Too proud (or too foolish?) to learn from India

Published: January 7, 2011

A great example of ICTs is the state of Kerala and its [email protected] program.

Learning requires open minds and a willingness to adopt good things from anyone across the globe. We, as a nation, are inherently intolerant towards our ‘conceived enemies’ like India, thereby restricting the already limited avenues of learning.

Both countries started off the same year. Yes, our history books tell us that we were deprived of major industrial setups and similar resources but still, our populations are comparable! The Indian rupee is moving fast towards a ratio of 1:2 with the Pakistani rupee and their GDP is around 7.5 times that of Pakistan. Statistics are overwhelming but the purpose of this post is not to compare economies but rather to present some real examples which can lead to achieving such a sizable economy like India has.

Everyone has heard about the great Information Technology (IT) boom in India and how international services has been outsourced to it. For those who still don’t know, if you experience a problem in your laptop, your troubleshoot call lands in India where a techie guides you through all the steps till your problem is resolved. The customer might be anywhere in the world yet it’s highly probable that the customer support he is getting is from India.

Recycling industry

One of the most painful things for me is the amount of resources we waste. Recycling is hitherto unknown in Pakistan (though paper, plastic, metal etcetera do get recycled to save raw material this is to save costs and not out of environmental concerns) while our neighbor India  has a booming recycling industry. They recycle almost everything – even electronic waste and water. While India still has a long way to go in this domain, Pakistan is a decade behind in comparison.

An interesting story worth sharing here, is of a couple, Shalabh and Anita Ahuja, who set out on a mission to support the rag-pickers of Delhi and ended up with developing hand bags which eventually went on sale in London’s fashionable boutiques. The company, Conserve,  has now established a good market and even made use of the 2010 Commonwealth Games to recycle all of its waste to useful products. India now has even setup programs in schools and universities for environmental awareness. We need to make a move in this direction too.


Hole in the Wall is one of the classic experiments cited at TED of using technology to bridge the digital divide and making poor kids computer literate. It’s a simple installation of computers near slums and villages to educate children. Why don’t rich people in Pakistan think of this? Why is it India only? India’s fame Tata group has set an example by not being just a group of companies minting money but also contributing back to the society by promoting use of technology for innovation in problem solving. There is a long list of initiatives, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects and community initiatives. I’ll pick one example to share. The Computer Based Functional Literacy project (CBFL). Tata sponsored CBFL which uses softwares to teach the illiterate ‘functional reading and writing’ making use of ‘the theories of cognition, language and communication.’

We don’t want to learn from India even if we can benefit from it. Meanwhile, Africa has imported CBFL while we are busy fighting for the sake of our egos and nothing else.

The state of affairs at home

I ransacked websites of all major groups and companies in Pakistan and even the telecom companies with catchy programs for ‘changing the fate of Pakistan’ seem to, somehow, miss the importance of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in education. My critics would argue that when we don’t even have schools how can we think of implementing ICTs? India has found a way for that too – use of satellites for connecting villages without teachers to schools. All that’s required is a satellite receiver, TV and an operator! More elegant solutions can be seen here.

Is such technology really so difficult to implement that our engineers can’t figure it out? And is it really that hard to find ICT companies in our country to sponsor such efforts (apart from their advertising)? The reason such systems are working out in India is that the state itself is interested in it. A great example is state of Kerala and its [email protected] program.

The objective of writing this was to present some examples which can be implemented in Pakistan with equal success possibilities. I encourage university students to use their skills in ICTs to reform our education system. Of course, this is not possible without the active involvement of sponsors and sincere efforts beyond the bookish CSR reports of companies and investors.

Let’s start the year 2011 with making this pledge.


Uzair Sukhera

A systems engineering student at Cornell University and a graduate of NUST. He has worked as a consultant for International Telecommunication Union.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sankalp

    Very Insightful.

