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Iqbal Quadir: How Technology Is Empowering the Poor

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Good evening, I am Alexander Rose, the Director of the Long Now Foundation. I am going to give you just a quick overview of an event that’s coming up – I think you all got little flyers in your hands but we have some new additions to it, it’s called the Mechanicrawl and this – the idea for this event came to me as started taking the ferry into San Francisco and riding my bike this way and I realized that San Francisco has some of the most amazing mechanical treasures that nobody ever gets to see and put together a little walk here. We are partnering up with the Exploratorium as well as the Maritime Parks Association, the Jeremiah O’Brien and the USS Pampanito and the Musée Mécanique. It’s all walkable, bikable – we are going to have secure bike parking as well as car parking. And the Musée Mécanique if you haven’t been there it’s down at Fisherman’s Wharf. It has – among other things Dan Zelinsky who is the second generation owner and proprietor there. He has been collecting mechanicals pretty much of the turn of the century on forward including all the way up into the 80s video games and that steam powered motor cycle which is one of the most amazing examples. I am going to see if I can convince him to start it up for the event. The Pampanito which is actually the thing that started this up is – it has on board the most complex mechanical computer ever built. And it’s the targeting control computer for the torpedo system and they have renovated it to full working order – and nobody knows about it, it’s up in the conning tower, nobody ever gets to see it and these wonderful World War II geeks have made it completely work and nobody ever gets to appreciate it. So they are going to be giving demos of that all day. The – up on the Hyde Street Pier they are going to have a Hick’s Diesel Engine as well as the Old Lighthouse, Fresnel Lens assembly running. And the Jeremiah O’Brien if you haven’t seen it has a three storey tall steam engine that runs. And this is kind of the penultimate steam punk item that very few San Franciscans ever get to see. They are going to have it running all day. And the Exploratorium is going to have special exhibits and docents including explanations – I am hoping of The Wave Organ, if you haven’t been out there its way out on the point. And that’s about it. If you are a Long Now member you get free – you get in free. Actually if you are a member of any of these organizations you get in free, plus one. And we are looking for more partners. I am trying to get a contact with the San Francisco Fire Department which has this amazing pump station over here as well as their fire boats. If anybody knows any fireman let me know. And you can pick up your tickets or order them through our website at mechanicrawl.org or mechanicrwal.com. We also have tickets out front and we also have fliers which you can give out to your friends. I am Kevin Kelly of the Long Now Foundation. Welcome to the latest monthly installment of the seminar on long term thinking. Just to note that the next one will be happening in June, Paul Ehrlich talking about long term human evolution. Normally Stewart is up here but he is nursing kidney stones, so we are going to swap positions and I will be asking Iqbal the questions and everyone can send their questions down to Stewart. So today’s guest is Iqbal Quadir who is coming from the East Coast and one of the things that we can look at in the Long Now is long term trajectories. And one of those long term one’s is the arc of development – economic development. And Quadir and – Iqbal has a very interesting perspective on this in part because he has gone through the same arc. He grew up in Bangladesh, still one of the poorest, undeveloped countries in the world and now today he works in – he began in Bangladesh actually having to walk five or 10 miles to get medicines for his family. Now he walks in the corridors of Harvard and he’s currently the head of a new center called the Legatum Centre for Development at MIT. And he is here to talk about something that he discovered – I would say almost 15 years ago now, which is that the cell phone was a weapon against poverty. And at that time of course no body was paying attention to cell phones because they were just cell phones. But now it’s very clear that cell phones are probably more than cell phones. They are probably the – they are going to be the first ubiquitous technology of communication on the planet. They are kind of the Esperanto of technology. And so we have this convergence of something that will probably be the center of our digital lives and – and an anti weapon for poverty and this of course is all just the beginning, because of other technologies. So I would like you to welcome Iqbal who can explain the details and the further aspects of his vision of how you can use technology to empower the poorest, Iqbal -. Thank you everyone, thanks a lot. Good evening. It’s great to be here, beautiful day, beautiful weather. Thanks to the Long Now Foundation, Stewart Brand to invite me here. And I am delighted to be here and thanks Kevin for the kind introduction. I – I think before I – but let me also mention that it’s really a special privilege to be at the Long Now Foundation because I base my thinking on not necessarily – I don’t know how good I would be at long term thinking but I base my solutions on long term observations, backward in the past. And so they are reflections on history and how – what that means for our problems today. So let me first take you for a minute to Bangladesh where – where I am from and where one of my projects really has taken hold. With scenes like this it’s