierarchy of the Information Age.

Will catching-up do any good to the underdeveloped countries? For some, poverty of the underdeveloped nations is not a result of 'natural' lagging behind but the direct consequence of the over-development of the rich industrial countries (Ekdahl and Trojer, 2002)7. Indeed the discourse on digital divide has become a battlefield of contrasting ideologies, but the ground reality is that to reduce the growing digital gap, governments and private sector in the underdeveloped countries have to play a decisive role.

The common indicators of digital divide are communications' infrastructures, access to Internet, computer availability, availability of alternative sources of ICT i.e. TVs, mobile phones.

The major determinants of digital divide are:
1. Household or Individual Income: It is an important determinant of the presence of PCs and the extent of Internet access in homes. Income distribution is particularly important in determining the diffusion of new technology, with higher income groups acquiring ICTs early and leading uptake. However, rates of increase in access are larger for lowest income groups in almost all OECD countries. In France, for e.g., the highest income bracket had 74% PC penetration in 2000 and the lowest income bracket only 11%. The growth rate from 1998 to 2000 was 68% for the lowest income bracket, compared with 47% for the highest income bracket (OECD, 2001)8. But this may not be true for underdeveloped countries where demand for basic amenities can be stronger than that of ICTs.
2. Level of Education: In general, the higher the level of education, the more likely individuals has access to and use of ICTs in both the home and the workplace. Educational attainment and income are strongly correlated and explain much of the difference in uptake. A study in the OECD countries reveals that at the same income level, those with higher educational attainment will have higher rates of access. There are large differences in PC penetration and Internet access between those with tertiary education and those at the lowest educational levels, although the latter group is growing more rapidly from a low base (OECD, 2001)9.
3. Size and Type of Households: Given other things, size and type of households do matter in PC penetration and Internet access. In the OECD countries, families with children have the highest access of all households, and couples with children under 18 are more likely to have a PC and Internet access. Rates for these types of households are approximately double the rate for single person households (OECD, 2001)10.
4. Age of the Population: PC penetration and Internet access are generally lower for older people than for younger people in the OECD countries. Usage has tended to grow faster in younger age group (OECD, 2001)11.
5. Gender: Gender can determine access to Internet and ICTs. In the United States, Internet use rates by men and women were statistically identical. However, women users tended to be in the younger age group, while men were in the older age groups. Similar, results are found for Iceland. In Sweden, recent data suggest that men are outpacing women in Internet usage. In UK, there is gender disparity in Internet usage, with 52% of men having access to the Internet in comparison to 39% of women (OECD, 2001)12. International Labour Organization's (ILO)’s World Employment Report 2001 shows that women are the minority users of Internet in both developing and developed countries. Only 38% of Internet users in Latin America are women, 25% in European Union, 19% in Russia, 18% in Japan and 14% in Middle East. However, gender gap in ICT usage is quite low in Nordic countries and in the US of America. Women's representation in core ICT occupations is quite low due to their under-representation in core ICT science and engineering curricula in education systems. Promotion of education and literacy generally and digital literacy in particular is the huge challenge facing all countries. Even in the ICT related jobs, men hold majority of the high skilled and high-value added jobs. An ILO study on the Indian software industry reveals that men are mostly in export software firms, while women are present in domestic low end and IT enabled services (Rothboeck, Vijayabaskar, Gayathri, 2001)13.
6. Rural Urban Divide/ Location: In the OECD countries, members of households in urban areas are more likely to have occupations where computers and the Internet are part of their work environment. Costs tend to be higher and quality of access lower in rural areas. Incomes tend to be lower in rural areas and ICT costs are relatively higher for low-income groups. Internet access levels are higher in capital cities and highly industrialized and advanced regions than in rural and peripheral regions. Leading areas have higher concentration of more technologically advanced businesses and academic and research institutions, which are likely to have high levels of uptake and use of new technologies. Network infrastructure tends to be more expensive and lower capacity and quality in remote areas (OECD, 2001)14. An ILO study on the Indian software industry shows that there is absence of rural-brains in the IT industry. Urban mass has the advantage of knowing English (Rothboeck, Vijayabaskar, Gayathri, 2001)15.
7. Ethnicity: Within a particular country, digital accessibility may be easier for certain groups to obtain because of the past policies of the State or the mindset of the people. For example, the digital divide between certain groups of Americans increased between 1994 and 1997, resulting in a widening gap between those at upper and lower income levels and between both Blacks and Hispanics as compared with Whites (US Department of Commerce, 1999)16. A study by ILO reveals that in the Indian software industry (Rothboeck, Vijayabaskar, Gayathri, 2001)17, professionals belonging to the forward castes form the highest proportion of workers in the software industry.
8. Infrastructure and Cost of Accessibility: Infrastructure is the foundation for the development of ICT. Most information and communication technologies depended on electrical power and telephone lines. The production and consumption of energy varies broadly across countries in direct relationship with their economic supremacy. Developing countries tend to have lower levels of energy production, less efficient systems that produce great losses during transmission and distribution, and lower consumption levels. Similarly, wealthier countries have more phone lines per 100 inhabitants than countries and regions with weaker economies. Costs too strongly affect access. Despite reduction in costs in the past decades, indicators still show significant cost differences among countries and within countries in a single region.
9. Legal frameworks and Institutions: They basically mean laws and regulations that facilitate or constrain the use of technologies for the proposed objectives. Telecommunications was viewed as a natural monopoly. It was seen as most efficient to have one and only producer. Because costs in this industry fall as the scale of production/ operation increases, the largest firm in the industry achieved lowest costs and could under price its rivals. Governments thus entered the arena and prevented the entry of competitors, arguing that they would wastefully duplicate existing facilities or provide services only to low-cost users (typically those in urban areas, where the density of customers was high). But inefficiency and underinvestment by State telephone monopolies led to bad service, and did little or nothing for the poor or the rural areas. Since the 1980s, countries over the world have witnessed a sea change in the way information infrastructure is supplied, priced, financed, used and regulated. As already said, natural monopolies occur when firms that produce at lower costs, are said to achieve economies of scale. But when firms using the new technologies have low costs even at small scale of operations, there may be many competitors. Traditional cross subsidies from international to local calling have generally failed to provide universal access, because they have neither been transparent nor well targeted. But all these are changing now. Privatisation of telecom sector has become a key issue. However, when a state monopoly is privatized without proper regulations, then a private monopoly can emerge which results in the transfer of economic rents from public sector to private sector without any gain in efficiency, no lower prices and no broader service. So the State has a bigger role to play while privatising the telecom sector.

