Wednesday, December 9, 2009

India's Innovation Envy

There is a huge difference between original breakthroughs and incremental improvements in science and technology and new applications. What often passes as innovation in China and India and other emerging nations almost always fits in the latter category. Examples of the former category include Gutenberg printing press, incandescent light bulb, internal combustion engine, radio, telephone, transistor, semiconductor chip, microprocessor, the computer operating systems and programming languages, the Internet, and the discovery of the DNA Helix. All of these original ideas have come from the West, most of them from the United States.

It is healthy for Americans to be constantly looking over their shoulders to see how several emerging nations, including India and China, are making significant strides in trying to catch up with them. However, I believe a lot of the concerns today about the US losing its edge anytime soon are overblown, just like the concerns in the 1980s about Japan leaving the US behind in semiconductors. I remember how the Intel founder Gordon Moore responded to such concerns by the US media in the 1980s. He analogized Intel with a driver driving on a dirt road in the dark with no maps or signs, and the Japanese semiconductor industry following the tail lights of Intel as the leader in front. As long as the Intel tail lights are there, others can follow them. But the situation changes dramatically when the tail lights are no longer there and the follower has to find his or her own way. The situation is quite similar today, except that the number nations following the US tail lights has increased beyond the Japanese to include BRIC nations.

There are many ingredients that account for the significant edge the Americans continue to have over others. These include a)America's education system that emphasizes openness, free inquiry, creativity, reasoning, research, and debate rather than submissive rote learning, b) the culture of risk-taking backed by the availability of risk capital from venture capital firms, c) massive government investments in basic research, higher education, infrastructure, and human development, and d)insatiable demand for new ideas, products and services in the marketplace.

There have been many attempts to replicate Silicon Valley in many parts of the world, but none have had successes comparable to the original Silicon Valley in California. The original Valley is not the result of any planning, but the outgrowth of the culture of achievement, innovation and risk-taking that is hard to replicate. At least part of the success of the Valley comes from its ability to absorb people and ideas from across the world. Most high-tech companies in the Valley resemble the United Nations, with representation of men and women of all ethnicities, religions and races from all parts of the world, including China, India, Israel, and Pakistan.

Here is a New York Times story on the subject of innovation in India:

BANGALORE, India — In the United States and Europe, people worry that their well-paying, high-skill jobs will be, in a word, “Bangalored” — shipped off to India.

People here are also worried about the future. They fret that Bangalore, and India more broadly, will remain a low-cost satellite office of the West for the foreseeable future — more Scranton, Pa., in the American television series “The Office,” than Silicon Valley.

Even as the rest of the world has come to admire, envy and fear India’s outsourcing business and its technological prowess, many Indians are disappointed that the country has not quickly moved up to more ambitious and lucrative work from answering phones or writing software. Why, they worry, hasn’t India produced a Google or an Apple?

Innovation is hard to measure, but academics who study it say India has the potential to create trend-setting products but is not yet doing so. Indians are granted about half as many American patents for inventions as people and firms in Israel and China. The country’s corporate and government spending on research and development significantly lags behind that of other nations. And venture capitalists finance far fewer companies here than they do elsewhere.

“The same idea, if it’s born in Silicon Valley it goes the distance,” said Nadathur S. Raghavan, a investor in start-ups and a founder of Infosys, one of India’s most successful technology companies. “If it’s born in India it does not go the distance.”

Mr. Raghavan and others say India is held back by a financial system that is reluctant to invest in unproven ideas, an education system that emphasizes rote learning over problem solving, and a culture that looks down on failure and unconventional career choices.

Sujai Karampuri is an Indian entrepreneur who has struggled against many of these constraints.

His Bangalore-based company, Sloka Telecom, has developed award-winning radio systems that are more flexible, smaller and less expensive than equipment used by phone companies today. Mobile phone companies and larger telecommunications equipment suppliers are buying and testing his products, but he has not been able to interest Indian venture capitalists. For the last five years he has run his firm on $1 million he raised from acquaintances.

“I can only afford to trial with one customer at a time and that takes three months to materialize,” said Mr. Karampuri, who has considered moving the company to the United States to be closer to venture capitalists who specialize in telecommunications. “You are always worried about paying next month’s salary to people. Should you keep the money for this trial or next month’s salary?”

Companies like Sloka Telecom are important, analysts say, because they are more likely to create the next wave of jobs than large, established Indian technology companies, many of which are experiencing slower growth. These companies could also help offset some of the outsourcing jobs the country will likely lose because of greater automation and competition from countries where costs are even lower.

There are historical reasons that starting a business in India is difficult. During British rule, imperial interests dictated economic activity; after independence in 1947, central planning stifled entrepreneurship through burdensome licensing and direct state ownership of companies and banks.

Businesses found that currying favor with policy makers was more important than innovating. And import restrictions made it hard to acquire machinery, parts or technology. Inventors came up with ingenious ways to overcome obstacles and scarcity — a talent Indians used the Hindi word “jugaad” (pronounced jewgard) to describe. But the products that resulted from such improvisation were often inferior to those available outside India.

“We were in an economy where, forget innovation, expansion was discouraged, creating wealth was frowned upon, there was no competition to speak of,” said Anand G. Mahindra, who heads the Mahindra & Mahindra business group and has spoken about the need for more innovation.

Indian leaders began embracing the free market in the 1980s and stepped up the pace of change in 1991 when the country faced a financial crisis. Those changes increased economic growth and made possible the rise of technology companies like Infosys and Wipro, which focused on providing services for American and European corporations.

Yet, the government still exerts significant control, especially in manufacturing, said Rishikesha T. Krishnan, a professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore.

“To start a services company it really takes you just two or three days to get going,” said Mr. Krishnan, whose book, “From Jugaad to Systematic Innovation: The Challenge for India,” is to be published next year. “The moment you are looking at manufacturing, there are hundreds of inspectors and regulations.”

Raising money is one of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face. Venture capital funds have flocked to India in recent years, but they are more likely to invest in established businesses than young firms.

In the United States, Israel and elsewhere, the initial, or seed, capital for many start-ups comes from rich individuals known as angel investors. But most rich Indians prefer to invest with family members or close friends because its considered safer and provides assurance that the lender will be able to borrow from relatives in the future.

“If you want to raise $3 to $4 million, it’s doable,” said Sumir Chadha, who co-heads Sequoia Capital’s Indian operations. “But it’s difficult if you want to raise $300,000 or $400,000,” a typical investment at the early stages of a company’s life.

When Cellworks Group, which has most of its operations in Bangalore, was looking to raise money last year, executives talked to venture capitalists here and abroad. But the company raised all of the money it needed in the United States, because most local investors did not have the expertise to evaluate the biotech firm, said Taher Abbasi, the chief executive.

Cellworks has planted its corporate headquarters and a small staff near San Jose so it can be close to investors and American universities for research collaboration on cancer drugs.

“To really kick off entrepreneurship without local money is very difficult,” Mr. Abbasi said.

Still, he said, India has its advantages. Engineers and biologists are plentiful, though they need to be trained more than their counterparts elsewhere. And operating costs are a lot lower than in the San Francisco Bay Area, which was critical more than two years ago when he and his partners started the company with their own money.

There may yet be hope for Indian innovation.

Some are looking to fill the venture fund vacuum. A group called Mumbai Angels holds Saturday meetings every two months at which entrepreneurs pitch ideas to affluent investors. Members of the group have invested in about 20 companies, said Prashant Choksey, a co-founder.

Separately, N. R. Narayana Murthy, the chairman of Infosys, recently sold $38 million worth of shares in his company to start a new venture capital fund. Mr. Raghavan, the former Infosys executive, has invested about $100 million in start-ups like Connexios Life Sciences, which is developing drugs to treat diabetes and other diseases. Many Indian universities have also started entrepreneurship programs and classes.

Vivek Wadhwa, a former technology entrepreneur who now researches innovation, said the climate for start-ups in India was a lot better than it was a few years ago. It should continue to improve, he said, in part because companies like General Electric have hired tens of thousands of engineers in India to work in research and development.

“Once they have been working on these projects for a few years they will outgrow the companies that they are working for,” he said. “They will hook up with these entrepreneurs that failed” on previous start-up attempts and create new companies.

Another change may augur well. Until early this decade, the Indian market was too small and isolated to make it very lucrative for businesses to develop products here, so most technology companies focused on selling services to the West, said Girish S. Paranjpe, joint chief executive of Wipro’s information technology business. “That will change dramatically because the Indian market has become bigger,” he said.

In the last eight years, the size of the Indian economy has roughly doubled along with the importance of foreign trade. There could still be something to envy and fear.


Related Links:

South Asians Primary Duty to Children

Teaching Facts Versus Reasoning

Is America Losing Its Mojo?

Facts and Myths in Globalization Debate

Pakistan's Multi-Billion Dollar IT Industry

Poor Quality of Higher Education in South Asia

South Asia Slipping in Human Development

Selling Jugaad to the West

Asia Gains in Top Universities

Pakistani Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley

Venture Investing in India, China and Pakistan

Doing Business Rankings of Countries

Economic Challenges of India by Sean Kelly

Pakistani Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley

Intellectual Capital Performance of Lahore Listed Companies

Pakistan: Sciencewatch Rising Star 2009

ASI: Creating intellectual capital, changing the climate of opinion

Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the book "The world is flat", Thomas Friedman mentions that India alone has more than 2000 US patents where as all arab countries put together in the last 25 yrs have 250 patents.

Also India sends maximum students to US for MS and Phd Studies (32% in 2006, but declined after that). Lot of them end up innovating for
us.

But the overall point of NYT is right. Both India and China do not innovate. It will take some time to catch up with USA. After all they have headstart of decades.

Anonymous said...

In a tv debate Dr. Hoodbhoy mentioned that while Pakistan exports football and mangoes, India exports s/w and cars.
shall we conclude it as Pakistan's India envy.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "In a tv debate Dr. Hoodbhoy mentioned that while Pakistan exports football and mangoes, India exports s/w and cars."

Clearly Dr. Hoodbhoy, who I personally know and respect, doesn't know that Pakistan also exports software and machines of various kind, including drones, high-tech firearms and heavy weapons.

But this post is about innovation. Almost all of the software and IT work done in India and Pakistan is essentially code coolie type work.

Anonymous said...

and how many IT folks in USA innovate. I think over 95% of them are code coolies. Given that how is the situation going to be any different in India.

