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India 2.0: Can the Country Make the Move to the Next Level?

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

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With the global economic crisis threatening to cause turmoil in the emerging markets of the global South, it is becoming clear that what worked for the past two decades may not work for the next two.

For India, the legacy issues of poverty still need to be addressed, and the country’s impressive information technology (IT) industry – which has driven so much of India’s growth – will face stiff competition from other countries in the global South. Some argue that if the IT industry hopes to keep growing and contributing to India’s wealth, things will need to change.

Unlike China, where heavy investment in infrastructure and a strong link between government and the private sector has driven the impressive manufacturing boom in the country, in India the government has de-regulated and taken a back seat, leaving the private sector and entrepreneurs to drive the change and do the innovation.

Many believe various areas need urgent attention if India is to continue to enjoy good growth rates in the coming years. Areas in need of attention include infrastructure, healthcare and education (thesmartceo.in), in particular the knowledge to work in the information technology industry of the 21st century.

One of the founders of Indian outsourcing success Infosys (infosys.com), executive co-chairman Senapathy Gopalakrishnan, told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, “So many people’s lives have been changed by IT in India.

“People from the middle class and lower middle class have become global employees and have the opportunity to work with some of the best companies in the world. But the challenge for India is that this industry can only create so many jobs. IT is not going to solve the unemployment problem in India.”

But the coming next wave of change in information technology is an opportunity to be seized to reduce unemployment if enough people are educated to handle it.

According to Gopalakrishnan: “I strongly believe, and it’s backed up by data, that there is a shortage of computer professionals everywhere in the world, including India. The application of computers is growing dramatically and will continue to grow dramatically over the next 20 to 30 years. We have to train and create the workforce necessary to grow this industry.”

Various media stories have called this next phase India 2.0. If India 1.0 was the highly successful information technology outsourcing industry developed in the late 1980s, through the 1990s and 2000s, then India 2.0 is the next wave of IT innovation being driven by Big Data, automation, robotics, smart technologies and the so-called “Internet of things.”

Big Data is defined as the large amounts of digital data continually generated by the global population. The speed and frequency with which data is produced and collected – by an increasing number of sources – is responsible for today’s data deluge (UN Global Pulse). It is estimated that available digital data will increase by 40 per cent every year. Just think of all those mobile phones people have, constantly gathering data.

Processing this data and finding innovative ways to use it will create many of the new IT jobs of the future.

“We are living in a world which is boundary-less when it comes to information, and where there is nowhere to hide,” continues Gopalakrishnan, “If you have a cellphone, somebody can find out exactly where you are. Through social networks you’re sharing everything about yourself. You are leaving trails every single moment of your life. Theoretically, in the future you’ll only have to walk through the door at Infosys and we’ll know who you are and everything about you.”

Unlike in the late 1980s, when India was the pioneer in IT outsourcing for large multinational companies and governments, competition is fierce across the global South. The mobile-phone revolution and the spread of the Internet have exponentially increased the number of well-educated people in the global South who could potentially work in IT. China, the Philippines, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana are just some of the countries heavily involved in this area.

If India fails to meet the India 2.0 challenge, it risks seeing its successful companies and entrepreneurs leaving to work their magic elsewhere in Asia and the new frontiers of Africa, just as many of its best and brightest of the recent past became pioneers and innovators in California’s Silicon Valley.

India’s IT sector contributed 1.2 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 1998; by 2012, this was 7.5 per cent (Telegraph). The IT industry employs 2.5 million people in India, and a further 6.5 million people indirectly. IT makes up 20 per cent of India’s exports and, according to the National Association of Software and Services Companies (nasscom.in), the industry has revenue of US $100 billion.

India is now the IT and outsourcing hub for more than 120 of the Fortune 500 companies in the United States.

Out of India’s 3.5 million graduates every year, 500,000 are in engineering – a large pool of educated potential IT workers. India produces the world’s third largest group of engineers and scientists, and the second largest group of doctors.

