‘Creating educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children’ is the stated mission of One Laptop per Child Association, Inc. (OLPC), a US non-profit meant to take education and self-empowerment to every underprivileged child across the world. Ambitious indeed! Critics scoffed at the idea, and few believed it possible OLPC would be a success when it was first launched. In fact, the Indian Government, when approached as a potential buyer in 2006, responded with “It would be impossible to justify an expenditure of this scale on a debatable scheme when public funds continue to be in inadequate supply for well-established needs listed in different policy documents”! However, the OLPC movement has shown it is a sustainable one, and is currently doing wonders, inspiring other similar movements around the world.
Following the OLPC debacle, the Indian Government received plans from Vellore Institute of Technology and IISc., Bangalore, for the development of Tablet PCs for the masses. It finally announced Sakshat, a project aimed at producing inexpensive laptops which would be made available to Indian students nationally. Technologists from the IITs, IISc and VIT battled it out and finally came out with a version of the laptop which has now officially been released by the government.
Believe it or not, what was once an idea so outlandish it had to be rejected, is now on the wishlists of a number of prominent technology houses, even from as far as Singapore and the US, for the Indian poor. iSlate, the brainchild of Krishna Palem of Rice University, being developed in Nanyang Technological University, is slated to be the next big thing. Laptops for the poor definitely seem to have gained traction as ‘The Next Big Thing’.
The larger question this begs, however, is indeed significant. Ideas that were once rejected on their face, are increasingly gaining traction, through stunning reverse engineering and modern technology practices. All it takes to begin delivering these ideas to the needy are entrepreneurs and researchers with fire in their eyes. Innovation in technology, logistics and management are making things that were earlier unheard of a reality today. The last few years have seen a quiet surge in the number of entrepreneurs embarking on these paths.
What is even more encouraging is, the government, too, is most proactive these days, introducing missions like the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT), under which missions like these are encouraged - especially if they are initiated by entrepreneurs. The emphasis on Sociopreneurship as a sector has never been more intense from entrepreneurs and the government alike. The ball is now in your court - the entrepreneur’s court.
Do you have it in you to make a difference to the future of Emerging India? If you do, its time to stand up and be counted!