Wednesday, 31 July 2013

My Entries 6 to 17 - Indiblogger, Franklin Templeton Investments present 'The Idea Caravan' - Invest For Tomorrow

This is my last and final entry to the Indiblogger-Franklin Templeton Investments' The Idea Caravan Initiative.

Powerful ideas today are indeed 'the' true investments for a better tomorrow. Egged on by this, eagerly browsed through the videos to join the conversation. The Franklin Templeton Idea Caravan Site has all the information and of course, speaker videos from the TEDxGateway Mumbai 2012. Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

I had a great time participating in this initiative.  I cherish and much appreciate this attempt to spark thought leadership, meaningful debate and collaboration on innovation for larger social good.  Therefore, couldn't let go without viewing every video and coming up with blog posts around each video.

So, this last entry of mine has more than one video.  Read on ..

Usman Riaz and his virtual 'Guru':

Click here to view Usman Riaz's Presentation / Speech Video  

Here is a young musical herd with, hold your breath, the Internet for his teacher!
This is one presentation that is music to the ears as well as jarring at the same time!

Music to the ears because here is an young person, musically inclined, looking for guidance, learning and repertoire finding all of it on the Internet – to innovate & fuse genres and instruments – for his harmonious new age music.  A picture perfect story of harmonious synthesis of diversity in more ways than one!

Jarring because – and even before viewing this, I always have felt strongly about it – despite being from a strong cultural lineage (he even has ‘Riaz’ for a surname – ‘Riaz’ is Urdu for ‘practice’ especially musical), a young music enthusiast, in today’s world bombarded with a minimum of 300 TV channels, countless information explosion – lacked a ‘go to’ Institution, Association in the offline (physical) world – that he had to turn to the Internet!  Why is this jarring you ask?  I am a musical herd with strong affiliations.  Therefore, i inherently and increasingly notice our classical and carnatic musical bastions are almost unavailable to Gen Z.  Except in rare cities like Chennai and Kolkata in India, not every kid in every household gets to go to a music teacher to learn. 

Why isn’t a society like ours – with very deep and proud cultural heritage – taking care of passing on the heritage to posterity?  Why is there no conscious, mass attempt to germinate this to Gen Z? 

Why are our youngsters (and, for that matter, most of us – whether we are Gen X or Y or Z) investing all our time only online and not finding enough offline social affiliations?  What does it augur for our health, cognitive quotient (if you notice Riaz is an intelligent musician but a rather awkward public speaker – which is fine, because he is young and will pick up – but that is also a tell-tale trait for many of us very active online and seldom offline) – the point i am trying to make is: are our offline social lives endangered? If yes and if the only way ‘social’ is present in our lives is through ‘social media’ is that normal? Or should we make course corrections? What does that augur for wider social sharing (2/3rds of the Planet’s population is still not on social media you see) and furthering of shared, social heritage?

Come, join the conversation ..


My Entry 5 - Indiblogger, Franklin Templeton Investments present 'The Idea Caravan' - Invest For Tomorrow

Innovation Cocktail - Two parts Hydrogen, One part Oxygen, A dash of Chlorine, Stirred by Social Consciousness, Served with Innovation:  A Safe World To Drink In!

Suprio Das' Presentation / Speech on Zimba - Innovative, Low Cost Drinking Water Purifier

This is my fifth entry to the Indiblogger-Franklin Templeton Investments' The Idea Caravan Initiative.

Powerful ideas today are indeed 'the' true investments for a better tomorrow. Egged on by this, eagerly browsed through the videos to join the conversation. The Franklin Templeton Idea Caravan Site has all the information and of course, speaker videos from the TEDxGateway Mumbai 2012. Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

Click here to watch Suprio Das' Presentation / Speech Video
Or, Watch it here:

After working  for more than 20 years as an electrical engineer, Das decided the scramble up the corporate ladder is not for him, quit his job and started volunteering with organizations working in the slums and villages, in and around Kolkata, India.

Quite rightly, it struck him that engineering and social work could be fused together very effectively to come up with low cost useful devices that could make people’s lives easier.  He also simultaneously started many enterprises, to put bread on the table.  He says, “fortunately” for him, all these enterprises died soon.  Which gave him all of his time to invest in this initiative he calls the 'Zimba Chlorine Doser' - a low cost water purifier / disinfectant.

