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 myspace.com/villagebanking, the Village Banking Campaign page on Facebook, or visit www.villagebanking.org


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 africahouse.rsvp@nyu.edu 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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malawi

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)