1 Comment

PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES OF IMPACT INNOVATION

REFLECTIONS FROM MY WEEK IN INDIA, JANUARY 2017

Thinking big

As someone who worked in the social impact sector, I believed that impact should be measured in millions. I came to MIT because I wanted to truly understand scale, and to explore the intersection between technological and impact innovation. After engaging with the Emerging Worlds initiative, I now believe that we must push the boundaries of innovation, and aspire to impact billions of lives.   

In January, I traveled to India with a team of MIT scientists as part of the Emerging Worlds’ biannual trip. I was awarded a grant from MIT India and MIT International Science & Technology Initiatives (MISTI) to take part in this experience. Emerging Worlds is an MIT Media Lab initiative that has set up innovation hubs in Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Nashik to use technology to address issues across various sectors, including food and agriculture, financial inclusion, health and wellness, and housing and transportation. Emerging Worlds is unique because it is all about bottom-up innovation. The ecosystem collectively determines what the problem is, and how to go about solving it.

During the Emerging Worlds’ trip, our team connected with government officials in New Delhi, brainstormed with corporate supporters in Mumbai, and mentored young innovators in Nashik. Here are some highlights and insights from my experience:

Redefining Entrepreneurship

While at Digital Impact Square (DISQ) in Nashik  (one of the innovation hubs), I met with and mentored innovators. These innovators are focused on researching and really understanding the problem, and developing the best technology to alleviate it. They are bright young engineers and commerce graduates with many opportunities to take jobs at some of India’s top corporations. Instead, they choose to develop technologies that could one day transform the world.

Because the stakeholders, beneficiaries, users and other experts are part of the problem definition process, as well as the solution design, the innovators know that if they create a breakthrough technology, the ecosystem will provide support and scale. It is inspiring to see them unconcerned about venture capital or valuation. Typically, the daunting (as well as thrilling) part of entrepreneurship is the risk-taking element. Emerging Worlds essentially has taken that part out of the early stages of the process.

SPOT PROBE process well-suited to create greatest impact

During the trip, it was an honor to connect with Dr. Ramesh Raskar, the founder of the Camera Culture Research Group at the MIT Media Lab, and the visionary and architect for Emerging Worlds. He talked about how innovation models, used in places such as Silicon Valley, really don’t work for the developing world. He believes strongly that innovation and impact are very different from startup and venture models.

The Emerging Worlds model and approach (see image above) is unique. In the traditional sense, entrepreneurship usually starts with a person and his/her idea. In the case of Emerging Worlds, it's the community that comes together to determine what the problem is. Once the problem is identified, innovators step in and co-innovate with various stakeholders throughout the whole process. My work with the Deshpande Foundation, American India Foundation (AIF), and now with Emerging Worlds, has reinforced the notion that change must happen from the bottom-up. Moving forward, I hope the rest of the development sector will embrace this type of approach.

More than ever, India needs more entrepreneurs, especially on the impact side. I think the Emerging Worlds’ model will encourage more young people in India to look at impact innovation as a viable career option.

Leveraging human capital

While technology is a powerful tool, it alone will not solve some of the world’s biggest problems. One of the core tenets of Emerging Worlds is that the ecosystem must leverage human capital. Throughout the whole innovation process, government officials, community members, beneficiaries, and corporations all take part.

The Tata Consultancy Service (TCS) Foundation, the primary sponsor of DISQ, not only provides funding, but also spends a significant amount of time connecting with the Emerging Worlds’ program team and innovators. It is very apparent that the TCS team is just as passionate about solving these large-scale problems as the innovators. During this visit, I spent a whole day with senior TCS leaders in Mumbai. In my career, I have seen corporations write big checks, but rarely have I seen them deploy their top-level talent to work on the ground. With Emerging Worlds, everyone feels like they have skin in the game. I believe this dynamic has the potential to create big outcomes.  

Billions is the new metric

One in nine people still go to bed hungry. Just 8 people now have the same wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion. The lowest-paid workers in the most precarious conditions are predominantly women and girls. These are all clearly daunting statistics. If we don’t think big, these problems will continue to persist.

Dr. Raghunath Anant Mashelkar, one of India’s most respected scientists and a friend of the Emerging Worlds initiative, said, “India is at the tipping point. Its potential impact is enormous. We are talking about over 1.25 billion. You make an impact on 25,000, it means nothing.” The success metric for Emerging Worlds is in the billions. As the effort expands across India and beyond, I hope it will inspire government officials, innovators, and the corporate world to think just as big.

My next steps

Now that I’m back in Cambridge, I have joined the Emerging Worlds’ Leadership Council and will be helping the team think about and improve its programmatic efforts in India. We all can play a role in this amazing initiative. If you are passionate about technological and impact innovation, then I strongly urge you to engage with Emerging Worlds. It will no doubt take a global ecosystem to impact billions of lives. Click here to get involved.

Emil Kuruvilla is an MBA Candidate at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Prior to joining Sloan, he worked for innovative impact organizations, including the American India Foundation (AIF) and the Deshpande Foundation. While with the Deshpande Foundation, Emil headed marketing efforts for the organization’s entrepreneurship centers in India and the U.S.

1 Comment

Comment

Digital Economy for the Unorganized Sector

a presentation by Ajay Bohora, Co-Founder and CEO of Credila Financial Services

Ajay Bohora shared his thoughts with innovators last summer during the Emerging Worlds workshop hosted at DISQ in Nashik, India.  Ajay outlined the context, challenges and opportunities available for people in the unorganized sector, an area that many innovators hope to disrupt and improve in the coming years.  Using this framework, teams were asked to formulate grand challenge statements to have the greatest impact.  Review Ajay's outline below to brainstorm your own ideas related to this underrepresented group and learn more about the projects that DISQ innovators are addressing here: https://www.digitalimpactsquare.com/communities/all_challenges

Context

·      Going Digital: Empowers people, enables inclusiveness & brings in equity

·      Half-life period of most products & services is rapidly shrinking

·      Fragmentation of markets: The new reality

·      Hence, new organized initiatives have slowed down, creating opportunities for Unorganized Sector, driven by the spirit of disruption & mind boggling speed of change

Current Challenges

o   Underemployment & unemployment

o   Educated & skilled youth awaiting opportunities

o   Govt. constrained for revenues & hence the budget

o   Organized sector facing uncertainties, disruption & hence cautious

Enablers Available:

o   Aadhar (unique identity to citizens of India)

o   Mobile penetration

o   3G, 4G bandwidth

o   Payment Banks, Mobile Wallets, Unified Payment System,

o   eKYC

o   O2O & O2Ois becoming common

Opportunities

o   Survival of unorganized sector dependent on re-inventing their core & work flows

o   First mile & last mile digital interfaces for unorganized sector

o   Digitally driven customer experience for the unorganized sector

o   Micro payments available coupled with omnipresent Mobile & bandwidth

o   Govt. establishments want digital efficiencies which create jobs, without Govt. bearing fixed recurring costs

Matching Challenges with Opportunities

·      Unorganized going digital for customer acquisition, retention, supply chain, delivery & service

·      Unorganized human resources & businesses leveraging block chain kind of methodologies to distribute work in smaller packets & assemble them back

·      Can Govt. work be split into micro tasks enabled by technology

e.g.