His work was first acknowledged by the D Lab at MIT, for the technical part of it and in his own words, there has been no looking back ever since.

His objective is to make safe water available ‘to all’.  If you are puzzled why 'to all' is the operative word, read on ..

The percentage of people trusting public drinking water supply is abysmally low in many developing parts of the world, particularly in India and therefore, private water purification systems abound.  But, what about people who cannot afford those abounding options  - not just from a cost of the purifier point of view – but also those who do not have electricity at home (or cannot afford the high cost of electricity per unit in many cities now), those who actually have to go out of their homes for water – such as, to a common community point to collect water. 

He started working on this device about three years ago.  As he was working on it & as we have already read in one of my earlier blog posts for ‘The Idea Caravan’, he discovered a good part of a billion people around the world lack access to safe water.  Das says, these people have a limited choice of drinks – Cholera, Typhoid, Hepatitis A & other diseases caused by similar pathogens – ingested through their ‘unsafe’ or not sufficiently safe water, with the result that 4,000 children die every day, out of which 1,600 are in India – that’s a child every minute, almost, from a cause that is preventable, in the first place!

Das believes this number can be significantly brought down, because there are a number of choices available, such as, Chlorine (recommended by WHO – World Health Organization) and already used in the developed world.  Added in the right amount to drinking water, Chlorine can get rid of most of the disease causing pathogens.

Now, the challenge is reaching out this chlorine to drinking water, all over.  For most developing countries, Das says the cost of providing chlorinated drinking water to the masses is prohibitively expensive.  

The alternative Das comes up with is ‘point of use chlorination’ so water is disinfected at collection. 

Das faced many a challenge and a multitude of questions during the developmental phase:

Fixed Dosing: If Das added ‘a constant’ amount of chlorine to the device that will dispense chlorine at the point of water collection for the community,  different container sizes when people come to collect water from the community point, easily ranging, he says from 4 to 14 litres, would render it either less or more – not only does water remain ‘unsafe’ but the hazards of an overdose of chlorine get added to the equation!

 Variable Flow RateIf Das were to add chlorine to flowing water, the variable flow rate – the water could flow at different rates at different times (for example, in the case of the hand pump, it could be directly proportional to the strength exerted by the user who is pumping) thereby rendering the dosage inappropriate.

Therefore, Das decided to have an intermediary solution.  

Additionally, he wanted to build a device with:

No electricity

No moving parts that could fail (such as valves or washers)

With accurate dosing – precise dosing, every time, under all circumstances.

Requiring no behaviour change from the user – or require minimum behaviour change from the user.  That is, people should be able to collect their water in the same way they have been used to (lest resistance to change etc. creep in requiring further social engagement and delaying adoption time, lengthening the gestation period).

In a lighter vein, as a fashionista, can’t help but comment on that ‘no behaviour change’ icon Das uses in his presentation (which you can see in this picture) – it is stiletto heels versus flat slip-on / chappal :) Can’t think of another apt example of products requiring change of behaviour from the user (wearer)!

There is a video embedded in his presentation that demonstrates Zimba installation in Bangladesh and how it requires no human intervention and therefore, no human judgement – to influence how much chlorine needs to be added to how much water.  It is what Das calls ‘safe by default’ – there is no option to get unsafe water out of Zimba, he informs. 

Zimba the ‘In line disinfecting system’ has thus far been used in India in:  

Rural West Bengal & Orissa; Spring Health has been using one Zimba unit in Orissa for the past six months.

Das informs us that Stanford University took interest, invited Das to present at Stanford and subsequently, with the International Center for Diarrhoea and Disease Research, did a joint study of the technical viability of Zimba in the slums of Dhaka.  For ten months, Zimba has been operational in Dhaka and disinfecting thousands of litres for the slum dwellers.

It is envisaged to be low cost, just Rs. 5/- or approximately USD 0.09 (9 cents) for treating 10,000 liters of water!

It is almost as though he heard me – i want to know what is it made of, what goes in to the device?

He surely deconstructs a Zimba and demonstrates: 

1.  An automatic siphon, no moving parts, no circuit board. 

2.  A dispenser that sits in there – an interconnection of pipes and tubes.  Transparent technology – figuratively and literally.  This dispenses a tiny amount of chlorine to water that passes through the Zimba unit.   

