Monday, December 10, 2007

Learn your Vocabulary and Feed the poor.

Yes we have already given our GRE's and gone through the task of learning a lot of words. Those words were learnt so you could get a good score, which would equal to an admission in a good college which would equal to a good future. Now here is a chance for you to feed people by learning your vocabulary or testing it.

Freerice is a website that has created a beautiful virtual bridge between the privileged and not so privileged. The more words you get right on the site the more grains you donate. If your wondering how they manage to do this here is the gig – they use the money by the advertisements on the website to truly buy grains of rice for the less privileged. The rice is distributed by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). The World Food Program is the world's largest food aid agency, working with over 1,000 other organizations in over 75 countries. More facts on the same here.

This is a great example of how technology is being used to bridge gaps and serve a greater purpose. On that note lets tests our vocabulary as we donate some rice.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Rural BPO : A successful implementation by an inspired engineer

I was reading up a bit on the rural BPOs online after Santosh's talk the other day. I came across this interesting and inspiring article about a 23-year old engineer's endeavours and success in the rural BPO field in India. She put to use the same idea put forth by Santosh , about having locals working close to where they live. This way they earn money and do not have to leave home and other responsibilities.
The reviews of the rural workers' efforts have been summed up in the article by on of the firm's using this service as:
"The workers in the rural areas are more committed and hardworking. So, their quality is very good."
, which is definitely encouraging.
It is truly admirable how some people want to leave their luxuries in order to make other people lives better and also highlight how rural areas are potential powerhouses waiting to be explored .

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How ICT can help reduce TB

There is an ICT project underway in south africa to help reduce TB. Details are as follows;

Dr. David Green's Compliance Service uses the Short Message Service (SMS) to alert tuberculosis (TB) patients to take their medication. The initiative has led to a significant increase in the recovery rate of patients and could lead to savings for healthcare authorities.

Funding or financial model: Commercially driven. A pilot project has been sponsored by the City Council of Cape Town.

Background: The population of Cape Town is divided along race and class lines. White people generally have access to middle and high-income jobs, good municipal services, and private healthcare, and they can afford comfortable housing. Coloured , and especially black citizens of Cape Town generally have low paid jobs or are unemployed, live in informal settlements where housing is often substandard, cannot rely on good municipal services, and have to use the overburdened public healthcare system. Cape Town's Mediterranean winters are cold and wet, and this poses an additional health hazard for people living in informal settlements. Large areas of these settlements are built below the waterline and are flooded during the winter months. Due to this combination of factors, poor black people are more prone to contracting TB. Unemployment countrywide is estimated at 41.5% and the GDP per capita is estimated at USD $8,500. (Global Insight, an international research company)

How ICT is used to overcome the problem: Evidence suggests that TB patients often do not take their medication simply because they forget. So, Dr. Green uses SMS (Short Messaging Service) -- text message service that enables short messages of up to 160 characters to be transmitted between cell phones -- to alert patients to take their medication.

Healthcare professional were skeptical whether the uptake of cell phone technology was high enough to justify the project. However, Dr. Green found that over 50% of people in the Cape Peninsula had access to cell phones. At the clinic where the pilot study was conducted, 71% of TB patients had access to a cell phone.

Dr. Green enters the names of TB patients onto a database. Every half an hour his computer server reads the database and sends personalised messages to the patients, reminding them to take their medication. The technology that he uses to send out the messages is extremely low-cost and robust: an open source software operating system, web server, mail transport agent, applications, and a database. Currently Dr. Green charges the City of Cape Town R11.80 per patient per month to send out SMS messages.

Initially the SMS message sent to patients read: "Take your Rifafour now." When patients complained about the boring message, Dr. Green sent them a variety of alerts, including jokes and lifestyle tips with the result that he now has as database of over 800 messages that he changes on a daily basis. Of the 138 patients involved in the pilot, there was only one treatment failure.

Health Stats

Two hundred years ago, tuberculosis was a feared killer. One hundred years ago, people with tuberculosis were placed in sanitariums in order to prevent TB from spreading from one person to another. With the birth of anibiotics, TB was controlled and for a time all but eliminated. But with the emergence of HIV over the last 25 years, TB has returned and must be dealt with. In some parts of the world, HIV and tuberculosis are at epidemic proportions. Here are the most current tuberculosis statistics.

