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Science and Technology


Harvard and MIT form a major hub of science, technology, and medicine in the US. India is the complementary hub in the subcontinent. One proven way of catalyzing progress in science and technology is promoting the free exchange of cutting-edge information between sites through student and faculty research programs in South Asia targeted at exploring new developments and innovations in the fields of neuroscience, genomics, climate change, cyber security, and biomedical engineering, etc.

Cyber Security

South Asian countries are subjected to different types of internal pressures and social dynamics when it comes to electronic governance, public-private partnership formation, the concept of “privacy” and Internet freedoms, and critical infrastructure protection in cyberspace. These differences exist for a number of reasons (i.e., scale of population, variation in rates of Internet penetration, economic and social migration patterns, and differences in the nature of telecommunication laws in the South Asian countries). Through workshops and a visiting scholars program, this initiative will bring together scholars who are researching cyberspace issues in the South Asian context.

Faculty Directors: Venkatesh Narayanamurti (School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard) and the Berkman Center (Harvard).


Emergency Response and Disaster Management

Given the high volume of trauma and likelihood of increased exposure to major disasters in South Asia, a plan for disaster response in the region must include the following: training for senior decision makers in government and for response agencies (police, fire, civil service, etc.) to help build a coherent and coordinated system-wide strategy for response; and preparing frontline responders to clinically and psychologically manage the complex patients and issues they face on a daily basis in emergency casualty areas and in EMS settings.

Faculty Directors: Jennifer Leaning (Harvard School of Public Health, FXB Center), Satchit Balsari (Cornell Weill Medical Center), Shawn D’Andrea (HMS), Stephanie Kayden, Usha Periyanayagam, (Harvard Humanitarian Initiative),
In Region Partners: Aman Foundation, Karachi, Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), the health department of the city of Karachi, health department of Sindh province, Al Abassi Hospital, Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Center, Aga Khan University Hospital, and Karachi Civil Hospital.

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Innovation of Medical Devices

A multidisciplinary initiative that provides Harvard students with the opportunity to spend a summer in India and collaborate with local students and health care workers to create novel medical technologies that address real clinical needs. The program also has the potential to develop affordable health care solutions for patients not only in the region, but also in more developed economies, as these affordable technologies make their way back to the US.

Faculty Directors: Conor Walsh (School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard).
In Region Partner: B. Gurumoorthy (IISc–Bangalore).


Introduction to Neuroscience

A two-week course co-taught by faculty and postdoctoral students from Harvard and MIT, as well as faculty from a partner institution in India, on introduction to neuroscience. Students from across India would be selected through a rigorous search process undertaken by Harvard and the Indian partner institution. The structure of the program will include daily lectures on key neuroscience topics, as well as demonstrations and hands-on work. Lectures will cover a wide range of key neuroscience topics and the interdisciplinary nature of neuroscience (encompassing molecular biology, genetics, physiology, engineering, physics, and computer science). An important component of the course is the exposure to new methods and tools of research in neuroscience.

Faculty Directors: Venkatesh Murthy (Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard) and Pawan Sinha (MIT).
In Region Partner: India Institute of Technology (IIT), Upi Bhalla (National Center for Biological Sciences).

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Mental Health

Increased incidence of mental illness relating to the pervasive psychological trauma of recurrent disasters and violence in the region requires a community-based approach, given the wide extent of need and local resources (both human and financial) available to address this complex issue. Research and trainings will include Psychological First Aid Training, Caring for the Caregiver, and Women’s Access to Mental Health Services.

Faculty Directors: Ruth Barron (Harvard Medical School), Shamila Khan (Cambridge Health Alliance).

In Region Partners: Aman Foundation, Karachi, Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), the health department of the city of Karachi, health department of Sindh province, Al Abassi Hospital, Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Center, Aga Khan University Hospital, and Karachi Civil Hospital.



Mobile Technology and Development in South Asia

The use of mobile phones has become ubiquitous in South Asia—not only as a tool to close the information gap, but also as a powerful device to promote economic growth in emerging markets. This project hopes to broaden the understanding of mobile technology and how it can enable economic and social mobility—particularly for those most in need. Our collective efforts can increase knowledge of and provide better access to health care, education, and financial services, and thereby improve livelihoods. The project will develop an analytical framework based on three major components of the research; 1) the technology itself, 2) regulations around the use of technology, 3) the individual users of technology. The spirit of the three-part framework – suggestive of the underlying hypotheses – is that successful use of mobile technology requires more or less concurrent development along these three dimensions. The technology and regulations have to keep pace with each other, and users have to adapt their behavior patterns to avail of the potential benefits.

Faculty Directors:Tarun Khanna (Harvard South Asia Institute, Harvard Business School) and J. P. Onnela and Marc Mitchell (Harvard School of Public Health)
In Region Partners:  Jana Care in Bangalore, Pratham, Delhi, mkrishi, Mumbai

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Past Projects


Inclusive Innovation

Inclusive innovation encompasses innovation in products as well as processes to improve the welfare of traditionally excluded populations (the economic base of the pyramid, or BOP) and other minority groups.

In June 2012, the South Asia Initiative at Harvard University, the Omidyar Network, Growth Dialogue and the World Bank Group convened a Stakeholders’ Roundtable for the Promoting Inclusive Innovation Program on June 22, 2012 at Harvard University. Participants included entrepreneurs and senior policy-makers from Brazil, China, India and South Africa as well as leaders from academia, NGOs, global networks, and donor agencies.