hard to believe there is an economic revolution taking place in Bangladesh. But if you look closely enough it’s happening. With loans for people to buy cell phones the entire villagers are being brought into the information age. I want people throughout the world to know this story. Well to start the story I came to America 32 years ago to go to college from Bangladesh – and one of the first thing I learned, I mean while I was doing research about what colleges to go to, and when I got here – that not all important colleges are in Washington DC. And – and similarly – because I came from Bangladesh, which had all the important schools were in Dhaka, its capital. And similarly all important other kinds of modern infrastructure like telephones or electricity, most things were in one capital city and others just had little sprinkles of things like in the small towns. But by and large the concentration or centralization of the country’s economic activities was very palpable in – in a poor country and big contrast with that to the United States when I got here. And of course that has led me to think about – is there a connection between centralization and stagnation and dispersion or decentralization and progress? And the more I think about it I find more and more connections and so that’s the underlying theme of my work. And to give you – and of course you will see that in most countries – Bangladesh is not unique at all – in most poor countries, that is indeed the situation, that you have a one big mega city and large rural areas that are neglected from a modern infrastructure point of view. But one extreme example – just to make the point – you can see the two Korean – you know two Koreas. The North Korea, South Korea – South Korea you can – at least this is just a picture of electrical – you know electricity in the evening. And North Korea does have electricity – this one town, Pyongyang has electricity, but it’s just there. And South Korea, these – these kinds of activities are all over the country. So this is an extreme example. But in most poor countries you will see – again, just to illustrate that most “economic activities” are in the hands of few, in one central city and the rest of the country is quite neglected. Now the reason I think about it of course is because Bangladesh is a poor country and I came from one of the poorest countries to one of the richest countries. And – but at the same time Bangladesh frankly wasn’t always poor. Talking about long term thinking – observation, about 250 years ago this is a book written by an American writer and talking about how Bangladesh was actually quite well off 250 years ago. So – not just in agriculture, but also in manufacturing in terms of fabrics. Now – if that’s the case I like to think why countries go down and how they go up, and is there a connection between centralization and decentralization? And if there is we can think about how to decentralize them? And – but you know one – many people will tell you that – oh it depends on the culture, on their leadership etc. So one of the countries of course – you know like England, which was the crucible of – you know modern democracy and modern capitalism, it’s not true that they had great leadership over the last 1000 years. Let me just – give me a minute to read this. “Over the last 1000 years or so many kings and queens of England had played their part in betrayals, regicides, plots, treason, atrocities and revolts. There had been five pretenders to the crown, two of them imposters. Four kings have been forcibly deposed, all were subsequently murdered, one of them was publicly executed.” And actually it goes on and on. The third world countries of today we know have massive problems in their governance, but frankly I don’t think that they are much worse off than this. So the question is what is it that’s preventing them – what is it that lead despite this kind of leadership in England. Things changed. How did it become an exemplary country in terms of progress? And – but then let’s go back to the contemporary situation of the method we have for economic development in poor countries. The rich countries sent aid to poor countries, and by and large this hasn’t worked. And there are lots of evidences of that including the worldwide poverty in poor countries. The one evidence I brought here is a book called The Elusive Quest for Growth. This book is written by someone who worked in the World Bank for about 20 years. And he finds the economic growth – he finds that elusive, means it’s hard – I mean he is mystified, how come it’s not happening? And the question is why has it failed? And to me frankly it’s not that elusive, it’s quite clear. So I want to throw that perspective to you and see if it makes sense. One way to look at it is look at the countries that have developed from let’s say over the last 1000 years. I really feel good about bringing this up because this is the foundation of long term thinking. I mean at least we can base our observation on – on the long term observations. Now – so in medieval England for instance, or in Europe – people – the economy started to perk up because individuals were getting empowered through new innovations and technologies. This is just a picture of a wield plough; the new metals allowed that were able to plough better in more clay soil that Northern Europe had. Before that Southern Europe was better in agriculture than Northern Europe. So this – but there are many other things like eyeglasses, windmills, watermills, all sorts of things that empowered citizens. And what that did is – and this book will confirm that, the citizens got empowered from below and they were able to demand better checks and balances from the authorities. So there was a devolution of authority and there was an evolution