Friday, 15 December 2017

Technology Travelators for Sustainable Development Goals

Technology Travelators for Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development (SD) will perhaps qualify as the most ‘Malleable’ word in English lexicon. Since the publication of 'Our common future' in 1984, SD continues to occupy a non-negotiable position in almost all global programmes. It is perceived as the metaphorical blind men describing an elephant. Over the past 3 decades; the theme kept metamorphosing over Johannesburg, Kyoto and Millennium Assessment to reach the present, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Despite increasing awareness of consequences of our consumption pattern, we remain opulent and continue to slide down to increasingly more unsustainable realm. Our present understanding teaches that the breaks to stop the slide lie in our attitude and behaviour.

However, it is interesting to observe that as we slide down, we seem to get more 'interconnected'. Whilst it is yet to be ascertained if there is any relation in our interconnectedness and sustainability, it provides an unexplored lever to augur ourselves towards a sustainable trajectory. []. Willfully or otherwise, we are getting increasingly entangled in the network. They have grown to proportions big enough to influence individual human behaviour.

With the emergence of disruptive technologies and expansion in our ability to reveal hidden patterns from data-mazes are transforming the way we address challenges. However, advocacy of latent transformative potential of these technologies are mostly speculative. But for few illustrative case studies, there hardly exists any operational program(s) that leverage these technologies for the benefit of the masses and the goodness of nature. Neither are there any studies that dwell upon the prospects of frontier technologies to help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Carefully prioritized, frontier technologies can act as travelators that help us close the SDG gaps, safely.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Conservation is not a part time job

A couple of months ago, we were raising alarm calls warning ourselves about the impending water deficit.  An obsession for water conservation spread like an epidemic and was picked up by almost everyone. The media houses vied for brownie points, politicians would have said and done something to either conserve or improve their electoral bases, conservationists would have been glad to read their own words in prime print spaces and academicians would have lectured and quizzed thirsty students.

This obsession got washed out in rains. A benevolent nature bestowed more than sufficient rains to fill our 'silt filled' reservoirs. The media houses, politicians, conservationists and academicians, all seem to have picked up some other themes and will come back to blow the bugles next summer.

Annual knee jerk reactions will not help achieve the ends. Viewed like summer internships, part time efforts towards conservation, will deliver little. 

Does anyone care?     

Monday, 10 July 2017

From Intelligence Quotient (IQ) to Innovation Quotient (InQ)

With more than half of human population directly or indirectly connected to the Internet1, we have silently slid into a new epoch - Diktyocene (Diktyo in Greek means Networked). Without any competing alternative, networks grew exponentially to engulf the whole planet and even beyond. Willfully or otherwise, we are increasingly getting entangled in the network. They have grown to proportions big enough to influence human behavior2. The ability to deliver information or provide service to a remote user, without prior requirement of continuous physical infrastructure, is an impressive attribute that encourage Governments to articulate technology for human development. This, in turn, is a positive feedback that draws more people into network.

As with adoption of conventional technology, network enabled services also faces the five classes of users. Whilst innovators get inspired, laggards will switch to a networked option, as the last resort. Factors that influence social adoption of network technologies, transcend demographic and physiological characteristics of the respective adopter groups. It is not surprising to find the proportion of innovators skewed favorably towards post-millennial children. They are more comfortable and tend to adopt seamlessly with new technologies3

Whilst our early ancestors relied more on instinct and reflex to ensure physical security and satisfy their needs, our post-industrial revolution forefathers, had at their disposal; mechanical and chemical powers to surmount challenges. In the last century, success of an individual was related to knowledge acquired through formal education and his or her ability to use it in productive ways. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is a metric that points to this ability. It indicates the capacity of an individual to integrate all cognitive capabilities. 

Mere possession of higher IQ will not assure an individual’s success in the Diktyocene. The ability to innovate and find solutions to challenges is a more desired contemporary attribute that employers seek in prospective candidates. This is one step higher than the capacity to integrate cognitive capabilities to develop holistic understanding. I define a new metric, Innovation Quotient (InQ) to denote the ability of an individual to (a) perform tasks and (b) perform tasks 'aliter'  (Aliter is the Latin word for differently). 

The ability of an individual to perform tasks is expressed using Technology Quotient (TQ) and the ability to it aliter, is assessed case by case. Standalone, TQ will be important to evaluate technology (of  products) and predict their social acceptability.  

[How to compute InQ is described elsewhere].

