Interesting comparison for those also in ETEC 531

For those of you also taking ETEC 531:

It is interesting to compare the article in ETEC 522 Module 3 Alternative Approaches (http://www.digitaldividend.org/pdf/bottompyramid.pdf) with Stephen Petrina’s paper on Technology and Rights from ETEC 531 Module 3.

The perspectives regarding the role of corporations in third world countries are quite different.

6 comments


1 David Vogt { 09.23.08 at 8:14 pm }

Wonderful contrast. It would be interesting to know where your opinions sit on this.


2 Gillian Gunderson { 09.24.08 at 7:34 pm }

MNC’s have not necessarily always shown interest in the development of wealth for long term growth. It seems that they are driven by short term profitability and market share for their tier 1 shareholders.

In the US, when the tier 1 market for mortgages dried up, market focus shifted to the tier 2 & 3 population. Short term gain on the part of executives certainly outstripped the longer term needs of the tier 2 & 3 population. Less than fortunate results all around.

I am not convinced that the goals of MNC’s would align with tier 4 consumers. The highly touted Grameen bank is not perfect, and the One Laptop per Child initiative sells laptops possibly at the expense of more needed improvements.

Very much my own opinion!


3 Deepika Sharma { 09.26.08 at 10:13 am }

Hi Gillian,

I am responsing to your last para in three instalments 😉

I – “I am not convinced that the goals of MNC’s would align with tier 4 consumers” – at some level I agree with you – that is why, I think, in a country like India, they have been following rather than leading in this model (refer the “Nirma” vs. HLL’s “Wheel” detergent case in Prahlad’s article)…there are so many such cases that we see around us – actually saw around us until a few years ago!

II – “The highly touted Grameen bank is not perfect” – maybe it seems imperfect because the model is unconventional and Prof Yunus intended it to be that way. If you know the psyche of our Tier 4 – they tend to be intimidated by rules, regulations (that is why they are intimidated by the formal banking loan system) – at their level, a lot of work happens on “trust” and that is the basis of the Grameen model and the figures and the Nobel Peace Prize stand testimony to its impact! It is a classic Tier 4 intervention case.

III – “One Laptop per Child initiative sells laptops possibly at the expense of more needed improvements” – if I read your thoughts correctly here, you are concerned about more immediate needs like hunger, medical aid, sanitation etc. I agree those are real stress points. OLPC hasn’t really come to this side of the world in a big way so I do not have direct experience from this paradigm of learning, but from what I read about it – it is meant to bring some sort of formal learning to the doorstep of a tier 4 child! Arguably, in a country like India, there are many village schools…BUT these have all the problems that you can think of – no teachers, if teachers then rampant absenteeism, low enrolments, drop-outs and the list is long. It has been found that technology is big pull for these children who otherwise do not see any meaning in learning (some similar experiemnts have been conducted notable among which is Sugata Mitra’s “Hole in the wall” – you can catch it on youtube!). Once again, it is my view, that education is the only way with which the Tier 4 will rid itself of its ills…if that come with a $100 laptop – so bit it!

Cheers 🙂

Deepika


4 Gillian Gunderson { 09.26.08 at 7:34 pm }

Hi, Deepika,

“Grameen bank is not perfect”:
-some of the “loans officers” have been very intimidating themselves when collecting loans
-interest rates can be relatively high
-some of the women have been coerced by male family members into taking out loans that have been spent on consumer goods rather than business improvements; the women end up with the debt

OLPC is perceived as non-profit, but there is controversy over the profit that certain MNCs make from their participation, and corporate fighting over included components continues. India was one of the countries that rejected the program, stating that other needs were more important.

I believe that it is good to look at the positive and negative aspects of a situation before promoting wholesale involvement. The Pyramid paper was directed towards MNCs and presented a somewhat utopic argument.


5 Deepika Sharma { 09.28.08 at 6:33 am }

Hi Gillian,

I can see our difference in perspective 🙂 and rightly so.

Very quickly a few points that stand out:

1. The Grameen Bank does not make repayment a pre-condition for getting the loan for reasons that you mention – that is a huge relief for tier 4 – there maybe instances of the type that you mention but if we look at the larger picture that seems to be helping the cause.

2. The Indian government may have rejected the OLPC initiative – I can understand why. Once again, an Indian corporate has risen to the call and has negotiated with Negroponte on this initiative (I know this because I was invited to the forum last month). That being said, supporter of technology as I am I know it is not the panacea for all ills.

3. Whether or not Prahlad advocated “wholesale involvement” with tier 4, it is happening! For us living here, the mood is upbeat 🙂

Cheers!

Deepika


6 Gillian Gunderson { 09.29.08 at 2:31 pm }

Hi Deepika,

I’m glad to hear that the mood in India is upbeat – it is a huge country with even huger issues to overcome, and saying that it is complex doesn’t even come close to describing it. India has come a long way in a short period of time.

I’ve been trying to keep posts brief (and failing miserably at times), so before we move on to module 4, I’ll just summarize my position: India, Be Careful!

Even initiatives that target social welfare encounter controversy and problems. MNCs have short term profit, not social welfare, as a goal, and the executives are rewarded based on results.

For the short term, social welfare (housing for tier 2&3) and profit (mortgage paper market) seemed to be in alignment in the US, and the mood was upbeat.

In the long term, the rampant drive for profit has affected not only the social welfare of the tier2&3 market, but tier 1 as well.

One of the great things about MET is the numerous perspectives encountered – thanks for your comments on this topic.

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