    Must say, there are a lot of things which India and Pakistan can learn from each other by leveraging all such areas where there is a considerable development in both the countries. Only if we are ready to shed our egos and join hands to work together. But sadly, given the current state of mistrust, it seems higly improbable.Recommend

  • G. Din

    India is not averse to learn any thing from any one. Micro-finance from Bangladesh is a case in point.Recommend

  • optimist

    This post show how little the writer knows about things going on in Pakistan. Yes we need to learn from India who is doing better but there are many things going on in Pakistan and I read about that in a book published in London by an entrepreneur but Pakistani press seems to have no idea what miracles some of our organisations are doing….Recommend

  • Southindian

    Well India should also learn good things from pakistan.Recommend

  • Rajat

    One thing that can work to Pakistan’s advantage is its lesser population and lesser diversity compared to India. In Pak, 99% of the population belongs to the same religion. I feel population is a greater liability (more mouths to feed) than advantage, and greater diversity has its own demerits China in this regard has the greatest advantage as 95% of its 1.6bill population belong to the same sect -Han chinese. So lesser diversity translates to more understanding between people. India with its 100’s of languages has disadvantage as a person in Kerala cannot really understand the people of Orissa if he wants to open up a tea shop there.. lol (and yet he succeeds). If Pakistan has problems with its different sects, then consider this- India has 1000’s of sects in every religion, every state. No two people in the same class-room (my example) belong to the same sect. It is now slowly breaking the shackles of caste based society. Yet if India could come as far as what she is today is because of the efforts of her people. Recommend

  • feather brain

    excellent over view of indian’ hidden secrets of success… :P ….. seriously this article should be pass on to our leaders because lack of awareness of how to do and how to get desirable product is the major reason behind all our so called “SUCCESS” !!Recommend

  • M. Uzair Sukhera

    I would ask. Who’s duty is it to share those success stories? Media is busy somewhere else. If you’ve read em. Please share with us so that we also get to know.Recommend

  • parvez

    Good article with a noble objective.Recommend

  • http://na prasad

    Thanks Uzair. Didnt know this stuff was happening in India. Sometimes you need an outsider…

    And it wont just be technology that will move back and forth – with people to people contact a lot of mindsets can be revisited. Recommend

  • Anoop

    India is so vast and populous that you tend to not find out the good things that are happening in other States apart from your self. Thanks for this.Recommend

  • Dr Dev Mishra

    The average Hindu or Sikh child traces his lineage back to Aryabhatta who, in 490 AD, had postulated that the earth is not flat and that it revolves around the sun. They also trace their roots to Charaka and Sushruta, who practiced medicine and surgery, respectively, thousands of years ago. Or to the greatest playwight of that era, Kalidasa.
    An intelligent Indian muslim family makes sure that this pride is shared by their children as well. So why cannot Pak children too share in this same pride in their heritage? A strong belief in self and in one’s own culture is a very important foundation on which to start one’s life journey.
    The Hindu- Sikh identity is strongly based on gyan- knowledge. Not for nothing do we worship Saraswati, Goddess of learning. Here in the UK, they have been analysing A level results nationally for the last 20 years. Indian and Chinese students out perform the whites. At the bottom of the pile are, sadly, Pakistani and Afro-caribean children.

    This performance in education is transferred in later life into professional and financial success.

    So, the author has a point. Like Fa Hein and Hien Tsang came from China to India 1500 years ago to learn, then so can our cousins. They do not even have to cross the border physically, they can cherry pick some ideas.
    Peace, Dr Dev Mishra, UK and IndiaRecommend

  • Dr.Imran

    India is our Neighbour and first we must make A Peace/No-War Treaty for 20 Years and both side should cut down 50 % of Army Budget to begin with.
    One F-16 cost, atleast, in cash about 500 Karore of Pakistani rupees , a cost , Equal to Housing of 5000 poor families .
    Army is a big drain on the Economy on both sides .
    Why cant we Re-Unite to Pre-1947 and be again a one Great United India , as Allama Iqbal Said in IK NIA SHWALA POEM. If Berlin wall can come down and Europe can Unite why cant We.
    Gandhi was actually a British agent and he was killed for the very reason to Allow British to Break India and creat Pakistan, so was the Leader ship on our side.
    The real Leaders in British time were either killed of sent to Kalla Pani to stop Guiding and Uniting the People in India. British did work on ideology of DIVIDE & RULE as everyone know , Pakistan is a Product of this Policy, so we must conter it now , otherwise u know whats happening. Rest is up to U.Recommend

