Category Archives: Development

Silicon subcontinent

S. Arunachalam

15 January 2000, New Scientist,

WHEN a group of eight-year-olds at a secondary school in Chennai (what was until recently Madras) were asked recently what they’d like to be when they grow up, most replied: “Work with computers” or “work with computers in America”. Fifteen years ago, the smart ones would have picked medicine, engineering, the civil service or banking. A few adventurous ones would have dreamed of Bollywood or cricket. And the studious types would have chorused: “scientist”.

Those days are gone. India’s young and their parents know that the domestic software industry was worth 178 billion rupees (£2.5 billion) by 1999 and is growing fast. They know that popular websites such as Hotmail, the shopping site Junglee and the people search engine who were created by Indians. They know that the world’s youngest Microsoft certified software engineer Govind Jajoo is a 14-year-old boy from Jaipur in northwest India. And they watch enviously as executives from …


China promotes traditional medicine


In an effort to promote traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in the global market, the Chinese Government launched a special project on modernization and industrilization of TCM in 1999. Since then the government has invested 550 million yuan (US$ 66 million) on modernization of TCM, says a report in China Daily. Another US$ 1.2 billion, collected from society, has also been used for research in improving the quality of production and modernization of technology. In 2000, the total turnover of the TCM industry in China was $5.86 billion, 24 times that of 1984.

Reaching the Unreached: How Can We Use ICTs to Empower the Rural Poor in the Developing World through Enhanced Access to Relevant Information?

68th IFLA Council and General Conference August 18-24, 2002

Often funding agencies and donor governments face the question should they support ICT activities in their development projects. Should the money be invested in computers and communication devices or will it be better spent on food, shelter, health, and education? The choice need not be ‘either or’. If used intelligently and innovatively, ICTs can form an integral component of development projects, as is shown by the award-winning Information Village project of M S Swaminathan Research Foundation. The important point to remember is that one does not have to use technology because it is there, but one uses it if there is a genuine advantage. In any development programme, people and their contexts should decide how one goes about implementing development interventions. The needs of the people and the best means to satisfy them should determine the whole programme. Often ICT-based development projects do not bring in the expected results because of undue emphasis placed on technology. Against this background, the factors that led to the success of the Pondicherry experience are analysed.

Assuring Quality and Relevance of Internet Information in the Real World

British Medical Journal, 1998;317:1496-1502

Interest in how new information technology can be used to improve health is growing steadily. Telemedicine is making it possible to erase geographical constraints on the provision of health care. However, the information revolution is not a worldwide phenomenon: in India today there are fewer than two main telephone lines per 100 people. Even in Western countries such as the United States there is a wide disparity in terms of access to telephones and computers between poor communities---inner city populations, blacks, and Hispanics---and the suburban elite.

Human population growth:Rich countries need education on resource conservation

Editor—“Because rich countries remain the main source of new knowledge and new technologies, responsibility for finding paths to sustainability rests mainly with them.”1 Well said.

Unfortunately, the rich countries, or at least the dominant sections in rich countries, have not yet learnt to view the world as a single whole. The world continues to be a space to be dominated. It used to be domination by conquering and colonising, now it is domination through unfair economic and trade agreements. National self interest takes precedence over global good. If corporations in the rich countries do things that exacerbate the divide between rich and poor and make sustainability increasingly difficult to attain, individuals in those countries add their bit by consuming scarce natural resources at an alarming rate. Development experts talk of the great importance of education in the poor countries. I think that educating the rich countries about the need to reduce consumption and conserve resources is equally, if not more, important. Without that it would be futile to expect the rich countries to find paths to sustainability.

Caring for marginalised people : Appropriate external intervention is needed

British Medical Journal. 2000 April 22; 320(7242): 1144.

Editor—Medicine usually fails marginalised people, as Smith observed.1 But it is not just medicine that fails them. Every technology invented so far has failed them and will continue to do so. Information and communication technologies have exacerbated the divide between rich and poor nations and have also further marginalised those who are already marginalised within nations.2 Reverend Jesse Jackson has drawn attention to how these technologies have led to a deepening of the racial divide in the United States.3
In analysing papers published by medical researchers in India I found that much of the research carried out there has not been done in the areas in which it is most needed, such as respiratory diseases, diarrhoeal diseases, and ophthalmological disorders. A comparatively large amount of research is being carried out in the areas of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, although these are not significant causes of morbidity and mortality in India.4
The idea of paying special attention to “the poor and mean and lowly” has been emphasised throughout human history by noble souls like Jesus Christ and in recent times by Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Yet it is something that is consistently forgotten by most of the rest of us.
Both human nature and technology need appropriate external intervention if they are to work in a manner that is beneficial to the mass of humanity. For Smith, the appropriate external intervention that can drive medicine in the right direction is found in “professional and political leadership, unceasing commitment from the top, a clear vision of what is needed, resources, and a strategic approach”; and the intervention that can correct human nature is for doctors to rediscover the religious underpinning of medicine “while operating in an increasingly secular world.” I could not agree with Smith more.
In support of his case, Smith quotes from Corinthians. Gandhi said: “Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you have seen and ask yourself if the steps you contemplate are going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore to him control over his own life and destiny?”
1.Smith R. Medicine and the marginalised. BMJ. 1999;319:1589–1590. . (18-25 December.). [PubMed]
2.Arunachalam S. Information and knowledge in the age of electronic communication: a developing country perspective. J Information Sci. 1999;25:465–476.
3.Ladd D. Digital divide: high tech as the new civil rights battleground. Village Voice 1999 July 21-27. (Available at:
4.Arunachalam S. How relevant is medical research done in India? Curr Sci. 1997;72:912–922.