BTW what china produces is called rubber dogshit. Poor quality. There is a reason why they sell it so cheap at walmart.

Finally it is difficult to believe that you know more about pakistan than Dr. Hoodbhoy who unlike you lives in Pakistan. You are living in US for 30+ yrs.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "and how many IT folks in USA innovate. I think over 95% of them are code coolies. Given that how is the situation going to be any different in India."

India's sw industry is almost 100% code coolies. The work done in the US is more advanced. often original.

anon: "BTW what china produces is called rubber dogshit. Poor quality. There is a reason why they sell it so cheap at walmart."

China today is the factory of the world. They manufacture everything, from cheap plastic toys to advanced chips, computers and routers.

anon: "Finally it is difficult to believe that you know more about pakistan than Dr. Hoodbhoy who unlike you lives in Pakistan. You are living in US for 30+ yrs."

Facts are what they are. Hoodbhoy doesn't know everything, nor do I. But anyone can check documented facts. Reliable data on Pakistan's exports is regularly published and available, and I have been sharing it on my blogs.

Anonymous said...

Off-topic, there is another interesting read about India:


http://cryptome.org/in-dual-tech.pdf

"India's Quest for Dual-Use Technology"

Anonymous said...

India is a code coolie. The ipr stays with the american companies and not with the indians.

Unfortunate that the industry which is with pots of cash does not want to experiment with unproven technology or ideas.

Invariably all venture / PE are merchant bankers and surely not angels.

Vishal said...

Mr Riaz Haq, I am happy you are comparing India with US, and not trying to bring in Pakistan (like you always do) Because if Indians are code coolies by your standard, I don't know what Pakistanis would be in that social hierarchy :)

Ok, Now since you mentioned about R&D spending of 4 countries: US, China, India and Israel's lets compare all of them.

Starting with Israel. Why do you think, they invest so much in R&D? The answer is simple; they have existential threats. The entire Islamic world considers them their number 1 enemy. Being a landlocked country surrounded by Arabs, they have no option but to innovate and keep their superiority over all their neighbors. And infact they have used this superiority quite often, by defeating the coalition of 5 countries which had support from entire Muslim world in the 6 day war.

Coming to US, yes they are the leaders of innovation. US has a culture of taking risk and innovation, pretty much since the start of this century, and they have reaper heavy dividends from the same.

Coming to China, they manufacture almost everything. But you must also know that their entire supply chains are owned by American companies. And as far as innovation is concerned, Chinese have always been copycats.

As far as India and it's code coolies are concerned, aren't code coolies better than snake charmers? :) So much for the stereotypes.

I filed a couple of patents in India in my company, and seriously speaking, the entire process was crap. I really don't understand why people glorify the crappy lawyer's exaggeration job so much. Rhetoric apart, I am proud of Indian PTO which does not accepts crap, (infact Indian PTO does not accepts software patents) which is the most sensible thing to do.

Bangalore was chaotic, at times uncivilized, but full with energy. On the contrary, I find US to be a beautiful, civilized, but static place. I found that it was much much easy to raise money in Bangalore and Hyderabad than here in US. Well who knows what the future holds.

Anonymous said...

This is how all countries including the mighty US start by copying and improving others only once the basic experience curve of how to get things done is acquired you then move up to create your own technology.

Till WW2 the US was a very distant second to Europe in S&T then the windfall of persecuted jews and after the war a generation of european scientists from all western countries catapulted the US to global scientific leadership.

India today is obviously no match for the US but we have an industrial base advanced enough to absorb very advanced techology and reverse engineer a lot of critical stuff like Nuclear power plants and nuclear submarines and space launch vehicles,pharmaceuticals etc.

Gradually over the next 20-30 years you will see Indian companies competing on intellectual property and on own innovation not contract research or producing our own technology.

You can see some good work towards this direction, for instance we are the world leaders in Thorium based nuclear power and by 2015 will be building the world's first grid connected nuclear power plant which runs on Thorium with mostly Indian technology.


There are other examples such as our IT companies diversifying away from cost arbitrage ''├žoolie work'' to building our own products such as Finacle,Bancs core banking systems and RAMCO ERP software.

So give us time.

Anonymous said...

Riaz, may i suggest that you read about the evolution of the japanese electronics or automobile industry? And how innovation was the natural consequence of "imitation" or learning by doing.

Anonymous said...

also innovation can come in process improvement to lower cost. India is already considered a leader in low cost healthcare. There was an article in WSJ about how heart surgeries are done in India for a fraction of cost, or eye surgery at Shankar Netrayala.

Innovation is a slow learning process. You can not go to step 10 without crossing step 5.

Riaz should spend his time worrying why Pakistan is at step 0 or 1.
In coming years the gap will only increase.

Anonymous said...

Indian corporate have learnt the bad habit from American on only looking at quarterly balance sheet. Single digit contribution is what finacle gives to infosys. ramco is in a bad shape, it is surviving because of the promoter interest.

Riaz Haq said...

vishal: "I am happy you are comparing India with US, and not trying to bring in Pakistan (like you always do) Because if Indians are code coolies by your standard, I don't know what Pakistanis would be in that social hierarchy :)"

The post is not just about India. It's about innovation and the US edge over its perceived competitors. Pakistanis in IT are no different than Indians in IT...more than 99% are code coolies who do commodity software work at low prices.

vishal: "Starting with Israel. Why do you think, they invest so much in R&D? The answer is simple; they have existential threats. The entire Islamic world considers them their number 1 enemy. Being a landlocked country surrounded by Arabs, they have no option but to innovate and keep their superiority over all their neighbors."

Your knowledge and analysis of Israel is full of holes. Israel is not a landlocked country, it has beautiful beaches and large ports on the Mediterranean.

Israel was founded by European Jews; it looks and feels like a European transplant in the midst of Arab neighborhood, built on Arab land.

Israelis don't do R&D because of their hostile Arab neighbors; they do it because it's good business for them; most of their R&D is funded by the US, like the outsourced Arrow program.

vishal: "But you must also know that their entire supply chains are owned by American companies. And as far as innovation is concerned, Chinese have always been copycats."

What you is say is not entirely true. You need to update your knowledge of China. It is significantly ahead of India in terms of human development, patent filings, top universities and venture capital investments in startups. Many of its high-profile China-based startups have gone public and produced huge returns for VCs.

Follow some of the links on my post to learn more.

Anonymous said...

check this out

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ho7xhgWV8&feature=related

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "check this out
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ho7xhgWV8&feature=related "

It's really impressive. There are a lot of very smart people in India whose talents should be nurtured and ideas supported with a better environment and system of governance. That's one of the points made in the NY Times story which I included in my post.

Riaz Haq said...

Last year, Indian Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed acknowledged that India is worse than Bangladesh and Pakistan when it comes to nourishment and is showing little improvement.

Speaking at a conference on "Malnutrition an emergency: what it costs the nation", she said even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during interactions with the Planning Commission has described malnourishment as the "blackest mark".

"I should not compare. But countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are better," she said. The conference was organized last year by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Ministry of Development of Northeastern Region.

According to India's Family Health Survey, almost 46 percent of children under the age of three are undernourished - an improvement of just one percent in the last seven years. This is only a shade better than Sub-Saharan Africa where about 35 percent of children are malnourished.

India has recently been described as a "nutritional weakling" by a British report.

Mayraj said...

You note:"I believe a lot of the concerns today about the US losing its edge anytime soon are overblown, just like the concerns in the 1980s about Japan leaving the US behind in semiconductors. "

I think you might be looking at the future from the rear view mirror. Unless it improves the education levels of the new majority (just around the corner by 2042) America will start looking at others tail lights. And right now it ha been bleeding innovation engines. What will there be left by 2042 is another question.

By the way, Paul Craig even before the Great recession was harping on the issue of US fall in innovation. But, here's what he noted from a 208 article:
"Automobile magazine (August 2008) reports that last March Chrysler closed its Pacifica Advance Product Design Center in Southern California. Pacifica’s demise followed closings and downsizings of Southern California design studios by Italdesign, ASC, Porsche, Nissan, and Volvo. Only three of GM’s eleven design studios remain in the US.

According to Eric Noble, president of The Car Lab, an automotive consultancy, “Advanced studios want to be where the new frontier is. So in China, studios are popping up like rabbits.”

The idea is nonsensical that the US can remain the font of research, innovation, design, and engineering while the country ceases to make things. Research and product development invariably follow manufacturing. Now even business schools that were cheerleaders for offshoring of US jobs are beginning to wise up. In a recent report, “Next Generation Offshoring: The Globalization of Innovation,” Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business finds that product development is moving to China to support the manufacturing operations that have located there.


According to the Fuqua School of Business report, in just one year, from 2005 to 2006, offshoring of product development jobs increased from an already significant base by 40 to 50 percent. Over the next one and one-half to three years, “growth in offshoring of product development projects is forecast to increase by 65 percent for R&D and by more than 80 percent for engineering services and product design-projects.

It turns out that product development, which was to be America’s replacement for manufacturing jobs, is the second largest business function that is offshored.

According to the report, the offshoring of finance, accounting, and human resource jobs is increasing at a 35 percent annual rate. The study observes that “the high growth rates for the offshoring of core functions of value creation is a remarkable development.”

In brief, the United States is losing its economy."

See:
http://www.counterpunch.org/roberts07102008.html

This is what he said in 2005:
http://www.counterpunch.org/roberts08252005.html

This is what he said in 2006:
http://www.counterpunch.org/roberts02162006.html

And he's been raising this subject repeatedly...

Mayraj said...

http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/india/article.cfm?articleid=4156
The Dark Side of the Moon: The Downside to India's Economic Rise

http://urbanhealthupdates.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/india-number-of-urban-poor-to-rise-by-11-in-maharashtra/
India – Number of urban poor to rise by 11% in Maharashtra
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/steep-rise-in-below-poverty-line-numbers-in/262202/
Steep rise in below poverty line numbers in J-K
http://arthedains.com/indiaunplugged/2008/12/22/the-bjp-wakes-up-to-indias-poverty/

http://www.tgfworld.org/critical-Rural%20Poverty%20on%20the%20Rise.htm
Rural Poverty on the Rise
http://money.cnn.com/2007/02/08/news/international/pluggedin_murphy_india.fortune/index.htm
India the Superpower? Think again
India should put aside pride about its growing economy and concentrate on improving the lives of average citizens, argues Fortune's Cait Murphy.

anoop said...

