Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

New Release: My UN Commissioned Report on Innovation in the ICT's in Education sector

In February of 2016, I was approached by UNESCO to come up with a report to advise the UN Education Commission on the role of prizes in shaping innovation in the education sector. After months of research, and evaluation, I was thrilled to learn that the report made its way into the policy pathway. This paper was prepared for the International Commission on Financing Global Education.

Basically, here is the executive summary for the report. If interested, click here to get access to the final report.

The use of prizes to stimulate innovation in education has dramatically increased in recent
years, but, to date, no organization has attempted to critically examine the impact these
prizes have had on education. This report attempts to fill this gap by conducting a landscape
review of education prizes with a focus on technology innovation in developing countries.
This report critically analyses the diversity of education prizes to gauge the extent to which
these new funding mechanisms lead to innovative solutions in this sector. This is
supplemented with interviews with sponsors and prize participants to gain the muchneeded
practitioner’s perspective. We address important questions that pervade as prizes
are being implemented in this sector: What seems to be working and why? How do prizes
compare to other funding mechanisms to stimulate technology innovations? How is
sustainability achieved? What can be learned that can inform the design of future prizes?

We structure our recommendations along the Doblin framework, which entails analyzing
the design of prizes along the criteria of Resources (sponsorships & partnerships), Structure (types of prizes, eligibility criteria, scope, types of ICT projects, phases, & intellectual property rights), Motivators (monetary & non-monetary Incentives, Communications (marketing), and, Evaluation (measuring impact and long-term sustainability). 

Through this process, a number of important assumptions are re-examined, namely, that technology innovation is central to educational reform, prizes stimulate innovation, scalability is a proxy for sustainability, and prizes are the most efficient funding mechanism to stimulate innovation. We re-calibrate expectations of technology innovation prizes in the educational field against empirical evidence. We reveal key trends through the deploying of prizes in this field and offer case studies as good practices for sponsors to consider when designing future prizes. The report makes recommendations along each of the given criteria to enhance the impact of prizes, drawing from interdisciplinary sources. The intent of this report is to enable sponsors to distinguish the hype surrounding these prizes and proceed to design prizes that can best serve the education sector.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Digital absence: The modern day sabbatical?

When you speak of sabbaticals, you perhaps picture a professor of art history sitting at a cafĂ© in Florence, trying to come up with a new spin on Uffizi art. It seems that academia has usurped this practice that has been enveloped in biblical meaning for the longest of time. This hiatus from work has had the weight of Ten Commandments backing it up, allowing the masses to justify their temporal ceasing to labor. Henceforth, the weekend was born. Granted, this is a rather simplistic interpretation. Of course one needs to take into account other phenomena such as the industrialization era where leisure began to be viewed as not necessarily a waste of time but actually that which could enhance productivity. In fact, these strategic interruptions have served as a signal of the modern era where a society sees its inherent virtue. So the question is not on whether or not it is advisable to desist working for some time but rather, how long is it acceptable to leisure before it is viewed as unproductive? The weekend is now an accepted notion and serves as a common motivation for the average modern day laborer as they “slave” away in their routines of day-to-day work, keeping in mind the reward of a relaxing weekend with family and friends. However, beyond that, the option of time-off for its own sake is rather an alien concept in most private sectors.

Also, who is allowed to temporarily cease from labor and why? Sabbaticals implicitly bring to mind privileged white-collar workers where this is seen as a strategic incentive to sustain and retain this elite working class. And what happens when blue-collar workers embark on the same path? It will usually be perceived as part-time work or ill health, signals of a poor economic climate perhaps. Much like what makes a foreigner an “expat” versus an “immigrant” has more to do with economics than with other social aspects.