  • Maha

    Good points. Though i am not an IT expert but there are many positive things that we can and we should definitely learn from India.Recommend

  • Asim

    Can you please post the link on the stuff you learnt about Pakistan from the enterprenuer in LondonRecommend

  • parvez

    ED!!! Hey my comment of 15 hours ago has been forgotten by you. Its a harmless comment.Recommend

  • http://India G. Din

    @Dr. Imran
    “Why cant we Re-Unite to Pre-1947 and be again a one Great United India , ”
    Please trust me when I say that barring a few hundred or thousand dreamers of the past glory. people of democratic India will consider this an unfriendly suggestion. We value the sentiment behind your comment but consider what you have done, and are doing to your own country, please don’t wish such a calamity on us.

    “Gandhi was actually a British agent and he was killed for the very reason to Allow British to Break India and creat Pakistan, so was the Leader ship on our side.”
    I am no Gandhian but even I was shocked by this comment. It is not for nothing that the whole world, outside of Britain and Indian subcontinent, celebrates Gandhi. If we had blasphemy laws, your comment would be considered a blasphemy against humanity. Did you forget that as a last ditch effort to keep India united, a sentiment you have yourself expressed, he offered the prime-ministership of India to Jinnah? In fairness, it would be idle to expect leadership on your side to backtrack from a goal it had been agitating for a generation or two.
    Also, let us not blame the British. True, they would have wanted two weaker states than one powerful state after they had left. But, let us take responsibility. If it had not been for our own suspicions and mistrust, British would not have been successful. You might also reflect on the reason(s) why the 1857 mutiny and rebellion failed to dislodge the handful of British officers and civil service personnel, a long distance away from their mother country.Recommend

  • Neeraj, India

    Doc, I respect your sentiment about re-uniting our two countries, but sir, with all due apologies I, as a citizen of India, reject the suggestion. During the British India we were certainly one people, but, after the independence our two countries chose completely different paths. Post independent India spent her energies in making her citizens feel proud of their nationality, irrespective of one’s religion, race, caste, culture, ethnicity or language. Despite, many hurdles I can say with conviction that the effort has been a resounding success. For a country as diverse as India it is nothing short of a miracle.
    Pakistan was/is as diverse as India, but sadly your leaders tried to make religion as a binding factor. In an effort to find a new identity for herself, Pakistan not only denied it’s roots, history and heritage but also spent it’s entire energy in making herself as much ‘un-Indian’ as possible. It was a disastrous mistake and it’s consequences are there for everyone to see. Propagating extremist version of Islam and decades of anti-India rhetoric, to keep populace united, has badly backfired. It has led to the brutalization of the society which reflected in the assassination of governor Taseer. Political murders are very common thing around the world, but the reason for the murder and reaction of a common Pakistani citizen to the atrocity, is truly horrifying. It shows how deep Pakistani society has descended into the dark abyss.
    We are no longer the same people. Recommend

  • Ashutosh

    We learn from our mistakes … is an old phrase
    We learn from our mistakes and learn from other’s mistakes too ……this way be can learn must faster and try catchup with the world …

    The SARCC nations has a lot of cultural similarities with India should study the various Indian models, adopt to their own situation and implement it …

    Remember, India is a capital deficient countries so most of these models do not involve lot of capital hence might be more suitable for countries like ours …Recommend

  • Dr.Imran

    @Neeraj, India:
    I appreciate your intellectual analysis on Pakistan’s Last 60 years of development as a fundamentalist state and sure are bearing the bad consequences, But I am only worried about the future of this region, as the West wants Us i mean India and Pakistan to engage into Atomic war. In fact they want the Whole region including China and Iran and UAE to involve into a boody war and Self-Destroy themself. India and China with immense development have put holes in their Economy .
    War in Afghanistan is expending everyday , we Pakistanis are actively involved in it and India is next. This is International Analysis, 150.000 American Allied troops in Afghanistan for the last 7 years are not for just one man Osama, Open your eyes.
    One more Bombay Like shooting in India and you will have to attack Pakistan , and surely you will do. Your authorities are just waiting for a green light from USA that Paki-Atom is now Paralysed so Go Ahead and Attack Islamabad.
    I love all Indian ———– Jay HindRecommend

  • Dr.Imran

    @G. Din:
    Dear Sir, I am very much pleased for ur reply and your valuable analysis and comment.
    If u can pleae read my reply TO Neerj , thats exactly what i want to say to u.