Riaz,
the fact that you are comparing India with China and USA and the admission that the world considers them competitors is a testimony to the strides India is making.
Look at the contrasts. At one end you see NYT reporting about a Pakistani blowing himself and killing other fellow muslims. At the other, you see this report.
2 countries born together and sharing very different headlines in a newspaper.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from recent Reuters report about Pakistan:

"Indeed, for sheer spotlessness, efficiency and emptiness there is nothing like the M2 in the rest of South Asia.

It puts paid to what's on offer in Pakistan's traditional foe and emerging economic giant India, where village culture stubbornly refuses to cede to even the most modern motorways, making them battlegrounds of rickshaws, lorries and cows.

There are many things in Pakistan that don't get into the news. Daily life, for one. Pakistani hospitality to strangers, foreigners like myself included, is another. The M2 is another sign that all is not what it appears in Pakistan, that much lies hidden behind the bad news.

On a recent M2 trip, my driver whizzed along but kept his speedometer firmly placed on the speed limit. Here in this South Asian Alice's Wonderland, the special highway police are considered incorruptible. The motorway is so empty one wonders if it really cuts through one of the region's most populated regions.

"130, OK, but 131 is a fine," said the driver, Noshad Khan. "The police have cameras," he added, almost proudly. His hand waved around in the car, clenched in the form of a gun.

On one of my first trips to Pakistan. I arrived at the border having just negotiated a one-lane country road in India with cows, rickshaws and donkey-driven carts.

I toted my luggage over to the Pakistan side, and within a short time my Pakistani taxi purred along the tarmac. The driver proudly showed off his English and played U.S. rock on FM radio. The announcer even had an American accent. Pakistan, for a moment, receded, and my M2 trip began."

Here's another one from 2007 by William Dalrymple in Guardian:

"On the ground, of course, the reality is different and first-time visitors to Pakistan are almost always surprised by the country's visible prosperity. There is far less poverty on show in Pakistan than in India, fewer beggars, and much less desperation. In many ways the infrastructure of Pakistan is much more advanced: there are better roads and airports, and more reliable electricity. Middle-class Pakistani houses are often bigger and better appointed than their equivalents in India.
Moreover, the Pakistani economy is undergoing a construction and consumer boom similar to India's, with growth rates of 7%, and what is currently the fastest-rising stock market in Asia. You can see the effects everywhere: in new shopping centers and restaurant complexes, in the hoardings for the latest laptops and iPods, in the cranes and building sites, in the endless stores selling mobile phones: in 2003 the country had fewer than three million cellphone users; today there are almost 50 million."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a ranking of ease of doing business in South Asia that puts Pakistan well ahead of India:

Bangalore: The business environment in Pakistan and Bangladesh is far better than in India. According to the latest 'Doing Business Index', India's business environment has become tougher during the years compared to other nations.

Economies are ranked from one to 183 on the basis of their regulatory environment being conducive to business operations. All of India's neighbors except Afghanistan have been ranked better. While India is ranked 133, Pakistan is ranked 85th followed by Sri Lanka (105), Bangladesh (119) and Nepal (123).

"India is a consistent reformer for the past many years. A country's rank in the index is an average of 10 indicators, each with 10 percent weight in the index. India increased the number of judges in the specialized debt recovery tribunals, which led to a major removal of blockages. While India reformed in the area of insolvency, other countries reformed in more than one area," World Bank's Senior Strategy Advisor, Dahlia Khalifa told Economic Times explaining why India has been overtaken by other nations.

The 2010 Doing Business Report prepared by World Bank and the International Finance Corporation averages a country's percentile ranking on 10 topics, made up of a variety of indicators. This includes examining a country's business environment in terms of starting a business, dealing with construction permit, employing workers, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and closing a business.

The first place is occupied by Singapore, which is followed by New Zealand, Hong Kong and the U.S.

To see complete rankings and report, click here: http://www.doingbusiness.org/EconomyRankings/"

Riaz Haq said...

Here's blogger Sean-Paul Kelly commenting on this NY Times story recently:

“Your hypotheses, sir, have been exposed as deeply flawed. And tragic. And super-human in their stupidity,” the Indian gentleman told me when I explained that the economic miracle in India was mostly ephemeral.

Indians, it seems, aren’t lacking in the hyper-patriotic, and India certainly doesn’t lack its boosters in the West.

Riaz Haq said...

For some of the posters here, let me share with you what Sean-Paul Kelly, a traveler-blogger, thinks of India, based on the recent NY Times story on "India's Innovation Envy":

Indians, it seems, aren’t lacking in the hyper-patriotic, and India certainly doesn’t lack its boosters in the West. Alas, some folks are beginning to see the light:

"BANGALORE, India — In the United States and Europe, people worry that their well-paying, high-skill jobs will be, in a word, “Bangalored” — shipped off to India.

People here are also worried about the future. They fret that Bangalore, and India more broadly, will remain a low-cost satellite office of the West for the foreseeable future — more Scranton, Pa., in the American television series “The Office,” than Silicon Valley."

Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley-Asia has called this wage arbitrage (Roach happens to be one of the few American economists that gets it right on India). And Americans are right to worry about this. It’s put downward pressure on services as varied as call-centers and tech support, to financial news reporting, X-ray and MRI interpretation and accounting. I would be especially worried if I were an accountant. But then again, many of the big firm accountants need not be worried, as their shilling game for Wall Street will protect them. For a time.

"Even as the rest of the world has come to admire, envy and fear India’s outsourcing business and its technological prowess, many Indians are disappointed that the country has not quickly moved up to more ambitious and lucrative work from answering phones or writing software. Why, they worry, hasn’t India produced a Google or an Apple?"

Wait a second. India does not have any technological prowess in the true sense of the word. After all, if they did, why would the Ambassador, a car model over fifty years old, made of the heaviest steel imaginable, and horribly inefficient be the best selling domestically produced car in India, still. The Nano notwithstanding.

"Innovation is hard to measure, but academics who study it say India has the potential to create trend-setting products but is not yet doing so. Indians are granted about half as many American patents for inventions as people and firms in Israel and China. The country’s corporate and government spending on research and development significantly lags behind that of other nations. And venture capitalists finance far fewer companies here than they do elsewhere."

Re-read that graph closely and you’ll begin to get an idea of the hurdles India faces. And hurdles it is doing nothing, absolutely nothing to overcome. Instead of using its domestic capital for something like infrastructure building, local elites continue to siphon it all off and live behind huge fenced in compounds paying dalits pitiful, barely life-sustaining wages.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan has been rated a ‘Rising Star’ in research multiple times over the last couple of years by ScienceWatch.com, a Thompson Reuters website which tracks trends and performance in research by analyzing its database of scientific papers and citations. The ‘Rising Star’ rankings are published every two months to acknowledge new entrants, by identifying the scientists, institutions, countries, and journals which have shown the largest percentage increase in total citations. In the May issue of the ratings, Pakistan was named a ‘rising star’ in two areas, ‘Materials Science’ and ‘Plant & Animal Science’. Amongst other countries of the region, Bangladesh was also listed as a rising star in ‘Computer Science’ and ‘Pharmacology & Toxicology’. Iran was named in four categories, and Qatar and UAE in one category each.

This is not the first time that Pakistan has been named in these ratings recently. In fact, Pakistan’s record has been very consistent since March 2008, the earliest ratings that are available on the website. Here’s a listing of Pakistan’s mention in the ‘rising star’ ratings:

* March 2008: Engineering, Mathematics
* May 2008: Materials Science
* July 2008: Engineering
* September 2008: Computer Science, Engineering, Materials Science, Mathematics, Plant and Animal Sciences (5 areas!)
* November 2008: Engineering
* January 2009: Computer Science
* March 2009: Computer Science
* May 2009: Materials Science, Plants and Animal Sciences
* July 2009: None

Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, the country’s top university in terms of the number of publications per year, has also been recognized as a ‘rising star’ institution, in Jan 2009 and July 2008 issues, both times in the area of ‘Engineering’.

The ratings are based on the largest percentage increase and not the absolute numbers, and therefore, cannot be used to quantify research productivity in absolute terms. However, they definitely demonstrate the trend of a substantial increase in international publications from Pakistan compared to previous years. It is very healthy that a number of different areas are covered in these past two years, showing an across the board enhancement of research productivity.

While there has been a lot of debate on the effectiveness of HEC’s reforms in higher education, at least one thing is clear: the increased emphasis on research, largely due to HEC’s programs, has started to bear fruit. These are hard numbers here, based on data by the company that maintains the largest scientific citation index in the world, and cannot be easily refuted by the nay-sayers.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are "Reflections on India" published by an American traveler-blogger:

First, pollution. In my opinion the filth, squalor and all around pollution indicates a marked lack of respect for India by Indians. I don't know how cultural the filth is, but it's really beyond anything I have ever encountered. At times the smells, trash, refuse and excrement are like a garbage dump. Right next door to the Taj Mahal was a pile of trash that smelled so bad, was so foul as to almost ruin the entire Taj experience. Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai to a lesser degree were so very polluted as to make me physically ill. Sinus infections, ear infection, bowels churning was an all to common experience in India. Dung, be it goat, cow or human fecal matter was common on the streets. In major tourist areas filth was everywhere, littering the sidewalks, the roadways, you name it. Toilets in the middle of the road, men urinating and defecating anywhere, in broad daylight. Whole villages are plastic bag wastelands. Roadsides are choked by it. Air quality that can hardly be called quality. Far too much coal and far to few unleaded vehicles on the road. The measure should be how dangerous the air is for one's health, not how good it is. People casually throw trash in the streets, on the roads. The only two cities that could be considered sanitary in my journey were Trivandrum--the capital of Kerala--and Calicut. I don't know why this is. But I can assure you that at some point this pollution will cut into India's productivity, if it already hasn't. The pollution will hobble India's growth path, if that indeed is what the country wants. (Which I personally doubt, as India is far too conservative a country, in the small 'c' sense.)