IT has become a route that catapults bright Indian youth into 21st-century businesses and science parks and to the corporations of the world.

One visible example of the prosperity brought by IT services in India is the booming technology sector based in the city of Bangalore (also called Bengaluru) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangalore).

Reflective of the contradictions of India, Bangalore has 10 per cent of its workforce now working in IT, but also 20 per cent of its population living in urban slums.

The nearby Electronics City (elcia.in) is considered “India’s own silicon valley and home to some of the best known global companies.”

To date, aspects of India 2.0 are already taking shape.

One company is called Crayon Data (crayondata.com). It uses Big Data and analytics to help companies better understand their customers and increase sales and deliver more personal choices.
Edubridge (http://acumen.org/investment/edubridge/) is helping to bridge the gap for rural youth with varied education backgrounds and long-term jobs. Edubridge trains youth for the real needs of employers to increase the chances they will get a job. This includes jobs in the IT business process outsourcing sector and banking and financial services.

Infosys is working on innovations for the so-called “Internet of things,” in which smart technologies connect everyday items to the grid and allow for intelligent management of resources and energy use. Infosys is developing sophisticated software using something called semantic analytics – which analyses web content (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_analytics) – to sort through social media and the Internet to track customer responses to products.

Elsewhere, former Infosys Chief Executive Nanden Nilekani is involved in a Big Data innovation to address the problem of social and economic exclusion of India’s poor. Called Aadhaar (http://uidai.gov.in/), the government-run scheme is gathering biometric data on every Indian to build the world’s largest biometric database. After being enrolled and having fingerprints and iris scans taken, each individual is given a 12-digit identification number. So far 340 million people have been registered with the scheme, and it is hoped 600 million will be registered by the end of 2014.

The idea is to use a combination of access to mobile phones and these unique ID numbers to widen access to all sorts of products and services to poor Indians, including bank accounts for the millions who do not have one. Many people, lacking any identity or official acknowledgment they exist, were prevented from engaging with the formal economy and formal institutions. Being able to save money is a crucial first step for getting out of poverty and it is hoped information technology will play an important role in achieving this.

Published: March 2014

Resources

1) India 2.0 by Mick Brown. Website: http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/india2.0/part-one#top

2) Electronic City Bangalore: Regional information portal for Electronic City, an industrial technology hub located in Bangalore South, India. This portal is becoming the most favourite haunt of ECitizens living and/or working in Electronic City. Website: http://www.electronic-city.in/

3) Electronics City Industries Association: Welcome to the Electronics City, India’s own silicon valley and home to some of the best known global companies. Located in Bangalore, the Electronics City was conceived way back in the mid-1970?s as an Industrial Estate exclusively for Electronics Industries. Today the industrial estate boasts is an oasis of large, medium and small industries spanning software services, hardware; high end telecommunications; manufacture of indigenous components; electronic musical instruments, just  to name a few. Website: elcia.in

4) Godrej E-City: Situated in Electronic city and connected through NICE road and the elevated expressway, Godrej E-City brings your workplace and other major conveniences within your immediate reach. Your travel times become shorter and hassle-free. You have more time for your family and yourself. It’s time to move closer to happiness. Website: https://www.godrejproperties.com/godrejecity/overview

5) Infosys: Infosys is a global leader in consulting, technology and outsourcing solutions. As a proven partner focused on building tomorrow’s enterprise, Infosys enables clients in more than 30 countries to outperform the competition and stay ahead of the innovation curve. Website: http://www.infosys.com/pages/index.aspx

6) Tech Hub Bangalore: partnering with the UK India Business Council to establish TechHub in Bangalore.TechHub is a community and workspace for technology entrepreneurs with 1000’s of members, building the most exciting startups in Europe. We have physical community spaces in London, Manchester, Bucharest, Swansea and Riga and have members from over 50 countries.The Bangalore site will be part of a wider scheme in partnership with other British firms such as Rolls Royce, ADS, Bangalore Cambridge Innovation Network, BAe and PA Consulting with the aim of forging stronger links between the UK and India. Website: http://www.techhub.com/blog/techhub-expands-to-bangalore/

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Human Development Report Mongolia | 1997

This groundbreaking Mongolian Human Development Report – the country’s first – went beyond just chronicling Mongolia’s state of development in statistics and graphs. It placed the story of the Mongolian people during the transition years (post-1989) at its heart, using photographs, stories and case studies to detail the bigger narrative at play.

