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Using Tech for Global Good

Senior Research Award winner Nir Kshetri studies how the most advanced technology can help transform the least developed countries.

Almost 20 years have passed since management professor Nir Kshetri made a career-altering discovery in a small village in Nepal. An assistant professor at Kathmandu University, he’d been working as a trainer for various projects sponsored by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the German Technical Cooperation and the Nepal Agricultural Development Bank. The goal was to help Nepalese farmers modernize the way they go about farming and selling their commodities.

“It was obvious that farmers’ lives could be significantly improved by helping them adopt inexpensive technologies and manage in a better way,” Nir says. His work set the stage for the research he would conduct well into the future: studying how the most advanced technology could transform the least developed countries.

Over the next 20 years, Nir became an expert in advancing technologies long before the larger population even heard of them: cloud computing, cybersecurity, big data—and one of the newest technologies of our time, the Internet of Things, which gives everyday objects network connectivity.

“With the Internet of Things, we can put sensors in cows, in soil, in streetlights,” says Nir. “We can design a sensor to do whatever we need it to do. Coffee growers in Vietnam, for example, are using sensors in root irrigation systems so that they can give exactly the right amount of water and nutrition. This greatly increases productivity. The sensors let farmers know how to improve their crops in whatever way they need to be improved.”

And now, they are affordable for everyone—a game changer, especially for countries with little to no resources.

Shedding light on the possibilities

Currently, Nir is writing a report on the many possible applications of the Internet of Things. He hopes it will be his swan song. “The same technologies that can help big, multinational companies manage in a better way can also help less developed countries. There are so many possibilities to solve problems from pollution to healthcare issues to farming challenges.”

In short, Nir is constantly ahead of his time. Certainly that was one factor in the decision to honor him with Bryan School’s 2016 Senior Research Excellence Award in April. In addition, his work is recognized around the globe. He’s delivered keynote speeches all over the world, published seven books and countless journal articles, and earned more than two dozen awards. Perhaps one reason for his success is his remarkable thirst for knowledge. Just consider his degrees—two bachelor’s, three master’s, and a PhD.

Nir’s desire to know more and to share his knowledge is passed on to his students, a quality that earned him two Bryan School Teaching Excellence Awards as well. He’s developed ten of his own courses based on his vast experience in technology and international business. In some of the courses, he takes students to Paris and the Czech Republic to visit companies and study how business empowerment works in different parts of the world. He’s known for incorporating practical, hands-on learning experiences that prepare his students for real-world work settings.

“The students in the Bryan School are really good,” he says. “They are motivated and diverse. And the faculty is strong. We are a university very much focused on teaching and very much focused on research, and I have been happy to pursue both.”