The second issue, infrastructure, can be divided into four subcategories: roads, rails and ports and the electrical grid. The electrical grid is a joke. Load shedding is all too common, everywhere in India. Wide swaths of the country spend much of the day without the electricity they actually pay for. With out regular electricity, productivity, again, falls. The ports are a joke. Antiquated, out of date, hardly even appropriate for the mechanized world of container ports, more in line with the days of longshoremen and the like. Roads are an equal disaster. I only saw one elevated highway that would be considered decent in Thailand, much less Western Europe or America. And I covered fully two thirds of the country during my visit. There are so few dual carriage way roads as to be laughable. There are no traffic laws to speak of, and if there are, they are rarely obeyed, much less enforced. A drive that should take an hour takes three. A drive that should take three takes nine. The buses are at least thirty years old, if not older. Everyone in India, or who travels in India raves about the railway system. Rubbish. It's awful. Now, when I was there in 2003 and then late 2004 it was decent. But in the last five years the traffic on the rails has grown so quickly that once again, it is threatening productivity. Waiting in line just to ask a question now takes thirty minutes. Routes are routinely sold out three and four days in advance now, leaving travelers stranded with little option except to take the decrepit and dangerous buses. At least fifty million people use the trains a day in India. 50 million people! Not surprising that waitlists of 500 or more people are common now. The rails are affordable and comprehensive but they are overcrowded and what with budget airlines popping up in India like Sadhus in an ashram the middle and lowers classes are left to deal with the overutilized rails and quality suffers. No one seems to give a shit. Seriously, I just never have the impression that the Indian government really cares. Too interested in buying weapons from Russia, Israel and the US I guess.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a NY Times story on how China is luring top Chinese-American scientists from US:

BEIJING — Scientists in the United States were not overly surprised in 2008 when the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Maryland awarded a $10 million research grant to a Princeton University molecular biologist, Shi Yigong.

Dr. Shi’s cell studies had already opened a new line of research into cancer treatment. At Princeton, his laboratory occupied an entire floor and had a $2 million annual budget.
----------------------------“He was one of our stars,” Robert H. Austin, a Princeton physics professor, said by telephone. “I thought it was completely crazy.”

China’s leaders do not. Determined to reverse the drain of top talent that accompanied its opening to the outside world over the past three decades, they are using their now ample financial resources — and a dollop of national pride — to entice scientists and scholars home.

The West, and the United States in particular, remain more attractive places for many Chinese scholars to study and do research. But the return of Dr. Shi and some other high-profile scientists is a sign that China is succeeding more quickly than many experts expected at narrowing the gap that separates it from technologically advanced nations.

China’s spending on research and development has steadily increased for a decade and now amounts to 1.5 percent of gross domestic product. The United States devotes 2.7 percent of its G.D.P. to research and development, but China’s share is far higher than that of most other developing countries.
-------------
Quantity is not quality, and despite its huge investment, China still struggles in many areas of science and technology. No Chinese-born scientist has ever been awarded a Nobel Prize for research conducted in mainland China, although several have received one for work done in the West. While climbing, China ranked only 10th in the number of patents granted in the United States in 2008.

Chinese students continue to leave in droves. Nearly 180,000 left in 2008, almost 25 percent more than in 2007, as more families were able to pay overseas tuition. For every four students who left in the past decade, only one returned, Chinese government statistics show. Those who obtained science or engineering doctorates from American universities were among the least likely to return.

Recently, though, China has begun to exert a reverse pull. In the past three years, renowned scientists like Dr. Shi have begun to trickle back. And they are returning with a mission: to shake up China’s scientific culture of cronyism and mediocrity, often cited as its biggest impediment to scientific achievement.

They are lured by their patriotism, their desire to serve as catalysts for change and their belief that the Chinese government will back them.

“I felt I owed China something,” said Dr. Shi, 42, who is described by Tsinghua students as caring and intensely driven. “In the United States, everything is more or less set up. Whatever I do here, the impact is probably tenfold, or a hundredfold.”

He and others like him left the United States with fewer regrets than some Americans might assume. While he was courted by a clutch of top American universities and rose swiftly through Princeton’s academic ranks, Dr. Shi said he believed many Asians confronted a glass ceiling in the United States.
....................

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story about the security situation affecting foreign universities plans in Pakistan:

New Delhi — Nine foreign universities that had agreed to set up engineering schools in Pakistan — with their own faculties and administrators — have now decided not to do so because they are leery of the worsening security situation and political uncertainty in the country, a daily newspaper in Pakistan reported, citing an unnamed spokesman of President Pervez Musharraf.

The foreign universities’ professors and other officials are unwilling to move to Pakistan despite very attractive remunerations offered by the Pakistan government, which plans to spend $4-billion on the nine projects with universities in Austria, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and South Korea. The foreign universities may also have changed their minds, another newspaper said, because they are finding it difficult to arrange for the many professors needed to staff the new institutions, some of which Pakistan has already begun to build.

In March Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission refuted rumors that plans to open the universities had been deferred or canceled, and said that they would start classes this year, as scheduled. “Foreign faculty has also concerns regarding the security situation in the country, but we are constantly in contact with them, they did not refuse to land in the country, and the project is on the track,” Sohail Naqvi, the commission’s executive director, was quoted as saying.

In 2002 Pakistan began an ambitious program to reform its higher-education system by setting up the commission, which has since created programs to enroll more students in Ph.D. programs in Pakistan and abroad, to hire foreign faculty members, to establish new universities throughout the country, and to collaborate with foreign partners to open engineering schools. The reforms have been controversial.

A local newspaper this month quoted an unnamed Ministry of Education official as saying that control of the commission would be handed over to the education ministry, rather than report directly to the president. —Shailaja Neelakantan

anoop said...

http://www.zeenews.com/news593725.html

New York: A three-member team of IIT students, called "Greenext Technology Solutions", has won the NYC Next Idea 2009-2010 inaugural global plan competition here, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today.

Judges from NYC's venture capital community awarded the team of Aashish Dattani, Vinayshankar Kulkarni and Sriram Kalyanaraman, of IIT-Chennai, $20,000 for devising a new system that allows utility companies and energy producers to store and distribute energy through remote sites across the five NYC boroughs safely and efficiently.

jimmy said...

this is not always true because ongoing companies create business plans, project plans, new product plans, and plans for acquiring and integrating other ventures. General Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.”

Riaz Haq said...

The Russian Kommersant has it right when it says: "India has had little success with military equipment production, and has had problems producing Russian Su-30MKI fighter jets and T-90S tanks, English Hawk training jets and French Scorpene submarines."

And here's how blogger Vijainder Thakur sees India's loose meaning of "indigenous" Smerch and other imports:

The Russians will come here set up the plant for us and supply the critical manufacturing machinery. Indian labor and technical management will run the plant which will simply assemble the system. Critical components and the solid propellant rocket motor fuel will still come from Perm Powder Mill. However, bureaucrats in New Delhi and the nation as a whole will be happy. The Smerch system will be proudly paraded on Rajpath every republic day as an indigenous weapon system.

A decade or so down the line, Smerch will get outdated and India will negotiate a new deal with Russia for the license production of a new multiple rocket system for the Indian Army.

China will by then have developed its own follow up system besides having used the solid propellant motors to develop other weapon systems and assist its space research program.

Riaz Haq said...

In Silicon valley recently, the US federal government has pumped in about $500 million each into two green tech startups..Solyndra pv solar and Tesla all-electric cars. Obama was here this week to promote green tech and spoke to Solyndra employees.

In addition, there is $1 billion in federal grants before offered to biotech firms under the new healthcare bill.

The reason for US supremacy is partly explained by how much of its public funds it spends on higher education. A 2006 report from the London-based Center for European Reform, "The Future of European Universities" points out that the United States invests 2.6 percent of its GDP in higher education, compared with 1.2 percent in Europe and 1.1 percent in Japan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a blog post by Kerri-Ann Jones, Assistant US Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, on U.S. and Pakistan collaborating on Science and Technology:

As part of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue initiated in March by U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi, I recently led the U.S. delegation to the Science and Technology Working Group in Islamabad, June 8-9. The two-day meetings discussed three areas where our two governments could increase collaboration: enhanced science and technology cooperation, enabling the science and technology enterprise, and encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship.

It was encouraging to hear the Working Group specifically agree on building upon ongoing joint research and ways to highlight new knowledge that can improve social conditions and enhance economic opportunities. Working Group members also agreed to explore building the capacity of academic institutions and transferring technology from the lab to the private sector, while emphasizing the need to share successful models of innovation and entrepreneurship.

One of the most memorable experiences during my visit was attending an exhibition featuring 38 Science and Technology research projects funded through the Pakistan-U.S. Science and Technology Cooperation Program. I also had the privilege of visiting Pakistan's National University of Science and Technology, where I met with researchers who are conducting studies on climate change, finding innovative ways to use telemedicine to improve disease surveillance networks, and designing improved search engines.

The Science and Technology Working Group meeting was the first of the 13 Strategic Dialogue Working Group sessions taking place this month in Pakistan. Other Working Group topics include: law enforcement, energy, water, economics and finance, market access, defense, health, women's issues, and agriculture. I am inspired and encouraged by our Science and Technology discussions as they are addressing some of the most pressing environment, science, technology, and health issues facing Pakistan today, and building strong partnerships between our Science and Technology communities. The U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue represents the shared commitment of both nations to strengthening the bilateral relationship and building an even broader partnership based on mutual respect and mutual trust.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting excerpt from a recent Newsweek story on "Creativity Crisis' in America:

Researchers say creativity should be taken out of the art room and put into homeroom. The argument that we can’t teach creativity because kids already have too much to learn is a false trade-off. Creativity isn’t about freedom from concrete facts. Rather, fact-finding and deep research are vital stages in the creative process. Scholars argue that current curriculum standards can still be met, if taught in a different way.

To understand exactly what should be done requires first understanding the new story emerging from neuroscience. The lore of pop psychology is that creativity occurs on the right side of the brain. But we now know that if you tried to be creative using only the right side of your brain, it’d be like living with ideas perpetually at the tip of your tongue, just beyond reach.

When you try to solve a problem, you begin by concentrating on obvious facts and familiar solutions, to see if the answer lies there. This is a mostly left-brain stage of attack. If the answer doesn’t come, the right and left hemispheres of the brain activate together. Neural networks on the right side scan remote memories that could be vaguely relevant. A wide range of distant information that is normally tuned out becomes available to the left hemisphere, which searches for unseen patterns, alternative meanings, and high-level abstractions.

Having glimpsed such a connection, the left brain must quickly lock in on it before it escapes. The attention system must radically reverse gears, going from defocused attention to extremely focused attention. In a flash, the brain pulls together these disparate shreds of thought and binds them into a new single idea that enters consciousness. This is the “aha!” moment of insight, often followed by a spark of pleasure as the brain recognizes the novelty of what it’s come up with.

