Video conferences connect Harvard experts, South Asian entrepreneurs
One recent morning, Karthik Ramanna, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School (HBS), sat down in a virtually empty Harvard conference room and prepared to explain different forms of government corruption and how to combat them.
But he was not teaching his usual M.B.A. students. Rather, his words — specifically, a presentation of HBS three case studies on anti-corruption efforts in China, Russia, and India — were being broadcast live to students, academics, and activists at 13 universities in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
Ramanna, an authority on corporate accountability, was sharing his knowledge with the eager audience of budding social entrepreneurs, who had gathered in classrooms around the world (it was evening, by their time) to hear how his examples might prove useful in their homelands. Corruption is a problem in countries, Ramanna said over the live feed, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be solved by clever, dogged individuals.
“Transparency is perhaps the most potent tool in the fight against corruption,” he said, as he launched into a presentation about a fearless publisher of exposés in Russia and an Indian website that crowdsources examples of government officials seeking bribes.
His talk was part of a series of live Web chats, hosted by the South Asia Institute and made possible by the Pakistan Higher Education Commission’s Virtual Education Project, that aims to bring together Harvard experts and social entrepreneurs in South Asia. The live video chats are the latest tech-savvy solution to the question of how Harvard can share its insights on education, health, good governance, and a host of other social issues with civic-minded entrepreneurs around the globe.
The video conferences are the latest project of the Pakistan Innovation Network, a social enterprise started by graduate students Mariam Chughtai, a doctoral candidate at Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), and Erum Sattar, a doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School (HLS). In addition to Ramanna’s class on Feb. 27, the series also has featured Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of International Education, and Tarun Khanna, HBS’s Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, and Sattar and Chughtai are planning six more conferences for the 2013-2014 academic year. The startup, which receives support from the South Asia Institute, recently acquired space in the Harvard Innovation Lab to continue its work on fostering social entrepreneurship in Pakistan and the surrounding region.