  • Tuberculosis Cases
    • 2000: 16,377
    • 2001: 15,989
    • 2002: 15,075
    • 2003: 14,874
    • 2004: 14,502
    • 2005: 14,080
    • 2006: 13,779

  • Tuberculosis Deaths
    • 2000: 776
    • 2001: 764
    • 2002: 802
    • 2003: 711
    • 2004: 657
    • 2005: 246

  • Tuberculosis Cases According to Race (2006)
    • Hispanic: 4,066
    • American Indian / Alaska Native: 167
    • Asian: 3,298
    • African American: 3,737
    • Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander: 56
    • White: 2,403
    • Multiple Races: 35
    • Unknown / Missing Race: 17

  • Tuberculosis Cases According to Age (2006)
    • 0 - 14 years: 807
    • 15 - 24 years: 1,540
    • 25 - 44 years: 4,702
    • 45 - 64 years: 4,053
    • 65 years and older: 2,676
    • unknown age: 1

Thursday, November 22, 2007

BabaJob - A social network with a Social cause - Will it work?

Web2.0 is continuously proving it self as the most helpful creation this century. With Wikipedia being the new bible of knowledge and linkedIn being the hottest place to snap a job, while Twitter a micro blogging platform being used more as the 1st mean of informing people during a disaster. In its most unfortunate state this evolutionary steps are only proving beneficial for only those people who have access to a computer, an internet and continuous supply of electricity.

In most developing nations, like India where the Sensex is jumping 1000 point in a matter of weeks, India is in the 'nascent stage' where computer literacy is concerned. The percent of literacy as compared to illiteracy is by it self a subject of question. Having said that it must be noted that the Participation of India is 19% of the total number of people on orkut, making it the second highest national community on Orkut( source )

Babajob, that is co founded by Sean Blagsvedt, claims to be a "linkedIn" for Poor people. In short a social networking for not only job seekers but employers of jobs that cannot be sort out on LinkedIn, or orkut etc. The parameter of the jobs listed on this site would range from a cook, to a nanny, a house keeper, painter, office helper, driver etc. Kamla Bhatt a renowned Podcaster in India did the interview below with the co founder.

Reasons why BabaJob will help get Jobs in India.

1. The hook this social networking websites gives is the incentive of money. The person who plays connector gets paid a sum of 100/- RPs. This is reason enough for many people in India to play connector. A sum of 100 rupees ( approx 2 $) is sufficient for 3 meals in India. Cyber café owners could also make act as a connector by helping other not so computer savvy people to get on the web to get a job.

2. NGO's will be amongst those organizations that will make use utmost of the services of this website. NGO's whose cater to the needs of the unemployed would look at this website as one more opportunity to help the poor. The NGO would not only have resources that could help/assist the main target audience of this website to get on to the web, but also lend credibility.

3. Many Metropolitan cities in India, like other developing countries, have people who have moved into the city from rural or semi urban areas. Finding helpers like cooks, house cleaners, nannies would be a tedious task for them. Hence such a website and service would prove to be helpful.

Reasons why BabaJob will not be so helpful.

1. Babajob is trying to use its synergy with it's proper social network Babalife, to make Babajob popular. India is already flooded with social networking websites like Yaari, Collegecampus, Fropper, Jhoom, Minglebox, and Reliance funded BigAdda which is doing heavy offline advertising. In the above interview Sean says that he would like to compete with Orkut, which is highly unlikely considering the other players in the market that have either been funded heavily (Minglebox got funded for 7 Million by Sequoia Capital) or are backed by big corporate like Google.

2. Trust is a huge issue, especially in India. Following the Adnan Patrawala case in India, where a 16 year boy was killed after carrying an online friendship on Orkut, offline, People are very skeptical of the online world.

3. Most of the people online are youth, who do not worry about a driver, cleaner, nanny etc. These options would appeal to the primary decision maker in the house – The Mother. The percent of Internet Savvy Mothers in India is very minimal and limited to the metropolitan cities in India.

Though Babajob is a brilliant fusion of heart and technology, the obstacles that are faced by the website outrun the 100 rupee hook. While most of India still lies in the rural sector where basic electric amenities are not met, hence the scope of the website would only be limited to the semi rural and urban areas. With the rise of Literacy, credibility of social networks – this indeed would be a great connect and much wanted Bridge between the seeking employer and wanting employee.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Using Asterisk

Today the founders of Asterisk gave a lecture at ITP. One of the projects that are build on Asterisk is "Inveneo", a non-profit social enterprise that brings internet access to rural african areas. Computers get charged with a bike, that produces power, etc... please watch the video on their website for more info.
Their products include:

Ultra low-power computers and servers
Long distance wireless (WiFi) Local Area Networking (LAN) gear
VoIP telephony software and integrated hardware
Free and Open source operating systems for servers and desktops

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Any Comments?

I found this rather interesting article that uses Brazil as a case study for analyzing the progress made by developing countries with regards to advanced informational infrastructure.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007!