It is clear that degree of IT diffusion has a strong positive correlation with the level of income per capita among selected Asian and Pacific countries. People’s Republic of China (PRC), Malaysia and Thailand are in a much more advanced stage than the other developing countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and the Pacific. For e.g., Internet users per 1000 people are: 260-420 in the Newly Industrialized Countries (NIEs), 69 in Malaysia, 17 in Thailand, 14 in the PRC, 9 in Pakistan, 7 in the Philippines, 5 in India and Kazakhstan, 4 in Sri Lanka, 2 in Indonesia, Kyrgyz, Nepal and Vietnam and less than 1 in Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea (Kim, 2002)18.

1.1 Defining ICTs

Defining ICTs in a world where everyday a new ICT device and technology is invented with never before impact on the social and economic spheres of the society is difficult. What we get is not one but many definitions of ICTs. ICTs include electronic networks—embodying complex hardware and software—linked by a vast array of technical protocols. ICTs are embedded in networks and services that affect the local and global accumulation and flows of public and private knowledge (Mansell and Silverstone, 1996)19. ICTs cover Internet Service Provision, telecommunications equipment and services, information technology (IT) equipment and services, media and broadcasting, libraries and documentation centres, commercial information providers, network-based information services, and other related information and communication activities. Some take ICT and IT as the same type of technology. For example, Foster (1994) defines IT as 'the group of technologies that is revolutionising the handling of information' and embodies a convergence of interest between electronics, computing and communication (Drew and Foster, 1994)20.

Chowdhury (2000)21 states that ICTs encompass technologies that can process different kinds of information (voice, video, audio, text and data) and propitiates different forms of communications among human agents, among humans and information systems, and among information systems. They are about capturing, storing, processing, sharing, displaying, protecting, and managing information. Duncombe and Heeks (1999)22 provide a simple definition by defining ICTs as an “electronic means of capturing, processing, storing and disseminating information”. In this paper the terms IT and ICT have been used interchangeably.