of empowerment, through various technological innovations. And – so there was better bargaining and that’s how we increasingly developed a – you know better checks and balances, democracies and capitalism etc, you know emerge from below. And so if you look at that – and again we can go into the details through questions or other – on other occasions, but by and large this picture is true and you know, discussed in many books including this one by David Landis who taught at Harvard for 40 years. Now if you believe – if you see that, then you can see what has happened, to giving aid to poor countries’ governments. That has done just the opposite. It has empowered authorities and consequently marginalized citizens. So if citizens were ever to come to demands checks and balances from the authorities they were more and more ignores, because the authorities had other resources. So if you – but I can summarize this actually what – President Woodrow Wilson said, “The history of liberty is a history of limitation of government power, not the increase of it.” The American system is based on checks and balances and including limitations on the Federal Government. But yet the aid the rich country sent to poor countries actually empowers the authorities. And that’s why you see a major gap between citizens and authorities. On one way or another it centralizes power where decentralization is the key. Now let me show – give you one specific example. The English parliament started out in the 13th century as a tax legitimizing device. The king wanted to collect taxes. And by that time actually for another – you know weaknesses of the government, of the king, and empowerment of citizens, property rights have come to be established. And under those circumstances when the king started to collect, you know ask for taxes, people said – or nobles, or whoever – said, oh you cannot take taxes from us because we have property rights. That’s like seizing my property. So if you want to tax us you have to get our consent. Now if you want consent in a non-democratic country how do you do that? Well, one thing that the king devised, he called a workshop, called it the parliament, and said – you know we will consult you, we will consult with you. Some key people from the country came to these workshops and he said, ‘I am going to tax this way, what do you think?’ And they would say, ‘go ahead.’ And then it would become somewhat legitimate and the king was able to collect taxes. Now as the economy is – you know because of these empowerments I talked about, people became more productive, people’s wages went up, or they had other things to – you know, more activities to pursue. So then it was also more expensive for the king to hire bureaucrats or soldiers, whatever. So as a result the king needed more money. So when he needed more money he had to come to the parliament and ask for a consent. Slowly the consultation became a consent giving mechanism. And over time the parliament – and each time the king came to the parliament the parliament demanded a deal, now free that port, reduce that tariff, etc. And that’s what gave rise to new liberties the people of England did not have. And the king was constantly making compromises because he needed money. So the point is that democracy emerged through the economic clout of citizens, plain and simple. And actually many, many deals were blunt deals, economic money deals between the parliament and the king. So the question is what helped England was the king’s shortage of money, not its adequacy. What if there were foreign aid to the king? What would happen to England in terms of democracy and capitalism? The compromises that gave rise to those things would not have been made, or at least slowed down. So when you give – when we see aid to governments in poor countries, you can imagine what damages they can be doing. So governments become responsive to citizens when citizens make economic contributions to governments, as simple as that. And – but let me show you one more thing from this book. The subtitle of this book says “Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics”. Now misadventure is a little too much. We just think about adventures. Can you imagine writing a book that says elusive – let’s say a doctor writing a book saying Elusive Quest for Health. That – you know, he is having a quest for health and cannot find healthy – you know, solutions to his patients. How – would he able to sell that book? And imagine the doctor saying, ‘Doctor’s adventures in human health’. Forget about misadventures. Well how come we – the doctors cannot get away with such a book, but these economists do. There is an important reason I am bringing this up, not to make fun of economists. The reason is the nature of poverty is different from healthcare in this country. If the doctors are having adventures the patients can speak up. But in the case of poverty we can set – you know economies lose, but the patients cannot speak up. As a result their adventures go on. And this country is stagnant. And they are empowered by aid and then they come and give their – you know give their theories, and it doesn’t – they don’t work. And this is why it’s important to make long term observations in our past and see how we achieved progress and how we stagnated. So the story of progress is the story of dispersion of power. And that’s really my theme and how I will describe to you. So in the early 90s I started – you know I had a budding investment banking career. And that’s where I discovered a decentralizing force. And in the Moore’s law – Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel observed in mid 60s that every 18 months, microchips the brain of the computers go down in price by 50 percent, right here in the Bay Area. Now he – that means every three years, namely twice the time of 18 months, every three years prices fall to – by 75 percent, to one quarter, which means every six years it becomes one sixteenth. So every 12 years it becomes one over 256, and you add another three years, let’s say every 15 years it becomes 1000, little bit more than a 1000 to one dollars. So the microchips were actually marching to the poor people, and it’s also a potentially a decentralizing force, okay. But I – I didn’t know how to make use of computers in the countries where there is lot of illiteracy, and so therefore people couldn’t quite use computers even if they become – they are becoming cheaper and – you know, perhaps they could be utilized, but I didn’t know how to use it, because computers are mostly made for literate people. Now one day in 1993 I had – you know, I was working with three or four people and our computer network was connected and we were more productive, we didn’t have change floppy disk, may be many of you don’t know floppy disk, it used to exist, and we – and we could update each other more frequently. But one time it broke down – and this is not my picture, this is what we found in that computer, and – but one time when the computer – the network broke down, I was waiting for someone to come and fix it and – during that time I remembered another day in 1971, when Bangladesh was undergoing a war. This is the – Bangladesh used to be called East Pakistan before 1971. And – you know the countries – two wings of old Pakistan was separating and so there was a civil war, there were lot of violence in the urban areas. Well I lived in a city but I moved to a rural area with my parents and my family where – that was a quite place because there was really no modern infrastructure to even bring the – you know the skirmishes into this village and one time my mother asked me to get some medicine for a younger sibling some ten Kilometers away, so I walked all morning to get there and when I got there, the medicine man wasn’t there, so I walked all afternoon back and so I remembered this unproductive day while I was having another one in New York and I – suddenly I put these two unproductive days side by side and I realized the connectivity’s productivity and – so it’s true for a modern office and also for any place around the developed village. Because you know I could have gotten more done if I could tell – I mean I was just a kid of 13 years old, but perhaps if a productive person would have done something, if I was a fisherman, I could have fished that day than wasting the day in just connecting with somebody again. And of course you can think about how many – you know let’s say the country has – today the country has 150 million people. If you waste one day per month, you will see millions of man months wasted in not having some kind of connectivity. So I started looking where did Bangladesh lye in telecommunications, of course there was a centralization problem, there were one phone for every 500 and all – most of these phones, 70% of them were in one city, another city had 20% and the remaining 10% in just – in other smaller towns, so again it’s a concentration of the available facilities. So I started looking what can be done about this and indeed I felt connectivity’s productivity, but is it so, have other thinkers, doers felt that way. So I couldn’t quiet find anything, but I did find this graph which is produced by International Telecommunications Union which is the United Nations of telecommunication and in the vertical axis it says contribution to one new phone to the country, to the GDP of the country and on the horizontal axis you place your country , so the highest GDP country that can be accommodated to this chart is $20,000 per capita, but the united states will be a way out of outside that. But if you have a poor country, let’s say $300 per capita GDP. GDP is the Gross Domestic Production for annualized visits. Now if you have a $300 GDP country, then you can see the impact is $5000 to $6000. So it’s a tremendous impact, the poor the country, you have bigger the impact which I was quiet interested and I didn’t know exactly how, but perhaps because there is a greater amount of inefficiencies a telephone can be moved, but also I – and of course this does not capture the morsel I was talking about because it doesn’t talk about the cost of bringing a telephone. So I asked how much does it cost to bringing in a telephone let’s say in Bangladesh and despite all our inefficiencies because if we had a state lead, state owned company providing telephones, it cost $2000 per phone. But if it’s $2000 and it last for let’s say ten years, then that means this – according to this graph the country would be making $50,000, $5000 times ten, but if it cost $2000 then it’s a huge benefit. For a $2000 investment, $50,000 output, but then if the Moore’s Law – if it was right, then this cost of – instead of $2000, it goes to $200 or something even smaller. Then the impact is even more dramatic and it might be possible for me to bring about telephones in some – you know easier way then it has been in the past. But let me just run by another thinking I underwent, the Adam Smith said, specialization leads productivity, but how would you specialize? Let’s say if I am a fisherman and farmer, Kevin is a fisherman and a farmer, how are we going to suddenly become – I will be becoming a fisherman and Kevin is becoming a farmer, not until we can connect with each other. Because we must be first be able to depend on each other to be able to rely on his goods and exchange with my goods and in order to rely on each other, we must depend, we must connect with each other, so if we are neighbors, of course we can sort of depend on each other because we connect regularly, but