Myself daktre

I may not have gone where i intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

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I am a medical doctor with an interest and specialisation in public health. I work at the Institute of Public Health, Bangalore. I lead a team working on topics related to health equity and evaluation of health programmes/policies. Since 2017, I am an India Alliance Fellow at IPH.

For my PhD at ITM, Antwerp, I studied health care organisation and management at the district level in Tumkur district of Karnataka in south India. I studied how capacity-building of health managers at the district level could lead to positive organisational change (see paper based on protocol, some general thoughts on programme evaluation in India, some early results and some actual results). And for this, I used realist evaluation (see the reading list of RE that I maintain on Mendeley; I also run a twitter channel @realisteval).  My research interests within public health are mainly in health inequities, particularly health of Adivasi people, primary health care, disease surveillance and OneHealth, district health management, mental health in primary health care. I teach social determinants of health and health equity in various public health institutions in Bangalore.

After my medicine, I worked as a doctor at an ngo-run hospital in the  biligirirangan hills in southern Karnataka (my articles on br hills). I worked for a bit in primary health centres in Karnataka and briefly in Arunachal Pradesh. Most of my travels have been to forests and my work at br hills has been the origin and the consequence of my passion for wildlife, especially birds, stemming from a larger interest in natural history and biology. I try to keep this alive by birding, reading and writing about this.

I am an editor on wikipedia and strongly believe that it has contributed significantly to narrowing the gap between the expert and the amateur. I agree with these people; contributing there is both an educational opportunity and a professional responsibility. Information and health suffer from similar inequities, and perhaps information equity will be achieved far earlier than for health, and one day, the only barrier to the sum of all human knowledge will be apathy. I help organise workshops to promote contributing content to Wikipedia.

……’daktre’ is the kannada way of addressing a doctor….something that is more an identity for me than my name. It is also my most commonly used nick on the www.

Right to Information Act is a landmark legislation in India. Although, the dramatic change that one expected after its coming into effect was not immediately apparent, the fact that government orders, file notings, media and all such information formerly tucked away inaccessible in the far-away lands of sarkari attics is not RTIable. This brings in the opportunity for us to understand public policy issues better and “push” for action sometimes, and at other times, make noise about inaction. RTI in the hands of an informed citizen is a wonderful opportunity to bring about change.

I have been trying to use RTI to understand how data of various forms that is either collected by or vested with the Government is used (or not used). In this series of articles, you will find updates on these efforts. (All my RTI’s are filed through RTINation. If you are already not using it, please do.) Whenever possible, I now use Government of India’s own RTI platform, Else I use nowadays.

For all things to be said of no larger consequence, there’s facebook . It took the whole Cambridge Analytical fiasco to make me quit, but as we all know, you can check out (of Facebook) but can never leave.

But if thought is to become the possession of many, not the privilege of the few, we must have done with fear. It is fear that holds men back — fear lest their cherished beliefs should prove delusions, fear lest the institutions by which they live should prove harmful, fear lest they themselves should prove less worthy of respect than they have supposed themselves to be.

Bertrand Russel

Be it books, software, films, other events or scientific papers – there’s a lot to be said about how good, or bad or useful they are. A careful critique of either of these is the beginning of a conversation and writing on these issues is as much to share as it is about keeping the conversation in one place. And hence the notes.

Technology is really coming of age. Gone are the days when programming and gadgetry were confined to geeks, nerds and their ilk. What often differentiates an expert from an amateur is merely access to information and the ability to find it and understand it. Access to information is fast improving, and so is the ability to find information. As the worldwide web increases in its depth and coverage, the only barrier to learning seems to be disinterest.

The original Prince of Persia. What a shapeless, formless blob that prince was!

That fascinating, yet false theory of  ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny in the animal world, is wonderfully represented in the 80’s Indian child’s introduction to technology. The scientific calculator fiercely used to be guarded as precious gadgets that may be “spoilt” by us kids when I was in primary school; the ZX spectrum when it made its entry into computer labs was fastened to a television and a tape-recorder. It was only when I was well into high school that the computer started looking serious (and personal!) with the IBM PCs running 8086 processors. As far as I can remember, the evolution of computing could be judged by the last 3 digits – the 286, 386 and the 486 with this SXs and the DX models. Friends with computers in those days were quite precious – you never messed with them. What started with Nibbles or Digger in Babu’s house in 7th grade progressed to Where in the world is Carmen SanDiego and (that favorite of ours then) Prince of Persia in Shrenik’s house in later years and finally to Dave in Juggy’s house as the computers evolved. Strategy games and shooting games were to still come. Until the playstations of our days came, evolution of computing often could be easily understood through the games that the computers could support. What needed the best 386 machine in those days can be played on a browser even as I run Photoshop parallel these days – here is a site where it can still be played!

Anyway, the 80s child grew up watching the computing and the telecom revolution progressing by leaps and bounds through every single birthday of his. And I cannot help but think of technology as a lifestyle rather than a profession or a discipline. Even as I went through medical school, I kept the spirit alive doing my bits of web-design in html and that (then) awful Dreamweaver and that still awful Frontpage – those days of “Welcome to my homepage” websites with shadows and bevelled buttons!

2010’s is another story. Online learning has come of age and in spite of HPs claims that the computer is personal again, it is clearly the tablet that has become personal. And in spite of years and years of talk on eLearning, the movement towards good quality online education remained limited to videos of lectures and free courseware; there was not much teaching, but merely passive learning by interested students. That is all slowly changing. And one such is of course the University of the People – the tuition-free online University, where I registered for my Bachelors degree in computer science (Update in 2013 – degree on hold as I am missing classes! Come 2015, I quit!). And after all these years of being a doctor, never did I think I can also register for an engineering course. The course is built on the open-source learning management system, Moodle and is quite well thought through pedagogically. And whether a doctor can engineer? – time will tell. Earlier last year, the official Moodle app for mobile was released. I teach e-learning courses at IPH using the Moodle platform with great help from friend and colleague Diljith Kannan

All said and done, these high funda technologies are only for the few who could afford. Contrast India, where education is yet to be realized as a birth right, leave alone health with some other parts of the world where access to the internet is already a birth right, global inequities will continue to restrict the gains from technology to most people at the global level. Even as I am fascinated by information technology, I am mindful of its limited access. But, perhaps will there be a day when this ‘tech-stuff’ will help improve health care, education and such? My interest in “tech stuff” continues – in hope that it may also help and contribute to public health. And hence this collection of tech-talks on

I am running a list of random things here. It’s still early though…give it some time to grow.