The NY Times printed an interesting article about how the stark poverty in India is actually inspiring rather innovative ideas that are leading to inventions that one wouldn’t visualize as possible or even necessary in a developed country. It also describes a LinkedIn-esque professional networking website called “Babajob” that could potentially help the multitude of poor people in India seeking better jobs. This could have particularly interesting and far-reaching consequences in other developing countries where most of the poor and underclass remain so only because of the inability to find suitable stable employment. Of course the most intriguing part of all this is how they were able to work around the fact that most of their target audience is not computer-literate. Or even literate for that matter.

Monday, October 29, 2007


This site offers many examples and articles about the use of cellphones in developing regions.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Accredited Social Health Activist

Information Technology could be used effectively in medical sector so that people living in remote areas could have access to healthcare. Information Technology should be used in Integrated Diseases Surveillance Programme (IDSP) and also in extending the initiatives in tele-medicine field with particular emphasis on providing healthcare access to remote areas of the country.

Such technologies can be effectively used in the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) initiatives. In India the government is in the process of having one dedicated health facilitator -- ASHA or Accredited Social Health Activist in each of the six lakh villages of the country so that the medical needs of the people living in remote areas could be taken care of. About 2.25 lakh such ASHAs are already in place.

ASHA will be a health activist in the community who will create awareness on health and its social determinants, mobilize the community towards local health planning and increased utilization of existing health services. She would be a promoter of good health practices who would also provide a minimum package of curative care as appropriate and feasible at her level and ensure timely referrals for cases requiring higher level of care/intervention.

Problem in Malawi

About one fifth of Malawi's adults have HIV/AIDS. A staggering 2.5 million of the country's 12.5 million people are infected.

AIDS is the single biggest factor that keeps Malawi one of the poorest countries in the world. It robs its small economy of its most productive workers. It keeps the country from having as many teachers as it needs. On average, more than one teacher dies from AIDS every single day. Funerals and coffin-makers are everywhere.

Malawi is a developing country. Poverty, malnutrition, poor infrastructure, poor education, and an almost crippling dependence on aid - all are evident. The solutions to these problems continue to elude the best minds (though some might argue that the best minds don't actually want these problems solved!). Recent observations on education, in particular, offer no solutions but they do reveal to me the extent of the problem.

Study show, there seems to be a real inability to problem-solve; whether it's an elementary maths question, or the logistics of a road-accident, or just using Help in a software package. It's a symptom of an education based on rote-learning rather than on understanding and thinking for yourself. Admittedly there is little motivation to self-develop, to learn from others, to do anything that doesn't actually involve being paid "extra". This is a symptom of a the previous president punishing severely any that showed initiative. But whatever the cause, it is the educated - the elite - who this country must start to rely on, and not the aid agencies or ex-patriots or even volunteers. That is, if the country is ever to be anything other than a developing country.

This is not just a country with problems, there are lots of lifestyle attitudes. The more you see and hear of the disorganisation that exists in Malawi (and the corruption and greed of its politicians) the more you are forced to try and think of solutions, and then you are forced to realise that - for now - things are just not going to get better. People are going to continue to die, and people are going to turn increasingly more towards crime.

I still think that the solution to Malawi's problems - the trick,
the balancing act - is to provide aid without producing a
dependency on that aid. Thankfully, after over 30 years
dispensing aid, development agencies are beginning to
address this issue.

And obviously, you cannot ignore the role of ordinary Malawians
in making their country more prosperous and developed.

Continuing with the $100 laptop discussion

I recently read the following:

"The so-called $100 laptops for children may make it to India after all.

Last year,India rebuffed One Laptop Per Child, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff that created rugged little computers for kids in the developing world.

India's education minister was quoted calling the project "pedagogically suspect," apparently because it demands children be allowed to take the laptops home to maximize exploration.

Being shut out of the world's second-most populous country seemed a defeat for One Laptop Per Child, which has had a tougher sell than it expected. Mass production of its roughly $190 laptops is expected to begin soon, but with fewer than the several million computers originally envisioned.

Even after hearing the minister's comments, One Laptop Per Child kept talking to Indian officials, companies and non-governmental agencies. And a pilot test began recently in which 22 children in first through fourth grades in a rural, one-room school in the Indian state of Maharashtra are using the computers.

Carla Gomez-Monroy, the education consultant who launched the test, said One Laptop Per Child has learned that working with local partners will be crucial in India, where dozens of languages are spoken.

It also helps that One Laptop Per Child has dropped its initial goal of getting each participating government to buy at least 1 million computers. Now, far smaller orders and donations are being encouraged.

"The model has evolved," Gomez-Monroy said. And in India's case, she said, it could mean distribution broadening as soon as June."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


ran across this project from a group called DataDyne - with it you can create data entry forms on pda/java enabled phones. it's free and targeted for use in developing countries here

and it seems they are working with the nokia non-profit branch

it's a useful example of the sort of projects we're working on in class. if anyone else downloads and looks at the code, i'd be curious to know what aspects you think are optimal and which should be avoided/improved on.