  • Manish

    @Dr. Imran.
    Appreciate your thought and respect your emotions but why re-unite both countries when the basic are completely opposite. Recommend

  • Dr imran

    Thanks Manish for the Reply, My wife just said , Ok Dont re-unite but plz cant our Governments and Armies sign 20 year No-War Pact. U can keep Kashmir Just let we do the Tourism.
    By the way some times I wonder that The Europeans were never United, they have differrent Language Different History and Differrene Culture and Fought 2 world wars but Now they are like one country without boundary. Why on Earth We People who were One country for more than a Thousand Year and separated only 60 years ago and who have Same Languge and Same History can not re-unite ?Recommend

  • Noor-ul-ain Hanif
  • http://India G. Din

    @Dr. Imran
    I think all of us Indians who have commented here will agree that your heart is in the right place. It is unfortunately the intellect that is coming in the way, sir!

    “…as the West wants Us i mean India and Pakistan to engage into Atomic war. In fact they want the Whole region including China and Iran and UAE to involve into a boody war and Self-Destroy themself.”
    No,sir, we don’t believe that US wants to do any of those things. You should understand that at one point Pakistan was a military ally of US and although US provided you with arms to be used against the communists, you used them against us. Still, today, as you perhaps already know, India and US recently concluded an historic deal on nuclear trade.

    “…War in Afghanistan is expending everyday , we Pakistanis are actively involved in it and India is next. ”
    US is committed to start thinning out its presence from July of this year. How fast the thinning will go will entirely depend on how quickly the Afghans are able to handle their security. Yes, Pakistanis are actively involved, though in a negative way. As a matter of fact, at one time they considered Afghanistan as its “strategic depth” whatever that may mean. India is in Afghanistan to help Afghans and as our Foreign Minister’s statement yesterday points out India will remain in Afghanistan only as long as Afghans want us to. We don’t seek a strategic depth of any sort, all we seek are friends as we have throughout our history going back to ancient times. India has never invaded another country, ever!
    Dr. Imran, I ask you to consider the case of Vietnam. As you know, Vietnam fought three major powers, including US. Its valiant struggle earned it the admiration of the whole world. Today, Vietnam is progressing in leaps and bounds. Here is the clincher. It has the best of relations with all those three powers it fought. Vietnam today is a respected member of the international community. India, like the rest of the world, want to provide it the assistance it needs to develop itself.
    What happened to Pakistan? It started so well. Why is it floundering? Where and when did it lose its way? Why did it lose all its friends?
    For starters, it would help Pakistan immensely if it shed some or all of its paranoia and started to believe in itself and behave as a self-respecting, proud nation without mixing up religion with it. Not all people in the world have respect for your religion but that should not mean that they don’t have any respect for you as human beings!Recommend

  • Ashutosh

    @Dr. Imran,
    As and when India & Pakistan will have long term peace, both countries will benefit. I am sure that Pakistan will economically transform and probably race ahead of India in such a case.

    India not only provide Pakistan with a large market for its product and services, but can exponentially leverage its strategic location by allowing two way trade (including gas and oil pipelines) by land route to Afghanistan and various CIS nations & India. And later Pakistan can promote special economic zones along with such routes.