Questions that intrigue me: (will send them across to Das - well, if I can't Google his contact coordinates, can always get them through TEDx or the sponsor Franklin Templeton): 

How does the dispenser in the Zimba unit determine how much amount of Chlorine to dispense? 

Would costs be further down if a Zimba unit is fitted at the point of ‘dispensation’ - the point where drinking water supply starts - from a community / public storage point, such as a reservoir, dam, water tank etc. Fitting it at the point of dispensation instead of point of collection could optimize scale and result in lower costs.  But, would water pick up infection along the way – example through the pipes, before reaching the point of collection, thus negating the cost advantage?  Share your thoughts ..  

He now wants to have it as a product, manufactured and disseminated throughout the world, through all the big and small organizations that have already shown a lot of interest in this and make the world a better place to drink water in :) Amen!

Encountering a loud applause, he says, "i am not the one doing this – its gravity!  As long as water is heavier than air, this should keep working!"   

hmm.. commendable work & socially relevant innovation, that.

Some more questions popping up in my thought space

Why has it been identified for presentation in Stanford & tested / piloted in the slums of Bangladesh but not yet picked up big time by an Indian University or Government (state or federal / central)?

Why only two states in India have gotten on to the bandwagon?

Why are Governments and Political Parties not supplying such gadgets in a Country where pre-election promises are in the form of mixers, grinders, stoves, fans and sometimes, thankfully, even personal computers :)

If this is to be widely installed at points of collection in India - especially the rural, semi-urban areas and of course, the slums, I want to ask Das is there a risk of theft / pilferage of the Zimba unit?  Well, as ironic as it is, hoodlums could just dismantle it and sell it for iron / metal scrap .. which is why I want to discuss about using Zimba in India at the point of dispensation (where it is relatively easier to safeguard it because the storage facility is a Government site).    

Why is that someone as socially tuned & technically adept like Das feels tired / disillusioned with the corporate world? Wouldn't it be that many times better if he could deliver the same socially relevant innovation within the precincts of the corporate world? Wouldn't resourcing, marketing and reach be easier and better?  

The other thing that bothers me big time, is, yes, for the moment, water continues to be heavier than air – but with rising air pollution, let alone disinfecting water, am worried about how to disinfect air :)

Come, join the conversation ..

Cheers :)

My Scrapbook Look of the Day

My Scrapbook Look of the Day:

Well, 'Red and Black' classic combo today:

You can view my look and browse its components, in detail, right from my Scrapbook!

Cheers :)

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

My Scrapbook Look of the Day

My Scrapbook Look of the Day:

Apply some playful casual chic to your Look with this 'applique work':

You can view my look and browse its components, in detail, from my Scrapbook!

Cheers :)

Monday, 29 July 2013

My Scrapbook Look of the Day

My Scrapbook Look of the Day:

A P^3 (P Cube) look today - Pink, Pintuck and Print :)

You can view my look and browse its components, in detail, right from my Scrapbook!

Cheers :) 

Sunday, 28 July 2013

My Entry 4 - Indiblogger, Franklin Templeton Investments present 'The Idea Caravan' - Invest For Tomorrow

Angad Nadkarni's Presentation / Speech on Hacking & 'App'ing Examination Question Papers

This is my fourth entry to the Indiblogger-Franklin Templeton Investments' The Idea Caravan Initiative.

Powerful ideas today are indeed 'the' true investments for a better tomorrow. Egged on by this, eagerly browsed through the videos to join the conversation. The Franklin Templeton Idea Caravan Site has all the information and of course, speaker videos from the TEDxGateway Mumbai 2012. Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

Click here to watch Angad Nadkarni's Presentation / Speech Video
Or, Watch it here:

For any of us innately technology driven (I confess I am; tend to conceptualize most solutions as series of algorithms - be it virtual or real), 'hacking' as a concept fascinates us.  

I absolutely love Nadkarni's first four sentences - in fact, having been a student of computer science and having been fascinated by ethical hacking (well, don't ask me how can hacking be ethical? Its the equivalent of cyber policing or the stuff Batman & Spiderman would do if they were in cyber space) I fully agree with the following four sentences Angad opens his presentation with:

1.  Hacking is all about circumventing limitations.  

2.  Hacking essentially can be broken down in to three distinct steps:
(a) cut through the noise, 
(b) recognize patterns, and 
(c) question the patterns.