Users refer to ICTs as one monolithic entity. But ICTs are very different in their potential and use. The potential of different technologies depends on what we use them for. There are at least 5 hierarchical levels at which technologies may be used: presentation, demonstration, drill and practice, interaction, and collaboration. If technology is used for presentation and demonstration only, investment in computers and connectivity may not be justifiable. On the other hand, the potential for interactive and collaborative learning can be best achieved by networked computers and connectivity to the World Wide Web. Therefore, technology should not be equated with computers and Internet. There is still an important place for other technologies, such as community and interactive radio, broadcast TV and correspondence courses. Moreover the choice of a technology depends on location.


The World Employment Report 2001 emphasizes that literacy and education cannot be leapfrogged, yet both are vital for reaping the greatest advantages from the emerging digital era. The promotion of education and literacy generally, and digital literacy in particular, is a challenge facing all countries. Educational differences underlie the different rates of penetration of ICT and Internet usage. For example, the ICT world is often depicted as a world of relatively young men, and the available evidence supports this depiction. Two-thirds of the world's illiterate are girls and women. Nor are girls sufficiently enrolled in the science curricula at the core of the technologies' innovation and use.

2.1 Role of Education in promoting Development and Growth

Today ‘development’ means enhancing people's capabilities and widening their choices to enjoy the freedoms that make life meaningful and worthwhile. These freedoms encompass the rights of access to resources that allow people to avoid illness, have self-respect, be well nourished, sustain livelihoods and enjoy peaceful relationships. In this framework23, education is important for at least 4 reasons. First, the skills provided by basic education are valuable in their own rights, as a fundamental outcome of development. Second, education can help to displace other negative features of life such as elimination of child labour due to introduction of basic education. Third, education can play a vital role in empowering those who suffer from multiple disadvantages. And fourth, education can lead to skill-upgradation which can raise one’s entitlement/ income. Thus women who have benefited from education may simply survive better and longer than they would otherwise.

One of the factors determining the diffusion of ICT is spread of education and literacy. However, some argue that with the help ICT, education itself can be promoted. The main problem is providing infrastructure and re-training the teaching staff in the context of a new knowledge based economy. The mode of educating people needs to be changed to take advantage of ICT. Different ICTs have the potential to contribute to different aspect of educational development and effective learning: expanding access, promoting efficiency, improving the quality of learning, enhancing the quality of teaching, and improving management systems. ICTs can also promote efficiency of delivery of educational services by supplementing conventional delivery mechanisms (Haddad and Draxler, 2002)24.

New growth theory or endogenous growth theory has tried to explain the existence of different levels of income and growth rates across nations. Conditional convergence hypothesis says that after controlling for factors such as population growth, savings rates etc., a country that has initially a lower per capita income grows faster because it has less per capita capital relative to the steady state level, and thus a higher marginal return to capital and higher rate of per capita growth. Thus, this hypothesis as propounded by the neoclassical growth theory could explain the differences in per capita income across countries through variations in savings rate and population growth. However, recent empirical evidences suggests that factors such as endogenous technical progress, human capital accumulation increasing returns to research and development (R&D), government policies might have stronger explanatory power in determining the difference in per capita income across countries (Barro and Sala-I-Martin, 1995)25.

A crucial source of economic growth that is highlighted by the endogenous growth theory is skills and knowledge of labour. Skills and knowledge enhance the productivity of factors of production through activities such as education and on the job training. It has been argued by Barro (1989)26, Lucas (1988)27 and Romer (1990)28 that investment in human capital raises the efficiency of labour, which in turn results in output growth. After studying the economy of Republic of Korea, Young (1995)29 and Nelson and Pack (1999)30 have argued that coupled with factor accumulations in capital and labour force, an increase in human capital through improved educational levels led to the fast economic growth experienced by Korea. High level of education has enabled the labour force to absorb rapid changes in technology. The important point of the endogenous growth theory is that knowledge drives growth. Because "ideas" or knowledge can be infinitely shared and reused, one can accumulate them without limit. "Ideas" are not subject to diminishing returns like land, physical labour or physical capital. Instead the increasing returns to knowledge propel economic growth.