1) Inspection & Certification role of Govt. can it be split in smaller tasks which are person independent made possible by verifiable technology e.g. semi-skilled college drop out from rural India can carry mobile, does geo tagging, takes pictures of key inspection points, fills in info. on mobile driven block chain driven Govt. work flow

2) Unorganized sectors include unknown technologically driven rural semi-skilled part timers as a part of their supply chain where a centralized distribution platform, governed by Ratings & Reviews opens up jobs for unemployed youth

3) Leveraging online and offline network: Global entities tap into educated, trained, untrained mobile savvy and citizens of the world, who leverage their online & offline network to generate leads, conduct consumer surveys, do last mile physical or digital delivery of products & services on assignment basis

 

Comment

Comment

The REDX Invention Model: Impact Innovation for Today’s Challenges

By Leah Laucher

Photo Credit: John Werner
 


Ramesh Raskar was returning to his car after a conference in LA, when an unusual sign caught his eye. It was meant to be a friendly reminder to double check that any personal belongings, such as CDs or a camera, hadn’t been left behind. It struck him as odd that things that were once a part of our everyday lives had begun to gradually disappear.

Raskar pondered what would be next. “Things that we thought were really critical and stand-alone are disappearing into the fabric of our lives.“ Even things we still deem necessary ⏤ like keys and wallets ⏤ are nearing their end. On a larger scale, imagine receiving healthcare without hospitals; learning without schools; growing food without farms; or transacting in currencies that aren’t mandated by the government. This is the scale in which Raskar thinks.

Raskar is head of the Camera Culture Group and an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab. He and his team developed a platform called Emerging Worlds, which focuses on the intersection of emerging technologies and emerging communities. Their primary focus is finding solutions for today’s most pressing challenges in India and other developing countries.

In July, Raskar spoke to over a hundred innovators and entrepreneurs at an MIT Emerging Worlds workshop in Mumbai, in collaboration with ReDx (MIT Media Lab) and the WeSchool (Welingkar Institute). The event centered around using impact innovation to solve grand challenges.

Traditional innovation is an incremental process, and progress is sometimes slow because it’s based on linear progression. Impact innovation, on the other hand, combines innovative ideas with cutting-edge technology to leapfrog forward and achieve game-changing results.

How can one-dollar wearables change our society? How can smart objects perform more efficiently? And how can we spread predictive health throughout all communities? Questions like these are shifting perspectives toward innovations that could impact the next 5 billion people.

 

Making an Impact

 

Raskar’s mentor, Desh Deshpande, says that there are three types of people ⏤ tolerators, complainers, and problem-solvers. Obviously, problem-solvers seem like the go-to preference; however, Deshpande emphasized that a balance of all three is necessary for change within a community. But a balance isn’t the norm.

Consider a talent-rich environment like Silicon Valley, filled with brilliant and innovative people who likely think of themselves as problem-solvers. Unfortunately, many of them are working on problems that affect only a small number of people. Because it’s such a talent-rich group, a small percentage of them will eventually go on to focus on problems that actually matter to society.  

In most of the world, however, problem-solvers are scarce. There’s no time to work on non-priority problems first. Furthermore, innovation models used in places like Silicon Valley simply don’t work for the rest of the world because they stem from traditional innovation models.

The way Raskar sees it, innovation and impact are different from startup and venture models. That’s why Emerging Worlds is passionate about models that can scale. They want to look beyond the Internet of Things, Big Data, and digital citizens to how we can leapfrog through technologies in order to solve problems.

For Raskar, the journey began with the question of how to solve the problem of vision for people in need of prescription glasses ⏤ poor vision often leads to illiteracy and unemployment. He and his team invented a hand-held device called EyeNetra that provides an immediate, low-cost prescription for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. It has done incredibly well.

Success aside, however, Raskar felt that this solution was a somewhat inefficient way to address the billions of people in need of eye care. With a larger goal in mind, his team spawned a new innovation platform called the REDX Model (Rethinking Engineering Design eXecution). They collaborated with the L V Prasad Eye Institute to launch LVP MITra ⏤ a unique program designed to build and deploy the next generation of screening, diagnostic and therapeutic tools for eye care ⏤ and have been making incredible advancements in eye care ever since.

Raskar then took that model a step further to consider how innovators can move beyond contests and hackathons, incubators and accelerators to make the most difference.
 

Building a Culture of Innovation

 

Raskar sees co-innovation as the most promising route for solving the grand challenges of our time. Emerging Worlds has worked in India throughout the past four years ⏤ collaborating with corporate leaders, business leaders, educational institutes, small businesses, and corporate partners ⏤ to discuss solutions that could truly make an impact. During this time, Raskar and his team have been delighted by the sheer number of people that have come together with a shared vision for impact innovation. For Raskar, it was a great experience “to see how we can expand our thinking.”

There are now three permanent co-innovation centers in India (Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Nashik) with the purpose of tackling major problems that most startups simply aren’t interested in. Instead of investing in e-commerce or dating apps, Raskar and the Emerging World initiative want to create solutions that will influence and improve billions of people’s lives.

These co-innovation centers will take a close look at solutions like monetizing garbage, automating a blood supply chain, and viewing crime in an entirely new way. How can one-dollar wearables impact issues like school attendance or improve transport system efficiency? How can we create detailed maps and solutions for agriculture using satellite imaging?

They’ll look at new ways to improve and expand healthcare, asking questions like: How can we significantly advance instrumentation? And even further, how can we go beyond thinking about simply advancing medical instruments or doctors?

The list goes on, and it will always be evolving ⏤ along with the questions, ideas and solutions. Raskar hopes that the success of this model “will inspire others to think of innovation” in far greater terms than just venture or entrepreneurship.

At an Emerging Worlds event in Mumbai in July 2016, Dr. Raghunath Anant Mashelkar, one of India’s most prominent scientists, followed Raskar’s presentation with his own powerful talk. He pressed the need to shift our innovative vision to encompass billions of people. “India is at the tipping point. Its potential impact is enormous.” “We are talking about over 1.25 billion ⏤ you make an impact on 25,000, it means nothing.”

Whether it’s an outdated sign or a decades-old movie, reminders of how rapidly the world is changing are all around us. As a society, we can continue to try and solve problems the same way we have in the past, or we can embrace Raskar’s vision and forge a new world where technology and collaboration empower citizens to create impactful innovations to truly change the world.

Comment

Comment

An Entire Village Gets Street Names

Village council following street naming ceremony

Village council following street naming ceremony

Without street names and signs, it's difficult to navigate a place, and that makes a lot of everyday activities more challenging. With street names and signs, people can get emergency services, and they can order products online and have them delivered to their door. Plus, they make it easier for the municipality to organize drainage and street cleaning.

Life is now becoming much easier for the village of Wadhiware, near Nashik, in Maharashtra, India. In July 2016, the Emerging Worlds team from the MIT Media Lab worked with the people of Wadhiware to map their village, name their streets, and develop street signs.

Street signs implemented in Wadhiware

Street signs implemented in Wadhiware

We worked closely with Ms. Priti Shejwal, the sarpanch or “mayor” throughout the entire process. Ms. Shejwal demonstrated leadership by opening Wadiwahre to innovative new ideas and technology. Ms. Shejwal is a visionary who understood how her village could be transformed through comprehensive street naming.