Let's stop here and inhale these thoughts.  Yes, I fully agree that hacking is all about circumventing limitations.  I would even go further to say it is challenging limitations & triumphing over them.  This is what draws many a bright techie to hacking.  Puritanically, by itself, its a high - just as surmounting any barrier in life is!  Now, wait a minute.  The operative word thus far is 'puritanically'.  We are, at this point, merely analyzing hacking as a science so we could derive the positives from it for life as such.  

Now, moving forward, hacking isn't merely circumventing limitations with a series of algorithms. At this point, the 'limitations' assume more weight than the 'circumventing'.  This is where I have seen many fall short.  Here is the time and point to pause, to 'understand the limitations - the what, the why and the wherefore'.  It would be indiscriminate to go after any limitation for the thrill of circumventing it and triumphing over it. It is here that our bringing up, our social belonging, our sense of right and wrong, our allegiance to professional ethics step in.  What exactly are the underlying limitations (say, imposed by a website's or Organization's security)? Why are those limitations in place (what social goals give these limitations their legitimacy)? Are we within our rights - legally, morally and most important of all - conscientiously, to even seek to circumvent it?  

Only, I repeat, ONLY when this step is passed through - the limitations are understood in all dimensions and we stand legally, morally and conscientiously empowered to circumvent - does hacking assume ethical proportions.  For example, you could be circumventing it, under mandate, to fortify a website or an Organizational system.  Unless you hack it, how are you gonna be able to protect it? ;-) 

If this step is not passed through - in my view, hacking plunges us into chaos.  

So, let's park that for the moment and move on with this presentation and articulating about it.  
Its brilliant to view hacking in those three steps - cutting through the noise, recognizing / identifying patterns and then, the most important of them all: question the patterns.  In fact, permit me to say, that is true of viewing most things in life (ah, remember, I told you I'm tech driven :)  

Would you agree with me if I told you we lost wisdom to knowledge, knowledge to information and ultimately, information to trivia & tidbits? I strongly feel so.  Our world today is bombarded with nuggets of noise - all of which add up to gigantic proportions - in our lives, in our hard disks, in our memory cards!

Therefore, oh so very relevant that we cut through the noise, identify patterns relevant to us.  

So far, so good.

The most important part of this blog post commences now :)  

Questioning those patterns, to me, is holy.  Each of us, I believe, have a fundamental duty to leave everything we come across, better - when it has passed us, in whatever form.  If you and I just have to just about saunter through life, why are we even here? Why exactly?  I am sure Nature didn't give us a transit visa through life!  Its because we are unique, we are bestowed some sets of skills and experience by Nature that we ought and are probably looked upon by Nature's scheme of things - to utilize all that we are bestowed with - to improve and better!  

I also notice, in today's times, very few question patterns (constructively - mind you me, by questioning, I don't mean bringing down people, perspectives or Institutions; i mean engaging in constructive introspection, discussion).  And I further notice, as depressing as it is, that intolerance is rising unchecked and those who question are not spared.  Scary and regressive?


Let's proceed with Angad Nadkarni's presentation..

He declares examinations are not about ticking the correct option under stress - they are about developing an intelligent workforce for any skills.  So, he / his team decided to hack the examination system :-D  And, created an app he likes to called 'examify' :) Taking question papers from every school, college & tuition and running them through some very complex algorithms to track trends in question papers. Net result: predict the future question paper :) So that students can study only the most important questions for every chosen subject, track the time one takes to solve, by question.  The app analyses each question as 'relatively difficult, normal / easy' by deriving from interactivity, presumably: here is a 'dekho' or sneak preview:

Objective is to distribute high quality exam preparation material to Indian students! 

Geez!  It had to come to this I tell you - given the Indian education system and society's obsession with examination scores!  

For an under 5 minute presentation, this leaves us with a huge load of reflections, questions, analysis!

I will attempt to splice this into two planes:

A.  Scientifically or technologically, bravo.  You just 'app'fied what any intelligent student in India always does for any professional exam - be it CAT or IIT entrance examination or the CA examinations :)  I know scores of friends who wouldn't even have qualified - had their trend analysis failed them :) 

B.  Socially, ethically I beg to differ.  Not so much with just Angad's App's objective.  But with the deep rooted social connotations that have even given rise to this App:

What do we educate ourselves and ours for?  Angad declares it is to develop an intelligent workforce for any skill.  Well it is not the whole truth, i m afraid.  We educate to output conscious, informed and empowered social citizens.  Agree?  

