I like that the government wants to get involved in the technology ecosystem in India.  I just wish it felt less like FOMO and more like a long term vision for real impact.   

India doesn’t lack funding, at least in technology. As a percentage, tech companies here probably burn more money than companies anywhere else in the world.  And even if funding was the problem, Rs.10,000 crores over 4 years really won’t move the needle. But enough has been written about this already, so I’m going to stop my rant there.

What I wanted to talk about is how we can spend this money, since it seems to be available…   

We need people -  smart people, educated people, motivated people. If you really want to spend a bunch of money, let’s build schools.  Let’s make them look like palaces*. Let’s make them state of the art.  They should have the fastest internet speeds in the world. They should have the latest hardware and software available.  

Let’s get the best teachers and resources from around the globe to teach our students and train teachers in our country.  Let’s pay our best and brightest citizens enormous amounts of money to become teachers ( and if you’re dying to give these tax breaks, let’s make teacher salaries tax free).

Let’s teach coding.  Let’s teach innovation and creativity.  Let’s teach leadership and teamwork. 

And let’s make it free for anyone and everyone in the Country.  

Beyond everything else, here’s why this is so important.  We have big problems to solve in India.  Problems that will haunt us for generations to come.  Problems only technology can fix. So far, technology companies have been tackling the low hanging fruit - things like access to commoditized retail and communication.  Models for solving both were created abroad (by Amazon and FB and What’s App) and now have been duplicated in India. But our problems extend beyond just buying groceries and chatting with friends.  We need to use technology to help us try and solve issues from agriculture to financial services to all the problems we face in healthcare.  And, yes, education too. 

Most of these problems are inherently Indian.  Meaning, the landscape in India is very different than other countries. As a result, foreign countries don’t have perspective and so foreign companies can’t fix them.  We have to do it.  And it’s not going to happen by throwing money at the problem. It takes quantitative and analytical thinking. It needs creativity and innovation.  And to tackle this, we need skilled labour - at scale!  And we need it now. 

Rs. 10,000 crores not enough? Need more money and support? Let’s forge partnerships with the technology industry. Let them participate.  Matching contributions? Paid internships for students? Promise jobs to graduates? How about dedicating a certain number of hours teaching students?

One of the most impressive white papers I read on education was “Learning from Extremes”. The paper argues that social entrepreneurship is the most valuable source for bringing “disruptive innovation in the field of education”.  they could do this because they weren't trying to make a profit or a political statement.  I would say the same holds true for the technology eco-system in India today.  They want a skilled workforce.  They don’t want anything more.

Will they help? Of course, they’ll help! They’re dying to help.

*Got this from an old Sam Seaborn quote.

Read more here.

First Published in Huffington Post
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