MicroPlace Launch

eBay site lets people finance the world's poor

eBay, the world's largest online auctioneer and payments company, launched on Wednesday a Web site allowing ordinary investors to buy securities aimed at improving conditions in the world's poorest countries.

Full article

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Natalie Portman and FINCA: Action and Leadership in the Fight against Poverty

You may be interested in this event:

NYU’s Africa House and Bridge-Students for Social Entrepreneurship at Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service Present:

Natalie Portman and FINCA: Action and Leadership in the Fight against Poverty

Join us for a special event featuring Natalie Portman, Golden Globe Award-winning actress and social activist, who will discuss her work with global microfinance organization FINCA International and how to get involved in FINCA’s Village Banking “Call to Action” Campaign.

As FINCA’s Ambassador of Hope and co-chairperson of the recently launched campaign, the 26-year old Harvard graduate has traveled around the world to see how microfinance is changing lives. Portman will discuss her experiences with clients in the field, show video clips of her travels, and talk with Professor William Easterly about microfinance and the next generation’s responsibility for taking leadership in the fight against poverty.

To find out more, visit, the Village Banking Campaign page on Facebook, or visit


Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Time: 7:00 PM

Location: NYU’s Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 LaGuardia Place between Washington Square South and West 3rd Street .

Ticket Information: This event is free and open to NYU students and NYU-affiliated guests, but guests must obtain a voucher to gain admittance. Please email for information.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

President of Malawi question

You are the president of Malawi. You have a net aid $1 billion. You have 80% of your population under the poverty line. 40% under the extreme poverty line (without access to either food, shelter or clothing). How would you spend your $1 billion and reduce poverty?

Refer to

More posts?

You should post your opinions on:

a. What aspects of End of Poverty and White Man's Burden you agree with/like?
b. President of Malawi problem
c. How to enable a rural market? (based on discussions in class)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Is $100 PC a solution to world digital divide?

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed, at the World Economic Forum, by UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis and OLPC Chairman Nicholas Negroponte, a founder and the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Laptop per Child (OLPC) program.

OLPC will be implemented first in seven diverse and very large countries. The plan is to have the government buy the machines to be given cost-free to students. In the case of least developed countries (LDCs) and poor countries, the UNDP will work with OLPC and other UN agencies on the ground, to assist national governments to deploy the laptops to targeted public schools with a variety of internal and external funding sources.

UNDP's global network is present in 166 countries, and has extensive experience in using information and communication technology for sustainable development. It will work with local and international partners to design and develop programms to deliver OLPC technology and learning resources to schools in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).The $100 laptop is an inexpensive, robust computer, with open-source software, and very low power consumption. The laptop was designed to give children in developing countries access to knowledge and educational tools. A working prototype of the product was showcased at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis in November 2005.

OLPC is anon-profit organization set up to oversee the project. Six companies – Google, AMD, Red Hat, News Corporation, Nortel, and Brightstar, provided $2 million each to fund OLPC and the initial laptop design.

Corporate interest in producing these computers has been high. After reviewing several bids, OLPC announced in December that Quanta Computers would manufacture the laptop.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Root causes of poverty?

Express your thoughts on the root causes of poverty.

To start the discussion, I will put forth a simple "downward spiral theory" as what I call it.
Assume a family is currently in a state of basic sustenance but without much savings (i.e. the earnings barely match the spendings of the family). My theory is that one of the main causes of driving such a family into a state of poverty is an "action" that triggers a downward spiral where the family is forced into a situation where the spending drastically overshoots the earnings for a short timeperiod. This leaves the family in a big debt trap that they are unable to come out of.
Now if this negative cycle continues for a prolonged period (say 2-3 years), then it would make it much harder for them to come out of it. The moneylenders who milk this situation by lending money at exhorbitant rates further worsen it.

In my opinion, healthcare has been a main cause of poverty in Africa. The average expectancy in Africa is in the 40s. So an average person gets ill in the mid 30s and ends up spending a big chunk of their earnings on healthcare. Some statistics state that in certain places more than half of the earnings is spent on healthcare. Also, a very low expectancy rate drastically reduces the working population which is critical for maintain the "earnings" in a family. In Africa, I feel healthcare costs drive the downward spiral.

your thoughts?

What can ICT do for poverty alleviation?

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can potentially be used as a tool to aid in poverty alleviation. Do throw in your thoughts on how ICT can be used in poverty alleviation. Provide suggestions specific to how ICT can aid in development in specific areas like healthcare, agriculture , education etc or throw suggestions on how ICT can be useful building block to tap the rural market.