If you agree (and please leave a comment if you disagree - we gotta talk), in the first place, our society and examination system need serious 'questioning the patterns'.  Why have we driven our youngsters to such an extent that getting top scores - by hook, crook or well, by analyzing trends - is what drives them!  

Imagine a whole generation that has trend analyzed and become doctors, engineers, accountants, auditors, teachers!  How exactly will they contribute to their profession and life when those 'out of syllabus' situations arise (and, arise, they will, sooner rather than later)?  See the point?

You may argue that they will learn, in normal course.  Well, in that trial and error process, what social cost would our doctors, engineers and parents be putting us to? Yeah?  Do we want to raise a generation of 'ap(p)es'? Or, do we want to raise a sharp and comprehensively educated generation that understands its basics oh so well to be able to better it - for posterity? So much for being tech driven, I also passionately believe all analysis and no imagination is good for nothing!  And creativity and imagination flourish where there is space, comprehensive learning and love for the subject. 

If i have gotten you to agree with me that Angad's algorithm and app are brilliant just that we need to channelize it slightly differently for greater social good, let me skew this further to demonstrate how :) 

Imagine if we did a trend analysis of monsoon, of inflation, of population demographics (female foeticide, glass ceiling etc.), of illnesses, of medical insurance premiums - would that not yield many times lasting social welfare?  

No - i don't at all think I am being idealistic.  Remember 'questioning the patterns'? I am already questioning Angad Nadkarni's App's pattern :)  

Come, join the conversation .. 

Cheers :)

My Scrapbook Look of the Day

My Scrapbook Look of the Day

Romper Rendezvous today:

You can view my look and browse its components, in detail, right from my Scrapbook!

Cheers :)

Saturday, 27 July 2013

My Entry 3 - Indiblogger, Franklin Templeton Investments present 'The Idea Caravan' - Invest For Tomorrow

Shree Bose's Presentation / Speech on her research quest for a cancer cure

This is my third entry to the Indiblogger-Franklin Templeton Investments' The Idea Caravan Initiative.

Powerful ideas today are indeed 'the' true investments for a better tomorrow. Egged on by this, eagerly browsed through the videos to join the conversation. The Franklin Templeton Idea Caravan Site has all the information and of course, speaker videos from the TEDxGateway Mumbai 2012. Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

Click here to watch Shree Bose's Presentation / Speech Video
Or, Watch it here:

This presentation's biggest (initial) attraction for me was a 17 year old out to impact the world positively, armed with her faith in the power of medical research.

The second attraction was it contributed to women's health.  Admittedly, I have a voracious appetite to acquaint with, articulate about & contribute to anything that can improve women's lives. And I haven't seen much breaking news on research specifically focusing on women's health.  

So, here we go .. 

Sure enough, she starts her video presentation by sharing with us - in equal measure and in succession - that she is the first ever winner of Google Science Fair and her grandfather passed away due to cancer when she was 15.  Admittedly, that must be tough, because regardless of age, this is a bereavement that leaves us empty and without replacement for a lifetime.  It must be that much tougher in teens and much more impressionable, gaining first perspectives as individuals.

So, moved by this life event, she wanted to make a difference in cancer cure through research and wrote to many local labs, to start with.  As things happen, rejections poured in, as well. She attributes those rejections to probably nobody wanting a high school student. 

And we will debate this point in this post - is age relevant in research pursuits? If a reasonably well endowed kid in the US feels this way, aren't kids elsewhere in the world that much more disadvantaged?  Instead of catching them young, are we losing them rather early in life? Extinguishing the spark before it can become a torch? 

Ultimately, she was accepted for supervised research and mentoring with Alakananda Basu, a professor in the department of molecular biology and immunology at the University of North Texas Health Science Center and a graduate adviser in cancer biology.

The Bose - Basu team has made a difference in the fight against ovarian cancer with their research boosting the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs at a stage when cancer cells develop drug resistance (which most of us growing up in the last few decades dread, because we have grown up to the loss of humanity to organisms that mutated & evolved to resist our drugs)! 