then we cannot – the – the economy is very – very small, just on small neighborhoods, so if you must expand your economy and specialize more, you must connect in some other ways, through a highway, through a river and – but perhaps through a telephone line, but the key point is that you must connect first in order to depend on each other and then be able to specialize and advance the economy in general, so I was pretty sure that this could be done – that this makes sense, but the more these bureaucrats and other important experts I met, more they were trying to de-convince me that that’s – you know it’s not right thinking. So I wanted to go through a little bit about what I went through, so for example, nonsense number one – poor countries are under resourced, I don’t think so. For example time, time is a very important resource. I was wasting time, that’s an important resource the country is wasting, okay? So while everybody tells me the poor countries are poor because they don’t have resources, the interesting tragedy is the poor countries are poor because whatever resources they do have, they waste them. Time is one of them. Another is people. So for instance if I am a person in Bangladesh, in order to do anything productive, I need to connect with other people, so if I am going to connect with them – otherwise I cannot use my fellow countrymen, so if I want to connect with them, that’s another important resource and there are many – many others that are wasted, so the poor countries are extremely wasteful. Nonsense number two – poor people lack buying power. Why – why do we worry about that? If this is a productivity tool, them it will make me produce more and able to pay for it, so for instance in the United States we buy a car putting little bit of money down, then we take a loan, the can – you know I take a car home, the car takes me to work, the work pays me a salary and then the salary allows me to pay for that car. So the car actually pays for itself, it’s because it’s a productivity tool. So if a telephone is a productivity tool, we shouldn’t worry so much about it’s existing buying power, we should worry about whether they are going to make us productive or not. Okay? Nonsense number three – you need to start with money to make money. Okay fine – you have to put a little money down to get it for you, to get it – let’s say a car, but again if we have a shared access, then that can be broken down into you know smaller pieces. In fact telephone started out in the United States as a community of base device. Nonsense number four for example, inability to meet primary needs, people were telling me there is shortage of food, there is a shortage of clothing, shelter, medicine, what not, but again these are like the top down big brother thinking. Why do we worry about that? Income is the ability, if people have better income they can use their brains – by the way the brains are another resource that I wasted okay because they are not utilized, somebody is trying to make a decision for everybody and so that too is a resource that needs to be put to use and that brain gets activated when it produces more, when it’s income is higher to the owner of the brain. So again income is the ability, it’s not the inability of having other needs because they can buy food, medicine and whatever, but the problem, the real problem – of course these things we can sort out in our heads, but the real problem, there was some – there must be some other real problem on the ground and I felt centralization was the problem namely because there is one city which had all the infrastructure, electricity and banks and what not, if we try to take the phones, even if Moore’s Law say is that it become cheaper and cheaper and you can take it all over the country. There is very little other infrastructure to take it to there. That’s the real problem. Centralization stood in my way. So for instance if you want credit checks, the ecology is not there and there is no service, tell me who would be a good subscriber or who would not be, there are few banks through which customers could pay bills, the contact points, these things are lacking and of course it was obvious to me that you need one thing to get another new thing on the ground. So for instance the internet was booming in this country at that time, the early 90s and that’s because people already had computers, they had modems, they had telephone lines, they had other things on which new idea can spread quickly, but that’s the real problem in a poor country where other infrastructures have not been built partly because of the centralization problem we are talking – I am talking about. Now let’s say then I noticed these micro credit organizations, there were several, one was this Grameen Bank, which has recently received a Nobel Peace Prize and there was another organization Obrak, there is another one Asha, but any way I started focusing on Grameen Bank and basically these banks give loans to poor people and they created branches all over the rural areas and so Grameen Bank had about a thousand branches, this is talking about in 1993 and each had – you know the Grameen Bank had two to three million borrowers at that time and excellent repayment records and most of their borrowers were women and that’s because over time they found that women managed money better and so I started looking at – and I first went to them and said you know perhaps you could be my – a client because they need to manage these branches, but they were not that interested because after all this was a country without telephones, so they evolved in a decentralized way, their branches managed their accounts and every week or so they reported to the headquarters. If you go into the headquarters, it was a relatively quite place, even though