It is essential for a country today to have sufficient IT-skilled manpower not only for the growth of IT sector but also the sectors where IT is used. IT related jobs require engineering, science and computers managers; electrical and electronics engineers; electrical powerline installers and repairers; electrical and electronics technicians; broadcast technicians; computer equipment operators; electronic semiconductor processors; communication equipment operators; and telephone and cable TV installers and repairers. IT is driving more skills upgrading. In this connection, imparting IT education and training through formal (schools, colleges, universities, private institutes) and informal sources (learning by doing on job site, learning from friends and colleagues, learning from the Internet, learning through NGO initiatives etc.) becomes vital. Countries and regions which are performing dismally in terms of education, will be unable to catch-up the digital revolution if they have not yet taken any step in this direction.


There is a clear need to create a strategic alliance between the government, the private sector, the civil society and the rural and urban local bodies (including communities) in order to implement successful ICT led initiatives. Education and human development should be be focal points for any IT related policy making and intervention. There should be a mechanism to see the impact of IT on the socio-economic development of the society. Both the pros and cons associated with IT should be seen. In the meantime, the impact of IT on efficiencies of organisations practising knowledge management and sharing should be seen. At the same time one should not forget that we are living in a 'knowledge economy'.


Barro, RJ and X Sala-I-Martin (1995): Economic Growth, New York: McGraw-Hill

Barro, RJ (1989): Fertility Choice in a Model of Economic Growth, in Econometrica, 57 (2, March): 481-501.

Castells, Manuel (1998): End of Millennium, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Volume III, Blackwell Publishers, London.

Chowdhury, N (2000): 'Information and Communications Technologies and IFPRI's Mandate: A Conceptual Framework.' Sept. 18, 2000.

Duncombe R and R Heeks (1999): 'Information, ICTs and Small Enterprise: Findings from Botswana', IDPM Manchester Working Paper No. 7, November 1999.

Drew, E and FG Foster ed. (1994): Information Technology in Selected Countries. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.

Ekdahl, Peter and Lena Trojer (2002): Digital Divide: Catch Up for What? in Gender, Technology and Development, 6 (1), Sage Publications.

Haddad, Wadi D and Alexandra Draxler (2002): 'The Dynamics of Technologies for Education', in Wadi D Haddad and Alexandra Draxler (ed.) Technologies for Education: Potential, Parameters and Prospects, UNESCO and Academy for Educational Development, accessed from

International Telecommunication Union (2000) and Nua Internet Surveys (2000) cited in Yun-Hwan Kim (2002): Financing Information Technology Diffusion in Low-income Asian Developing Countries, Development Centre Seminars, Technology and Poverty Reduction in Asia, OECD-ADB, Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Kim, Yun-Hwan (2002): Financing Information Technology Diffusion in Low-income Asian Developing Countries, Development Centre Seminars, Technology and Poverty Reduction in Asia, OECD-ADB, Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Loader, Brian (1998): 'Cyberspace Divide: Equality, Agency and Policy in the Information Society, ' in Brian Loader (ed.) Cyberspace Divide: Equality, Agency and Policy in the Information Society, Routledge, London and New York.

Lucas, RE (1988): On the Mechanics of Development Planning, in Journal of Monetary Economics 22(1, July): 3-42.

Mansell, R and R Silverstone (1996): Communication by Design: The Politics of Information and Communication Technologies. Oxford: OUP.

Nelson, RR and H Pack (1999): The Asian Miracle and Modern Growth Theory, in the Economic Journal 109 (July): 416-36.

Romer, Paul M (1990): Endogenous Technological Change, in Journal of Political Economy, 98 (5, October): Part II, S71-S102.

Rothboeck, Vijayabaskar, Gayathri (2001): Labour in the New Economy-The Case of the Indian Software Labour Market, International Labour Organization, New Delhi.

Shiva, Vandana (1998): Lecture on 'Focus on Biotechnology', Lulea University of Technology, Sweden, March 5.

The Emerging Digital Economy II, US Department of Commerce, June 1999, accessed from

Understanding the Digital Divide by OECD / DSTI (OECD’s Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry) (2001) from the CD named Joint OECD/ UN/ World Bank Global Forum on the Knowledge Economy, Integrating ICT in Development Programmes. OECD

Young, A (1995): The Tyranny of Numbers: Confronting the Statistical Realities of the East Asian Growth Experience, in Quarterly Journal of Economics 110 (3): 641-80.


