The agenda of Mark Zuckerberg’s recent visit to India was made explicit in his speech at the Internet.org summit and the question-and-answer session that followed. The Facebook founder emphasised that there was a divide between internet haves and have-nots, and in an attempt to bridge the gap, he announced a worldwide social innovation contest to fund socially relevant websites, apps and services.
Developers will compete for four $250,000 Innovation Challenge Award prizes and two $25,000 Impact Award prizes.
Though India is often seen as a laggard in technology innovation, some online initiatives already are making an impact on society. Here are four.
1) NextDrop by Anu Sridharan
Taps in poorer localities regularly run dry on busy mornings, a problem that even middle-class people are not immune to. In India, the shortage of water is exacerbated by abysmal delivery systems. NextDrop attempts to solve that. The service, currently operational in Karnataka, asks users to input their name, address and locality into a valve database. Users then receive SMS updates 60 minutes in advance of the water reaching their taps. The app also provides information about delays in water supply, pipeline probles and other updates from community members. Users can look at a city’s overall supply situation and manage their workdays around it. Sridharan, the founder, is considering plans to scale up the service to reach other parts of the country. Read more about the service further here.
2) Helping Faceless by Shashank Singh and Amol Gupta
When people see child beggars in the streets, emaciated and crying, many wonder extend help without inadvertently dooming the kid to a lifetime of dependency. There’s an app to help solve the problem: it’s called Helping Faceless.
It's simple. When they spot child beggars, users click a picture and upload it to the app. Non-governmental organisations working in the child rescue sphere are intimated to help. Download the app here.
3) Meri Awaaz App by Aditya Naik
Developed by 22-year-old Aditya Naik, Meri Awaaz aims to revolutionise expectations of government accountability. The app makes it easy to file civic complaints right from smartphones.
It lets users report local issues around sanitation, transportation, law and order, and so on, just by clicking a picture and submitting the details. This information is then transferred to the relevant department and a dashboard tracks action on the complaint.
4) RUDI Sandesha Vyavhar by Vodafone Foundation in India and SEWA
One of the persistent problems for Indian farmers is finding the right price for their produce. This app, developed by a joint effort of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Vodafone Foundation and Self Employed Women's Association, helps women track and report sales as well as produce real time information.
They can use feature phones to order goods, receive funds and manage supplies through the app. In some cases, the app has raised their monthly earnings by over 50%. Learn more about it here.
Harvard Business School’s HBX brings the future of business education to India with online programs
HBX is not only offering courses online, but also connecting students to the power of its network.
The classic design of the physical Harvard Business School (HBS) classroom was once a big innovation – precisely designed teaching amphitheaters laid out for every student to participate from his or her seat with a “pit” in the center of the room from which professors orchestrate discussions analyzing business cases like a symphony lead. When it came to designing the online experience of HBX—the school’s digital learning initiative—HBS faculty worked tirelessly to blend these tenets of the HBS classroom pedagogy with the power of new technology. With real-world problem solving, active learning, and social learning as its foundation, HBX offers immersive and challenging self-paced learning experiences through its interactive online learning platform.
Reimagining digital education, breaking the virtual learning mold
Typically, online courses follow a one-way broadcast mode – lectures are video recorded and reading material is shared – and students learn alone and are individually tested. Moving away from the passive learning model, HBX has developed an online platform that leverages the HBS ‘case-based pedagogy’ and audio-visual and interaction tools to make learning engaging.
HBX courses are rarely taught through theory. Instead, students learn through real-world problem-solving. Students start by grappling with a business problem – with real world data and the complexity in which a business leader would have to make a decision – and learn the theory inductively. Thus even as mathematical theories are applied to business situations, students come away with a greater sense of clarity and perspective, whether it is reading a financial report, understanding why a brand’s approach to a random sample population study may or may not work, or how pricing works.
“Learning about concepts through real-life cases was my favorite part of the program. The cases really helped transform abstract concepts into observable situations one could learn from. Furthermore, it really helped me understand how to identify situations in which I could use the tools that HBX equipped me with,” says Anindita Ravikumar, a past HBX participant. India’s premier B-school IIM-Ahmedabad has borrowed the very same pedagogy from Harvard. Learning in this manner is far more engaging, relatable, and memorable.
Most lessons start with a short 2-3 minute video of a manager talking about the business problem at hand. Students are then asked to respond on how they would handle the issue. Questions can be in the form of either a poll or reflections. Everyone’s answers are then visible to the ‘classroom’. In the words of Professor Bharat Anand, Faculty Chair, HBX, “This turns out to be a really important distinction. The answers are being updated in real-time. You can see the distribution of answers, but you can also see what any other individual has answered, which means that you’re not anonymous.” Students have real profiles and get to know their ‘classmates’ and learn from each other.
Professor Anand also says, “We have what we call the three-minute rule. Roughly every three minutes, you are doing something different on the platform. Everyone is on the edge of their seats. Anyone could be called on to participate at any time. It’s a very lean forward mode of learning”. Students get ‘cold-called’ – a concept borrowed from the classroom – where every now and then individuals will be unexpectedly prompted to answer a question on the platform and their response will be shared with other members of the cohort. It keeps students engaged and encourages preparedness. While HBX courses are self-paced, participants are encouraged to get through a certain amount of content each week, which helps keep the cohort together and enables the social elements of the learning experience.
More than digital learning
The HBS campus experience is valued by alumni not just for the academic experience but also for the diverse network of peers they meet. HBX programs similarly encourage student interactions and opportunities for in-person networking. All HBXers who successfully complete their programs and are awarded a credential or certificate from HBX and Harvard Business School are invited to the annual on-campus HBX ConneXt event to meet peers from around the world, hear from faculty and business executives, and also experience the HBS campus near Cambridge.
Programs offered today
HBX offers a range of programs that appeal to different audiences.
To help college students and recent graduates prepare for the business world, HBX CORe (Credential of Readiness) integrates business essentials such as analytics, economics, and financial accounting. HBX CORe is also great for those interested in an MBA looking to strengthen their application and brush up their skills to be prepared for day one. For working professionals, HBX CORe and additional courses like Disruptive Strategy, Leading with Finance, and Negotiation Mastery, can help deepen understanding of essential business concepts in order to add value to their organizations and advance their careers.
Course durations range from 6 to 17 weeks depending on the program. All interested candidates must submit a free, 10-15 minute application that is reviewed by the HBX admissions team by the deadlines noted on the HBX website.