Tag Archives: governance

The story behind India’s struggling Aakash IT project

By David Bicknell

The New York Times has carried a couple of excellent blog posts reporting on India’s struggling “Aakash” IT project.

The India Ink posts detail the story behind a plan to introduce a cheap computer built for Indian students. As the blog explains, last October, the Indian Ministry of Human Resources Development unveiled the new, $35 computer.

Now, more than six months later, with thousands of university students still waiting for the laptop, “the tale of the Aakash looks a bit like an Indian soap opera, complete with a convoluted storyline, multiple characters, and massive personality clashes.”

As India Ink says, the Aakash project, if successfully completed, could enable millions of students to connect with the larger digital world, and is being closely watched outside India as the national government tries to attract foreign investment in public-private partnerships for everything from infrastructure to vocational training.

“The original idea behind the Aakash seemed pleasantly simple. A cheap computer would benefit Indian university students by enabling them to watch lectures or get lecture notes and other class information online. In 2009, a team of government researchers developed the basic design for the low cost device.

“The job of putting the project out to bid fell to I.I.T. Rajasthan, which by spring of 2011 had received 477 million rupees — about $9.2 million — in government funds to pay for procuring and testing 100,000 low-cost tablets. In writing the tender, I.I.T. Rajasthan detailed the technical specifications for the tablet but did not specify the criteria for testing and approving the devices, according to a government source involved in the project. That omission was to prove disastrous.

Here is Part One of the tangled tale of the project, which involves issues with procurement, outsourcing, testing and governance.

And here is Part Two.

India’s $35 Aakash tablet comes apart
Aakash Tablet Problems: India’s $35 slate slammed by testers

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FT: ‘Lessons from the house that John Lewis built’

By David Bicknell

John Kay’s column in the FT yesterday on the need for pluralism in business structures (that include mutuals) was a good read.

In “Lessons from the house that Lewis built”, he argues that we need to find more robust capital and governance structures that permit wider forms of commercial activity. Worth a read (you may need to register or find “Lessons from the house that Lewis built” via Google)

The column refers to a recent report by the Ownership Commission chaired by Will Hutton. You can read the report here

David Cameron launches £600m Big Society Fund

Auditor criticises agency over IT contracts and oversight for California high speed rail project

By David Bicknell

Let’s hope that when the HS2 high speed rail link gets underway – assuming it gets the final go-ahead in 2014 – it doesn’t have the same problems over IT contracts and oversight that have recently come to light over a high speed rail project in California.

A new report by the California State Auditor on a planned high speed system between San Francisco and Los Angeles found that the $98.5bn project has suffered from a number of critical, ongoing oversight problems.

In particular, the auditor found that the High Speed Rail Authority responsible for the project has struggled to provide an appropriate level of contract oversight, because it is significantly understaffed.

As Palo Alto Online reports, “The audit paints a picture of a severely understaffed state agency that is struggling to keep track of its contractors, who outnumber the rail authority’s staff by a factor of about 25 to 1. As of last August, the authority had only 21.5 filled positions and more than 500 contractors.”

The State Auditor also found that the Authority poorly managed its IT contracts and engaged in ‘inappropriate contracting practices involving IT services.’

In addition to the initial contract, the audit report says, the Authority used 13 individual contracts for IT services over a 15-month period that ranged from $105,655 to $249,999.99 for similar services with one vendor.

Instead of multiple contracts generally having aggregate values of just under $250,000 with one vendor for similar services, the Auditor said, the Authority should have combined the services into one contract and solicited competitive bids or obtained approval to noncompetitively bid the contract.

The capital, contractual, governance and leadership questions facing creative councils over mutuals

By David Bicknell

There are some good points raised in this article in about the challenges facing creative councils who may be considering the adoption of new mutual models.

It raises some useful questions around capital, governance, contracts, relationships, management, growth, leadership and how the private sector can help.

Worth a read.