1 This is to inform the readers that the article is not meant to hurt anybody, and is based upon the review of many past studies.
2 Ekdahl, Peter and Lena Trojer (2002): Digital Divide: Catch Up for What? in Gender, Technology and Development, 6 (1), Sage Publications.
3 Loader, Brian (1998): 'Cyberspace Divide: Equality, Agency and Policy in the Information Society, ' in Brian Loader (ed.) Cyberspace Divide: Equality, Agency and Policy in the Information Society, Routledge, London and New York.
4 Ekdahl, Peter and Lena Trojer (2002): Digital Divide: Catch Up for What? in Gender, Technology and Development, 6 (1), Sage Publications.
5 Shiva, Vandana (1998): Lecture on 'Focus on Biotechnology', Lulea University of Technology, Sweden, March 5.
6 Castells, Manuel (1998): End of Millennium, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Volume III, Blackwell Publishers, London.
7 Ekdahl, Peter and Lena Trojer (2002): Digital Divide: Catch Up for What? in Gender, Technology and Development, 6 (1), Sage Publications.
8 Understanding the Digital Divide by OECD / DSTI (OECD’s Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry) (2001) from the CD named Joint OECD/ UN/ World Bank Global Forum on the Knowledge Economy, Integrating ICT in Development Programmes. OECD
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid.
11 Ibid.
12 Ibid.
13 Rothboeck, Vijayabaskar, Gayathri (2001): Labour in the New Economy-The Case of the Indian Software Labour Market, International Labour Organization, New Delhi.
14 Ibid.
15 Rothboeck, Vijayabaskar, Gayathri (2001): Labour in the New Economy-The Case of the Indian Software Labour Market, International Labour Organization, New Delhi
16 The Emerging Digital Economy II, US Department of Commerce, June 1999, accessed from
17 Rothboeck, Vijayabaskar, Gayathri (2001): Labour in the New Economy-The Case of the Indian Software Labour Market, International Labour Organization, New Delhi.
18 Kim, Yun-Hwan (2002): Financing Information Technology Diffusion in Low-income Asian Developing Countries, Development Centre Seminars, Technology and Poverty Reduction in Asia, OECD-ADB, Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
19 Mansell, R and R Silverstone (1996): Communication by Design: The Politics of Information and Communication Technologies. Oxford: OUP.
20 Drew, E and FG Foster ed. (1994): Information Technology in Selected Countries. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.
21 Chowdhury, N (2000): 'Information and Communications Technologies and IFPRI's Mandate: A Conceptual Framework.' Sept. 18, 2000.
22 Duncombe R and R Heeks (1999): 'Information, ICTs and Small Enterprise: Findings from Botswana', IDPM Manchester Working Paper No. 7, November 1999.
23 Note: Education For All (EFA), whose benefit can be accrued by everybody, was one of the goals of The Dakar Framework for Action, Education for All: Meeting our Collective Commitments, held in Dakar, Senegal in between 26-28 April, 2000. The World Education Forum later adopted this framework.
24 Haddad, Wadi D and Alexandra Draxler (2002): 'The Dynamics of Technologies for Education', in Wadi D Haddad and Alexandra Draxler (ed.) Technologies for Education: Potential, Parameters and Prospects, UNESCO and Academy for Educational Development, accessed from
25 Barro, RJ and X Sala-I-Martin (1995): Economic Growth, New York: McGraw-Hill
26 Barro, RJ (1989): Fertility Choice in a Model of Economic Growth, in Econometrica, 57 (2, March): 481-501.
27 Lucas, RE (1988): On the Mechanics of Development Planning, in Journal of Monetary Economics 22(1, July): 3-42.
28 Romer, Paul M (1990): Endogenous Technological Change, in Journal of Political Economy, 98 (5, October): Part II, S71-S102.
29 Young, A (1995): The Tyranny of Numbers: Confronting the Statistical Realities of the East Asian Growth Experience, in Quarterly Journal of Economics 110 (3): 641-80.
30 Nelson, RR and H Pack (1999): The Asian Miracle and Modern Growth Theory, in the Economic Journal 109 (July): 416-36.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Visit to Katha, a NGO working among children from Govindpuri slum

