Category: Uncategorized

A note on incubation centers and their link to higher education in Pakistan

I have been following the progress of the Pakistan startup scene with interest, and am continuously reminded of a research that was conducted on the behest of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan in 2004. This research was conducted by a consortium of private and public sector consultants with experience in technology commercialization and incubation in Pakistan. Unfortunately, this report has been put under the proverbial carpet for many years and it was never made public. Perhaps a citizen of Pakistan can apply for a freedom of information request and have it disclosed in full. I am releasing a part of the report here, with the hope that it can help those interested in setting up incubation centers in Pakistan.

The reason why I believe it is important for the general public to be made aware of what the recommendations were is that the private initiatives have been ignoring the importance of higher education research in the growth of the national economy.  There is an element of truth in this, however, back in 2004, the research that was conducted showed that there are islands of excellence in research in Pakistan that can be brought into the national economy. Sadly, perhaps, one of the reasons why the report was never published was that the consortium felt that the incubators should be based in Faisalabad and Karachi, and not in other cities, as has become the fashion. Anyways, here are the recommendations and executive summary of Need Assessment

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Dystopian future or liberating tech?

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This picture has taken the internet by storm. Here’s a summary from Mashable. This visual though scary in some ways, is oddly liberating, in that Mark seems to be happy about the future (why wouldn’t he be, after all he owns Oculus).

In the fall of 2015, I taught a class in idea development with the final project being a VR exercise for various groups to undertake. Using narrative techniques to make asynchronous projections using Holobuilder. Its actually an interesting application that allows connected 360 images to be created and then projected into VR headsets.

Here are some of the student projects:

https://www.holobuilder.com/app/index.html#player/5618561124925440

https://www.holobuilder.com/explore?page=details&id=5595624388952064

https://www.holobuilder.com/explore?page=details&id=5961608752791552

https://www.holobuilder.com/app/index.html#player/6447428341334016/0

 

This was my first attempt at getting interactive projects commissioned using narrative structure but projecting in an asynchronous fashion. All in all very satisfying, however the VR world does scare me a bit….

 

 

Life imitating art, imitating life…

I’ve been rereading Ways of Seeing by John Berger (chapter one borrows heavily from Walter Benjamin), and wonder at how disingenuous we are, in that we think of technology as being this new change agent that is disrupting our lives. In his chapter on Oil Painting, Berger talks about how oil paintings reduced everything to the “equality of objects”, hence making everything “exchangeable”. Lets see some paintings of paintings from 1500’s Europe.

Without going into the art history (http://waysofseeingwaysofseeing.com/ways-of-seeing-john-berger-5.7.pdf) of these paintings, suffice to say that these European collectors were big on showing off, and they didn’t have enough space to display all their collections.

In modern terms, isn’t this what is happening with the galleries in our smart phones? Aren’t we reducing our lives down to the sharing of images, most of which are crap. Isn’t sharing the picture the new norm, and with emoji’s haven’t we reduced our reactions to simple short-forms?

The only difference, and I suppose this is a new one in art, is that the art created on the mobile phone is truly democratic (plebian? awami?) and the new hot sharing super stars are not from the elite class, or maybe they form another elite class in themselves (Kardashians etc)… But, the filters in all the apps (instagram etc) where images are created, make direct reference to previous forms of analog photography and painting techniques. So, even though we think we are creating a new medium, we are always paying homage to the old. Art imitates life, imitates art…

Add-on: Time magazine is referring to this in this article, which talks about whats happening with American teenage girls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye powerpoint

Today, for the first time in 20 years of using presentation softwares, I was staring at a blank powerpoint screen, and just did not feel the energy to populate the slides. Being such a heavy ppt user, I was at a loss as to why this was happening.

Mental block?

No. I have reached the end of the line with powerpoint, and mind you I am not moving to prezi in the near future either. So, then what? I have explored sway (sway.com), and bunkr (bunkrapp.com) but honestly I am not impressed. After a chat with Irfan Kheiri, I was reminded of how years ago he used to say that powerpoint was counter intuitive and not the right way to start thinking. After all these years, I have to agree.

So, what I think is we need to create a completely new product. I think it needs to connect to the “net brain” but also needs to disconnect when needed. This needs to work on holographic tech (http://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us) or on oculus and needs to work with gestures. It needs to be thinking tool, and a presentation tool also. Starting with mindmapping, then connecting to the net brain, then preparing a pres, and then sharing and presenting to others. Seamless is needed, and this will liberate us from powerpoint. Microsoft are you listening?

HBR talks about the types of innovations that builds nations

taniya-article-post

Innovation drives economic growth. Summary  by Taniya Hasan

The notion that innovation is the key stimulator of economic growth has convinced many government leaders, policy influencers and development enthusiasts that innovation is the answer to ever-growing unemployment and economic deficiencies.

A look back at 2014 shows, that from India’s Narendra Modi, who embraced innovation to resuscitate Indian Manufacturing and overall growth to Nigerian businessman Tony Elumelu, who launched $100M entrepreneurship grant program to unlock Africa’s economic potential –leaders from all over the world are convinced that innovation is pivotal to economic growth.

But the question still remains has it been proved that greater innovation leads to macroeconomic growth and prosperity?

According to experts, while innovation can enable macroeconomic growth, it can’t be seen as a root cause of growth because different innovations contribute differently to economic prosperity.