Designed, laid out and published in Mongolia, the report broke with the practices of many other international organisations, who would publish outside of Mongolia – denying local companies much-needed work. The report’s costs helped to kick-start a publishing boom in the country and significantly raised standards in design and layout. The foundations laid down by the project producing the report ushered in a new age in publishing for Mongolia.

The report’s launch was innovative, not only being distributed for free across the country, but also part of a multimedia campaign including television programming, public posters, town hall meetings and a ‘roadshow’ featuring the report’s researchers and writers.

The initial print run of 10,000 copies was doubled as demand for the report increased. To the surprise of many, once hearing about the free report, herders would travel to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, to pick up their copy. The report proved people cared passionately about the development of their country and that development concepts are not to be the secret domain of ‘development practitioners’.

You can read the report’s pdf here: books.google.co.uk/books?id=dx7Q-yJot_cC&printsec=fro…

The MHDR 1997 was so popular it had two print runs. It has been cited in many books, journals and publications. It was the first exhaustive account of the country’s turbulent transition years and mapped the extent of poverty in the country.
The award-winning UN/UNDP Mongolia Development Portal was launched in 1997. It quickly became the go-to source on Mongolia’s development challenges.
CTV News: “Canada named best place to live on this day in 1997”. I considered it an enormous privilege to be given the opportunity to work with fellow Canadians on sharing our experiences with Mongolia during the 1990s crisis.

“On this day in 1997, Canada was on top of the world. Or at least, on top of the United Nations’ annual ranking of the best places to live in the world.

“CTV News archival footage captured a proud moment for Canada on June 12, 1997, as then-National News anchor Lloyd Robertson hailed the UN ranking as a “report card to be proud of.”

“It’s not quite straight As but Canada is still at the head of the class,” Robertson said. “In fact, it’s No. 1 in the world.”

Related Links

“Canada beat out France, Norway, the United States and Iceland for top spot on the UN human development list, which ranks countries based on a variety of factors linked to quality of life.

“It was the fourth straight year Canada topped the list.

“Canada earned top marks in the life expectancy, health, education and income categories, which helped propel the country’s overall Human Development Index score to No. 1 in the world.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2017

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African Health Data Revolution

A pioneering tool for gathering health data now being used in Kenya could herald a revolution in the way diseases are tracked and defeated around the world. It uses mobile phones to better connect patients with medical and health personnel, and allows data to be gathered in real-time and used to track health and improve the delivery of services, especially to remote and under-serviced areas.

In the past couple of years, Kenya has become a hotbed of mobile phone and information technology innovation. The now-famous Ushahidi crisis-mapping platform (www.ushahidi.com) is just one example. Social enterprise Data Dyne (www.datadyne.org) – with offices in Washington DC and Nairobi, Kenya – is offering its EpiSurveyor application (www.episurveyor.org) free to all to aid health data collection. It bills itself as “the first cloud-computing application for international development and global health … Think of it as like Gmail, but for data collection!”

EpiSurveyor claims to have more than 2,600 users around the world and is currently being upgraded to a second version.

“With the touch of a button I can see what’s going on across the country in real time,” Kenyan civil servant Yusuf Ibrahim told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. “It is amazing.”

Ibrahim works in Nairobi as the Kenyan Ministry of Health liaison to Data Dyne.

He uses maps and charts on mobile phones to track deadly disease outbreaks and vulnerable pregnancies.

