Friday, December 10, 2010

US Chief Technology Officer in Lowell

Aneesh Chopra, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, spoke yesterday at the Deshpande Foundation/UMass Lowell gathering. He said that people in the White House are closely watching this effort to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship; that there have been countless attempts to recreate the kind of creative synergy that characterized Silicon Valley and they are hopeful that if this experiment in Greater Lowell is successful, it can be duplicated around the world.

Chopra told an interesting story about the President's recent trip to India. That country has made enormous strides just recently in using technology (fiber optic cable and high speed internet primarily) to deliver better government services to people in the most remote regions. From one of the major Indian cities, Obama was hosting a virtual town hall meeting with people in a remote village. He asked for examples of how government technology has made their lives better.

One villager explained that each year he had to borrow money to buy seeds. The government provides access to low interest loans for farmers, but a prerequisite is establishing proof of ownership of land. This farmer needed a certified copy of his deed but was unable to obtain it within the time needed to apply for the loan. Instead, he had to borrow money from a loan shark at an exorbitant rate. This year, through the use of the new technology, the same farmer was able to establish his ownership electronically, and he received the low interest government loan.

Does that mean that registries of deeds in remote regions of India provide superior service than those in the US? I doubt it, but it's an interesting question to contemplate.

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