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This blog discusses the experiences of a consulting professional currently working at EmPower Research, a firm that provides decision support services to clients through offices in NYC, San Francisco and Bangalore, India.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

EU Feels The Need for Immigration

EU 'blue card' to tempt skilled (Source: BBC News)

The European Commission is set to unveil a Blue Card for skilled immigrants, based on the US Green Card. The card would allow suitably qualified people and their families to live and work within the EU.

The EU says it needs 20 million skilled immigrants over the next 20 years, and is very short of expertise in engineering and computer technology. Correspondents say another aim of the proposal is to deter the best brains from emigrating to the US to find work.

The BBC's Mark Mardell in Brussels says the plan is controversial and some countries are sure to oppose it. Critics also fear that Europe's attempt to take the best and leave the rest will only encourage a brain-drain from poorer nations.

Creating 'EU magnet'

The UK, Ireland and Denmark could opt out, but the other EU members will have to take part.
UK ministers say officially they are studying it, but our correspondent says they are not keen on the idea, preferring to develop a points system. Under the proposals, due to be unveiled on Tuesday afternoon, a Blue Card would enable holders and their families to live, work and travel within the EU.

To be eligible for the card, new immigrants would need to show a recognised diploma, have at least three years professional experience and the offer of a job which could not be filled by an EU citizen.

"To maintain and improve economic growth in the EU, it is essential for Europe to become a magnet for the highly skilled," the European Commission said in a statement. "...To do so, the EU must present a united front, rather than emphasise the different immigration policies of each member state." The plan will need the approval of all member states to come into force.

Some politicians in the Netherlands and Germany are hostile and the Austrian government has condemned the plan as "a centralisation too far".

There is a real tension between politicians all over Europe, who know their voters are worried about immigration, and businesses which say they will not be able to function without the skills of graduates from India and China, our correspondent says.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tourism Observations

I recently had the good fortune of taking a trip to North India for a well deserved vacation. We went to the Golden triangle of Indian tourism (New Delhi - Agra - Jaipur) and were thrilled to have visited them for the sheer grandeur and artistry of monuments from the Mughal era.

However, we were not very impressed with the "tourism culture" that prevails in our country. Every tourist spot in India is filled with teeming numbers of vendors, "I can be a guide" characters and millions of other paraphernalia-toting salesmen and these places were no different. Alas, this behavior ruins the tourist's enthusiasm in the place of interest as he/she is hounded by people of all types to buy products & services at exorbitant rates even when they seem unwanted.

A thought that came into my mind during my trip was the need for "tourism training" and the provision of a no-holds barred choice to the traveler to avail of products/services that he/she desired, rather than being pushed to the wall. However, not all was that bad.

The Golden Temple at Amritsar was a pleasant experience where the visitor was very well treated and provided choices without any compulsion or force. That was so memorable, I really liked the way they treated every guest on their premises.

Given the immense place of pride that India occupies on the global tourism radar, it is high time, we people realize the need to treat tourists with respect for their time and money and for having come to our country without forcing them to purchase our products and services at all times.

Another examples that comes to mind is the USA that has a very professional approach towards tourism. When I was in Phoenix, AZ, I wanted to plan a trip to the Grand Canyon. I was unable to do so due to my work commitments but what impressed me was the standard fare offered by all hotels and tour operators (it was $120 then) and no price wars on this front. That is the level of solidarity that helps promote tourism.

I am sure, we will have that in our country's keeping my fingers crossed.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Technology Impact on Education

While watching my nearly 2 year old son play with tech gadgets like the computer, washing machine, TV, etc., a thought struck my mind. How is it that all new generations have such a comfort level with technology at such a young age?

I also came across other blogs where US teachers have begun adopting technology in the classroom through computers and interactive whiteboards. They have begun teaching students as young as the 1st graders, the latest in technology like wikis, podcasts and blogs! Sounds incredible isnt it? It does, to me, atleast!

My boss was mentioning that her daughters are most comfortable with the computer AND the internet and often visit YouTube to listen to Nepali songs (at the behest of their nanny!) Imagine a 2 year old mumbling geek words like buffering! What is the world coming to? Wow.