Having street addresses will help us organize drainage and keep our village clean.
— Priti Shejwal, Sarpanch (Mayor) of Wadhiware

Prior to this project, the village had little to no existing addressing system. When it came time to document street names village-wide, there was a conscious effort to preserve the history of the village by making many “unofficial” names official. Most of the new names were consistent with the use of the particular roads; others were based on recommendations of the villagers. For example, Market Road is where you’ll find the center of the village’s trade and economy. This collaboration worked because of the trust and respect between the Media Lab team and the Wadhiware villagers. We listened to each other.

Wadhiware is the first village in India history to take part in this street naming initiative. With the leadership of Ms. Shejwal, the village came together to make it all work. The complete project -- mapping the village, naming the streets, and printing the physical signs -- was completed in only a week!

Ceremony to celebrate new street names and signs

Ceremony to celebrate new street names and signs

This on-the-ground effort involved a lot of manual operations. In the future, we plan to automate much of the process. We can dramatically improve the scale of adoption with digital technologies and techniques such as satellite imaging and machine learning. Wadhiware is one village on the road to empowering citizens in many villages across India and worldwide.

We would like to thank divisional collector Eknath Dawale, sarpanch Priti Shejwal and upsarpanch Raosaheb Katore of Wadhiware, as well as Subhash Patil of the Kumbhathon Foundation for helping to ensure the success of this initiative. They all helped to make addresses a reality for the 10,000 people who live in Wadhiware.

Comment

Comment

Address grand challenges to impact billions of lives

Learn more about the July event HERE

The Emerging Worlds: Innovating for Billions is hosting presentations and brainstorming sessions in three cities this July. Join us to address global challenges in emerging economies in areas such as health, distributed objects that make systems, wearables, cameras for good, agriculture, and digital economy for the unorganized sector. Learn about our shared vision and work to solve billion dollar problems that will impact billions of lives.  

Hyderabad - July 8 and 9

Mumbai - July 11 and 12

Nashik - July 14 - 16

Our aim is to influence and improve human lives. The proliferation of mobile devices and wide connectivity, as well as the availability and growth of machine learning, crowdsourcing, Big Data, and the Internet of Things offer new possibilities for research and development. In both developed and Emerging Worlds, there is a great opportunity for game-changing innovations that will impact billions.  

Join Us!

Fill out this form to express your interest. An events manager will be in touch to confirm availability.

Additional Information

Emerging Worlds - http://mitemergingworlds.com

WeSchool - http://welingkar.org

DISQ (a collaborative innovation center in Nashik) - https://digitalimpactsquare.com 

Comment

Comment

Nashik, Innovation, and You

By Rohan Puri

Rohan Puri worked as a research specialist at the MIT Media Lab in the Camera Culture Group where he built devices for health and human-computer interaction.  He has also worked at TechStars Boston, and was a mentor at Harvard i-Lab, Startup Weekend, and Startup Institute.

Rohan runs the newsletter Fives, where he shares cutting-edge research and technology. He currently resides in San Francisco, CA working on his next soon-to-be-announced project.

Nashik, Innovation, and You

I had an amazing experience connecting with bright minds and resourceful people in Mumbai and Nashik this past January. At REDX, the Welingkar Institute of Management was gracious in helping support our model for rapid, multi-threaded innovation. The gatherings with selected participants in WeSchool allowed them to select new projects and showcase existing projects to key stakeholders from the Mumbai area. Then, teams were offered an opportunity to better validate and prototype their projects in the supportive city in Nashik.

Never before have I seen such a strong gathering of like-minded yet diverse people in one place. Innovators, mentors, government officials, local business owners, and everyday workers came together to help design better solutions to India’s toughest problems. Tata Consultancy Services helped craft a detailed approach strategy for each of the grand challenges and our MIT team helped guide teams focused on the health track. I encouraged members of our team (led by Alicia Chong) to go out on field trips and evaluate their hypotheses by actually talking with real people about some of the problems they face in their everyday life and what might limit their access to health.

Back in the Nashik Engineering College, teams built prototypes to help address some of the health problems and put them up against diverse panels of specialists from Nashik and all over the world. The panels put the teams’ thinking to the test and helped the teams ensure that they thought through every possible side of the challenge they were attempting to solve: culturally, technically, and financially.

So, what happens now?

We wait a bit. This is where where the magic happens. You see, I’ve found that the most ambitious, resilient, and relentless people in the world become obsessive with the work they are passionate about. They can’t stop; they keep pushing. This is what we are already seeing from the innovators on many of our projects and I can’t wait for the most passionate individuals to bubble to the top. We’re waiting for the self-starters and self-pushers to keep going.

I hope we see many more of our innovators take this initiative as an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is not a hackathon, not a networking event, not even a learning event. This is a doing initiative. The TCS, MIT, Nashik, and WeSchool teams have done an incredible job providing a foundation and infrastructure for innovation to happen. We have the resources, connections, and influence to make many of these projects come to life in a record amount of time. Take advantage of the hype, ride the wave of momentum you started in Nashik and take the projects to a place where you can say “I deployed that.” In general, I hope to see a much stronger emphasis on completing one project rather than just starting a bunch of projects as you see with many hackathons these days.

For the initiative as a whole, I hope to see more companies donating their support and infrastructures. In India we have a unique advantage in that organizations are incredibly well connected with one another. They can pull in partners, collaborators, and resources at the snap of a finger. I hope to see many more organizations offering their support for this platform in any way they can -- these innovators need all the support they can get and the last thing they need to worry about is funding, internet connectivity, development resources, or access problems. They need to focus on one thing and one thing only: building, implementing, and deploying these projects to the people who need them. To produce winners, we need to build a strong foundation and I think we have a great start.

But, there’s still a lot to be done. If we can launch a satellite to Mars at a greatly reduced cost, there’s a lot that can be done here on earth if we put our minds together. Let’s stop thinking independently about our own problems/goals and learn to work together to help one another. As a recent transplant to Silicon Valley, I’ve seen it myself. A strong network of support is vital. Sometimes you need to give a little before you can get anything. Let’s create a culture of giving.

To the innovators: Keep pushing, we’re here to support you.

To the organizations: Let’s help each other. There’s no reason that Nashik and India can’t be the best place in the world to rapidly iterate and deploy hugely impactful technologies and systems.

To the observers: Stop observing. When did you ever get credit or passion from watching from the sidelines? There are ways for everyone to help out and get involved. Don’t wait until you have more experience. The best way to get experience on how to innovate for billions is, well, to start innovating for billions. We’re here to pick you up if you fall down along the way.

Remember, people rarely regret action. It’s inaction they regret.
Here we go!


Comment

Comment

Pashon Murray recounts on her Emerging Worlds experience

Director's Fellows, Pashon Murray and Eman Jaradat, joined the Emerging Worlds team in Nashik, India this past January for the weeklong workshop.  In this blog Pashon recounts her time meeting young innovators, working with multiple teams, and inspiring the next generation of young innovators to solve pressing global challenges.