The EpiSurveyor application works simply: A user logs into the website and builds and creates the sort of form they want. They then download it to a phone and start collecting data straight away.

Ibrahim gathers this data from mobile phones used by health care workers across the country.

“It used to take days, weeks or even a couple of months to find out about an outbreak of polio on the other side of the country,” he said. “Now we know almost instantly. The speed with which we can now collect information has catapulted healthcare and prevention to another level. It has completely changed healthcare and saved countless lives.”

He proudly points out Kenya’s mobile phone data collection system is “probably better than what they’ve got in the West.”

“Although we are a third world country, I’m pretty sure we’ve done this before

Western countries. While they are still collecting information in hard copy on clipboards, we are getting it instantly.”

Packed with data processing power, mobile phones are capable of an immense range of tasks and applications. Some see phones as key to a revolution in how healthcare is provided: the mobile phone becomes one-part clinic, another part mobile hospital dispensing advice and transmitting vital information back to healthcare professionals and scientists in hospitals and labs.

Despite dramatic improvements to the quality of hospitals in Africa and the number of qualified doctors, the continent’s healthcare services are still a patchwork, with rural and slum dwellers poorly served and the stresses of treating patients with contagious diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria pushing resources to the limit.

The United Nations has a number of initiatives partnering with mobile phone manufacturers, networks and software developers as part of a global campaign to reduce HIV/AIDS, malaria and deaths in childbirth.

EpiSurveyor is being used by more than 15 countries’ ministries of health and is the adopted standard for the World Health Organization (www.who.int) (WHO) for electronic health data collection.

It began as a partnership with the United Nations Foundation, The Vodafone Group Foundation, WHO and the ministries of health of Kenya and Zambia in 2006 to pilot test the software for EpiSurveyor.

At the United Nations Foundation (www.unfoundation.org), chief executive Kathy Calvin equates the impact of mobile phones on global healthcare to the discovery of the antibiotic penicillin.

“Instead of building clinics and roads to remote towns and villages so that people can access healthcare, we are bringing healthcare directly to the people via mobile phones. You get a lot more healthcare for your money,” Calvin told the Telegraph.

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: November 2010

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsnovember2010issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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UNDP In Mongolia: The Guide | 1997 – 1999

Editor: David South

Researcher and Writer: Jill Lawless

Publisher: UNDP Mongolia Communications Office

Published: Between 1997 and 1999

Background: This is the original text from the brochure UNDP in Mongolia: The Guide first published in 1997. It, for the first time, provided a rolling update on what the United Nations was doing in Mongolia, offering key contacts and data to help advance human development in the country. It introduced transparency to the UN’s work in the country and made it easier to hold programme and project staff to account.

Mongolia – Population

With an area of more than 1.5 million square kilometres and a population of 2.38 million as of October 1997, Mongolia has a population density of only 1.5 people per square kilometre, one of the lowest in the world. The country has a relatively low growth rate of 1.6 per cent (1995), down from 2.5 per cent in 1989. At this rate, Mongolia’s population will reach 2.5 million by the year 2000.

Despite the popular image of Mongolians as nomadic herders, it is an increasingly urbanized country – 51.9 per cent of the population is urban, 48.1 per cent rural. More than one quarter of Mongolians live in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. The other major urban centres are Darhan (pop. 90,000) and Erdenet (pop. 65,000 ).

The country is divided into 21 aimags (provinces), plus the autonomous capital region. The aimags are:

In the centre: Tuv, Uvurhangai, Arhangai

In the north: Bulgan, Selenge, Hovsgul, Zavhan, Darhan-Uul, Orhon

In the east: Hentii, Dornod, Suhbaatar

In the west: Hovd, Uvs, Bayan-Olgii, Gov-Altai

In the south: Dundgov, Dornogov, Omnogov, Bayanhongor, Gobisumber

The People:

About 86 per cent of the country’s population are Kalkh Mongols. Another 7 per cent are Turkic in origin, mostly Kazakhs living in the western aimags of Bayan-Olgii and Hovd. The rest belong to a wide variety of ethnic groups, including the Buryat, Dariganga, Bayad, Zakchin and Uriankhai. Mongolia’s smallest ethnic group is the Tsaatan, about 200 of whom live as reindeer herders in the far north of the country. 

