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Looking to the Past to Find the Future

A core principle of good forecasting: look back twice as far as you look forward.  In considering the future of spatial change, cities, and the built environment, this principle naturally brings me to consider the role of cultural heritage and cultural memory in informing futures thinking.  The recent Urban India 2030: History, Technology, and Community for Sustainable Urban Futures symposium in Mumbai did this very well in two ways.  


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Technology in Indian elections

Now that elections in India are over, the ballots have been cast and counted, and we know who is the winner, I thought it would be a great exercise to see how technology was used in Indian elections.  As you probably know the ruling Congress party won by a thumping majority even outpacing its own expectations on election results.

Chinese scientists taking kids home for a better education?

Christian Science Monitor had a great piece May 1 on what some call a "reverse brain drain," adding data to the still largely anecdotal trend of U.S.-based Chinese and Indian scientists going home to develop their careers. 

Future of caring in India

Reading the stories on Ruby's bequest has made me think about  the future of caring in India. I was particularly taken in by the story of Frieda DSouza who is grappling with how to care for her mother from a distance ( India is at an interesting place when you think about caring. Traditionally, the son(s) had to take care of their elderly parents. It was often easy to fulfill this obligation as people lived in joint families. Everyone lived under the same room so it was easy for the son to take care of his parents.

India Makes a Major R&D Push

In a major address last week in Bangalore, Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh announced a major expansion of funding for science research and infrastructure in India. As the SSTI weekly digest reported, "the country would form a quasi-independent panel modeled on the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to promote research in science and engineering. The new National Science and Engineering Research Board (NSERB) would make decisions regarding research funding and the creation of research centers around India."

Preparing India's Workforce for R&D Offshoring

The Kauffman Foundation released a study this week, How The Disciple Became The Guru (summary, full report) that offers an inside look at how Indian firms are preparing their workforce to serve global hub for offshore and outsourced R&D in Bangalore and other cities.

Written from a business perspective, the report is essential reading for anyone interested in economic development. While not every country has the advantages India does, the model that seems to be working there - aggressive recruitment, workforce development, and retention - is certainly portable. You can't make companies do that, but this report offers compelling evidence that massive investment in human capital can be done quickly, and with sustained returns.

Tech devices to rescue

My credit card was stolen from bag, and thankfully  I was able to report the theft and do quick damage control because I had internet connectivity and international calling on my iphone to report the theft and disable the card. The person who stole my credit card had gone on a shopping spree buying stuff worth thousands of dollars within a span of few hours.  As I was out in the field when I discovered the theft, I used the Internet on my iphone to find the number to report the theft and used the roaming facility on my phone to make the call to the bank in the US.

Abundant mobility and hacks

I am in India conducting research, and as always amazed by the variety of cell phones and hacks that are available. One of our research partners brought my attention to the fact that many people in India have unlocked iphones, and have jail-breaked their iphones to install 'non-Apple" applications. A popular application is twinkle -- a twitter client that includes location based service. Twinkle is very popular with iphone users in India, who use it to twitter. It does not require sending a SMS for twittering. Iphone has not been officially launched in India as yet. It is expected to arrive later this year. But that is certainly not a deterrent for tech savvy Indians who aspire to own the iphones.

Maoists on the Streets of Mumbai? Coming Soon

BusinessWeek Asia is reporting some genuine news for me - about the growing threat of India's home grown Maoist insurgency, the Naxalite movement, that is starting to bubble over after decades of simmering in the remote countryside. Now that Maoists have overthrown the Nepalese government:

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