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‘Innovation should contribute to larger development issues,’ says expert

An expert in sustainable development and an avid propagator of meditation, Professor Bert de Vries from Utrecht University, Netherlands, believes innovation should be driven by a larger outlook of substantial utility instead of an aimless frenzy to create hi-tech gadgetry.

pune Updated: Feb 17, 2018 16:52 IST
Ananya Barua
Ananya Barua
Hindustan Times, Pune
innovation,development,sustainable
Bert de Vries, an expert in sustainable development and an avid propagator of meditation.(HT Photo)

An expert in sustainable development and an avid propagator of meditation, Professor Bert de Vries fromUtrecht University, Netherlands, believes innovation should be driven by a larger outlook of substantial utility instead of an aimless frenzy to create hi-tech gadgetry. Bert de Vries was in the city on Thursday to speak on sustainable development at the Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research. He spoke about how India has the potential to facilitate sustainability by propagating meditation. Excerpts from his interview with Ananya Barua.

How would you define sustainable development?

I believe sustainability stems from our aspiration to lead a good quality life and to make it so for not just our species, but for the planet as a whole. When this approach is incorporated in our present and future activities, we are then talking about sustainability. One example of such an aspiration finding fulfilment is the Human Rights act of 1948. The points of concern, when it comes to sustainability, should always focus on changing our present to bring about benefits in the future, without harming the environment.

What is your opinion on the current wave of innovation in India?

Innovation was a hype some five to ten years ago. In Netherlands, if you wanted funding for any project, you had to make sure that your innovation will bring about a substantial and sustainable change in the future. Innovation needs to contribute to the larger development issues and find solutions to them instead of creating hi-tech fancy gadgets like driverless cars, smart homes or intelligent personal assistants like Jarvis or Alexa. These ‘innovations’ eventually do not solve any of the society’s problems. Just because you can create something hi-tech, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be useful.

How can we curb such gaps in policy making and implementation?

Education is the solution here. The future generation needs to be educated about why the issues in a society exist and subsequently, should be equipped to bring out real solutions. People need to receive the kind of education in their respective fields that does not promote a blatant attitude towards a system or an individual. Instead, it should urge them to do their part for the society. Another solution which is a bit more difficult is meditation. It would open a path towards ‘sustainable satisfaction’ and not the short term or instant gratification attitude, which is currently popular. If this method is incorporated, India could be one of the forerunners in sustainable development and can contribute much more than what it is doing now.

What is your opinion onInformation and communication technologies (ICT) with respect to Aadhaar card?

The governments and corporates, not just in India, but all over the world including Netherlands, try to sell ICT to the citizens saying it is good and beneficial and that it should continue to grow, but that is not true. You have all forms of cheating and false information going all over the world through the system. Many of the biggest scams in Netherlands have been associated with ICT systems.

You compared China and India with respect to diminishing air quality. Can you please elaborate?

There is a very interesting difference between the two political systems which implicitly affects the air qualities of the nations. Around 20 years ago, China was burning excessive amounts of coal, thus degrading its air quality. After realising its repercussions, the Chinese government took a step back from it to find a solution to the issue and transform the model. For instance, while electric scooters are not commonly used in India, in China, its very common and sometimes even mandatory. The government made a decision and stuck by it. India, on the other hand, a democracy, like other democracies, is inefficient in consistently implementing great plans and policies. Every turn of a new government brings another set of problems, issues, plans and agendas, thus refreshing the cycle instead of continuing it. Thus, while policies are formed at higher quarters, when it eventually trickles down, the actual implementation becomes weak.

First Published: Feb 17, 2018 16:49 IST