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South Asia

South Asia is, in many ways, the center of gravity of the development paradigm. All the issues that development seeks to address—as well as the solutions it has championed—animate the landscapes of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. There are many success stories, but the advances have also brought new and sometimes even more formidable problems. The sheer scale of development produces outsized challenges that are nowhere more evident than in the megacities of the region. From physical facilities to service infrastructures, South Asia is ripe for both disaster and innovation of a magnitude perhaps never before experienced by humans. Even with prospects of double-digit growth for the coming decade, the region must find answers to profound new development questions.

The Critical Questions

Action Zones

In rural villages and urban slums alike, access to education is often limited not only by poverty but also by lack of formal standing in the community. From boat schools in Bangladesh to madrasa schools in India, and from e-books to ICT4E infrastructures, education is not just a platform for escaping poverty, but also a platform of innovation.

Literacy and migration

Literacy rates fall when people leave tribal villages for cities

Non-formal education

NGOs provide informal education to the majority of the poor in Dhaka

Critical Questions

Double-digit growth—and the vast new gaps likely to come with it—will challenge South Asia.
  • How will South Asia innovate the very concept of infrastructure to meet the needs of vast new urban populations over the next two decades?

  • How will the region avoid enclaves of privilege, such as gated communities, as it seeks solutions to the rapid growth of slums and illegally settled migrants?

  • How will South Asian countries reinvent their health and educational strategies to meet the needs of large migrant populations who are uprooted from place-centered services?

  • How will South Asia leverage its vibrant informal economy to create pro-poor solutions to everything from transportation to water and sanitation?

  • How will the region improve daily nutrition even as food security becomes an increasingly daunting issue in the lives of poor people?

  • How will South Asia make the transition from precarious megacities to sustainable mega-regions in the face of environmental and climate disruptions?

  • How will South Asian countries assure refugee rights for internally as well as externally displaced persons, given the scale of migration in the region?


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