There is a concept in telecommunications called “the last mile,” that part of any phone system that is the most difficult to connect — the part that goes from the main lines into people’s homes. Prem Kalra, the director of the new Indian Institute of Technology in Rajasthan, one of the elite M.I.T.’s of India, has dedicated his school to overcoming a different challenge: connecting “the last person.”
“How will we reach the last person?” Kalra asked me during a visit to his campus here in Jodhpur in the Thar Desert of western India. The “last person” in his view is the poorest person in India. And the question consuming Kalra is can “the financially worst-off person” in India “be empowered” — be given the basic tools to acquire enough skills to overcome dire poverty.
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