Now the brain must evaluate the idea it just generated. Is it worth pursuing? Creativity requires constant shifting, blender pulses of both divergent thinking and convergent thinking, to combine new information with old and forgotten ideas. Highly creative people are very good at marshaling their brains into bilateral mode, and the more creative they are, the more they dual-activate.

Is this learnable? Well, think of it like basketball. Being tall does help to be a pro basketball player, but the rest of us can still get quite good at the sport through practice. In the same way, there are certain innate features of the brain that make some people naturally prone to divergent thinking. But convergent thinking and focused attention are necessary, too, and those require different neural gifts. Crucially, rapidly shifting between these modes is a top-down function under your mental control. University of New Mexico neuroscientist Rex Jung has concluded that those who diligently practice creative activities learn to recruit their brains’ creative networks quicker and better. A lifetime of consistent habits gradually changes the neurological pattern.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts from a piece by Prof William Easterly published in Foreign Policy Magazine:

"We found that there was a remarkably strong association between countries with the most advanced technology in 1500 and countries with the highest per capita income today. Europe already had steel, printed books, and oceangoing ships then, while large parts of Africa did not yet have writing or the wheel. Britain had all 24 of our sample technologies in 1500. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga had none of them. But technology also travels. North America, Australia, and New Zealand had among the world's most backward technology in 1500; today, they are among the wealthiest regions on Earth, reflecting the principle that it's the people who matter, not the places. As migration has transformed parts of the world that were nearly empty in the Middle Ages, technology has migrated with them. "

"OF COURSE, IN SOCIAL SCIENCE, no generalization is universal. The most important counterexample is China, which in 1500 had plow cultivation, printing, paper, books, firearms, the compass, iron, and steel, and yet failed to emulate Europe's Industrial Revolution in the centuries that followed. Scholars have argued that autocratic Chinese emperors killed off technological progress for domestic political reasons. For example, one Ming emperor banned long-distance oceanic exploration for fear of foreign influence threatening his power, after Chinese ships had already reached East Africa in 1422."

"This gives us a hint as to how political formation affects development: Fragmented Europe did not have any one autocrat who could kill off technological innovation, and the constant threats of living in a hostile neighborhood spurred the advancement of military technology. And because borders were relatively open around 1500, the reality that citizens could leave for more advanced places -- the forerunner of today's "brain drain" -- kept alive the spirit of innovation. "

"Most importantly, what the history of technology tells us is that the blank-slate theory is a myth. Top-down development programs simply don't work. In fact, the principal beneficiaries of Western largesse today -- African autocrats and dysfunctional regimes -- are themselves the main obstacles to development. If there's anything that "must be done" to spur future development, it's to create the conditions necessary to empower the ordinary individuals who will create new and unforeseen technologies out of old ones. There's a Thomas Edison born every minute. We just have to help them turn the lights on."

Riaz Haq said...

Can China rekindle its innovation spirit? Here's a piece on it published by OECD Observer:

The great 20th century sinologist, Joseph Needham, once drew up a list of 24 technical innovations brought from China to the West. They ranged from gunpowder and the wheelbarrow to printing, cast iron, the magnetic compass and the chain suspension bridge. By 1600 the torch of innovation had passed to the West.

Could it now be returning? In 2003 China became the third nation to put a man into space, and has busily launched satellites since. On the ground, communications companies such as Huawei and ZTE now compete head-on with the likes of Ericsson and Nokia.

Against this background, it is no wonder that China is one of the world’s largest investors in research and development. Spending on R&D has climbed by 19% per year since 1995 to reach US$30 billion in 2005, putting China sixth in world ranking. That is at current exchange rates; if these were adjusted for purchasing power parity between different countries, then China would rank third!

However, according to a new report examining Chinese innovation, some of this progress flatters to deceive: R&D spending is still low as a share of GDP per capita and far lower than the OECD average. Consider also the number of researchers in China, which while second in the world only to the US, is still very low for China compared to OECD countries, given the size of the country’s labour force. Chinese researchers may have contributed 6.5% of research articles to scientific publications in 2004, up from just 2% a decade earlier, and are second after the US in nanotechnology research publishing, for instance, but their innovation system still shoots below potential.

Safeguarding intellectual property rights is the soft belly here. China is well in line with international regulations as a signatory of TRIPS (the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), but despite clearer and tighter regulation, infringement still dogs the system. The difficulty is enforcement. This discourages domestic investors as much as investors from abroad. Worse, IPR infringement poses health and safety risks for consumers, and damages the reputation of Chinese firms. The government, as well as the Chinese Patent Office, is toughening up on IPR, though fixing the system will take time and effort.

For many historians and scientists, what makes Chinese civilisation so brilliant is that it had “another way” of doing science. According to Joseph Needham, Chinese innovators simply did not translate their knowledge into mathematics. This left them remote from ensuing scientific dialogue. Whether or not this is true, the global economy has now changed and so has China. In the end, the Chinese are set to reinforce the country’s innovative capabilities both by trying out their own approach and looking to advanced OECD countries for inspiration. If the underlying systemic shortfalls are also corrected, then China may soon be in a position not only to push to the heart of scientific discussion, but to lead the world to new frontiers of knowledge as well.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story about the promise of Danish Schools, a series of boarding schools being set up in Pakistani Punjab by the provincial govt of chief minister Sahbaz Sharif for the poor as an alteranative to the madrassa system:

Outside the window, a Pakistani flag flutters, inside, a teacher asks a group of 6th-grader girls and boys, “Who can make a food chain?” A girl comes up to the board and uses a pen as a mouse to click and drag an animated plant to the first box, a worm to the second and a bird to the third. “Excellent,” Says the teacher. She goes and sits down with a smile on her face.

This is not an ordinary board, it’s a smart board, the first of its kind in Pakistan, and this is no ordinary school. Inaugurated January 18th, The Danish School System at Rahim Yar Khan stands in stark contrast to the rural terrain of this Southern Punjab city. Children enrolled in this school have to fit a certain criteria, not just that they have to pass an entry test, but they have to either have a missing parent, or both parents, they have to have an illiterate parent and they must have a monthly income of less than USD 100 - they must belong in short to the forgotten class of Pakistan’s poor and minorities.

This is affirmative action, giving the underprivileged a chance to have a level playing field. But how real is it? For one, it has the clear support of the government of Punjab which has faced severe criticism from all quarters about the surge of 25 billion rupees invested in a series of these purpose-built campuses for both girls and boys all over Punjab. These critics claim that money could have been better spent elsewhere on better alternatives like building roads or canals.
---------
The Danish Schools stands as an alternative to madrassa education because the school provides free lodging and boarding to all its students. It not only gives students a rounded education in the sciences and the arts but also provides social and extracurricular exposure. An on call psychologist also monitors each of the student’s behavior and has counseling sessions with the children and their parent or gurdian for a smooth transition into boarding life.

Despite the challenges, there is a certain spark and energy in the entire Danish school core committee headed by LUMS Provost, Dr Zafar Iqbal Qureshi, and the teachers and students. At the inaugural ceremony, one child danced on Shakira’s Waka Waka, another child, Aasia Allah-Wasiah told a 500 odd gathering the story of her life, how she became an orphan and how Danish school was her only hope for a future.

Not all parents were this easily convinced of Danish School’s objectives. One asked the girls’ school principle, “Why would you give me back my child after giving her clothes and shoes and spending so much on her? I know this is a conspiracy to buy our children from us.”

Other parents objected to there being non-Muslim students eating in the same utensils. The management responded by saying “we all eat in the same plates as any Hindu or Christian boy because this school is for everyone equally.” Needless to say that Rahim Yar Khan, despite scattered industrial units is largely agrarian and the people are deeply influenced by the exclusivist brand of Wahabism.
---
With a meager amount of the GDP being spent on education, it is a positive sign to have politicians finally focus on this sector to secure their vote bank. With time the criticism towards these initiatives, such as the importance of Danish schools adopting the O-Levels system, may fine tune the programs into being more effective for the people. And especially those people who don’t have a voice.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story on how Azim Premji's foundation is helping improve primary education in India:

PANTNAGAR, India — The Nagla elementary school in this north Indian town looks like many other rundown government schools. Sweater-clad children sit on burlap sheets laid in rows on cold concrete floors. Lunch is prepared out back on a fire of burning twigs and branches.

But the classrooms of Nagla are a laboratory for an educational approach unusual for an Indian public school. Rather than being drilled and tested on reproducing passages from textbooks, students write their own stories. And they pursue independent projects — as when fifth-grade students recently interviewed organizers of religious festivals and then made written and oral presentations.

That might seem commonplace in American or European schools. But such activities are revolutionary in India, where public school students have long been drilled on memorizing facts and regurgitating them in stressful year-end exams that many children fail.

------
Outside of India, many may consider the country a wellspring of highly educated professionals, thanks to the many doctors and engineers who have moved to the West. And the legions of bright, English-speaking call-center employees may seem to represent, to many Western consumers, the cheerful voice of modern India.

But within India, there is widespread recognition that the country has not invested enough in education, especially at the primary and secondary levels.

In the last five years, government spending on education has risen sharply — to $83 billion last year, up from less than half that level before. Schools now offer free lunches, which has helped raise enrollments to more than 90 percent of children.

But most Indian schools still perform poorly. Barely half of fifth-grade students can read simple texts in their language of study, according to a survey of 13,000 rural schools by Pratham, a nonprofit education group. And only about one-third of fifth graders can perform simple division problems in arithmetic. Most students drop out before they reach the 10th grade.
-----------
Narayana Murthy, a friend of Mr. Premji and chairman of Infosys, a company that competes with Wipro, said he admired the Premji Foundation’s work but worried it would be undermined by the way India administers its schools.

“While I salute Azim for what he is doing,” Mr. Murthy said, “in order to reap the dividends of that munificence and good work, we have to improve our governance.”

Mr. Premji says his foundation would be willing to work with private schools. But he argues that government schools need help more because they are often the last or only resort for India’s poorest and least educated families.

Mr. Premji, whose bright white hair distinguishes him in a crowd, comes from a relatively privileged background. He studied at a Jesuit school, St. Mary’s, in Mumbai and earned an electrical engineering degree at Stanford.

