Everything must work for everyone

Date:   Monday , January 05, 2009

When I think of research opportunities that emerging economies present, my mind goes back to something that Mohamed Yunus, Nobel Laureate and founder of Grameen Bank had said in a speech featured on NPR (US National Public Radio) several years back. He had suggested that IT can play a crucial role in solving world hunger and eradicating world poverty. This was before he had received the coveted prize, and my thoughts on research possibilities in emerging economies center around this: how we can use IT for the betterment of the masses.

Specific to this are areas like healthcare and education, where the common people have huge stake. Last month, when I was in Germany for a conference, a British healthcare company that was partnering with Texas Instruments asked how reliable a device that it was seeking to offer was. When a device is used to power a server or a database of an organization, it is critical, but not in the way when it is powering an individual's heart. What happens if that chip stops working? How can we ensure that never happens?

I think that reliability and efficient design are the most critical factors in any research that relates to the masses. Here, everything must work for everyone; else it is not good enough.

Indian academia should be more prominent on the research front, and here I think education must play a huge big role. Universities in the country must motivate students to conduct fundamental research. At the lower levels, in junior and middle schools, rote learning ought to be done away with. It has been said many times, but I still find there is a big gap—the education system in schools must provide room for thinking and challenge students to be innovative.