Not that you would notice, of course, given my sporadic blogging in general, but I thought that I should let you know that I will most likely not be posting stuff for a few days. So if you land here and find nothing new, I suggest you don’t go away without checking some of the archives.
Where, you may ask, am I going? I am off to London to see the Queen. Just kidding. I am off to New Delhi to attend the “Annual Conference of the HUDCO Chair Institutes” Sept 8-9th. The topic is “Cities: Engines of Rural Development.”
You may know of my abiding interest in rural development. I have written a concept paper on RISC–Rural Infrastructure & Services Commons. It is rather long — about 40 pages. So I would not recommend it as casual reading.
Of late there has been some action on RISC. Vinod Khosla guest-edited a recent issue of The Economic Times and he mentioned RISC in it. Then I got to hear that he spoke about RISC to the Planning Commission. And now I am going to be talking to a bunch of academics (those are the Chairs of HUDCO institutes) and some government bureaucrats (I guess from rural development departments and such.)
It has been a while since I was in Delhi. Last time in mid-February, I spent a few days meeting with people in connection with my interest in education. That is my day job–think about enabling education. My idea is to use the power tools of information and communications technologies (ICT) to make education more effective and efficient. Technology, as any economist will tell you, is labor substituting. Whenever a factor of production is expensive (labor for instance), you substitute it with a less expensive factor (capital for instance.) Since teaching labor is very expensive in India, use technology which is cheap these days.
Crazy, I hear the cry go out. How in the name of god almighty is teaching labor expensive in India? The fact is that good quality teachers are extremely–let me repeat that–extremely scarce. Scarcity implies high price. Therefore the cost of high quality teachers is prohibitive. We cannot afford high quality teachers because they are a luxury. Not just that, even if we had all the money, there is an acute shortage of teachers required. We need millions of teachers. We simply don’t have them. Hence my insistence that we have to find a substitute for good teachers and that happens to be the tools that ICT provides very inexpensively.
That’s it for now.