At 21, when his father died, Mr. Premji took over his family’s cooking oil business, then known as Western Indian Vegetable Product. He steered the company into information technology and Wipro — whose services include writing software and managing computer systems — now employs more than 100,000 people. He remains Wipro’s largest shareholder.
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After visitors left a classroom at Nagla school, an instructor began leading more than 50 fifth-grade students in a purely rote English lesson, instructing the students to repeat simple phrases: Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening. Good night. The children loudly chanted them back in unison.
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Underfunding is pervasive in the district. But so are glimmers of the educational benefits that might come through efforts like the Premji Foundation’s.
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Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excepts from scienceprogress.org analysis of US PISA results that concludes white students are doing very well relative to other OECD nations:

Policy makers are responding to reports that students in the United States on average scored lower than their peers in 16 out of 30 other wealthy industrialized nations on an international science exam, predictably arguing that the U.S. performance on the test (the Programme for International Student Assessment) indicates that U.S. students cannot compete in the international workforce. But a recent analysis from the Urban Institute previously discussed on Science Progress suggests otherwise. Talking about “competitiveness” makes it easy to gloss over inequities in the educational system connected to race and class.

News outlets are eager to frame the results as U.S. backsliding in the international economy. The Washington Post quoted former Colorado governor Roy Romer: “How are our children going to be able to compete with the children of the world? The answer is not well.” The Associated Press likewise presented the ranking in a dim light: “In math, U.S. students did even worse — posting an average score that was lower than the average in 23 of the other leading industrialized countries.”

In the Urban report, Into the Eye of the Storm, Harold Salzman and B. Lindsay Lowell acknowledge that policy makers often cite the results from PISA and TIMSS, another international exam, “supposedly showing U.S. students lagging the performance of most other countries.” But using the results to make such sweeping comparisons “stretches the PISA far beyond its appropriate or even intended use.” They go on to make several critical points about the test.

Achievement varies significantly by socioeconomic class and race

The majority of U.S. students, who are white, “actually rank near the very top on international tests.” But minority and low-income students face obstacles to such achievement because of differences in the quality of educational systems and household income. Salzman and Lowell conclude: “The test results indicate that, rather than a policy focus on average science and math scores, there is an urgent need for targeted educational improvement to serve low performing populations, such as recent immigrants and some minorities.”

The diversity of the U.S. population both contributes to economic competitiveness and lowers the average score of students on the test

They point out that the United States “has a large population and the most diverse demographics of any industrialized nation,” and that averaging across such a mixed group of students ignores the size of the population and the distribution of student performance within that population:

What does one infer from comparing the average test score in a nation of over 300 million with that of a nation of 4.5 million (Singapore) or using educational performance as an indicator of economic performance? We would expect India’s 39 percent illiteracy rate and its secondary school enrollment rate of less than 50 percent (World Bank 2007) to make it an inconsequential global power. Of course, that is not the case because rather than average performance it is the small percentage of high performers in a nation of 1 billion that is the more important indicator of its relative science and engineering strength. The use of average rates across a diverse group of nations and diverse populations is of limited use in drawing conclusions about global standing economically or educationally.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Time magazine piece on how big Wall Street investment banks are claiming the lion's share of mathematicians and scientists to create exotic financial products:

Ever wonder how investment bankers, a breed known in the past more for its social skills and golf handicaps than for its mathematical prowess, ever invented products like those crazily sophisticated, synthetic collateralized debt obligations that brought down the financial system? Well, they didn't. They hired rocket scientists to do that--a whole lot of them. In fact, Wall Street hires more math, engineering and science graduates than the semiconductor industry, Big Pharma or the telecommunications business. As one mathematician-turned-trader friend recently put it to me, why should he work on new high-tech products at Bell Labs when he could make five times as much crafting 12-dimensional models of the stock-buying and -selling behaviors of average Joes for a major global-investment house, which could then turn around and make massive profits by betting against those very patterns?

It's a question that's right at the center of the debate over the U.S.'s economic future. After the financial crisis, the banking industry secured massive bailouts by convincing us all that Wall Street was the grease on the wheels of the real economy. Banks provided the capital to create new businesses, after all, and if they weren't healthy, nobody else could be either. Of course, that position has become harder to defend as lending rates to new businesses have contracted post--financial crisis and economic growth has remained sluggish even as bailout money has ensured that Wall Street would mushroom in size. Amazingly, three years after the crisis, the percentage of the U.S. economy represented by the financial sector remains at historic highs of over 8%.

Now there's even more compelling historical evidence that Wall Street's favorite argument doesn't hold water. A new study from the Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City, Mo.--based nonprofit that researches and funds entrepreneurship, has found that over the past several decades, the growth in size and importance of the financial sector has run in tandem with lower--not higher--rates of new-business formation. In the 1980s, when Wall Street really took off, the number of new firms created fell, and in the 1990s, it plateaued and has been stagnant ever since. Basically, the facts show the opposite of what Wall Street would have us believe. A number of factors explain that, but one of the most important, argue the study's authors, is that the financial sector is sucking talent and entrepreneurial energy from more socially beneficial sectors of the economy.


Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2061220,00.html#ixzz1Hr1jAxuk

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Times of India report on lagging research in India:

DHARWAD: India may not compete with other countries in the field of science and technology (S&T) if our scientists fail to make serious efforts to improve the track record in the field of scientific research and development (R&D), said VTU vice-chancellor H Maheshappa.

Inaugurating a six-day workshop on `Graph algorithms' jointly organized by the department of Computer Science, Karnatak University, and VTU here recently, he said India's track record in the field of scientific R&D has remained insignificant when compared with countries like China. This trend has to be changed if we really wish to emerge as successful competitors and carve a niche for India in the field of S&T, he said.

Pointing out the progress achieved by China in this regard, he said China is far ahead of India in the field of scientific R&D. "While the researchers from China file hundreds of patent applications everyday, India stands not even nearer to China in this respect. He said India has potential, including talented pool of teachers and researchers, state-of-the-art research institutes and financial investment by the government for the promotion of scientific R&D.

Expressing concern over the lack of teachers with research background in technical educational institutes, he said though the state has nearly 200 engineering colleges, the number of teachers with research degrees is minimal. "This scenario has to be changed. VTU has plans to tie up with universities like Karnatak University to assist engineering college teachers on understanding of basic science and research methodology," he added.

Riaz Haq said...

China poised to surpass US in research papers publication, according to The Guardian:

China could overtake the United States as the world's dominant publisher of scientific research by 2013, according to an analysis of global trends in science by the Royal Society. The report highlighted the increasing challenge to the traditional superpowers of science from the world's emerging economies and also identified emerging talent in countries not traditionally associated with a strong science base, including Iran, Tunisia and Turkey.

The Royal Society said that China was now second only to the US in terms of its share of the world's scientific research papers written in English. The UK has been pushed into third place, with Germany, Japan, France and Canada following behind.
------------
In the report, published on Monday, the Royal Society said that science around the world was in good health, with increases in funding and personnel in recent years. Between 2002 and 2007, global spending on R&D rose from $790bn to $1,145bn and the number of researchers increased from 5.7 million to 7.1 million.

"Global spend has gone up just under 45%, more or less in line with GDP," said Llewllyn Smith. "In the developing world, it's gone up over 100%." Over the same period, he added, the number of scientific publications went up by around 25%.
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Projecting beyond 2011, the Royal Society said that the landscape would change "dramatically". "China has already overtaken the UK as the second leading producer of research publications, but some time before 2020 it is expected to surpass the US." It said this could happen as soon as 2013.

China's rise is the most impressive, but Brazil, India and South Korea are following fast behind and are set to surpass the output of France and Japan by the start of the next decade.
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The overall spread of scientific subjects under investigation has remained the same. "We had expected to see a shift to bio from engineering and physics [but] overall, the balance has remained remarkably stable," said Llewellyn Smith. "In China, [the rise] seems to be in engineering subjects whereas, in Brazil, they're getting into bio and agriculture."

As it grows its research base, Llewellyn Smith said that China could end up leading the world in subjects such as nanotechnology. "The fact is they've poured money into nanotechnology and that's an area where they are recruiting people back from around the world with very attractive laboratories – that's my feeling."

In addition, there are new entrants to the scientific community. "Tunisia in 1999 had zero science budget – now it puts 0.7% of GDP into science," said Llewllyn Smith. "This isn't huge but it's symbolic of the fact that all countries are getting into science. Turkey is another example. Iran has the fastest-growing number of publications in the world, they're really serious about building up science."

Turkey's R&D spend increased almost six-fold between 1995 and 2007, said the Royal Society, and the number of scientists in the country has jumped by 43%. Four times as many papers with Turkish authors were published in 2008 as in 1996.

In Iran, the number of research papers rose from 736 in 1996 to 13,238 in 2008. Its government is committed to increasing R&D to 4% of GDP by 2030. In 2006, the country spent just 0.59% of its GDP on science.

Riaz Haq said...

Whys is India not a scientific power, asks an Op Ed in The Hindu:

.....It is the robustness of scientific research and innovation that sets apart great powers from the mediocre ones.

We have good scientists, but why has India not produced outstanding scientists who make path-breaking discoveries that will make the world sit up and take notice? Should we continue to be satisfied with tweaking borrowed technologies? Is reverse engineering an innovative phenomenon?

All debates about scientific research inevitably end up zeroing in on the deficiencies of our educational system as the root cause of the abysmal record in scientific research. This is only part of the story.

A nation's culture — belief systems, values, attitudes — plays a significant role in determining the quality of scientific research. The Oriental attitudes differ from the Occidental values in many respects. Asian societies are basically collectivist, that is, the collective good of society ranks higher than individual happiness and achievements. People do not ask what they can do for their country; they are always asking what the country will do for them. They look up to the state for guidance, leadership and direction. There is no burning individual ambition to excel and achieve something new.

In the West, individuals try to achieve their potential through their own efforts, aided and facilitated by enabling laws and institutions. Self-reliance is the key objective of life. An independent life requires a free and questioning mindset that takes nothing for granted and constantly challenges conventional wisdom. Children are encouraged to push the frontiers of knowledge by self-examination and open-minded enquiry. It is only a sceptical and dissenting mind that often thinks out of the box to explore new vistas of knowledge.

Collectivism promotes conformism and deference to authority whether it is parents, elders, teachers or the government. It is heresy to question established values and customs.

We pass on our passivity and uncritical attitudes to our children. No wonder, the educational system encourages rote learning and unquestioning acceptance of what is taught in the classrooms and stated in the textbooks. How can we expect our children to suddenly develop an enquiring and inquisitive attitude when they have been brought up in a milieu that discourages ‘disruptive' thoughts?

