Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Commentary: How the cult of technology hampers development!

The development rhetoric in today’s India and indeed in many developing countries is dominated by techno-talk to the point of deification of technology. The techno-mania is shared across ideologies - be it Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar, or Chandrababu Naidu! By now, India has seen enough failures and disasters led by purely technology-oriented solutions and yet we do not seem to be drawing any lessons from it. What indeed seem quick fixes at first glance are actually evidences of lazy thinking and knee-jerk action. To illustrate the point in Toyama’s own words ‘In education, machines amplify pedagogical capacity. In other words, any positive impact of that technology requires good teaching first. The ironic consequence is that it's exactly the schools that most need help - the ones with under trained teachers or indifferent administrators - that technology has nothing to amplify'. 

This interview with Kentaro Toyama, a former technology researcher and ‘believer’ who spent several years in India and started Microsoft Research India in 2004 is likely not to get any immediate attention in the development din of today’s India. But now as a professor at the University Of Michigan and recently as the author of a strongly titled book Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology, we are likely to hear of him soon and repeatedly so. 

Lastly, this is an interview with an insider, not an armchair critic but someone who gave technology its chance for several years, and a disillusioned convert after his god failed him.

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