It is this research work that won Bose her grand prize as well as the prize for her age group in the first ever Google Science Fair.

Her passion comes through when she says developing one's own hypothesis, tests and results is amazing :)  While this success meant she met President Obama and was widely felicitated, she rightly points out its the fact that she could make a difference that means the most to her.

She articulates going to a science fair is not about suddenly coming up with a grand new idea.  Its about taking yourself and others where your passion belongs.  Which brings us to the point how much does society let kids, youngsters and adults these days to cultivate and pursue what fascinates them and eventually, passionately engages them? The celebrated Indian movie 3 Idiots showed us the plight of a generation raised to be what the society lays down for them.  Ah ah, society does not lay it down out of any bad intention - just an over zealous fierce imposition on the growing generation what popular ideology believes is 'safe'.

As I observe kids and young adolescents growing up in India (where I live currently), it strikes and bothers me - an awful majority is overwhelmed! With homework, peer pressure, hyper competition, market conditions (for fresher intake, internships etc.) - the economy having done well in the last decade, notwithstanding.  I compare it to the times I was in school - no, we were not a glamorous economy then.  But then, there was an inexplicable joy to childhood, to learning.  We dabbled in a wide range of activities, learnt a whole lot of skills - not because they were forced upon as being 'good' for us or 'safe' for us.  But, because, we were fascinated and were welcomed into those worlds.  

I remember sauntering in to a photography lab (i was fascinated by those film developers) and then walking up to the photography teacher at school, for seniors (not at my age and level :) I remember her open arms, her warmth - she gifted me my first ever camera - a box camera, black and white and two rolls of film - absolutely free, unconditionally. Wonder if any other gift in my life made me walk in the clouds as that did! I walked home that day to completely surprised parents - who had no clue i had this fascination - and were overjoyed i had found a reinforcing teacher relationship at school!  Later my parents bought me a camera and i remember returning my teacher's camera with loads of chocolate - and she took it back from me and said "keep that smile, its very photogenic :)".  I went on to have a life long affair with photography even developing my own film for self, family and friends and coming out with loads of photo albums - sepia, filtered, collage what not :)  Well, I didn't discover anything pathbreaking in photography, but grew up a happy, content, curious learner all my life - thanks to positive and reinforcing experiences such as this.  More significantly, that contentment led to successes and contribution in other fields - which is important for us to recognize.  Not all experiments succeed in the manner we envisage.  But, positive reinforcement to query, study, curiosity always have and have ONLY positive social ramifications. 

I point this out here for the following reasons:

Bose starts her speech (after the initial two minute video) with a slide that just has these three words: DUMB HIM DOWN! Watch the video to see how a teacher and a classroom exhibiting this shaped / changed Bose's parents' approach. 

1.  A child's or an adolescent's impressionable years make fertile territory for induction into what fascinates them.  If we don't allow them to explore what fascinates them, how exactly will they even discover their passion? 

2.  Yes, modern parenting recognizes how to nurture and cultivate (thanks to our being bombarded with a plethora of literature, videos etc.)  But, given modern social pressures, especially in India, are people - young and old - given enough space, room and nurture - to flower?  I doubt.  I would like to see young ones a lot more active - in lot many spheres. I see a segment that is bogged down carrying loads of books to school and college, attend tuition after school, cram for competitive exams and churn out as one in a million engineers, many with no fondness whatsoever for the subject!  As someone passionate myself, I recognize intimately what passion can do and what lack of it can mean.  So, there's plenty for us, as a society, to reflect upon and effect course correction.

That said, its not merely parents, but the larger society has a very significant impact. Because, there are two potential results from this flow chart point: the individual succeeds in his / her endeavor (which is the case with Bose) which is all glamorous (and yet not always easy to handle because successful young people do need deft handling and guidance) or the individual does not make it - in which case, the call for action is much greater for the parents and society - to find them reassuring and dignified ways of regaining passion elsewhere and finding their calling.  At least in India, if not in much of the world, the latter is a big issue.  Society's attitude to experimentation and failure is often rigid enough & unforgiving, if not punishing that it scuttles and suffocates exploration!  Hopefully, such success stories will influence and improve this.

So, let's pledge to encourage individuals to GET OUT OF THE BOX & let's pledge to BREAK THE MOULD and actually cure this social cancer of putting people down and keeping them in a box!

