INDIA, February 12, 2013 (New York Times. by Thomas L. Friedman): Every time I visit India, I visit Nasscom, the high-tech association, to meet with the newest crop of Indian innovators. They account for only a tiny fraction of India's 1.2 billion people, most of whom remain painfully poor, but I focus on these Indian innovators because so many of them today are focused on making India unpoor. India is now spawning large numbers of innovators concentrating on solving poor-world problems, and cloud-based technology tools and open-source platforms are enabling Indian innovators to do this with little capital. As a result, they are much more willing to try, fail and try again. And, as a result, we're starting to see a merger here between E.T., I.T. and ID. It doesn't get any better than that.
There is nothing that India needs more than an energy technology (E.T.) revolution that would deliver cheap, reliable power to millions suffering from energy poverty. If every village had some reliable power, plus access to high-speed Internet (I.T.), hundreds of millions of Indians would be able to live locally but act globally -- that is, they would be able to remain in their villages, yet have access to the education and markets that could enable them to escape poverty and not have to join the hordes in the megaslums of the megacities like Mumbai or Kolkata.
Now marry breakthroughs in E.T. and I.T. with one in ID. Nandan Nilekani, a co-founder of Infosys, has been leading India's Unique Identification project, which aims to give every Indian who wants one a unique 12-digit ID number, backed by photographs, fingerprints and iris scans that can be easily verified online. The system is creating a platform that enables the government to give aid, salaries, health care and pensions much more directly to citizens without worrying it will be siphoned off by corrupt officials or fake IDs. Some 270 million Indians have acquired an ID, with about one million signing up per day. Once every Indian has a "robust real identity" based in the cloud, Nilekani told me, you have "a platform" upon which you can build all kinds of services -- from cash transfers to health records to open online courses.
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