India and China were once advanced nations before foreign rule drained their resources and sapped their willpower and scientific traditions. Cultures tend to become conservative and defensive when subjected to long spells of colonial exploitation.

Indians are great believers in destiny. But our tradition does not frown upon free will and individual excellence. We must realise that our ability for free action remains unhampered despite what destiny may hold in store for us.
Fear of failure

Another flaw in our culture that prevents individual excellence is the fear of failure. The stigma associated with failure makes our children risk-averse while choosing their courses and careers.

Scientific research is a long-drawn war on received wisdom that requires many battles before it can be won. Science was not built in a day. Some of the battles can end in defeat. In the West, they celebrate failure as a stepping stone to success.

Educational reforms must be preceded by mental deconditioning of parents, teachers, educationists and policymakers — throwing away the cobwebs of uncritical submissiveness to conventional knowledge. Let us bring up a generation that will not hesitate to ask inconvenient questions. This generation will be the torch-bearer of a scientific revolution that will unleash cutting-edge research to make the Nobel Prize committee sit up and take notice....


http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/article2704625.ece

Riaz Haq said...

Results of PISA international test released by OECD in Dec, 2011, show that Indian students came in at the bottom of the list along with students from Kyrgyzstan:

Students in Tamil Nadu-India attained an average score on the PISA reading literacy scale that is significantly higher than those for Himachal Pradesh-India and Kyrgyzstan, but lower than all other participants in PISA 2009 and PISA 2009+.
In Tamil Nadu-India, 17% of students are estimated to have a proficiency in reading literacy that is at or above the baseline needed to participate effectively and productively in life. This means that 83% of students in Tamil Nadu-India are estimated to be below this baseline level. This compares to 81% of student performing at or above the baseline level in reading in the OECD countries, on average.
Students in the Tamil Nadu-India attained a mean score on the PISA mathematical literacy scale as the same observed in Himachal Pradesh-India, Panama and Peru. This was significantly higher than the mean observed in Kyrgyzstan but lower than those of other participants in PISA 2009 and PISA 2009+.
In Tamil Nadu-India, 15% of students are proficient in mathematics at least to the baseline level at which they begin to demonstrate the kind of skills that enable them to use mathematics in ways that are considered fundamental for their future development. This compares to 75% in the OECD countries, on average. In Tamil Nadu-India, there was no statistically significant difference in the performance of boys and girls in mathematical literacy.
Students in Tamil Nadu-India were estimated to have a mean score on the scientific literacy scale, which is below the means of all OECD countries, but significantly above the mean observed in the other Indian state, Himachal Pradesh. In Tamil Nadu-India, 16% of students are proficient in science at least to the baseline level at which they begin to demonstrate the science competencies that will enable them to participate actively in life situations related to science and technology. This compares to 82% in the OECD countries, on average. In Tamil Nadu-India, there was a statistically significant gender difference in scientific literacy, favouring girls.


http://www.acer.edu.au/media/acer-releases-results-of-pisa-2009-participant-economies/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wharton School piece on India's low ranking on innovation index:

Just a few weeks ago, global credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s (S&P) released a study titled, “Will India be the first BRIC fallen angel?” The report suggests that India may become the first “BRIC” country (Brazil, Russia, India and China) to lose its investment grade rating. While it remains to be seen if India can escape this ignominy, the country has earned another dubious distinction: It ranks the lowest among the BRIC nations on the Global Innovation Index 2012.

This innovation index was released recently by the international business school INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) along with the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Alcatel-Lucent and Booz & Co. The index ranks 141 countries on the basis of their innovation capabilities and results. Brazil, Russia and China were ranked 58th, 51st and 34th respectively. India stands at the 64th position, two notches below where the country landed last year.

According to the study, “The innovation front in India continues to be penalized by deficits in human capital and research; infrastructure and business sophistication, where it comes last among BRICs, and in knowledge and technology outputs, where it comes in ahead of Brazil only.” The report also notes that the BRIC countries need to invest further in their innovation capabilities to live up to their expected potential.

Vijay Govindarajan, a professor of international business at Dartmouth College and the first professor-in-residence and chief innovation consultant at General Electric, points out that innovation is critical to India’s future. He suggests that the government must provide seed capital to strengthen applications research and create incentives for universities, research labs and industry to collaborate. “Much is at stake if India does not move up on the Global Innovation Index,” Govindarajan says. “Without business model innovations, India cannot solve the problems for 90% of Indians. Such innovations can then be used to launch global strategies. This is the essence of reverse innovation [innovations adopted first in the developing world] — where India can lead.”

As part of the same report, India is ranked second (behind China) in the global innovation efficiency index. (The innovation efficiency index is the ratio of innovation input and innovation output.) Chandrajit Banerjee, director-general of CII notes that innovation efficiency is “a ratio and not a direct measure …. [This implies that] while India can produce innovation output best in the world when equal amounts of input are fed into its innovation ecosystem, it also needs to strengthen certain innovation drivers that will improve the situation.”

Gopichand Katragadda, managing director of General Electric’s John F. Welch Technology Center in Bangalore adds: “The results of the study point to the fact that, in India, the innovation ecosystem (input) is poor while the knowledge/creative output under the constraints is good. One interpretation of this is that we need better government measures on regulations, education and infrastructure to tap the demonstrated potential of talented people.”

According to Katragadda, if India does not get its act together on the innovation front, the country could lose the opportunity “to make this a century of Indian innovation, tapping into the brilliant technical minds of the region.”


http://knowledgetoday.wharton.upenn.edu/2012/07/india-ranks-lowest-amongst-brics-in-innovation/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a TOI story of dearth of research in India:

NEW DELHI: At a time when India is being looked at as the next big knowledge superpower, this could come as a shocker. Just 3.5% of global research output in 2010 was actually from India. In most disciplines, India's share in global research output was actually much below this overall average count.

Sample this - India's share of world research output in clinical medicine was a meagre 1.9% in 2010, 0.5% in psychiatry, 1.4% in neurosciences, 1.8% in immunology, 2.1% in molecular biology and just 3.5% in environmental research.

In mathematics, India's share of world output stood at around 2% in 2010 while it was 17% for China. In case of materials sciences, India's share of world research stood at 6.4% in 2010 while China's stood at 26% -- a rise from 5% in 1996.

While India's research on physics stood at 4.6% in 2010, China's stood at 19%.

In 2010, India's largest shares of world research output were in chemistry (6.5%), materials science (6.4%), agricultural sciences (6.2%), pharmacology and toxicology (6.1%), microbiology (4.9%), physics (4.6%) and engineering (4.2%).

India is often referred to as the next big place for computer sciences. But the figures on its research is abysmally low. Only 2.4% of global research on computer sciences was from India in 2010 while the world share moved to three emerging research economies - China 15%, Korea 6.3% and Taiwan 5.7%.

India's global share of research in economics stood at 0.7% in 2010 while in social sciences it was worse - 0.6%.

The biggest declines in volume of research between 1981 and 2010 were in plant and animal sciences (-2.2%) and agricultural sciences (-1.6%). The most significant expansions were in pharmacology and toxicology (+4.2%), microbiology (+3.2%) and materials sciences (+3.1%).

These are the findings of the study on India's research output and collaboration conducted by Thomson Reuters and recently submitted to the department of science and technology.

"India has been the sleeping giant of Asia. Research in the university sector, stagnant for at least two decades, is now accelerating but it will be a long haul to restore India as an Asian knowledge hub. Indian higher education is faced with powerful dilemmas and difficult choices - public/private, access/equity, uncertain regulation, different teaching standards and contested research quality," the report said.

According to it, India's share of world output in engineering fell from 4.3% in 1981 to 2.2% by 1995. India later regained its lost share, increasing to 4.25 by 2010. However, even then, India was overtaken by China (16.4%), Korea (5.4%) and Taiwan (4.4%).

India, where agriculture dominates economic standards, had quite a large share in agricultural sciences which averaged 7.45% over the 1981 to 1995 period, well ahead of other emerging research economies. Its share, however, fell to 6.2% in 2010. Even in the field of plant and animal sciences, the global research output fell from 6.1% in 1981 to 3.9% in 2010.

The report said, "India has a long and distinguished history as a country of knowledge, learning and innovation. In the recent past, however, it has failed to realize its undoubted potential as a home for world class research."

It added, "During the 1980s and 90s, the output of India's research was almost static while other countries grew rapidly, particularly in Asia. China expanded with an intensity and drive that led it rapidly to overtake leading European countries in the volume of its research publications. India is just beginning on this gradient."


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/India-accounts-for-just-3-5-of-global-research-output-Study/articleshow/16551045.cms

HopeWins Junior said...

Dr. Haq,

Could you do some research on the following issue?

South Korea is the most famous example of a country that successfully managed to move out of Third-World poverty and into industrialized developed-country status.

Can you find a single outstanding Korean innovation or invention? Is there a single new idea in science, technology, business, finance that has come out of Korea? Anything at all?

The Koreans don't seem to have been very creative or innovative. They don't seem to be done any cutting-edge research. They don't seem to have been the thought-leaders in any field.

And yet they seem to somehow have managed to become a developed high-income country with a deep & diverse industrial base.

How is this possible? This seems to be a conundrum. I think some research into this question is essential. Would you look into it? Perhaps Pakistan can learn something from the Korean experience.