Well, let's get back .. to cancer cure :)

Why is it that we (as in, humanity) appear closer to finding a cure for HIV / Aids than cancer? 

Would effective lifestyle and preventive mechanisms be more result oriented than a series of drugs that the cancer cells only seem to continually outdo?

Do the leading medical research Institutions regularly inject young / fresh minds (age not relevant - the person has to be fresh to the environment, with fresh perspectives)?

Can this break through from this Bose - Basu team be leveraged for other forms of cancer?

Food for thought? Come, join the conversation as Franklin Templeton say .. joining the conversation is the best contribution / tribute to 'inspired thinking' :)

As I sign this post off, well, I quite like Bose's first science experiment as a kid in second grade - turning spinach blue.  I would like to turn it peach, mauve and crimson - as a fashionista :)

Cheers :)    

My Scrapbook Look of the Day

My Scrapbook Look of the Day:

Mixed Melange in the day's look, dabbling in many current trends, including stripes, spike, statement necklace, stacked bangles and ruffles :)

You can view my look and browse its components, in detail, right from my Scrapbook!

Cheers :)

Friday, 26 July 2013

Thursday, 25 July 2013

My Entry 2 - Indiblogger, Franklin Templeton Investments present 'The Idea Caravan' - Invest For Tomorrow

Cynthiya Koenig's Presentation / Speech on Reimagining India's 'water problem' as an opportunity and devising a water transportation solution

This is my second entry to the Indiblogger-Franklin Templeton Investments' The Idea Caravan Initiative.

Powerful ideas today are indeed 'the' true investments for a better tomorrow. Egged on by this, eagerly browsed through the videos to join the conversation. The Franklin Templeton Idea Caravan Site has all the information and of course, speaker videos from the TEDxGateway Mumbai 2012. Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

Follow this link to Cynthiya Koenig's Speech Video ..
Or, Watch it here:

First things first! The video starts with 'slap on the face' statistics (well, its very courteously and subtly presented but the enormity of the underlying stats is upsetting, to say the least). 

  • Starts off with a nice analogy of lifting our checked in luggage from the airport and walking 6 long kilometers (now, that is probably the only way those of us bred in urban spaces could relate to lifting weights - especially when most of us even have laptop bags with wheels & don't even lift weights in gyms)!

If you are wondering why the analogy, read on:
  • One in every seven persons globally lives at least a kilometer (approximately one half mile) from their nearest source of water.  
  • A billion people on the planet lack reliable access to safe water.
  • Not much has changed in the way water is transported from point A to point B.
  • Water is heavy and carrying it on the head causes cranial pain in the head, neck and shoulders. Carrying water could also potentially compress the spinal column! 

  • Research has established, we are told, that each of us requires at least 20 liters of water a day for all of our cleaning, drinking and subsistence needs - to stay healthy and hydrated;
  • In India and in Rajasthan (where this case study is based), the burden of fetching & providing for the family's water needs rests on the women of the household!
  • Quite a few women, like Peppy Debbi in the video are able to provide just about 5 liters of water per person per day despite significant labor in fetching that water & arduously transporting it back home on their heads and hips!
  • Water so fetched is not always safe to drink!
  • Eighty percent of the global disease burden is caused by water-borne organisms (did she say fungus?) And the proven and celebrated method of avoiding it is – washing hands J And, what does washing hands entail? Yeah, Water!  

    • Collecting water is time consuming, taking up to six hours a day! 25% of a woman’s day.  (I think to myself, ah, isn't six hours the kind of time we spend online checking emails & in other pursuits).

    • Water collection limits women’s opportunity to earn income – when women have access to income generating opportunities - social research has proved such income is channelized in very socially beneficial ways – education, health taking precedence.  And when we let our women put in six hours a day collecting water, imagine how many times (yeah, multiplier effect) that does social welfare go neglected.  Its a terrible multiplier effect, to say the least.
    • 75 % of girls between 15 and 17 years of age in Rajasthan drop out of school – to cater to their home’s water transportation needs!
    • This results in a vicious cycle of poverty: time taken to transport water -> opportunity lost for the women + health backlash of not washing hands with water & transporting it on their heads.

    All of the above are facts gathered from the video presentation! 

    I am almost teary eyed by now!  