To understand how innovation truly interacts with prosperity, we should first identify the types of investment in innovation. In simple terms, there are three types:

  • Sustaining
  • Efficiency
  • Market-creating investments

Sustaining innovations – which replace old products with new and better ones – and efficiency innovations – which allow companies to make and sell established products for less – help retain existing customers better, but do not attain new ones.

Market-creating innovations, however, focus at making products and services accessible to non-consumers or those who are under-served. For example, India’s Narayana Health and Kenya’s M-PESA transformed how healthcare and financial services were made accessible to non-consumers. As a result, new value networks were created with net new jobs that eventually led to economic uplift.

Market-creating innovations offer rapid growth and job creation, and, when executed successfully, some market-creating innovations can be disruptive in foreign markets. The secure cost models they develop and their knack for going after non-consumption often gives them an edge over global competitors. This allows tiny economies to come to the fore and build globally relevant companies.

However, market-creating innovations are almost always harder to execute – because in pursuing non-consumers, they are more susceptible to myriad infrastructural loopholes and social challenges most developing nations face. Their execution also requires unparalleled synergy between policymakers, investors, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders.

In conclusion, we can say that while leaders in developing nations are right in reviewing how policy and other factors drive innovation, they still need to focus on the right kind of innovation instead of seeking innovation for its own sake.

Source:

The Type of Innovation That Builds Nations by Bryan Mezue (JANUARY 7, 2015)

https://hbr.org/2015/01/the-type-of-innovation-that-builds-nations

 

Karachi’s first incubator opens for business

I honestly think we are at an inflection point. Thanks to the painstaking work done by Jehan Ara and her team at PASHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association) The Google/Samsung/US State Department sponsored incubator is ready. Its brilliantly designed by Adil Moosajee and his team. I got a sneak peak and what I saw was impressive. Here are some of the pics I took.

The incubator will open on January 14th, 2015 formally, but already there is a steady stream of people coming in to see the facility. It has a 80 odd people presentation room with a 65 inch Samsung TV, a media studio, meeting spaces and ofcourse seating for 40 incubatees. That means that apprx. 15 teams would be incubated for a period of 4 months at a time.

It is money well spent and congrats to Jehan and the team. The location of the space is on Shaheed e Millat Road, close to Karachi’s Silicon Alley (Shahrae Faisal) and close by to DotZero also. Great work, and may we all benefit from this space.

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Connecting Industry to Higher Education. A three part solution.

In the battle for institutional supremacy sometimes we forget the person for whom we are making any application. And so, I propose to bring the little guy, the fresh career starter, the college graduate, the disgruntled middle level exec, the redundant factory worker, the about to be laid off office worker, the center of the discussion. Businesses will always complain that they don’t get enough trained manpower, and colleges will always complain about the lack of business involvement in the college and university system (and this is a world-wide phenomenon). Ad to this the dilemma posed by online courses and MOOCs and you have the perfect storm. The whole higher education to job scenario is being disrupted, and unfortunately many college grads around the world are not aware of what is needed to get them a good job, and how they can enhance their career prospects. That is the battleground which I would like to enter.

My solution is based on three parts:

Part 1: The career app

This part of the solution focuses on the career oriented user, someone who is in the middle of college and is now starting his or her linkedin profile. This app will encourage users to look at data on what skills are needed for success in their chosen field of study and what courses they can take to improve their skills. This will all be based on geography or online / MOOCs. For those already in the market and wanting to go up in their chosen field, this app will help them identify their weaknesses and what they need to do in order to improve. Once the courses have been completed and added to the app, the candidates will automatically appear on the interface of hiring managers at the respective companies, and hence the career oriented candidate will look “ready for market”. For those wanting to make a career switch the app will lay out a roadmap and encourage candidates to achieve gamified goals.

A mentoring component to the app will allow the candidates to seek mentoring from industry veterans and hiring managers looking to give time to help people in career advancement. The mentoring component will also be gamified with mentors getting rewards like badges and points, which can be used as a career advancement tool for them also. An annual mentor convention and awards ceremony will be conducted to give the mentors due recognition.

Part 2: The business data gathering app

This app is targeted to line managers in various organizations, and hiring managers also. It has a simple to use graphical UI that allows users to quickly give an answer to the skill question that is posed to them. They can view how others have responded within their organization and also in other similar companies. Even though participation is voluntary, all participants in the survey and all those who agree to be mentors would be eligible for points, badges and other gamified rewards leading upto the regional and national event, where the best mentors would be awarded.

For hiring managers, an added interface would allow them to see resumes of people who qualify for the skills that have been identified by line managers in their company. Again, a gamification system of rewards would be put into place in order to make the experience meaningful.

Part 3: College Business Responsiveness Index

This part of the three tier system revolves around colleges and universities in geographical clusters who are willing and able to deliver the skills that are identified by the businesses. These colleges would be shown the needs identified, and then they would be encouraged to come up with specific courses to meet the needs. The colleges, departments and campuses that show the most responsiveness would be given a college BRI score, and this score would be uploaded onto a central website and spread through social media, hence giving the college “street cred” with applicants. Hiring and Line Managers would rate the coursework, and student feedback would also be added in to arrive at the score.

Conclusion:

The system will work when all three legs of the triad are strong and feed of each other. It is a long term project, and should take a year or so to complete the coding and get by in for a trial. After that, the system can work on its own, in my view.