Zuckerberg Backed Org Launches Contest to Help Grow Internet in India

A massive 69% of India’s population does not have access to the Internet. A non-profit back by Mark Zuckerberg — probably the most successful student entrepreneur of the past 10 years — has put up $1 million in prizes for creative solutions to this problem.

From TechCrunch:

The contest from Facebook-backed Internet accessibility partnership Internet.org could help millions of people recognize the value of the Internet, pursue access, and gain knowledge and opportunities that can help them get better jobs and improve their lives. That could in turn help Internet.org’s flagship sponsor Facebook gain new users that it can connect to the world.

While Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have a clear interest in getting all those folks online, its seems there is more going on. This is philanthropy in action, making funds available to people, but demanding that they produce something that continues to provide returns to society – in this case apps that connect more people to the internet.

Student Entrepreneurs in India | LiveMint.com

Annupama Chandrasekaran of Livemint.com offers us an inside look at India’s some of India’s student entrepreneurs and their firms.

Welcome to India’s student start-ups—companies founded by people in graduate and postgraduate schools across the country. When the National Entrepreneurship Network conducted its First Dot National Competition for student start-ups earlier this year, it received 99 applications from 19 cities; 44 were from non-metropolitan cities. Interestingly, the founders of 54 were from non-metropolitan cities. And only four of the 99 came from families that earned more than Rs25 lakh a year.

And later,

There’s a pattern in the 99 applications received by NEN that is true of student start-ups in general. Areas requiring low capital investment such as IT services, mobile communication services and e-commerce are hotspots for start-ups. There aren’t so many student start-ups in capital-intensive sectors such as infrastructure. Some service sectors, which have seen activity, are the health-care, education, financial services and entertainment sectors.

“There’s still a hangover of the dot-com era and it does make me worry when a student talks about a Web-based business,” says R.S. Veeravalli, who oversees the entrepreneurship cell at Great Lakes Institute of Management. “The grim reality is that just 10 out of 1,000 ventures succeed.”

There article offers some interesting graphics comprised of data on the 99 firms, their founders, and teams. Moreover, Mint will be doing a series on student entrepreneurs in India throughout April and May. Looking forward to learning more.

via The rise of student entrepreneurs – Economy and Politics – livemint.com.

Are Indian Students Really Getting $35 Tablet Computers

The size of the market for higher education continues to cross my path through various google alerts, chat rooms, and newsletters. The Indian Government is focusing hard on education and here is some interesting news regarding their plans for providing $35 tablet computers to millions of students.

The Indian government won headlines around the world when it unveiled a prototype 35-dollar tablet computer in July, but questions are now growing over whether the project is just a pipe dream.

At the computer’s launch, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal vowed “the solutions for tomorrow will emerge from India” as he revealed the breathtaking price tag – a fraction of the $500 cost for an Apple iPad.

Officials said the touchscreen device, aimed at the country’s millions of students, could even be hammered down to just $10 once production rates increased.

Later in the piece,

Terry Thomas, a partner in the local arm of global audit firm Ernst and Young, is among those striking a note of caution.

“A computer with all normal functionalities at this price will not be sustainable unless it is subsidised by the government or the industry,” he said.

Thomas suggested a “stripped-down version” with a bare minimum of facilities could perhaps be engineered at nearer the advertised cost, though users would likely be unimpressed.

The first 100 000 computers are slated to be released as soon as January, but details of its exact specifications are still scarce – as is the level of government subsidy that will be essential to keep the price down.

Experts have also warned the device could struggle with issues such as cheap imports and India’s rising labour charges.

“If one takes out the cost of labour then the cost of materials like plastic and silicon will have to be virtually nothing,” said Joydeep Bhattacharya, of the Indian unit of US computer giant Hewlett-Packard.

The incredible expansion of higher education in the developing world will be fascinating as it unfolds. While the America Research University (such as Harvard, Stanford, University of Michigan, University of Texas, etc.) is the global standard, today’s reality (cost to replicate something that took 150 years to achieve and available technology) means that we will see some very interesting new models including distance learning and mobility.

How or whether India achieves its ambitious goals remains to be seen, but the vision is worth pursuing as it moves its hundreds of millions forward.

via Hard realities for India’s $35 computer: News24: Sci-Tech: News.

Higher Ed Regulation Holds Back India

Very interesting piece in today’s WSJ by Geeta Anand highlighting how bureaucratic red tape controls the growth of higher ed in India. The massive, centralized regulatory system caps how many students can access colleges, universities, and technical colleges and therefore caps growth for many india firms and startups. Also, with non-market caps on grads, it must put create huge demand for grads and therefore might be a disincentive to entrepreneurship for graduates of higher education. While higher ed in the US is facing many challenges right now, its decentralized and diverse  nature allows it to grow, adapt, and excel continuously.

From the article about Indian Higher Education, Continue reading “Higher Ed Regulation Holds Back India”