Sunday, 2 July 2017

India, China and the NATO

India, China and the NATO

Imagine you own a plot of land and have plans for future, in place. How would you feel, if someone starts to build a road through your land, just because the Patriarch in his family dreams to have direct access to the main road? 

Well, I will try to stop the bully by all logical means. It may begin with a direct conversation and if required may be scaled up to involve my well-wishers. If things do not straighten up, I will have to think of legal options. However, if the bully is too arrogant and cares to ignore any legal orders (evidenced by experience in recent past), what do I do? I may have to join a group that provides collective strength to silence the bully.

There may be many within my family who will criticize my decision to align with a team. However, in such instances, the end justifies the means. Instead, if I remain indecisive and shy away from acting today, my land will get split into two forever.

An almost similar situation is evolving with India-China relation. The Patriarch at the other end has a magnanimous dream of building roads that cuts through our land. We find ourselves unable to stop it. Unlike our case, the Patriarch has no opposition within his house. He does not have to align himself to face elections. The Patriarch is clever to use his voting rights at international forums to ensure that individuals who bleed us are not labelled. It can also not be ruled out that the Patriarch is fanning internal unrest and shouting in our house. What so ever be the systemic and historic reasons, we have slacked in our progress. Whilst we take pride in our social diversity, we continue to pay a price for it. Our high ethnocentrism comes between ‘us as Indians’ and ‘individuals as the beneficiary’. This gap is widely used as soft wood by people who keep us divided. Hence, despite sincere efforts, we are two decades behind in developing our fiscal and physical muscles so as to be respected by the Patriarch.

Our internal squabbles have emboldened the Patriarch to recently start work on a second road. Over this, he has reminded us to learn from history. I personally felt insulted on reading about this in newspaper. If we remain indecisive and do not act in the fear of internal protests, he will soon start doing more such. It is easy to nip in the bud and remind the Patriarch that our motherland is not something to please him and implement his dreams. 

It is important to remember that the lag of two decades stated above, is a factor, which if articulated, can decisively be used by us. The Patriarch has recently permitted his citizens to produce more children. He has done so because, despite having the world’s largest army, the average age of his soldier is much higher. He is keen in opening new roads to facilitate fast movement of his aged soldiers. In two decades, liberally breeding population will help him bring down the average age of his army. By then, it will be too late for anyone to challenge him. 

In spite of our best efforts, we cannot state with certainty that in two decades from now, we will make him respect us. The next best alternative is to team up with someone so that the Patriarch will have to think many times over. 

Clinging on to our historic burden is not going to help us. Everything is bound to change with time. In a decisively more unipolar world, the question of alignment is irrelevant. Loyalty and commitment of old friends who are today themselves struggling to regain lost glory, cannot be taken for granted. It does not mean that we break away from them. Neither should it refrain from seeking new friendship.
Why should we even have second thoughts, if by joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), we can reign the bullying Patriarch?

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Academia-Industry-Government (AmIGo) Model of Partnership

Academia-Industry-Government (AmIGo) Model of Partnership

Academia-Industry partnerships are widely known. They are mostly profit driven and based on formal agreement between an individual or an institution with an industry. The intellectual property that transforms into marketable product can either generate independently or be anticipated and funded by industry. 

Whilst it is not a crime to generate profit, a more inclusive approach would be Academia-Industry-Government (AmIGo) model of partnership. The element of profit is safely embedded within the AmIGo model. However, a share of it goes to the Government. 

The Government, takes intellectual output from academia and reach out to develop products/solutions with entrepreneurs (jointly or otherwise). The academia, in turn, will be motivated to find innovative solutions for socially relevant challenges. They will be forced to think out of their disciplines (i.e. encourage trans-disciplinary thinking/ collaborations). The entrepreneur gets a well defined goal to work towards. S/he will also be able to seek counsel of experienced Government professionals and there-by reduce the element of risk. The society stands to benefit by adopting the product/solution and even contribute through a feedback mechanism to improve it. 

AmIGo can also be a means to:

  • Revive sagging Government owned enterprises.
  • Increase revenue flow to Government coffers (for services provided to citizens).
  • Enhance transparency.
  • Foster socially relevant innovation
  • Nurture entrepreneurship.
  • Create employment and
  • Enhance academic output (trans and inter-disciplinary research; patents filed/ granted)
  • Provide facility for societal (user) feedback for improved deliver of Governmental services. 

Such partnership models will be pivotal to ensure timely delivery of indigenously developed products and solutions to make our cities 'smart'.