A matter to think here is whether the onslaught of technology makes children brighter or whether it dulls their instinct to use their mind as technology does the thinking for them in some way. Let me illustrate:

In my days as an engineering student, we had to physically make the drawing using a mini-drafter and a Staedler pencil. However, these days, students learn to draw using CAD software and do not physically do the drawing themselves. Got the difference??

Similarly, the log tables have now been replaced by the scientific calculator. :-(

Another example would be the kind of games, our generation played. Crude but with a clear intent to learn something! Like marbles or chipri (aim is the most important need), kites (how to use the wind to your advantage) and several conventional games like cricket, hockey, football, etc.

Sometimes I wonder whether my son will also get a chance to play these games in his times? The advent of technology threatens this chance.....given choices like the XBox, etc.

Guess I can only wait and watch what happens!!

What do others think of this?

Next Gen Technologies

Some of the next generation technologies that will prove to be inflection points in the way the world works and does things (in my humble opinion) will be:

a. Electronic paper (flexible displays) that can change the pace of education adoption and coverage and remove the weighty issues associated with carrying books to the classroom.
b. Pharmacogenomics where medicine can be planned based on the individual's specific needs
c. Solar power that can ensure efficient usage of energy and the shift away from fossil fuels
d. Bio-diesel and fuel cells that can change the automotive industry landscape (at least bio diesel is already making a small and interesting impact in this regard)
e. Genetically modified crops that can strengthen entire generations against disease by being embedded with the vaccine at the time of sowing itself
f. Intelligent home appliances that will talk to each other and other service providers in the external world to make the human interface minimal; the word mobile will get significantly enhanced as convergence across electronics will become a reality
g. Bio chips that will monitor and correct human health to some extent within the body itself without the need for medical intervention for common ailments.

The global problems that can get addressed due to some of these innovations are lack of electricity, famine, poverty and illiteracy, which will directly impact quality of human life and disposable income.

The flip side however, to this would be a colossal loss and compromise of human privacy!

When this is likely to take shape is yet to be known, though the research is on.

In effect, the youngsters in the next generation have a very important responsibility to shoulder.

Interesting thought, isnt it?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

So, what is the common thread connecting the following events?

a. Upload personal videos/photos on a website and view videos uploaded by others
b. Better still, upload/view videos shot through your mobile phone and also get PAID for it.
c. Sell T-Shirts that are designed by randomly invited customers.
d. Ask the public to determine what policies and rules they would like the Police Department to enforce in the future
e. Upload and share personal details with strangers on the WWW and become web-friends (also fiends sometimes, given the risky nature of the internet)
f. Design your own curriculum and complete your professional education course AND also get credits for the same
g. Speak your mind through technology that helps in spreading your thoughts far and wide
h. Create a web glossary of various topics and ask the general public to provide inputs and keep the subject matter updated at all times.

No surprises here, right? Yes, that is correct. Welcome to the world of Customer Generated Media or as the technocrats and geeks put it, Web 2.0, where the customer decides what he/she wants and gets it through personalized customised free for all services and hopefully, products in the coming future.

How ironic! Earlier companies started by giving them clearly specific products (remember the Ford Model T). Then, part customization set in, though, caveated by boundaries set by the manufacturer, more for products in that case.

And now, the shackles have been broken. The WWW has become a very powerful medium to express thoughts and opinion on how good or not so good products are and to set individual choices. Information availability, discovery and dissemination (earlier the very foundation of many businesses) is now a given, thanks to the internet revolution and access through various devices (PC, mobile, PDA, etc). For the services industry, where a tangible look and feel product nomenclature is missing, this is the mantra of success.

The concept is mind boggling and will change the way businesses are going to be conducted, going forward.

The potential for CGM pervasiveness can be gauged by the fact that Internet penetration in the world's top two populous countries (India and China) is yet to take off.

As I said earllier, this opportunity is very BIG! No wonder companies like Toyota now have a UGM Executive whose sole responsibility is understanding the consumer psyche through UGM posts and thoughts.

So, what are your thoughts on this concept? Please do consider sharing them with me. Thanks in advance.