At the innovations2008 conference in Pune, I think I put AngelMentor as my company on the registration form and word got around that I was some kind of VC. A fellow Vikas Rajrishi (priest to the king) pulled me aside and told me he was looking for funding for a soil analysis business he was trying to start near his farm in Narangoan. I let him know I didn't know anything about the soil business but had been looking for an opportunity to explore the country outside Pune. He instantly invited me to his farm and the next day we were driving up there together.
On the road as we talked I let myself dream a little about the possibility for a rural media and technology institute between Pune and Bombay. We would teach all the skills people can use to make money off an internet connection, and all the services someone can with an internet connection can provide to the local rural community. The institute building structures would be built in a low impact manner such that we could vacate the land in some years and leave it better than it had originally been.
Vikas ran the idea by some of his farmer friends who were all positive as there is a trend of the youth leaving the rural areas for the big cities leaving some apprehension in the parents that when they die their ancestral lands may be lost / sold.
He also took me to see the local politician who wanted to see a large well funded IT park come and increase the value of all the land in the area. In some back and forth it was very clear that the thatch IT institute i had in mind and the glass palace IT parks he was looking for were very different. Somehow, this became an either or thing
and the door to Narangoan was closed.
High on the idea of moving outside and teaching for awhile I connected with the people at a vocational school VigyanAshram.com also near to Pune. After coordinating the donation of some wireless networking equipment to them I sent a bit of a shockwave thru my personal life by toying with the idea of moving out there to set up the media and technology institute. That notion fizzled as I came to feel that english is a critical prerequisite for the types of skills I want to teach and the English level of the average rural Maharashtran wasn't sufficient.
Talking with chandita from cometmedia.org she told me about Dr. Kurien with http://clrindia.net/. They've developed a bunch of curriculum for teaching rural and urban poor children and teachers English through workbooks and radio programs. For some time I have been fascinated by the idea of using mp3 players as an educational device, and Dr. Kurien seems to have some of the content that could make it happen. Talking with my friend Ulrich who has an office in China I discovered the Canton fair is happening this week, so I flew over to get a sense of what all options are available in off the shelf mp3 players.
I posted a request for 1gb mp3 players on Alibaba and from the 100 quotes I have gotten every day since it looks like they're about 7 - 8$ each in Bulk. Interestingly, Mp4 players with a screen, video and game capability are 30 - 40$ each.
Im excited about the show.
My hope is to come back with 50 - 200 of them we can pass out to teachers and see how effective they are.