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Disparity deepens between developed and developing world: Expert says smart villages are the answer

Chinese rural village

The technological revolution and wealth creation it drives in the 21st century disproportionately favors big cities over rural areas. The chasm is wide in developed nations, but is far worse in the developing world, says Narayanan Komerath, professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Lamar University’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry will host Komerath, who teaches engineering in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, on February 16 in "Bare Sidewalks and the 21st century Village: Technology for a Rural Enterprise Revolution." The talk will take place at 11 a.m., February 16 in Room 117 of the Chemistry Building at LU.

Farmer suicides are one shocking symptom of the desperation growing in the rural areas where some 70 percent of the world's population lives. Lack of employment and opportunity drive migration to the already-overcrowded cities, adding to the congestion, environmental degradation and human tragedy.

Komerath and others believe the careful use of technology can solve this problem and have embarked on a roadmap towards developing Smart Villages.

The first step is a template to bring basic solar photovoltaic (PV) and biogas energy to the village school, followed by training villagers as energy technicians, he said. In the past year, 50 Indian villages have received PV systems, and another 100 are planned, Komerath said. 

The next step brings in modern, sustainable business enterprise to the villages, starting with clean water, sanitation, connectivity, education, knowledge, skills training and healthcare. Electronic cashless transactions and Block chain technologies remove many traditional barriers to rural enterprise.

While the lack of road infrastructure remains a massive problem, Komerath believes aerospace technology such as advances in bluff body aerodynamics and slung load aeromechanics enable a range of options using UAVs, aerostats and lighter-than-air vehicles that will help address the challenges.

Following Komerath’s presentation, participants will be invited to participate in a discussion on the issues and opportunities in setting up transportation infrastructure that can enable modern business to thrive in rural areas, with last-mile physical connectivity turning the villages into the ideal places to live as well as operate modern business enterprises.