Media Lab Asia was a great vision that was not successful. One of those great ideas that demonstrate that great vision and wonderful ideas fail miserably if the ‘operations’ side — commonly ignored or considered unimportant part by several visionaries — is not equally strong. I had some relationship with the project and saw how great vision was being slipping away due to operational problems. Operational problems included not building structures that will work in the given cultural situation, trying to produce things too fast, and ultimately things being driven by multiple people (with strong egos) with differing agendas. In one year of my involvement I saw some people who had great vision and wanted to transform rural India to people who were their to dig gold as fast as they could because they were not sure how much time they have.
There were some great ideas and good starts. Ultimately things collapsed due to MLAsia not being sound, poitical winds changing in India, and great egos involved.
This post was prompted by an article that I just read written by Mike Best who was there to see everything and was pointed to me by Venkatram who diligently worked for MLAsia from early days but was victim of the CEO’s management style (as mentioned in the article). Very interesting read. I must add that Sandy Pentland, the founding Director of the lab continues with his vision and is still doing things for emerging countries. And I developed a vision for Folk Computing — different from $100 computer commonly touted as the solution for these people in rural India — during my time with MLAsia and I hope to work on it sometime soon.