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TED Talks: Nandan Nilekani’s Ideas for India

27th May, 2009

TED talks, as always, are mind-blowing. Make that a talk by Nandan Nilekani (co-chairman of Infosys now), and you have one psychadelic mind-convoluting mish-mash that gets your brain to actually start thinking.

Nilekani’s talk focused on ideas that have made, are making, and will make India a force to reckon with. Agreed, we Indians have got a few things wrong, but its nice to recollect what we’ve got right. The best part in Nilekani’s speech is towards the end, when he talks about “ideas in anticipation”. India, being slightly late in the development curve, can take cue from possible problems that First World nations faced in their development. Anticipating such problems, and thinking of their solutions, before it even hits can help us in many many ways!

Ideas in Anticipation

I just love his points mentioned as “ideas in anticipation”. So much so I’m going to detail them out here:

  1. E-governance: Using technology, now much more advanced than when the First World nations were developing, for goals like governance and transparent distribution of direct benefits. Think of the EVMs used in voting!
  2. Health: Avoiding the diseases of prosperity such as diabetes, obesity, and heart issues.
  3. Pension plans: cost of social security and medicare. Luckily we have the demographic dividend that will keep a majority of our population young in the next 20 years. This is probably the best time to create a new and efficient pension plan [and heck, we have a New Pension Plan]!
  4. Environment: India would have to marry environment with development, to maintain a sustainable future. Somehow, C.V. Raman’s vision of Thorium reactors comes into picture. Coal is so 20th century!

India is on a roll!

We have a young workforce, at a time when the world is only growing older. We have a large population, looked at differently, an extremely large market for goods! We have a spirit of democracy that has permeated to the bottom-most rungs of our society. And we don’t have any legacy issues. We can use cheap pre-fabricated square blocks to build bridges in record times of two to three months [yes, this technology was developed by an Indian]. We can use the best in wireless mobile network technology and not have to worry about legacy networks.

We Indians aren’t racing Americans to the bottom [with the cheapest goods], but to the top [starting with the best services]!

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