they had two to three million borrowers at the time. So I started focusing what is it that they do, what’s the core activity and this is really their simple model, that a woman borrows money from the bank, then she buys you know lets say a cow, the cow gives milk, she sells the milk to her fellow villagers and pays up the loan and after a year or so she owns the cow. Of course there were duck loans, chicken loans, goat loans, but the cow was most difficult and then I realized that you know a cell phone could be a cow too because somebody could borrow some money, if there is a network out there then the – she could – you know that would be a phone for the whole community basically and it’s a business for her, so I went back to the Grameen Bank leadership and told them that you know I think the cell phone can be a cow and they said yeah that’s little logical - but little crazy but nonetheless somewhat logical, so they said – they basically encouraged me to pursue this idea, but it was clear that they couldn’t fund the development of the idea any further, but they wanted to cooperate with me if I could. So I came back to America and I convinced an angel funder in New York, his name is Joshua Mailman to give me $125,000 and we created a company called Gonophone and Gonophone in Bengal, it’s an American company, but in Bengal it means phones for the masses. This was little daring in those days because one or two percent Americans had cell phones in 1993 – 1994 , this is - by this time it’s 1994. But I believed in the Moore’s Law and I felt it’s going to become cheaper and cheaper because the phones were becoming digitized So – but then again this is a long story and of course I had many-many rejections from – so that money allowed me to fly around the world and tried to convince some telephone companies to get into this business and I felt once the telephone company comes into the picture, then Grameen Bank would also commit because they were encouraging me but not quiet committed, so again I wont spare you the details, but I had maybe million miles in – in frequent flyers programs, I had many sleepless night and minor loss of hair, but I did eventually convince a – the Norwegian Telephone Company to join thin consortium, so – this is called Telenor. The basic structure is that Telenor provided the know how and Grameen family would provide the distribution network in the rural areas and then we off course applied for a license from the government and Grameen’s good reputation and Telenor’s good reputation allowed us to obtain a license from the government and so that was – by that time it was 1996, so it’s about four years when I – since I started at the end of 1996. so early 1997 we started providing a service and Gonophone had American shareholders from here and was also a shareholder. In 2004 we sold out those shares to Telenor and Grameen and then – but basically we started with equity and started building the network and we also obtained a loan from the private sector arm of the World Bank – International Finance Corporation, but total initial funding was about $120 million and – so this is a coverage of Bangladesh as of 2005, you can see its telecommunications have become decentralized all over the country and by now by the way from internally generated cash, the company has invested $2 billion, so it has pretty good network all over Bangladesh, a country that often does not have electricity in many places, but it has a pretty good telecommunication coverage, I mean mobile – modern, totally digital GSM system. But the cow model I talked about, there are 250,000 entrepreneurs who retail telephone services in the villages in Bangladesh and they make a living and they are also being upgraded because the phones are spreading so much, they are eventually – it’s eating into their business and people are better connected and they are more productive we can always talk about these special cases. Now Grameen phone basic financial is that they have about 25 million subscribers right now and the country has 40 million telephones today and that’s more than 100 times the number of phones that had – that we had in the country in 1994. in 2006, the net profit of the company was $250 million and it contributed $300 million to the government in taxes, customs duties fees, license fees etc. But here are the lessons from Grameen Phone is that basically you will hear, the government needs to provide economically viable services, where private companies can provide them. Government must subsidize companies to serve the poor or sometimes they say oh private companies wont do it, government must do it, but company - not only companies can do it like I – Grameen Phone demonstrates, but also companies can pay taxes to the government. Poor countries need aid, business has raised resources far more than aid. I can show you through that curve from the ITU that the DGP that has gone up due to the telephones distributed throughout the country is much larger than the aid received and also the economic improvement is – is dispersed, not concentrated in the hands of a few. Rich countries either help or exploit poor countries, well both rich and poor countries can gain by making people more productive, in fact it’s not just Norwegian Telephone Company or Norway helping Bangladesh. Bangladesh is helping Norway and Bangladesh is a country of 150 million people, Norway is a four and a half million people country. We should be helping them. Poor people are recipients, well they are a resource. In fact the other wisdom I hear that services cost much for the poor, their involvement reduces the cost. The uneducated poor cannot do much, well they are eager learners because the learning makes a difference in the lives, then you learn quickly. I don’t learn a lot of things