An excerpt of Pashon's post is below  Read the full blog on the Directors Fellows website

"On the third and fourth day we listened to people introduce themselves and inspire the students to be better thinkers, creators, entrepreneurs and inventors. The corporate leaders, Media Lab team and others started sharing the challenge statements and the group categories. Each leader and mentor had to introduce himself or herself to the students in the main auditorium. I spoke very briefly during the introduction for Food and Agriculture, Transportation, Waste Management and soil and water. Instead of speaking about Detroit Dirt or my past experiences, I kept it clear and concise about the UN recognizing me for my work in composting and soil. I didn’t want the focus to be on Detroit Dirt only. My role was to judge the talent and be a mentor.

I decided to mentor the Food and Ag group. However, the group had multiple focuses so instead I decided to work with the soil group. Beth and I explained to the whole group the importance of the areas of focus, soil testing, supply chain, and crops. I also reiterated the importance of healthy soil. Four students said they would like to dedicate themselves to soil testing. After some extensive discussion, I couldn’t understand why so many students were interested in supply chain issues. Many felt like the farmer wasn’t being respected in the supply chain throughout India. I understood their passion but some Indian farmers weren’t following protocol for soil testing. Also, many of them have to address other issues before selling crops."

Read the full blog on the Directors Fellows website


Comment

Comment

Kumbh Mela and MIT Kumbhathon: a government leader's reflection on innovation and spiritual events

Dr. Praveen Gedam is an IAS Officer and Commissioner of the Nashik Municipal Corporation. Over the past two years the MIT and Kumbhathon teams have worked closely with Dr.Gedam to deploy technology to impact the Kumbh Mela, a massive religious festival drawing 30 million people.  We are grateful for his help, insight, and support.  Under the guidance of Dr.Gedam, Kumbh Mela was incident free with no lives lost, no epidemics, and no missing children, a truly impressive feat.  In addition to his interest in government administration, Dr. Gedam is also a qualified medical doctor, further adding to his impressive portfolio, and creating even more synergy with the MIT team.  Learn more about his work and Nashik, India HERE

By: Dr. Praveen Gedam 

Kumbh Mela was not only a spiritual gathering for Nashik but it also turned out to be a gathering for science, technology and innovation. Thanks to Kumbhathon, an initiative from the MIT Media Lab in collaboration with local government and various private companies, Kumbhathon was more than a hackathon. It provided a platform for all innovators to come together and create solutions to better mankind.  As a result of our work with the MIT Media Lab we have a new innovation culture in Nashik which deployed many technologies during the Kumbh Mela and continues to impact our city creating solutions for our city and our citizens.

As a government official I am often approached by people in the private sector who want to showcase their innovations. Often the so-called idea is already built and they have determined which government problem it will solve and where it can be sold and marketed.  Kumbhathon was different. Government agencies were involved in sourcing the problems and creating the innovations from the beginning.  Many of these solutions from Kumabhathon were directly related to the organization of Kumbh Mela*.

Kumbh Mela is all about crowd, crowd and more crowd. If solutions work during Kumbh Mela, we realize that they can work at any place and any time. The crowd size in Nashik was an advantage for the innovators who had to create robust solutions to be able to tolerate the data of the masses. Apart from this, the city is ideally located near India’s commercial capital and it is one of the best tier II cities to invest in and to do R&D. Nashik Municipal Corporation is one of the few corporations in the country that has adopted latest technologies at times moving more quickly than other nearby cities. This ensured success of the Kumbhathon movement. Analysis of the crowd was made very simple by use of ping technology of cell towers and projecting the 2D maps to show crowd movements. This was also supplemented by experimental use of Ashioto mats.  Simple and cheap housing structures were built in the sadhgram to be used for Kumbhmela and they will continue to be used in the future for similar events. Meditracker tracked the symptoms and diseases in and around Nashik in real time and real location making us alert about impending problems at early stages.

However, above all, Kumbhathon has provided a platform for our government to interact with innovators on continual basis. This has become a movement. A new innovation center is about to open in Nashik, with support from corporate partners, the MIT Media Lab team and the local government. There are many problems that need groundbreaking solutions including traffic, water supply, sanitation, nutrition, education, health and many more. I am sure this perpetual scientific movement where the scientific community, businessmen and government have come together will go a long way in creating a better world.

*Kumbh Mela is a massive hindu gathering that occurs every several years in different cities in India.  The Nashik Kumbh Mela was in August and September 2015 and drew crowds of 30 million pilgrims.

Comment

Comment

Apply yourself and make an impact

Innovating for Billions workshop - Day 5 - January 27, 2016

 

“We are addressing ground-breaking problems. Use every minute here to see how you can apply yourself and make an impact.”

– Professor Ramesh Raskar

 

This morning began with teams huddling and collaborating and consulting their mentors and others. They are extremely eager to demonstrate that they “get it,” that they understand what is expected of them and that they can develop a solution that will satisfy a challenge and have local and perhaps global impact.

 

Tell your story and follow your heart

Innovators took a break for a few brief presentations. I gave a 10-minute presentation entitled “Tell Your Story.” This was designed to get people to do two things: (1) Prepare before conversations with stakeholders. Know what you want and whom you’re talking to, and (2) Use the language of the person you’re speaking to and what they’re concerned about. I shared highlights of things that I have carried with me from early in my career when I sold office copiers (for A-Copy in Boston, then engineering printroom equipment for Océ), including an introduction to three models: an active listening technique, SPIN® selling, and the difference between features, advantages and benefits. Building relationships is key to business success. These tools and concepts should help the innovators as they progress with their innovation program, and overall in their careers.

 

Eman Jaradat spoke from the heart, with lots of energy and enthusiasm. Eman is a Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab. She is a community activist in the Middle East, focused on building capacities and advocacy, and creating a freer and more open Arab world. At the Innovating for Billions workshop she is working most closely with the teams that are addressing education challenges. When she speaks, it is personal. She appealed to innovators to find and follow their passions, and to be genuine in their dealings with people throughout their lives and careers.

 

Professor Raskar highlighted what’s cool and new this time

The crowd in the main workspace of the Nashik Engineering Cluster was excited to hear what Ramesh had to say. His comments were brief and inspiring. First, he explained that this workshop marks a transition to a more concrete model of co-innovation. The MIT team has run over 10 workshops in the past year, with corporate representatives participating as mentors. Now corporate members are joining the effort and making it much more significant. So much has happened in just one year!

 

While it may seem confusing to some as MIT works more closely with corporate members on this initiative, this is an exciting time. Together, we are establishing an innovation center in Nashik that will operate year-round and host innovators for six-month internships. Fellows will spend time at the MIT Media Lab. And there will be a summer program with a lecture series. Having a formal space in the center of Nashik means that there will be a more stable innovation presence in the city. This is an exciting new beginning for all of us.

 

New corporate engagement opportunities

This is a great time for corporations to get involved. Getting in early means that they will be able to influence the challenges and the innovations that spring out of the Emerging Worlds initiative. This is the future of technology. Corporations appreciate the value of the bottom-up innovation model. Everyone feels the energy. Corporate members can use the platform to: access innovation, train their employees in innovation, recognize talent, propose challenges, have an impact in social innovation.

 

Ramesh called several innovators to the stage

He asked for volunteers to share what surprised them how they feel about the process so far. Both men and women got up to speak. They represented engineering and business students from across India.