And of course, what constitutes as non-working time as new media infiltrates and blurs boundaries on work and play at a constant basis? Obama has raised our level of awareness of the Blackberry addict, the new drug of the digital and mobile era where we are now victims of our own constant and often involuntary urges to immerse in online busyness. Productivity and labor has never become so obviously disassociated as in today’s Web 2.0 era where being engaged during “work” and “working” have become issues of serious concern to the private sector at large. It’s a double-edged sword really. Companies benefit from this compulsion as they can reach their employees, the junkies of new media, even during the sacrosanct weekend. On the other hand, leisure stealthily creeps in during the routines of work life, enveloping their worker bees with the trivia of social life through Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. In fact, the spatial aspect of work, of being at the office to produce is also being challenged as technical mobility and the nature of work has undergone radical transformation one may argue. It may even seem that this laboring elite are their own worst enemies as they compulsively engage with work regardless of location and time.

Pushing this further, taking a digital absence is currently shrouded in controversy as expectations of instant gratification from customers as well as ones own Net addiction propels one to actively and with much effort, disengage from the cybersphere. There is no discreet way of excusing oneself from techno-laboring. It is yet to be seen how long absences from ones own blog or twitter is perceived and how that impacts ones legitimacy in the Web 2.0 world where ones absence is digitally clocked and paraded for one and all.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the cheapest of them all?

Today’s world is the world of consumerism. “Access,” even in the most economically disadvantaged areas is less about the basics. In fact, there is a thin line between what constitutes as necessity versus luxury. The farmer wants a mobile to listen to Radio1 94.3; the housemaid in Bandra wants a TV to watch her favorite soap opera; the watchman in Electronic City aims to get a car one day. With India’s massive consumer base of a billion strong, the economy of scale as a perennial clichĂ© kicks in as predictably as ever. So there is nothing new in the fact that new technologies can become accessible at a faster rate in emerging markets than its western counterpart. What is new however is that products today are being developed from the start to be accessible – in one word –CHEAP. Patience is a thing of the past apparently. The new consumer has made the economy of scale redundant here.

The burgeoning middle class laps up the Tata Nano, the people’s car at $2500, an unprecedented figure for an automobile today. The legendary chairman, Ratan Tata remarks: “Today, we indeed have a People’s Car, which is affordable and yet built to meet safety requirements and emission norms, to be fuel efficient and low on emissions,” Mr. Tata added. “We are happy to present the People’s Car to India and we hope it brings the joy, pride and utility of owning a car to many families who need personal mobility.”

And this seems to be just the start. In the hardware world, the brainpower universities of IIT & IISc have pioneered the tablet computer at the cost of a mere $35 with promises of getting even cheaper for the students. And if we cross over to the medical world, we see pioneering innovations of cost effective treatment in major sectors, from prosthetic legs to eye treatment to HIV drugs, an invaluable model to learn for the West where healthcare is perhaps one of the biggest contentious issues of the day.

Best yet, cheap is no longer automatically equated to lower quality. In fact, the demanding consumer expects more apps, more features, and more gadgetry for less. Competition and choice have fueled such expectations, raising the bar for innovators. And rightly so. When we look in the mirror, we now want to see not the present but the future. The question is, who will present the fairest future for us all?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mind the Gap?

We are obsessed with difference. No doubt that every technology impacts society. No doubt that every new generation gets accustomed to certain unique ways of communicating through novel mediums. It is therefore natural for people to be concerned with “generation gaps.” The acceleration of technological change is assumed to create an acceleration of difference. Yes. It is assumed however but not determined. Expectations are but one aspect of new technology usage. We forget though that most technologies are used to fulfil something very basic and fundamental – the fostering, strengthening, and enhancing of relationships. The end incentive is not to maximize new technology but to maximize human relationships. Thereby, regardless of the widening spaces between generations, the panic of “mini-generations gaps” needs to be grounded; to remind oneself that people will continue to use a plethora of technologies to stay in touch, to connect, and to share. When I moved to the US from India in 1996, I continued to write letters to my family regularly in spite of email and instant messaging infusing my life. It had not infused theirs and to this date, still doesn’t. We should have more faith in our younger generations…most panic is created from the fear of not stimulating the younger generation enough, not “keeping up” with them, and not living up to their expectations. The irony is that the younger generation today is not that different from the youth in the past – they want what all youth wants –inspiration. To shape and share that kind of capital is what we should really concern ourselves with.