During the communist period, Mongolia was home to tens of thousands of Russians. Few remain. 

More than 4 million Mongols live outside Mongolia, in Russia and the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia.

Human Development:

– Mongolia’s per capita GDP is U.S. $359 (1995). But this fails to take into account the cashless subsistence and barter economy widespread in rural areas.

– Poverty, though widespread, is difficult to tabulate. 1996 government figures put the poverty rate at 19.2 per cent – 19.8 per cent for rural areas, 18.7 for urban areas. But State Statistical Office figures for October 1997 indicate 36.8 per cent of urban residents and 27.5 per cent of rural Mongolians live below the poverty line. 

– Omnogov, Gobisumber, Hovsgol, Ovorhangai and Bayanhongor are the aimags with the highest poverty rates.

– The average monthly household income in September 1997 was 58,516.7 tugrugs (U.S. $73). Average expenditure was 58,124.8 tugrugs. In 1995, 48 per cent of household expenditure went on food. In poor households, the figure was 64 per cent.

Social Data:

Life expectancy: 63.8 years (1995)

Infant mortality rate: 40 per 1000 

Under five mortality rate: 56.4 per 1000 

Maternal mortality rate: 185.2 per 100,000 (1995)

One-year-old immunization rate: tuberculosis 94.4 per cent, measles 85.2 per cent (1995)

Access to safe drinking water: rural 89.9 per cent, urban 46.1 per cent (1995)

Access to sanitation: 74 per cent (1995)

Adult literacy rate:

 men 97.5 per cent,

 women 96.3 per cent 

Primary school net enrollment: 93.4 per cent

Secondary school net enrollment: 56.9 per cent 

Physicians: 26 per 10,000

Hospital beds: 9.9 per 1000

Daily calorie intake: 2278.2

Data 1996 unless otherwise indicated. Sources: State Statistical Office, Human Development Report Mongolia 1997

Mongolia – Economy

An Economy in Transition:

After 70 years of centrally planned economy, Mongolia is embracing free-market principles with a vengeance. Economic liberalization began under the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party government in the early 1990s. The Democratic Coalition government, elected in June 1996, has vowed sweeping economic changes, including  privatization of state assets, liberalization of trade and promotion of foreign investment.

The foreign investment law now encourages foreign investment in the form of share purchases, joint ventures and wholly foreign-owned concerns. Mining companies are given significant tax holidays. In May, 1997 parliament abolished customs duties expect on alcohol, tobacco and oil products.

All of this has been a shock to Mongolia and Mongolians. The country’s GDP shrank by a third in the early 1990s, though it has slowly recovered since. Inflation topped 300 per cent in 1993, but was brought down to below 50 per cent by 1997. The tugrug fell from 40 to U.S. $1 in 1991 to 800 to the dollar in 1997. Unemployment officially stands at 6.5 per cent – unofficial estimates are much higher.

The government’s ambitious privatization scheme has stalled; manufacturing and exports are down; imports are up. Adding to the problems is the fact that world prices for Mongolia’s major export items – copper and cashmere – have fallen.

The state retains at least 50 per cent ownership of the nation’s flagship enterprises, including the national airline, MIAT, the Gobi cashmere company and the power stations.

Mongolia has a resource-based economy, exporting mostly raw materials and importing mostly processed goods. The top exports are mineral products, textiles, base minerals, hides, skins and furs and animals and animal products. The major imports include petroleum products, industrial equipment and consumer goods.

Mongolia’s major trading partners are its two neighbours, China and Russia, though Korea and Japan are becoming more important – and the number-one export destination is Switzerland. 