Katha engages in translation of literary works written in regional language. Katha has a publishing house, which is situated in Sarvodaya Enclave. Katha imparts computer education to children from slums. Initially, the children could not read and write English. Katha's school in Govindpuri started imparting computer training in mid-1990s. The name of the Vice-Principal of Katha Khazana, which is situated in Govindpuri, is Ms. Deepti. Katha has a staff size of 50 in the area of publishing. Katha's entire staff strength is 150. Katha is working with under-priviledged students since the year 1990. In 1990, Katha started working with 5 children. There is a health magazine of Katha named TAMASHA. Katha works with children who are not going to school. Earlier children in Govindpuri were not going to school. TAMASHA helped children to get attracted to school. Geeta was the main person behind Katha's initiative. Around 1300 children are involved with Katha. There are 10 new schools of Katha, which have come up for street children. Katha has a partnership with British Telecom. Govindpuri school has a good curriculum. Prof. Krishna Kumar from NCERT has said that Katha's school is innovative. After Katha started its school in Govindpuri, the attendance of children in Katha's school has went up to 87% and the drop-out rate came down to 0.4 percent. Students who are coming to Katha Khazana are from the age group (0-14) years. Katha is also imparting early childhood education (ECE). Katha engages with working women. When Intel was engaged with Katha, children from Katha's Govindpuri school used to visit Boston as a part of exposure trip. Katha has also worked with MIT Media Lab. Now, British Telecom (BT), is working with the Katha school (Katha Khazana) in Govindpuri. Katha is associated with BT since 2001. The fees for the IT professional package is affordable (which is INR 300/ student/ month).
The address of Katha's main office:
A 3, Sarvodaya Enclave
Aurobindo Marg, Near IIT Delhi flyover

The address for the Katha school, Govindpuri:
Katha Khazana
Bhomiheen Camp
Govindpuri, Kalkaji Extension
Contact No: 9213375910 (Ms. Shailender)

There are two courses on IT training which is offered by Katha.

Basic course
Hindi and English text typing.
Internet browsing and surfing.
Personality development (English speaking classes)
MS-Office package-WORD, Excel and Power Point.

Advance course
Design (DTP, web-designing, Tally, Access)--Illustrator Flash (for embroidery)
Programming, not much in demand.

Minimum qualification for attending the above two courses are: Class X pass
There are two more programmes of Katha i.e. Maa Mandal and Balika Mandal. Women who have never been to school, come for these two programmes. No fees are charged for computer learning in such cases. Computer education is imparted as per the requirement and need of the learner. There are 7 staffs in KITES (Katha Information Technology and E-commerce School). KITES also engages in career counseling. Katha is also engaged in a project on water supply and sanitation titled TRY, which is meant for accessing clean drinking water by the slum households. Only proprietary softwares are used in the computer learning such as Microsoft, Adobe, Corel etc.

The challenges that Katha faced initially are:
A lot of capacity-building was necessary to motivate and bring children for attending the Katha school. Earlier girl children were not attending the classes. But nowadays they are attending Katha's classes. Practical computer training is provided which helps in getting jobs. Children used to earlier perform household chores. But now they attend classes too. The problem of child labour has been solved to a certain extent due to Katha's intervention. Drop-out rates have come down. There are 4 separate batches for children for learning computers, which is based on their exposure to IT and their merit. Children are learning animation and multimedia. The Katha school has imparted informal education to drop outs so that they get admission in other schools (including the MCD school). Most of the children who learn computers in Katha are from Arts and Commerce background. Students from Science background do not come to Katha, as Katha do not have the required infrastructure for them.

IT Syllabus in Katha Khazana
I Semester
Computer Findamental
Windows 98, 2000 and XP
Control Panel Setting
Paint, Wordpad, Imaging
Hindi and English Touch Typing
MS Word, Excel, and Power Point
Internet, Email and Net surfing
II Semester
Desktop Publishing DTP
Corel Draw
Page Maker
Macromedia Flash
III Semester
Web designing
Dream Weaver
Basic Accounting

(Mr. Shambhu and Mr. Vignesh are working as Senior Research Associates with Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies, G 4, Sector 39, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India, PIN-201 301)