This week's pick talks of initiatives in the developing world, with references to India too.

D. Murali

A big hurdle that Thailand faces in making headway in IT (information technology) is the scarcity of human capital, writes K.J. Joseph in

Information Technology, Innovation System and Trade Regime in Developing Countries

, from Palgrave Macmillan (www.palgrave.com) .

Alas, human capital can't be built overnight; so, the author's suggestion is `a two-pronged action towards increasing the quantity and quality of IT manpower'. One, `more targeted policies for attracting investment into IT manpower training'; and two, `relaxing the restriction on the mobility of IT manpower.'

The book focuses on how, in the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), innovation systems and trade regime have helped in the progress of ICT (information and communication technology).

"Though most of the developing countries have adopted policy measures and initiated institutional interventions to harness ICT as a shortcut to prosperity, the outcome has not been identical," writes Joseph in the preface.

Perhaps India has some lessons to offer to the rest of the developing world. Which explains why the book opens with a chapter on India, `an IT powerhouse of the South'.

Exports from India's IT software and service sector have grown `more than 18 times, from less than $0.83 billion in 1994-95 to $15.5 billion in 2003-04,' writes Joseph. According to recent numbers, India's software and services exports crossed $17 billion in fiscal 2006.

The credibility that India has established in the international software and service market has led more than 300 Fortune 500 companies to outsource software services from India, writes Joseph. "There is hardly any IT firm in India that does not hold necessary quality certification."

That India has `82 SEI CMM Level 5 certified and more than 400 quality certified IT-ITES companies higher than any other country in the world,' is a snatch from an August 29 story on www.moneycontrol.com about Nasscom's quality summit.

Despite the many achievements, India's ICT performance has room for improvement, says the author. For instance, IT firms have to give greater attention to the domestic market.

"India's IT success is a typical case of proactive state intervention wherein the Government laid a strong foundation and created the facilitative environment, and the industry took off with greater participation by the private sector and increased world demand in the 1990s," notes Joseph.

He devotes a chapter to Cambodia, `one of the latest entrants to the club of developing countries that shifted from the import-substituting growth strategy and embraced the outward-oriented growth path.'

The country offers incentives, and has launched procedural reforms, to create an environment conducive for growth in private investment.

Yet, what the author finds lacking are `conscious efforts towards skill empowerment and learning process'. On-the-job training has not received the attention it deserves, bemoans Joseph.

For Lao PDR (People's Democratic Republic), the poorest and least developed country in East Asia, the author's prescription is the setting up of technology parks, so that resources aren't spread too thin. Such parks should have constant interaction with the centres of learning, insists Joseph.

The chapter on Myanmar comes as a question: `Sowing but not harvesting?' Limited returns in ICT sector are due to `absence of complimentary innovations', rues the author.

"Income levels, coupled with restrictions in the use of TV and radio in the form of licensing, seem to have an adverse effect," he postulates. What about Vietnam? `Another tiger in the making?' asks Joseph.

A work of value.

Are school principals IT savvy?

Laxman Mohanty, Director of Silicon Institute of Technology, Bhubaneswar, and Neharika Vohra, Associate Professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, take us to school, to study how ICT is used there.

"The aim of the book is not to make a principal an ICT specialist, but to make him/her aware of the information available and issues involved and to aid in his/her role as an ICT strategist and implementer at school," write the authors in their preface to

ICT Strategies for Schools

, from Sage (www.indiasage.com) .

"The aim of ICT should be to engage students at three levels, viz. technical, practical and critical," says the book. The first is about technology; the second relates to research. And the last, that is, the critical level, teaches students `to evaluate the appropriateness of the message, audience, and method used.'

The authors see at least three shifts in education goals, as a result of widespread use of technology: "Exploration and problem solving rather than memorising and learning the status quo; processing of information rather than mere collection of information; and search for patterns and connections rather than linear sequential reasoning."

To achieve these, what is needed in schools is `seamless integration of all three elements, viz. IT education, ICT in education, and ICT in administration'.

But are school principals IT savvy? A disappointing finding of the authors is that most principals have skirted learning about IT and have not taken an active role in ICT implementation in schools. "They have assumed that IT is not their cup of tea and thus it is best to leave it to professionals." Essential concepts that principals must know include free e-mail, online newspapers, search engines, desktop search, spyware, use of credit card on the Net, spams, hoaxes, and chain mails.

A frequent question is whether laptops/notebooks should be given to students. In answer, Mohanty and Vohra cite `a longitudinal study by Newhouse and Rennie (2001)' which found that `the use of portable computers in a school in western Australia did not bring in the expected increase in engagement and performance'.

One of the case studies in the book is about virtual school facilities in Delhi Public School, East of Kailash. "Under `Digital Library' Classteacher.com had provided links to several useful Web sites that students could use and get relevant material/information for their project work.

The links were appropriate to the age group of the student concerned," reads a snatch. Online testing is next on the school's agenda, one learns.

"Objective type of questions can be handled by the computer and this can reduce the workload of teachers who can now concentrate on subjective type of answers."

Educative for educators.

Tailpiece

"At the end of a page of jokes, there was a button that read... "

"Next page?"

"No, `Laugh'!"

http://BookPeek.blogspot.com

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 11, 2006)
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