Sidebar: The rural economy

Half of Mongolia’s population is rural, and herding remains the backbone of the Mongolian economy. Agriculture accounts for 30 per cent of the nation’s GDP. The number of herding households grew during the economic turmoil of the early 1990s, and now stands at more than 170,000; there are 30 million head of livestock in Mongolia. Herders produce meat, skins and furs; more and more herders are investing in cashmere goats, a substantial money-earner. 

Cultivation of crops, on the other hand, is limited. Before 1990, Mongolia was self-sufficient in cereals and even exported to the Soviet Union. But the sector suffered badly in the early 1990s. The 1997 harvest was 239,000 tonnes, 56 per cent of 1991-95 levels and only 40 per cent of pre-1990 harvests. Mongolia must now import 40 per cent of its cereal needs, a factor that contributes to a vulnerable food-security situation. Cultivation of vegetables is up, but remains minor – only 31,000 tonnes in 1997.

Sidebar: Rich in resources

Mongolia is resource-rich. This vast territory contains 15 per cent of the world’s supply of fluorspar and significant deposits of copper, molybdenum, iron, phosphates, tin, nickel, zinc, tungsten and gold, as well as at least 100 billion tonnes of coal.

Copper is the nation’s number one export. 

Minerals account for more than a third of Mongolia’s GDP and earn half of its hard currency. Gold production is increasing.

Mongolia also contains significant reserves of oil, which could transform the economy. But infrastructure and transportation limitations mean that commercial extraction is limited. The completion of a pipeline to China could change all this.

Economic Data:

Exchange rate: $1 = Tg 808 (Nov 1997)

GDP: Tg 185.5 billion (1996)

GDP per capita: Tg 228,605 (1996)

Inflation: 325 per cent (1992), 53 per cent (1996)

State budget expenditure: Tg 203.6 billion (Jan-Oct 1997)

State budget revenue: Tg 176 billion (Jan-Oct 1997)

Foreign aid (1991-97): U.S. 478 million

Official external debt: Tg 522 billion (Oct 97)

Industrial output: Tg 270.6 billion (Jan-Oct 97)

Exports: $334.2 million (Jan-Oct 97)

Imports: $343.3 million (Jan-Oct 97)

Workforce: employed: 791,800, unemployed 65,700 (Oct 97)

Source: State Statistical Office 

Mongolia – Politics

Seven decades of communist rule in Mongolia began to crumble in 1990, when the collapse of the old Eastern Bloc brought the first pro-democracy demonstrations. The ruling Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, which had already initiated a Mongolian version of glasnost, permitted the nation’s first multiparty elections in July, 1990. 

Superior organization helped the MPRP win both the 1990 and 1992 elections (taking 71 of 76 parliamentary seats in the latter), but reform picked up speed. In 1992, the country adopted a new Constitution that enshrined human rights, private ownership and a state structure based on separation of power between legislative and judicial branches.

In the June 1996 election, major opposition groups united to form the Democratic Coalition, made up of the National Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Believers’ Party and the Green Party. Somewhat to its own surprise, the Coalition won a healthy 50 of 76 seats in the State Ikh Hural, or parliament. The composition of the Hural is now: National Democrats 35, Social Democrats 15, MPRP 25, Mongolian Traditional United Party 1.

In addition to their economic reforms, the Democrats have carried out radical restructuring of government, slashing the number of Ministries from 14 to 9.

The government has a healthy majority, but tensions sometimes emerge between the coalition partners. Mongolia’s transition to democracy has been remarkably peaceful, and the young democracy is robust – there are now more than 20 political parties in the country. 

But economic hardship has caused resentments. In the 1997 Presidential election, voters elected N. Bagabandi, the candidate of the MPRP. In the fall of 1997, the government had to face demonstrations from students and pensioners and an opposition campaign that led to a confidence vote in parliament — a vote the government easily survived. 