    Wish i can harvest my tears to contribute a tiny bit to this water problem – just a wee bit!  No, this ain’t a joke!

    Now, step in Wello represented by Cynthiya Koenig here!

    She calls it 'framing the problem as an opportunity & re-imagining the problem as an opportunity'.  

    In a social venture with a bold mission, over 18 months of "intensely human centered & empathetic design process", the Wello Water Wheel has been invented and now put in to prototype testing!

    The Wello Water Wheel is designed in the form of a 'matka' (that is North Indian dialect for 'pot' in English) because it is the most accepted form as well as aesthetically pleasing.

    Time is money so people value convenience as she rightly points out.  Now, using this Wello Water Wheel, she informs us a woman transporting water in Rajasthan is able to save & therefore recover (and reinvest productively) 35 hours a week.  Now, multiply that by the tens of thousands of women transporting water and we have a social welfare multiplier effect in front of us - tens of thousands of 35 hours invested in family's welfare, in women learning & practicing small craft, in gainful employment or even simply reinvested in rest & recuperation, enhancing health!

    This water wheel project, being a social mission, is producing the Wello Water Wheel with incredibly small margins and they hope to reach a million people in the next five years.

    I love that business model - its worth pointing out that social missions can't afford to be profit centered - well, not every mission can run on an utterly 'no profit no loss basis'; so the ones that can't run on 'no profit no loss' basis would do well to base their business model on volume (critical mass) rather than (profit) margin.  That way, the underlying social mission stands maximized.

    Quite like the further uses for the Wello Water Wheel they have thought of already:

    Of particular interest to me are:

    Drip Irrigation: this would take multi-tasking to the rural grassroots.  What if women can transport and yet irrigate the route they carry the water?  [Well, this presentation envisages a stand alone drip irrigation solution, but i am just articulating aloud some of my suggestions and thoughts].

    Advertising: huge favorite with me.  My first thoughts on using the 'matka' space on the Water Wheel are:

    (i) Publishing the nearest anti-polio vaccination dates on them so the women of the house do not let go vaccinating their kids.

    (ii) Publishing the 'Aadhar' (subsidy cash transfer mechanism card) dates so families remember to collect the funds from the bank account - remember, we are not talking of a populace / target segment that does everyday banking, as yet.

    (iii) Health, Contraception / Population Control measures can be effectively pollinated through advertising on the Water Wheel :)

    Like my suggestions? Please do share your comments and ideas.  Join the conversation!

    There ends Koenig's presentation with well deserved applause.  

    Now, I come to what I deem the most important part of this blog post.  While we commend Wello for coming up with a water transportation solution that will benefit India & thank this event and the sponsors and Indiblogger for the opportunity to showcase and start a conversation, here come the big picture questions that disturb me and beg for answers:

    Why at all should such dire water problem situations continually exist?  

    What are elected governments, NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations), those affected, the Country's planning administration, intelligentsia & concerned citizens doing to eradicate the very root of the problem altogether, at some point of time?

    What is our outlay of Plan expenditure for such social schemes?  

    Who is accountable for demonstrating real progress?

    Would linking all rivers in the Country and laying new pipelines across these areas be any solution at all?

    Can we teach people in the affected (water scarce) areas recycling methods that can lead to reuse of the same amount of water for three tasks in order of purity (for example, bathing first and the same water recycled for gardening later)?

    Why is it that we have floods in the monsoon and droughts in the summer in the same areas in our Country?  What about conserving, channelizing and storing surplus rain water?  

    With a rapidly growing population, what are we doing about the inevitable "limited resources - increasing demands" equation?  Who exactly is in charge?

    Should we not be involving those in the affected areas in deriving solutions because they probably have the most local insights that could point to developing potent, sustainable solutions?

    Questions abound .. i will of course start reading up and finding answers .. but, I am already convinced, as a Country, we have a long way to go .. to eradicate this (as well as several other pressing) social problem(s).

    Deserving particular mention is Koenig's use of 'reframing the problem as an opportunity' mention.  What if State & National/Federal Government(s) adopted the same approach, generate jobs among the locals for solving their own every day problems?  Isn't that what the panchayats, the gramin sabhas (local village bodies both), the Municipalities and the Corporations ought to aim for - not to mention the elected representatives from those areas? 

    Come, join the conversation ..

    Cheers :)