 

What the innovators had to say

“I’m not so scared to speak on stage, even though I don’t have so much experience.”

“My advice is to accept ideas from other people and you may end up with a better idea in the end.”

I like the team structure. We’re going to make it work!”

“I’m learning so many things from so many different backgrounds. We’re mixing up experiences.”

“Make something big that will affect the lives of people. Create something and give back to society.”

“I knew before that education was a challenge. Now I really feel the challenge personally.”

 

Male innovator Jan 2016.jpg

Closing remarks from Ramesh

After hearing from the innovators who got up on stage, Ramesh shared some of his advice. He said, “Since you live only once, do something big.” He also shared some insights about the journey. He said that there are four stages in the life of someone who makes a difference: “Learn, apply, impact, activism – in this sequence.” So, he admonished the innovators to: “Extend your ability to apply your skills so that you have some impact.”

 

When you see a challenge through a new and personal lens, you will be much more vested in the outcome. Everyone in the room has creativity, ingenuity and confidence. We should emphasize these traits.

 

Gala event at the Nashik Klub

The day concluded with a beautiful evening event at the Nashik Klub, hosted by the head of Thakkers Developers, a real estate company. Everyone involved in the Innovating for Billions workshop was invited. Some additional local business people were invited as well, including a jeweler who owns and operates over 60 jewelry stores in Nashik, and the leadership of Anand. Two of the Anand executives had attended MIT, and they had participated in Kumbhathon5 in July 2015. Over 200 people were welcomed by a costumed musician playing a traditional warrior’s bugle. Then we were all honored with red dots and a spray of turmeric as we entered the party space. By the entry there were two musicians in costume playing traditional Indian music, and there was an Indian rock band playing on a stage on the far side of the space. There were large-scale game tables and seating throughout. And the space was ringed with tropical palms. There was a long buffet table that ran the entire length of the space. The foo was delicious! It included make-your-own wheat bud dishes with a seemingly endless array of colorful spices and condiments. There were also refreshing local beverages, some curries and naan. Another special touch included a henna and nail polish table where the ladies could have their hands and nails painted. One of the highlights was when Girish Pagare, a local businessman who has been instrumental in promoting the Kumbhathons and who is one of the leaders of the Kumbh Foundation, took the mic and sang a few Bollywood tunes with the band. No one knew he had this hidden talent! It was a wonderful, festive way for everyone to mingle and compare notes about the events of the week thus far.

 

Impact drives us all

The power of this platform is evident in the energy of the participants: the excitement of the innovators; the engagement of the administration of the City of Nashik at the highest levels; the investment of corporate members' time, effort and resources; the participation of the local business and professional leadership; and the commitment of MIT in the platform, the process, the technological solutions, and the relationships. We are all in it to have an impact on billions of lives.

Comment

Comment

Republic Day in Nashik marks day 4 of the Innovating for Billions workshop

Innovating for Billions workshop - Day 4 - January 26, 2016

 

Celebrating in style

It was fitting that day 4, the middle day of the workshop was a day of celebration with pomp and circumstance. Republic Day honors the date on which the Constitution of India came into force on 26 January 1950, replacing the Government of India Act as the governing document of India. Celebrations take place across India, and most people have the day off from work and school.

 

Several of us – John Werner, Pashon Murray, Eman Jaradat and myself from MIT, along with Sandip Shinde, Subhash Patil, and Girish Pagare from the Kumbh Foundation – were hosted by Sanjay Mohite, the Superintendent of Police. He sent police cars to escort us from the hotel to his government home. Mr. Mohite, his wife and son greeted us warmly and served us a celebratory breakfast consisting of several plates of local delicacies. Then they gave us a tour of their home. The house was originally built and used by the British Police. It’s a solidly built structure, made of stone. The interior is very comfortable and decorated with plush carpets, paintings and intricately carved wooden furniture.

 

After breakfast we proceeded to the adjacent field where several groups of uniformed personnel were assembled in formation, ready for the performance. Girish Mahajan, Minister of Water Resources, addressed the crowd. He and Eknath Dawale, Nashik District Commissioner wore celebratory local pagdis (headdresses). Dr. Pravin Gedam, Commissioner of Nashik Municipal Corporation, and the honorable mayor of Nashik were present as well. We were escorted to seats of honor in the front, under cover of a large tent.

 

Each group of uniformed participants paraded in formation, marching with precise synchronization of their matching khaki pants and white-gloved arms. As they filed past the assembled audience, the announcer stated who they were and what they represented, and the leader raised a sword with a loud and proud exclamation. Following the marching, there were several floats that drove by the crowd. They included a few social activist groups, such as a drive to vote, support for women and children, animal welfare, as well as representatives from police, fire, ambulance, and youth in uniform. One of the most dramatic were Muslim youth on horseback. There were also groups of women and girls in uniform. Very official and impressive.

 

Water administrators visit with innovators

This afternoon Girish Mahajan, Minister of Water Resources, visited the Nashik Engineering Cluster to meet directly with the innovators. He brought a team of party leaders to meet directly with the innovators working on water challenges. This was a great honor for the organizers as well as for the innovators. And it helped all the innovators to realize how vested the administration is in the success of these projects.

 

Innovation progress

During the day, innovation teams collaborated and progressed their projects. The focus was on refining the challenge statements from the stakeholder perspective, and specifying what data would be needed to test hypothesis and to provide analysis of value. Then they could proceed to considering possible solutions, with a focus on DIPS (digital interfaces for physical systems) and DAPS (digital applications for physical systems). The point is not to replicate physical systems with technology, but to utilize data and technology to achieve something new.

 

Teams spent more time on their innovation challenges and some engaged further with additional stakeholders. They collaborated with their assigned mentors from MIT, corporate members and government. And they used poster boards, sticky notes and markers to document how they viewed the challenge. In the afternoon all teams met with panels of mentors that included experts from corporations, MIT and the Kumbh Foundation. Each team got 15 minutes with the mentor panel to share and describe their challenge statement and key stakeholders, explain what data they had and what they needed, preview their initial ideas of solutions, appeal for help in specific areas, and get targeted feedback. At this stage, some were very clear, while others still needed to refine what they were going to address. We spoke with the assigned mentors and discussed what sort of guidance would be most beneficial in each case. The teams continued to work independently before and after the panels, applying mentor guidance to get to the next level with their work.

 

Win x 5

There are five entities that all stand to gain from the process of developing and implementing innovative DIPS and DAPS solutions to Nashik’s major challenges: the administration and citizens of Nashik, the Kumbh Foundation, individual innovators, corporations, and MIT. The city and its citizens will get problems solved and will enhance the way of life in the city. Innovators will get a major career boost from the opportunity to intern for six months in the new Innovation Center in Nashik. The Kumbh Foundation will strengthen its ties in the city, building a stronger community committed to solving pressing problems. Corporate members will be recognized for the social impact of their efforts, expand on some of the inventions to improve and grow their work in various sectors, use the model to expand their innovation capability across the company, and access a growing pool of talent. Using the world – and Nashik in particular – as our lab will enable MIT to provide even greater opportunities for innovative and impactful research in the Media Lab, use Nashik as a model to forge new strategic relationships with like-minded corporations in order to expand our collective impact worldwide, and generate solutions to major problems worldwide that will affect billions of people.