Thank you.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Thane Richard, a Brown University student who did a semester abroad at St. Stephens College in India:

“Wait, what?! You are studying here for three years just so you can go do it again for four more years?” I could not grasp the logic of this. What changed my understanding was when I started taking classes at St. Stephen’s College. Except for one, they were horrible.
This was not an isolated incident — all my fellow exchange students concurred that the academics were a joke compared to what we were used to back home. In one economic history class the professor would enter the room, take attendance, open his notebook, and begin reading. He would read his notes word for word while we, his students, copied these notes word for word until the bell sounded. Next class he would find the spot where the bell had interrupted him, like a storyteller reading to children and trying to recall where he had last put down the story. He would even pause slightly at the end of a long sentence to give us enough time to finish writing before he moved on. And this was only when he decided to show up — many times I arrived on campus to find class abruptly cancelled. Classmates exchanged cell phone numbers and created phone trees just to circulate word of a cancelled class. I got a text almost daily about one of my classes. My foreigner peers had many similar experiences.
---------------
To pause for a moment, here is the problem with me talking about this topic: right now many Indians reading this are starting to feel defensive. “Nationalist” is a term I have heard as a self-description as they defend Mother India from the bigoted, criticising foreigner. They focus on me rather than the problem. I have had people unfriend me on Facebook and walk out on meals because I politely expressed an opinion on politics or history that went against the publicly consented “Indian opinion.” For a nation that prides itself on the 17 languages printed on its currency, I am greeted with remarkable intolerance. Even after living in India for close to three years, attending an Indian college, working for an Indian company, founding an Indian company, paying taxes in India, and making India my home, I am not Indian enough to speak my mind. But in a nation that rivals all others in the breadth of its human diversity, who is Indian enough? Because if loyalty and a feeling of patriotism were the barometers for “Indianness,” rather than skin colour or a government document, then I would easily be a dual U.S.-Indian citizen. This Indian defensiveness is false nationalism. It is not a stance that cares about India, it is one that cares about what others think of India, which is not nationalism. That is narcissism.
My voice should be drowned out by the millions around me who are disappointed with how they have been short-changed by the Indian government — their government. Education is one of the most poignant examples of this and serves as great dinner conversation amongst the elite:
“The Indian education system is lost in the past and failing India.” Everyone at the table nods, mumbles their concurrence, and cites the most recent Economist article or Pricewaterhouse Cooper study on the matter in order to masquerade as informed....


http://www.thehindu.com/features/education/college-and-university/an-indian-education/article4683622.ece

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story on study of creativity:

A gift for spatial reasoning — the kind that may inspire an imaginative child to dismantle a clock or the family refrigerator — may be a greater predictor of future creativity or innovation than math or verbal skills, particularly in math, science and related fields, according to a study published Monday in the journal Psychological Science.

The study looked at the professional success of people who, as 13-year-olds, had taken both the SAT, because they had been flagged as particularly gifted, as well as the Differential Aptitude Test. That exam measures spatial relations skills, the ability to visualize and manipulate two-and three-dimensional objects. While math and verbal scores proved to be an accurate predictor of the students’ later accomplishments, adding spatial ability scores significantly increased the accuracy.

The researchers, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said their findings make a strong case for rewriting standardized tests like the SAT and ACT to focus more on spatial ability, to help identify children who excel in this area and foster their talents.

“Evidence has been mounting over several decades that spatial ability gives us something that we don’t capture with traditional measures used in educational selection,” said David Lubinski, the lead author of the study and a psychologist at Vanderbilt. “We could be losing some modern-day Edisons and Fords.”

Following up on a study from the 1970s, Dr. Lubinski and his colleagues tracked the professional progress of 563 students who had scored in the top 0.5 percent on the SAT 30 years ago, when they were 13. At the time, the students had also taken the Differential Aptitude Test.

Years later, the children who had scored exceptionally high on the SAT also tended to be high achievers — not surprisingly — measured in terms of the scholarly papers they had published and patents that they held. But there was an even higher correlation with success among those who had also scored highest on the spatial relations test, which the researchers judged to be a critical diagnostic for achievement in technology, engineering, math and science.

Cognitive psychologists have long suspected that spatial ability — sometimes referred to as the “orphan ability” for its tendency to go undetected — is key to success in technical fields. Earlier studies have shown that students with a high spatial aptitude are not only overrepresented in those fields, but may receive little guidance in high school and underachieve as a result. (Note to parents: Legos and chemistry sets are considered good gifts for the spatial relations set.)

The correlation has “been suspected, but not as well researched” as the predictive power of math skills, said David Geary, a psychologist at the University of Missouri, who was not involved in the study, which was funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The new research is significant, he said, for showing that “high levels of performance in STEM fields” — science, technology, engineering and math — “are not simply related to math abilities.”...


http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/16/us/study-finds-early-signs-of-creativity-in-adults.html?_r=0

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a couple of excerpts on stories about Lego stores in Pakistan:

1. Express Tribune June 10, 2013:

Lego has finally made its way to Karachi. Originated in Denmark, the toy line consists of colourful interlocking plastic bricks which come in an array of shapes, gears and figures. At the launch of its first store in Pakistan on Friday at The Forum, Lego fans — children and parents — were busy constructing plastic architecture and enjoying a family day out.
The huge turnover reflects two things: there is a die-hard Lego following in Karachi and it clearly appeals to people of all age groups, not just children. Lego bricks are playful and can be assembled in numerous ways — you can construct objects such as vehicles, building and robots, wherever your imagination takes you.
At the launch, the store was abuzz with children as young as three (along with their parents) who were busy deciding which toy to take home. Children above the age of 10 were seen huddled on small tables busy building castles and buildings.
Amongst many parents present, Chheena Chappra, a mother who was seen with her 11-year-old son Habib said, “I have literally grown up playing this game [Lego] and years later, I see my young son being so involved in it. I think I am more excited than my son that Lego has come to Pakistan,” she exclaimed.....The price range starts at Rs500 and can go up to Rs100,000 and above. The colourful boxes were labeled with price tags, which were much more expensive compared to other toys in Pakistan. However, Saleem feels that the price is competitive. “Keeping the Dubai market in view, we have Lego toys at a much cheaper price,” he said..


http://tribune.com.pk/story/561411/dont-fall-to-pieces-lego-is-in-town/

2. Daily Times Aug 27, 2013:

With only a few months since its first store opening in Karachi, the Danish toy brand LEGO is all set to expand its operations in all major cities in Pakistan.

The giant toy company, which is known all over the world for inspiring children and young people to develop into responsible members of society through fun, learning and high-quality creative play activities, also aims to implement its education programme for local schools across Pakistan.

Bilal Saleem, country head LEGO Pakistan, stated, “Children are our role models. They reinvent the world and themselves in it over and over again, surprising themselves and others in what they can create and do. In Pakistan, there is a great need to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals, especially within education. As we seek to expand our operations in Pakistan, we want to make our contribution by setting up educational institutes across the country. These institutes will deliver teacher-tested, classroom – ready solutions for engaging and inspiring young learners and combine the unique, inspiring qualities of LEGO bricks with subject-specific tools and curricula so classroom teachers can meet key learning objectives.”


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C08%5C27%5Cstory_27-8-2013_pg7_11

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Time Magazine piece titled "China Makes Everything. Why Can't It Create Anything?":

... China's 1.3 billion upwardly mobile people are voracious consumers of everything from cars to smartphones to Kentucky Fried Chicken. Through its relentless exports, China has amassed a mountain of cash reserves and made itself Washington's biggest foreign creditor.
However, the China that vacuumed up factories to become the Workshop of the World is fading into history. The country is a victim of its own success. Decades of nonstop growth have forever altered China's place in the global economy and changed how it must compete with rich nations like the U.S. and emerging economies like India. The tools that China has used to spark its economic miracle — government support, cheap labor, state-directed finance — cannot ensure its future. The country can no longer rely on just making lots of stuff; China has to invent things, design them, brand them and market them. Instead of following the leaders of global industry, China has to produce leaders of its own.
Such a transition is not easy. Few emerging nations in modern times have made the leap from assembler to inventor, copycat to innovator. For China, this would mean an overhaul of its economy. Many of the products China manufactures today aren't really very Chinese at all. Apple iPads might be exported from assembly lines based in China, but the Chinese themselves do little more than piece them together. The core technologies come from elsewhere, and even the factories are run by foreign firms (like Taiwan's Foxconn). For Chinese companies to compete with the world's best, they have to create products of their own that have a similar impact as the iPad. That requires a set of skills and know-how they don't yet possess and a level of managerial expertise they haven't yet developed. Economist William Janeway, author of the book Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy, says what has gotten China thus far won't be enough for the next step: "It is hard to start the process of pushing the frontier with [such] practices and policies."
Chinese policymakers fully realize that. The new leadership team in Beijing, ushered into office a year ago, has pledged to press ahead with free-market reforms — liberalizing finance, supporting private enterprise and cracking open protected sectors. "China's modernization will not be accomplished without reform, nor will it be achieved without opening up," Premier Li Keqiang recently conceded. So far, though, progress has been slow. Few meaningful initiatives have been introduced, and even headline-grabbing measures — like the September launch of a special zone in Shanghai to experiment with freer capital flows — have proved mere baby steps. Li and his mandarins must take on vested interests and rein in an overbearing bureaucracy, which will require formidable political will. China's leadership "is not ready yet to deliver a comprehensive reform package with executable specifics and clear timetables," Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists warned in October.
Whether China succeeds or fails will determine where everything from sneakers to cars to smartphones are manufactured, the brands that appear on them and who sells them. Failure could stall China's economic miracle and dampen global growth with it. Here are five challenges China must address:

1. Labor is no longer cheap
2. Companies lag behind in technology
3. Innovation doesn't come easy
4. There are too few global brands
5. Good managers are hard to find


http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2156209,00.html

Riaz Haq said...

Two-thirds of the stars have Arabic names. We use Arabic numerals. Words like Algebra and Algorithm are from Arabic. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an American astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium, discusses how Islamic scholars contributed to the Islamic Golden Age and how over time independent reasoning (ijthad) lost out to modern institutionalised imitation (taqleed) present in the wider islamic society today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDAT98eEN5Q

Riaz Haq said...

Almost 1,000 #startups, 40% of all startups, died in #India in the last two years. #BJP http://qz.com/734236 via @qzindia

Here’s the bitter truth about entrepreneurship in India: Over 40% of startups set up in the last two years have already shut shop.
Since June 2014, some 2,281 Indian startups had begun operations across a range of sectors, including e-commerce, health technology, robotics, logistics, business intelligence and analytics, food technology, and online recruitment. But, according to data analysed by Delhi-based research firm Xeler8, 997 of these have already failed.

The main reason, it appears, is a lack of funding. “Ones which got an investment lasted a little longer,” said Rishabh Lawania, Xeler8’s founder. For the rest, the end came swiftly, usually within the first 12 months of launching.

The highest number of casualties were in red-hot sectors such as logistics, e-commerce, and food technology, where some of India’s most successful startups operate. Lack of innovation and over-crowding probably led to the closures.
The e-commerce casualties included online lifestyle store Fashionara and fashion marketplace DoneByNone. Dazo, Spoonjoy, and Eatlo failed in the food tech space. Other prominent failures were recruitment marketplace TalentPad.com, marketplace for leisure activities, Tushky, and on-demand laundry services Tooler.

But such failure is hardly the end of the road for some entrepreneurs. Although around 75% of the founders of failed startups did not try again, instead finding jobs at other firms or startups, the remainder is likely to attempt again. Time is on their side: the average age of founders of these failed startups was only 27 years.