Wisdom from India (and from children in Ethiopia)

The traffic figures for this blog make clear that what people like is strong opinions from the author. But occasionally this author grows tired of the sound his own thinking and just wants to pass on wisdom from others. I have two items to offer.

Last week’s James Cameron Memorial lecture at City University London was by N Ram, until recently editor of The Hindu, which has a claim to be India’s best daily paper. Ram delivered a magisterial overview of the Indian media which I can recommend as one of the best analysies of the subject you can find (video/audio, text).

My personal selection of edited highlights (page numbers for text in full):

  • Ram, who knew James Cameron, observed that the great foreign correspondent would not have had much truck with the idea, floated occasionally at the Leveson Inquiry and elsewhere, that journalism should be regulated as profession in the manner of doctors or lawyers. Cameron, writing in 1967, was clear that journalism was “not and never has been a profession…since its practice has neither standards nor sanctions” for the reason that “it can be practised in many ways.” (p2)
  • Ram stressed a discussion that far too many journalists complaining about failing business models forget: the fortunes of the news media are not the same as the state of the news media (p7).
  • Ram gives an up-to-date list of India’s juiciest corruption scandals (p11), remarking that the Indian media has been much better at reporting scandals in government and politics and much less good at chasing corporate corruption.
  • Reminding us that India was the first country in the world to ban Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses”, he lists the recent threats to free speech (p17).
  • He quotes often from a long piece on Indian media in the New Yorker by Ken Auletta: “Citizens Jain” (£).
  • If you want to see one o the most important differences between India and China, look at internet penetration rates: China: 40%, India 10%.

Second item, the most interesting piece I read last weekend: “When tablet turns teacher” by Gillian Tett in the Financial Times magazine. She describes an extraordinary experiment by MIT researchers who dropped IPads loaded with games and basic learning software into poor Ethiopian villages in which neither adults nor children could read or write. The help given in advance was on how to charge the iPads via solar power and a hint that they were suitable for children.

The results were astonishing for the speed with which the kids learned, shared and explored the capacities of the tablets. If this research result doesn’t turn out to be a freak finding, the implications for aid and development are huge. As one researcher said: “getting kids access to technology may be much more important than giving them schools.”

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1 comment

  1. mmm. I think you have to remember that Ipads are still a tool developed by a corporation over which any government has little control, so the idea that Apple should somehow be given licence to “educate” poor Ethiopian children is wrong. Remember that these are grown up devices, and when Ipod Touches were introduced into my child’s state school in Year 6 as part of a Technofying movement, the children soon learned how to get round the restrictions by hacking passwords, and were recording rude things about each other and playing them back.

    With technology must go responsibility on how to use it, and I don’t trust big corporations such as Apple driven by profit to have access to any brand-new consumers (children) without the responsibility that goes with it.