because I don’t have to like for example if you just use Microsoft Word, you don’t necessarily learn all the features, you just get by whatever works for you, but something that improves your life, you do learn and so I find the poor people are very good learners and you can make money or you can only make money from the poor, no you can make money with the poor because that’s how that could be a properly aligned approach, that make money and your investment also makes money. Let me quickly cover on this new energy project we have – which we have tested little bit, but we are also going – gearing up for a bigger test soon. Again energy productions started out in a decentralized way in Europe and helping democratic forces to emerge in Europe because now if you have - lot of little entrepreneurs producing one Kilowatt than one big business man or a state does produces 500 Mega watts. Obviously it is concentrated, that hurts the potential democratic fabric of the country. So again Bangladesh centralization of electricity today 67 percent of the electricity produced is one central metropolitan area, but here is the opportunity that’s emerging. Before that let me show you this picture taken from Scientific American by Emory Lovins that electricity today in the large centralized power plants here in the United States, the fuel that you burn ultimately you use only about 10% at the other end where it’s actually utilized, so it’s extremely wasted. So the most efficient plan, the combined cycle actually throws away only 50% of the fuel heat out into the air. The more inefficient ones actually throws away 70%. But so at the end of the – many- many – you know transition, you loose some in transmission of the electricity and then – then it goes up voltage up and down or whatever and you eventually convert to the electricity – the energy you need, by the way we don’t – we don’t consume electricity we consume light, sound, heat, these sort of things, electricity we produce only because they are easy to transfer and easy to manipulate for us okay? But we at the end of the day the energy we use is very little and as a result electricity production in large power plants is the biggest culprit of green house gasses okay, so if on the other hand, this is a decentralized energy productions that is reemerging in the western countries, this one is called micro CHP which is CHO is combined heat and power, because if you produce electricity in a – in a – let’s say in a very nice, through a very nice engine that is quite, that doesn’t need very much maintenance, produced at your home because you have a gas supply or something, then the heat that comes out that you would other wise throw away in a central plant, you could use it up to warm up your house, so with that actually the heat utilization, the energy utilization goes up to 80% and so that’s a much better way of reducing carbon emission and so this is beginning to gain traction in Europe and Japan and perhaps in the United States, so this I feel also gives raise to a possibility that we could use these decentralized power production for small entrepreneurs in developing countries So here is the example and we are using the engine to use the heat to dehydrate fruits and vegetable which is a very-very healthy approach and because otherwise you know cooking food for example, I learnt this from our partner in dehydration Whitney Warkedy, he was teaching me that dehydration actually preserves enzymes and when you are cooking, you might be destroying the enzymes for instance. So dehydration is a very good thing that in – in a poor country people can dehydrate herbs, medicinal plants, fruits and vegetables and lift up their economy because you can produce a lot more valuable things than what you consume locally, so because these countries are tropical countries, they don’t need to warm up their houses and the light of course could give raise to educations and other activities in the evening, so I field tested these in two villages in Bangladesh in 2005 and we are gearing up for a larger test from this fall and again to summarize both cell phones and micro CHP, help poor people capitalize on the global economy because the global A&D are behind these kind of products and that’s a great deal of value, that’s a great deal of aid that the rich countries can actually send to poor countries and that can put them on the global economic highway to – so people in the west I think can make tools that can ignite their economic brush fire and poor communities will be allowed to build up their own prosperity, I think that’s the basic way I could summarize my activities here and again based on that philosophy we have recently established a centre at MIT with a fifty million dollars from the Legatum Global Development to promote bottom up entrepreneurial development in poor countries. Thank you very much.

Video Details

Duration: 1 hour, 15 minutes and 10 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: FORA.tv
Director: Chris Baldwin for the Long Now Foundation
Views: 156
Posted by: bobappel on Oct 23, 2008

The Long Now Foundation
San Francisco, CA
May 21st, 2008

Quadir presented a broad outline of development in order to give context for his belief that technology can alleviate poverty.

He reminded us that 500 years ago, when the western countries were still "developing" their own societies, their political systems were no better, and often worse, than the instable corrupt regimes of many developing countries today.

England had a series of kings who were impeached, arrested, ousted, or beheaded for their crimes. It was only after citizens were empowered by economic markets did the balance of power shift from the central king to decentralized citizens.

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