Nilekani is most insightful in his analysis of the IT revolution spurred by companies like Infosys, which took advantage of the economic liberalization and reforms instituted in 1991 by finance minister Manmohan Singh. The author expresses nationalistic pride at the speed with which Internet community centers and IT kiosks have been set up in rural areas across India, providing previously isolated villagers the ability to check crop prices and get treatment via telemedicine. His description of such other successes as a stable democratic process and a colonial legacy of education in English, the world’s language, validate India’s potential to catapult itself into the league of developed nations. Regrettably, the book loses focus when Nilekani addresses the multitude of policy issues his homeland must tackle, such as the need for better primary schooling or sustained infrastructure development.
He carefully explains each issue in the context of India’s history and consults with a grab bag of experts, ranging from the Princeton professor Atul Kohli to “a friend of mine who runs a BPO,” whose viewpoints he assumes to be true. This may lead some readers to suspect that Nilekani’s proffered solutions are shaped mostly by the random impact of those he had access to. Others may wonder if it’s absolutely necessary for India to abandon its socialist traditions, as the author advocates, in order to achieve economic growth. Nilekani also calls for limits on governmental regulation, so as to encourage entrepreneurship and private investment, and for strong political leaders able to overcome sectarian politics.
(Author events in New York, Washington, D.C, San Francisco. Agent: Andrew Wylie/The Wylie Agency)