After the New Year arrives, most of us have the habit of making New Year resolutions. Whether it is a higher salary, a promotion, world travel or even weight loss, some wishes are similar among us and our friends. This year, after meeting the students attending the 11th South Asia Economic Students Summit (SAESM), I realized how New Year wishes can be vastly different from one corner of the world to another.
Here’s a sample of New Year “wish lists” of the South Asian students who attended the 11th SAESM in Thimphu, Bhutan held between Dec. 23-28, 2014.
“I hope South Asia can have a similar program to ERASMUS in Europe, where students are allowed to spend one year or a semester working or interning in a different South Asian country."
- Phalguni, Kirorimal College, India
“Intelligence and capability are not enough; there must also be the joy of doing something beautiful.” These words by Dr. Venkataswamy tower over us as we enter the flagship Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India, and continue to reflect in the staff’s philosophy during our short visit.
The Aravind Eye Hospital needs no introduction. Tucked in the remote south of India, it is the result of its founder’s vision of eliminating needless blindness. Started in 1976 by Dr. Venkataswamy, the hospital provides accessible, affordable and quality eye care to all sections of the society through cross-subsidization, which creates a commercially viable and sustainable business model.
Aravind Eye Care is an example of a business model innovation, also referred to as an ‘inclusive business model’. IFC defines inclusive business models as those offering goods, services and livelihoods to the poor in financially sustainable and scalable ways. Globally, inclusive businesses are being recognized as important players for development. More entrepreneurs are realizing the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) market as an opportunity to design and implement innovative solutions. As per an IFC study, the BoP represents a potential market of $5 trillion globally - the largest slice of this lies in South Asia, particularly India, given the size of BoP population in the region.
However, inclusive businesses continue to face several barriers in scaling and replicating their success such as lack of access to finance, absence of trained human resources, weak supply chain linkages etc. and above all, an underdeveloped support ecosystem to overcome critical market gaps. Addressing these barriers will not only help capitalize on the growth potential but also mainstream the sector.
World Bank Group is playing a catalytic role in unlocking opportunities for innovative, impact focused businesses. The South Asia Inclusive Business Program has been working towards enhancing private sector participation and inclusive business activity in the region. While working on the high level through systemic interventions, the team is also connecting with organizations on the ground by supporting them to scale sustainably and/or replicate across borders.
On Dec 24th 2014, Christmas Eve, I went into the reception room of Hotel Namgay Heritage in Thimphu, Bhutan to look for some students to interview for my story on the 11th South Asia Economic Students Meet (SAESM). To my surprise, I saw five sofas filled with students, as if they were waiting for me. The cruel reality was, the students from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan were singing without even noticing my entrance into the room.
They were playing an Indian parlor game (later explained to me by an Indian student) called Antakshari, where each team grouped by the sofa sings the first verse of a Bollywood movie song that begins with the consonant on which the previous team's song selection ended. Though Bollywood movies and songs are often in Hindi; somehow the Afghans who speak Pashto and Dari, Pakistanis who speak Urdu, Bangladeshis speaking Bengali and the Nepali speaking Nepalese were all able to understand each other and sing along.
What makes the Open India site unique?
This web app takes a new and different approach in presenting the WBG's partnership strategy and current projects, by doing so in a transparent, interactive, and easy-to-use web platform. It features data visualizations that connect the main engagement areas ̶ Economic Integration, Spatial Transformation, and Social Inclusion ̶ with the underlying challenges that are being addressed through the WBG's operations and knowledge products in India. An essential component of the new Open India web app is sectoral data that quantifies India's development challenges. For example, the range of India's infrastructure and transportation gaps is presented as a data visualization below.
Source: Open India
I am often asked how “we” – development professionals and practitioners at large - can make a difference to social exclusion. It is an opportune day to reflect on this by thinking about a diverse group of historically excluded people. The focus of today’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is appropriately on “Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology.” Because the power of technology in rehabilitation and hence, for inclusion, is uncontested. Let me quickly add that technology is a necessary, but by no means a sufficient condition for enhancing the functional ability of persons with disabilities.
Technology attenuates many barriers that disability raises. It has changed the way persons with disabilities live, work and study. The seminal World Report on Disability emphasizes the role of technology for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in markets, in services and in physical, political and social spaces. It points out for instance, that assistive devices can substitute or supplement support services, possibly even reduce care costs. The National Long-Term Care Survey in the United States found that higher use of technology was associated with lower reported disability among older people. The fascinating Digital Accessible Information SYstem (DAISY) consortium of talking-book libraries aims to make all published information accessible to people with print-reading disabilities. And the examples could go on.
- International Day of Persons with Disabilities
- Social Development
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- South Asia
- The World Region
- Sri Lanka