 

Beginning the selection process

Toward the end of the afternoon, Professor Ramesh Raskar met with the mentor panelists. We did an initial review of all of the teams, and discussed next steps. We are looking for two things: (1) innovators who will stay for an internship in the Innovation Center in Nashik, and (2) challenges that will be pursued in the next phase. Consideration will be given to solutions that will have a high impact. Most of the challenges that have an MIT scientist as a mentor will move forward. Also, there are individuals who have already displayed unique strengths and who will be asked to participate as interns moving forward.

 

A new app for all solutions

Ramesh recommended that we create an application to act as an umbrella for all of the solutions that are created in the new innovation center in Nashik. This will be similar to the Kumbh App that was created for the Kumbh Mela. It was a single place for people to access solutions developed by the Kumbhathon innovators, and it was downloaded and used by thousands of people who attended the Kumbh Mela, as well as by the leadership in the city administration. This new app will represent the future of Nashik.

 

A social evening for MIT scientists and mentors with Nashik business leaders

Throughout our visit in Nashik, the Kumbh Foundation, the Nashik government, and the business community have all received us warmly. This evening we were invited to a dinner party hosted by several leaders of the local business community. We were made to feel much more than just invited guests. We are part of the same team working together on the same goals: to create a better world through technological innovation.

 

Comment

Comment

Clarifying challenges to address

Innovating for Billions workshop - Day 3 - January 25, 2016

 

Teams of innovators started working in earnest today. Today was a day to clarify challenges. After conducting online research and meeting with stakeholders and experts in the field, they were expected to understand and articulate the holistic picture of their challenge. They had to map all the major stakeholders and their pain points, and to select a segment to use as a pilot. The other expectation was to ask questions that could be answered with data. Could they get access to data? Or would they have to collect data manually?

 

In the afternoon every team presented to a panel of mentors for 10 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of comments and questions from the mentor panel. The innovators prepared answers to the following questions:

·       What is the challenge?

·       Why is this an issue?

·       Who is impacted?

·       Where in the value chain is this?

·       Whom has the team met?

·       What are the 3 striking things?

·       What support is needed?

 

The mentors evaluated the progress of each team based on the clarity and importance of the challenge and the understanding of the stakeholders and their issues, as well as the cohesiveness of the team. Mentor panelists asked questions to encourage holistic thinking and clarity of focus:

·       Who feels the pain?

·       What is the impact of this issue?

·       What data do you have access to? What data do you need?

·       What finite data set could you start with as a beachhead market?

 

Over 27 challenges were presented, including:

1.     Reduction of antibiotic misuse

2.     Identifying a patient segment for preventable blindness

3.     Ensuring healthier lifestyles to improve heart health

4.     AgriMate to improve/enhance crop cutting for better productivity and yield

5.     InnoWater to reduce water wastage and enable more equitable distribution

6.     Don’t Miss the Bus! addresses the alignment of travelers, buses and routes

 

There was excitement mixed with a bit of trepidation on the part of innovators. They were energized and excited to get time with the mentors from MIT, corporate members and the government of Nashik. The panel tried to put them at ease by recognizing what they’re doing well and by giving them actionable feedback. In most cases, they recognized the importance of considering various perspectives, like Michael Porter’s Five Forces, such as distributors, payers, government administrators, providers, producers, professionals/healthcare providers/pharmacists, and customers/patients/users. They realized that there are stakeholders who affect the situation, and others who are on the receiving end. Once they have a map of all the stakeholders, they were encouraged to pick an initial stakeholder group and to define them clearly. This means specifying their characteristics; e.g., if the key stakeholder is the government, what department and what roles within that department will care about this?

 

The goal is to create solutions with impact that directly address challenges, that are unique, that leverage large data sets and digital technology, and that leapfrog existing solutions. We cannot solve problems in a week, but we can outline challenges and propose solutions that can be tested and developed over the course of a six-month internship in the new innovation center in Nashik that is scheduled to open in March 2016.

 

4 Tata Fellows.jpg

Tata fellows lead healthcare innovations at the MIT Media Lab

There are four Tata Fellows at the MIT Media Lab who are developing cost-effective health solutions designed to solve significant challenges in India and other developing countries with limited resources. Working in Professor Ramesh Raskar’s Camera Culture Group and led by Dr. Pratik Shah, the four fellows – Anshuman Das, Mrinal Mohit, Shantanu Sinha and Tristan Swedish – are advising and coordinating with innovators in Hyderabad, Mumbai and Nashik, India.

Anshuman Das is a Tata Center postdoc with the MIT Media Lab. He works with optical system designs, cameras and imaging, signal processing, low cost diagnostics, and prototyping. Mrinal Mohit is a graduate student and research assistant at the MIT Media Lab. He is passionate about redefining the limits of automated machines, systems, and algorithms, especially in perception, interaction, and health. He develops imaging solutions for predictive health screening. Shantanu Sinha is currently a graduate student and research assistant at the Media Lab. His interests primarily lie at the confluence of learning-based computer vision, digital signal processing and mechanical design. At MIT, he is developing imaging systems for predictive health diagnostic tools. Tristan Swedish is a research assistant at the MIT Media Lab where he has been building a new class of user-centric retinal imaging systems inspired by computational photography, machine learning and displays.

Health innovation in Nashik

In the evening, corporate members, MIT team, Kumbhathon leadership, workshop organizers, healthcare mentors, and local doctors were hosted at Winjit, a local company that has supported the Kumbhathon for the last couple of years.

 

Led by Dr. Pratik Shah, all of the healthcare scientists from MIT presented the work that they’re doing that can be developed further and deployed in Nashik. Pratik Shah welcomed and thanked Winjit, health mentors, the Kumbhathon team, the MIT health tech team, and the Nashik administration.

 

“Nashik serves as the base for health technologies in Nashik, across India and beyond.”

– Pratik Shah, MIT Media Lab

 

Pratik gave a quick review of some of the research projects underway in the Camera Culture Group at the MIT Media Lab. They are designed to exploit Big Data and access to digital technology:

·       A system to take images around corners will be funded by DARPA and the US military

·       3D displays

·       Vision correcting display

·       CAT scan in a rickshaw

·       Biomarkers - tag cells and image them in low cost fashion

·       Computervision and machine learning - train neural nets to help physicians make good decisions

·       Rapid execution of ideas - concept to prototype to deployment to success

 

The health facilities in Nashik generated 500 health maps at the Kumbh Mela, the religious festival that attracted 30 millions visitors to Nashik in August and September 2015. With a robust ecosystem of collaborators, and people passionate about working with us, innovators can get access to data and experienced mentors coach the innovators.

 

How physicians can engage

Pratik appealed to the physicians present to step up and get involved in some of the 27 grand challenges. There are several focused on health, such as to end preventable blindness, to address antibiotic misuse, for zero loss of life due to lack of blood, and for 100% institutional delivery and immunization. Physicians can serve as expert mentors, get first-to-know rights to new technology, conduct pilot studies, be early adopters, or participate on a unique and prestigious advisory council. Pratik reiterated that we're not here to make money; our goal is impact rather than profit.

 

Health tech innovations in process

Anshuman Das, a scientist in the MIT Media Lab explained the challenge of antibiotic misuse. There’s an issue around physician education and patient awareness. The team still needs to determine if there's economic benefit. He appealed for help with a five-minute survey, clinical studies and patient education.

