Chalo Dilli

Not that you would notice, of course, given my sporadic blogging in general, but I thought that I should let you know that I will most likely not be posting stuff for a few days. So if you land here and find nothing new, I suggest you don’t go away without checking some of the archives.

Where, you may ask, am I going? I am off to London to see the Queen. Just kidding. I am off to New Delhi to attend the “Annual Conference of the HUDCO Chair Institutes” Sept 8-9th. The topic is “Cities: Engines of Rural Development.”

You may know of my abiding interest in rural development. I have written a concept paper on RISC–Rural Infrastructure & Services Commons. It is rather long — about 40 pages. So I would not recommend it as casual reading.

Of late there has been some action on RISC. Vinod Khosla guest-edited a recent issue of The Economic Times and he mentioned RISC in it. Then I got to hear that he spoke about RISC to the Planning Commission. And now I am going to be talking to a bunch of academics (those are the Chairs of HUDCO institutes) and some government bureaucrats (I guess from rural development departments and such.)

It has been a while since I was in Delhi. Last time in mid-February, I spent a few days meeting with people in connection with my interest in education. That is my day job–think about enabling education. My idea is to use the power tools of information and communications technologies (ICT) to make education more effective and efficient. Technology, as any economist will tell you, is labor substituting. Whenever a factor of production is expensive (labor for instance), you substitute it with a less expensive factor (capital for instance.) Since teaching labor is very expensive in India, use technology which is cheap these days.

Crazy, I hear the cry go out. How in the name of god almighty is teaching labor expensive in India? The fact is that good quality teachers are extremely–let me repeat that–extremely scarce. Scarcity implies high price. Therefore the cost of high quality teachers is prohibitive. We cannot afford high quality teachers because they are a luxury. Not just that, even if we had all the money, there is an acute shortage of teachers required. We need millions of teachers. We simply don’t have them. Hence my insistence that we have to find a substitute for good teachers and that happens to be the tools that ICT provides very inexpensively.

That’s it for now.

Author: Atanu Dey

Economist.

7 thoughts on “Chalo Dilli”

  1. hey, it was really interesting to read your post, because the use of ICT in education is something I’ve been working on too, I’d made a brief presentation on it at a UN-Habitat seminar a few months ago.

    I had been working on a networked online testing system (like the computer based GRE tests) as part of my internship, which really showed me the potential for technology in education…

    I’d like to hear more about your conference, so do keep this updated. thanks

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  2. Yep, good teachers are expensive – and very, very scarce.
    Most people think Indian higher-education is very high-class and all that but its the pits, especially in sunrise areas.

    Its great to see work being done on ICT as a medium to cut some of the shortage.

    Some universities like the Anna of TN, and Visveswaraya(VTU) of Karnataka are more focussed at getting students off their jeans and cellphones than in critical issues.

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  3. Hi Atanu,

    I have been ruminating on your idea of education since you published it a few months ago and I think it could have very far reaching consequences – the public-private partnership. It would definitely be a leg up to the current pathetic system that has been in use for the past 50 years.

    Cheers

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  4. Hi Atanu,

    One cannot disagree with your idea of ICT. I hope it becomes a reality. I went through some of your posts on education and I think {although not very sure} that you give a great deal of stress on mathematical and analytical abilities.

    My own belief is that to create an educated and enlightened India, the primary and the most important stress should be on the Humanities. Reading ability is directly connected to the creation of intelligence and an attitude of learning. With ICT, one can develop tools that enables the reading ability in a child over a sustained period of six to eight years.

    One starts with basic reading and once endowed with reading abilities, the child can be introduced to texts containing complex ideas. After a sustained training period through ICT tools, the individual would come to a state of natural growth and become capable of finding his own way in life.

    I had this idea and wanted to share it with you because it reflects the common experience of 0.001% of Indians, i.e., those Indians who have been lucky enough to be born in conducive circumstances and get a good education.

    Good education has endowed a small % of Indians with reading ability and this is how we can slowly, gradually, through the process of years, come to certain amount of maturity and understanding about ourselves and the world and become discerning individuals.

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  5. Hi Atanu,
    Have a nice trip. Wish you the best on your talks and presentations. However I am not too sure of technology totally replacing labour(if that is what your paper proposes). Will go read it before commenting on it further.

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  6. Hi,
    I think its a great idea. I am currently working towards a Masters in Distance Education (doing it completely online). If I can be of any use to your ideas on education of the rural population through ICTs, please let me know.
    Meanwhile good luck with HUDCO.
    There is also going to be an ICDE in New Delhi in November. See http://www.ignou.ac.in/icde2005/ignou.htm

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