According to recent census data, India is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030. In the last decade, the country’s population has ballooned by 181 million — an increase roughly equivalent to the total population of Brazil — which has created many economic opportunities and challenges. While India’s economy continues to grow in the areas of technology and software development, the nation still faces fundamental problems of extreme poverty, illiteracy, inaccessible healthcare and governmental corruption.
“There has been tremendous growth, and there’s cause for rejoicing and celebrating the success that India has experienced over the last couple of decades,” says S.P. Kothari, the Gordon Y Billard Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “But that hasn’t eliminated all the challenges that continue to face India, and challenges that we will see India facing over the next two decades.”
On Friday, Sept. 23, MIT will host the first MIT-India Conference. This first conference’s theme is “Accelerating Innovation”; the student-organized gathering is designed to explore ways in which technology can help address India’s largest hurdles, from building sustainable energy infrastructure to providing affordable, accessible healthcare to enabling government transparency.
Panel discussions will delve into India’s growing economy, and how aspiring entrepreneurs may gain a foothold in the country’s increasingly dynamic and complex business environment. Experts will also explore ways to tackle one of the fundamental challenges facing India today: corruption at all levels of society, from the top tiers of government to civil society and the private sector. Finally, entrepreneurs working in India will discuss avenues for frugal innovation — creative solutions to problems facing the Indian communities that are most in need.
Leading entrepreneurs and government officials from India will join the conversation, including Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Rural Development in India, and Narayana Murthy, founder and chairman of Infosys, Ltd.
Kothari, a conference adviser, says the conference serves as an opportunity to solidify MIT’s longstanding relationship with India, which dates back more than a century, when the first Indian students enrolled at the Institute. Kothari says the MIT-India connection has strengthened via the steady flow of students and researchers between MIT and India — an exchange bolstered by programs such as the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives’ MIT-India Program, which matches students with internships at major Indian companies, and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, a network of researchers that seeks solutions to poverty in India and other developing countries.
“There has always been a special bond,” Kothari says. “In more recent years, as India started to develop even more, there has been a desire for MIT to serve as a catalyst in fostering research in India.”
The MIT-India Conference: Accelerating Innovation, will be held on Friday, Sept. 23, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the MIT Media Lab. Tickets to the event can be purchased at: http://indiaconference.mit.edu/.