 

Achuta Kadambi introduced Mrinal Mohit and Otkrist Gupta, all scientists at the MIT Media Lab. Mrinal shared information about a challenge to deal with overworked doctors that don’t have enough time to take care of all patients. The proposed solution is a way to conduct a preliminary screening. It requires starting with lots of data, determining what “healthy” looks like, and creating a machine learning model. Ultimately, more people will be able to receive treatment.

 

Tristan Swedish and Shantanu Sinha, scientists at the MIT Media Lab provided an overview of the challenge to reduce preventable blindness. We know that many cases are cataracts that can be corrected. They are using screening devices with algorithms. They need access to mass screening camps, a UI/UX mock up, and a deployment strategy for the Nashik ecosystem.

 

Rohan Puri introduced Alicia Chong, both scientists at the MIT Media Lab. Alicia provided an overview of a system called Heart-Fi, which is meant to increase awareness of people’s heart health. The team is designing a low-cost medical device for cardiac monitoring. This will enable people to use get heart diagnostic tests in public spaces. The diagnostics will provide information on risk factors.

 

“Everything we do in the new innovation center will be important to the City of Nashik. We want to create a showcase across India and perhaps overseas as well.”

– Hasit Kaji, TCS

 

Questions from the physicians

Hasit Kaji and Pratik Shah took questions from the physicians. Dr. Shinde asked about the scope and direction and timing. Hasit said that the goal is to focus on projects that will see light of day within a year's time. Pratik asked the physicians to connect with their colleagues, and to post information about the Innovating for Billions work that we’re doing. Hasit reiterated that the formula is to apply MIT technology and expertise to specific challenges, and to articulate bottom-up challenges. He said, “We'll do things that are futuristic, and other things that we see as more immediate. It’s important for us to collectively prioritize, and to make a difference.”

Nashik ophthalmologist with innovators

 

Pratik and Hasit invited the physicians to contribute challenges and ideas to the innovation portal. A radiologist offered to share contact information. Dr. Shinde said, “I'm excited about the antibiotic project; I met the team today.” When Dr. Shinde went on to inquire about 3D x-rays that various health care providers could read, Pratik commented that we want to augment the physicians’ experience, not replace physicians.

 

MIT President Rafael Reif in India

While we were at Winjit, Professor Ramesh Raskar and Maggie Church were in Mumbai at a dinner with MIT President Rafael Reif and MIT alumni. They got a chance to share information about the Emerging Worlds effort and the Innovating for Billions workshop. Several of the MIT alumni present are friends of our initiative and have participated in prior Kumbhathons, including the leadership of Anand. President Reif is supportive of the work that we are doing, and he will help us get increased visibility on campus and with other leaders whom he knows both locally and globally. We hope that he will be able to attend one of our upcoming events and witness the effort and energy and accomplishments first-hand.

 

Innovation Center coming to Nashik

The new innovation center in Nashik is scheduled to open in March 2016. It will have maker spaces and other designated areas, and a work-in-process area. The objective is to have 100 innovators plus 25 mentors, and to manage up to five health challenges. We will keep looking at issues, and keep solving them. The important thing is to deliver and deploy.

 

In closing, Pratik appealed again to the physicians to get involved. Since the program depends on a pipeline of college, he asked them to educate their students and share this opportunity with them. The team wants engineering, medical and pharmaceutical students. Pratik also asked them to share information about the initiative through their social media channels. The physicians were very enthusiastic, and they all pledged to do what they could.

Comment

Comment

Understanding challenges in context

Innovating for Billions workshop - Day 2 - January 24, 2016

 

Effective bottom-up innovation is about innovating in context. This calls for spending time to frame the problem that you are solving, to map out the various stakeholders, their concerns and what they serve to gain or lose.

 

Teams that formed yesterday were now charged with really understanding the problems assigned to them. They started by doing some research both online and with mentors who have subject matter expertise. They made wish lists of people and places to visit and data to collect. The goal was to get a holistic perspective of their assigned challenge, and then to begin to narrow it down to something that they could work on as a pilot project.

 

Field trips made the problems real

Innovators fanned out across the City of Nashik. Groups of students made field trips to a dairy farm, a slum, a hospital, a blood bank, an agricultural university, an ophthalmologist, a pharmacy, an industrial area, a composting site, an upper class neighborhood, and several schools. They interviewed people, went on tours, drank water, tested their assumptions and hypotheses, requested data, and suggested ideas of solutions to create.

 

Citizen award and address to thousands of youth

Today Professor Ramesh Raskar received a Citizen Award for his work in Nashik. Ramesh gave a keynote at the awards ceremony. At the same time, John Werner presented to 11,000 primary school students who were assembled in colorful formation, with the students wearing the unique colors of their school. In both settings, MIT was recognized as a game changer. Across sectors and age groups, the citizens of Nashik are growing to appreciate our work. They realize that we are here to make a positive difference in their lives.

 

Challenge and innovator takeaways

When the innovators returned to the Nashik Engineering Cluster, they spent some time with their teams to absorb what they seen and heard. They then corrected some of their assumptions, and mapped out the stakeholders, processes and issues as they understood them. At the end of the day several of them had a chance to spend three minutes each answering questions about where they had gone, how they define the challenge, and what they had learned. Following are some examples.

 

A team working on an agriculture challenge commented that eggs are wasted, and that packaging and transportation are problems. The team working on a challenge about new street addresses for homes and business had the opportunity to speak with the CTO of Flipkart. They noted that there are multiple streets with the same name. And there are many homes and businesses that don’t have unique addresses. This is a challenge for drivers making deliveries, for example.

 

The team working on personal security for self help groups (SHGs) noted that there’s no common platform for all SHGs. The administration would like them to be registered and licensed. Although this would require some time and money, there should be a payback for the groups. The team working on crime pointed out that they need to define different types of crime. One of the issues is that because of the stigma, people hesitate to go to the police to report crimes. The team learned that the Nashik police has an online system for filing complaints in multiple languages. The cities of Mumbai and Pune have online databases with fingerprints and photos, but a system like this does not yet exist in Nashik.

 

A team working on cardiovascular diseases found that there are several causes of cardiovascular disease, including changing lifestyle, environment, and diagnostics. They also learned that patient ages are coming down as low as the 20s. People get health checks only once every two years.

 

A team working on reducing unnecessary loss of life due to lack of blood visited a blood bank. They learned that there’s a disparity between supply and demand, there’s a shortage during certain periods, people give blood during holidays, and blood has a shelf life. They appealed to everyone in the room to give blood if they can. It could save someone’s life.

 

The teams assigned to address water issues scheduled visits to a slum, an expensive residential area, and an industrial area. They made some initial observations that would have to be refined. Specifically, they noted that people don’t know how much water they use, and that timing, quantity and availability of water are inconsistent. People are not concerned about water quality.

 

At the end of the day everyone gathered in the auditorium to regroup with the larger group, share observations and to hear plans for the rest of the week.