    The benefits to Pakistan are enormous for sure provided …Recommend

  • Dr imran


    Many Thanks Ashutosh , Ur reply generates hope.
    Jay Hind/ and Pakland ZindabadRecommend

  • Neeraj, India

    Dr.Imran saheb, I disagree with your opinion or conviction that the west is all about there to create a nuclear holocaust between our three Asian countries India, China and Pakistan. Forget about a nuclear war, even a conventional war between Asian powers like India, China and Pakistan is not in the interests of the western powers. Your perceptions of today’s geo-politics, it seems, heavily influenced by the global politics of the bygone era. Today’s world is not guided by how many weapons a country possesses, but is judged solely by how much that particular country can contribute to the economy of your own country. Pakistan’s greatest failure on the foreign policy front is that it has badly misunderstood the 21st century’s new rules of engagement.
    Just look at Indo-China relations, they claim millions of square miles of our territory as their own and in turn we have yet to accept to a total Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, we still see a role for Dalai Lama in Tibet. We also sympathize with the position taken by the several western countries including the US, over the issue of East Turkmenistan (Xinjiang). Despite all these differences we are doing business and that too an extraordinarily fabulous one. Today China is our largest trading partner and the mutual trade is going to cross 60 billion dollars this fiscal year and by 2015 it is expected to cross 100 billion.
    With such a staggering amount of trade with India, your taller than Himalaya friend China is not going to spoil her relations with India just for the sake of Pakistan, no matter how much of rhetoric goes into this so called noble Sino-Pak friendship.
    India and China are the only two countries of the world who are driving the world economy forward. The US is not only dependent on Chinese investment in it’s treasury bonds but also by ordinary American consumer’s living standards which are being maintained by cheap Chinese goods and equally cheap India’s services. Therefore, mutual destruction of India and China is not in the interest of the US and her western allies.
    Besides, India and China or for that matter even Pakistan’s rulers are not fools to destroy themselves, just on the instigation of some western power. Sir, we are millennial old civilizations and we are not going destroy ourselves for someone else sake. The only danger comes from the misguided mullahs of Pakistan, who you nurtured so fondly. They are a real threat not only to your own country but to the world as a whole. Recommend

  • Domlur

    Well said Neeraj, in your last post. 21st century superpowers will be decided by their economic, not military might.Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    Your “Greater India” was divided on the basis of unequal treatment of Muslims in that age. Furthermore, put this suggestion to Bangladesh first. After all, Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan. If they agree to it, then we can talk being a part of India.

    Furthermore, thank you Indian brothers who dislike this idea for accepting our sovereignty and independence.Recommend

  • Dr.Imran

    @Neeraj, India:
    OK Brother Lets hope so as U deem. Mankind have to think above Religious Differences to Save it self on this Planet.
    God Bless India and Pakistan, and give mental maturity to its Leaders and Armies.Recommend

  • M. Uzair Sukhera

    The purpose of post was not about ‘greater india’ or being together. It was about learning and implementing.Recommend

  • Shahbaz

    Well said, Mr sukhera actual the point is still about learning & implementing. Not to rebut or anticipation from them.Recommend

  • Robin

    As a Muslim country, Pakistan cannot learn anything from India; Pakistan is a middle-eastern country inhabited by white people and who are close to middle-east; They are proud of Arab and Irani blood and have nothing to learn from Black Hindus (or Black Muslims) from IndiaRecommend

  • M. Uzair Sukhera

    One local example from Karachi worth looking at:

    Chandi Ghar

  • Vidyut

    May I thank the author for helping me, an Indian to discover so many resources in India that can be enhanced further. Its not like we have reached some miraculous landmark in evolution.

    @Dr. Imran

    Tumhare muh mein ghee shakkar

    I loved your idea of the peace pact. In fact, this has been attempted half-heartedly in our love-hate history with no success, but never as a civilian initiative. It is an idea worth exploring and will undoubtedly do much good to both countries.

    About unified India, I don’t think its doable. There is too much difference in how people see each other. However, if we are able to create something along the lines of the peace/no-war treaty, we could easily achieve a harmony and mutual relations that render boundaries irrelevant, because hearts meet.

    Its a beautiful hope to hold to.Recommend

  • Nobody

    No offense, but what the hell does skin color/race/ethnic origin have to do with anything?? This post is about furthering growth and development. You came onto a blog that’s encouraging progress and posted an off topic, unnecessary and short-sighted remark. Go sprinkle your regression and borderline racism elsewhere please. Recommend