 

Nashik administration committed to innovation success

The leadership of the event – including organizers, Kumbhathon leaders, corporate members, the MIT team, Nashik physicians, and distinguished members of the Nashik administration – were hosted by some local businessmen by the side of the pool at a local country club. Besides the lovely surroundings, good food and drink, and congenial company, the highlights of the evening were the stated commitments of government bureaucrats to collaborate closely with MIT, corporate members and the innovators. Specifically, they offered to do whatever they could to facilitate data collection for teams that needed specialized data for their projects, and also to make themselves available to advise innovators.

 

It was heartening for all to recognize that the administration fully appreciates the value of the innovation platform that is now entering a new phase in Nashik. This represents an opportunity for Nashik to be a testbed for new technology and to set an example for all of India.

Comment

1 Comment

Opening day of innovating for billions workshop in Nashik

Innovating for Billions workshop - Day 1 - January 23, 2016

 

On Saturday, January 23, 2016 the week-long Innovating for Billions bottom-up innovation workshop kicked off with lots of excitement at the Nashik Engineering Cluster (NEC) in Nashik, India. The event is hosted by the MIT Media Lab and corporate members, in collaboration with the Nashik District Innovation Council, Nashik Municipal Corporation, and the Kumbh Foundation. This day also marks the launch of the Nashik District Innovation Council.

 

“Using computation as the core, this really creative community can bring in some surprising results as we work on billion dollar ideas that could impact a billion lives.”

– Professor Ramesh Raskar, MIT

 

There was a rigorous process to select the best from over 60 innovators who applied from across India. They are undergraduates, graduate students and recent graduates, mostly with majors in engineering, business and design.

 

Challenges presented to innovators

Challenges in seven themes – health and hygiene; housing and transportation; food and agriculture; energy, water and environment; education and skills; financial and personal security; and citizen empowerment and transparency – were cultivated through extensive research that included conversations with various stakeholders, such as citizens and the local government administration. The objective was to identify problem statements that are important to the citizens and the City of Nashik. Innovators will form teams to refine the challenges and propose and develop solutions for them, using digital technologies.

 

Some of the challenges that will be refined and pursued this week include:

·       Health

o   Reducing antibiotic misuse/overuse

o   Reducing preventable blindness

o   Ensuring healthier lifestyles by focusing on heart health

o   Making health care more accessible

·       Agriculture

o   Increasing revenue for farmers

o   Improving crop cutting for better crop yield

o   Improving soil quality and testing for agriculture

·       Water

o   Reducing water waste

o   Improving water distribution

·       Transportation

o   Real-time tracking of buses to improve reliability

·       Citizen empowerment

o   Creating street addresses for all

o   Improving crime detection

o   Preventing and reducing crime

·       Education

o   Improving attendance in schools

 

Welcome from John Werner of MIT

John Werner of the MIT Media Lab kicked off the morning with a welcome to the teams from MIT and corporate members, the Nashik administration, academic leaders from Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research (WeSchool) in Mumbai and Symbiosis in Nashik, executives from corporate members, mentors from the US and India, and enthusiastic innovators. John introduced the audience to the MIT Media Lab and the world of innovation, and he shared some history about this innovation effort. While India is the world’s second largest country by population, in the next 15 to 30 years India is poised to rise from seventh to the third largest economy.

 

MIT’s motto mens et manus means “mind and hand” or leaning by doing. John called attention to the fact that India does not have a strong system for apprenticeships: there are 10 million apprentices in Japan, four million in Germany, and only 400 thousand in India. A shift needs to take place. Innovation could stimulate the country’s economy in significant ways.

 

Welcome from Professor Ramesh Raskar of MIT

Professor Ramesh Raskar, the head of the Camera Culture Group and the Emerging Worlds effort at the MIT Media Lab, introduced the “innovating for billions” effort.  He spoke about impact innovation and about using today’s digital technology to leapfrog.

 

Ramesh urged everyone to think beyond what they have seen. For example, consider healthcare without hospitals, education without schools, and the ability to see clearly while driving on a cloudy or rainy day. From an innovator’s perspective, the keys are: (1) keeping an eye on the outcome, (2) having a holistic view (considering global uses for solutions), (3) using DOPS (digital opportunities for physical systems), DAPS (digital applications for physical systems), and CAPS (connected applications for physical systems).

 

This is not a contest, a hackathon, a degree program, an incubator, an accelerator or a corporate innovation center. This week is a buildathon to collaborate and learn and create. The ongoing work over the next months and years will build on what begins here.

 

The key members of the innovation ecosystem in Nashik – government, business and academia, as well as citizens and international players – are all supportive of the work that we’re doing. Let’s take advantage of the goodwill and access to smart and motivated people willing to share information and create mutually beneficial solutions.

 

Welcome from Hasit Kaji of TCS

Hasit Kaji of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) introduced the event. The company is excited to work with MIT on the new innovation center in Nashik, because it is a vibrant city which in many ways it is typical of tier 2 cities in India. But it has an added advantage. Through the MIT Media Lab team’s involvement here over the past few years, the city has become a “kumbh” or a vessel for innovation. The entire city is encouraged to participate – to contribute to enhancing lives in this city and beyond. This workshop and the center that will operate year-round are a perfect launching point for ideators to transform themselves into innovators and entrepreneurs.

 

Teams will work on challenges that reflect the voice of citizens and the administration that captured what is important for Nashik. They will work with mentors who have subject matter, technical and business expertise. Some will be selected to work in the new innovation center in Nashik for 6-month internships to progress their solutions. The journey begins here.

 

“This is an opportunity to work on real, challenging problems that are relevant for the common person.”

– Hasit Kaji, TCS

 

Welcome from Nashik government officials

Eknath Dawale, Nashik District Commissioner, Dr. Pravin Gedam, Commissioner of Nashik Municipal Corporation, and Deependra Singh Kushwah, District Magistrate & Collector, all spoke. They are pleased that the workshop participants are addressing challenges that are critical to their city. They are confident that Nashik is a place where things will happen. As one example, wouldn’t it be great to have an “Uber” for garbage? Kushwah said, “We want a system where the government can have a relationship with innovators.”

 

A representative from NDIC took the stage to endorse the event and the new center and to inaugurate the Nashik District Innovation Council which is to promote innovations from the district level. He quoted A.P. J. Abdul Kalam: “You have to dream before your dreams can come true.”

 

Welcome from Anand Krishnan, TCS

Anand Krishnan, CTO of TCS talked about how transformative social innovation can be. He said that TCS is excited about connecting problems to an execution mechanism. The digital wave that we’re living in can solve a lot of problems. At the end he asked, “How is the solution going to help each of us to live our lives better?”

 

Welcome from Sunil, Sandip and Pashon

Other speakers included Sunil Khandbahale, MIT Fellow, and Sandip Shinde, the Program Manager for the innovation center spoke excitedly about the event and the new innovation center. Other corporate executives spoke about trying to leapfrog with low cost and high impact solutions. Pashon Murray, an MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow and the CEO of Detroit Dirt, spoke about a closed loop system for waste management that integrates technology while serving as a social, economic and environmental model.

 

Evening celebration

The evening concluded with dinner at a private orchard that was tastefully decorated with lights between the trees and groups of tables set around hot coals to encourage group conversation. Sandip Shinde led a social game to encourage people to get to know each other. It began to feel like we’re all on this spaceship together. Let’s shoot for the moon!

 

1 Comment