Political structure:

Mongolia has a parliamentary system of government, with a 76-seat legislature called the State Ikh Hural. The President, directly elected for a four-year term, is second in authority to the legislature, but he appoints judges and has the power of veto (which can be overturned by a 2/3 vote in parliament).

Chronology:

1911 collapse of Manchu Qing Dynasty; Mongolia declares its independence

1919 China invades Mongolia

1921 with Soviet help, Mongolia gains final independence from China

1924 Mongolian People’s Republic declared

1990 pro-democracy protests; Constitution amended; first multiparty elections

1992 second multiparty elections; new Constitution adopted

1996 Democratic Coalition elected as Mongolia’s first non-communist government, headed by Prime Minister Enkhsaikhan

1997 N. Bagabandi from the MPRP elected President

Voter turnout: 

1996 elections: 92.2 per cent

1996 local Hural: 64.0 per cent

1997 presidential: 85.1 per cent

Mongolia – Society and Culture

Mongolia has a unique and durable traditional culture, centred around the herding lifestyle. Herders remain semi-nomadic, moving their animals with the seasons as they have for centuries

Many urban Mongolians retain strong links to the land, both literal and sentimental, and the country’s performing and visual arts often celebrate the landscape and the animals — especially horses — that are central to Mongolian life. Mongolia has several distinctive musical instruments and styles, including the morin khuur (horsehead fiddle), the long song (urtyn duu) and the throat-singing style known as khoomi.

After seven decades of communism, Mongolians are once again celebrating their traditional culture, and embracing the image and legacy of the most famous Mongolian of all time – Chinggis Khan, who in the 13th century initiated the Mongol Empire, the greatest land empire the world has ever known. He gives his name to everything from a brand of vodka to a luxury hotel, and centres for academic Chinggis research have been set up.

In sports, Mongolians favour the “three manly sports” — wrestling, archery and horse racing — that form the core of the annual festival known as Naadam. Mongolian wrestlers have won a number of medals at international competitions and are even entering the field of Japanese Sumo.

The 1990s have seen a flowering of freedom of expression. Mongolia has an extraordinary 525 newspapers and a wide range of magazines, while the first private radio and television stations have been established. 

Religion:

Mongolians have been Buddhists since the 16th century, when the Mongolian king, Altan Khan, was converted by Tibetan lamas. In the pre-revolutionary period, Mongolia was ruled by a series of Living Buddhas, or Jebtzun Damba. The eighth, and last, Jebtzun Damba was removed after the communist takeover.

Traditionally, monasteries were centres both of learning and of power. It’s estimated Mongolia had 100,000 monks, or lamas, in 1921 — one third of the male population. In the 1930s, this power became the focus of a ruthless series of purges that reached a climax in 1937. Most of the country’s monasteries were destroyed, and as many as 17,000 monks were killed.

Today, Mongolia is once again embracing its Buddhist heritage. Monasteries are being restored, and are once again crowded with worshippers. The Dalai Lama is an enormously popular figure and has visited the country several times.

For many Mongolians, Buddhism is flavoured with traces of Shamanism, an even more ancient spirituality.

Mongolia also has a significant Muslim community — about 6 per cent of the population. These are mostly ethnic Kazakhs living in the far west of the country. The opening-up of the country has led to an influx of Christian missionaries, and this remains a source of some tension and debate.

A Young Country:

Mongolia is a remarkably young country — more than 60 per cent of the population is below the age of 30, and 40 per cent of Mongolians are younger than 16. This young generation, with its embrace of Western styles and ideas, is changing the complexion of the country. Western pop music and North American sports like basketball have a huge following among Mongolia’s youth. So, too, do homegrown artists like the pop groups Nikiton and Spike and the singer Saraa. 

Social Data:

Television sets: 6.2 per 100 (1995)

Newspapers: 2 per 100 (1995)

Number of telephones: 82,800

Marriage: 10.9 per 1000 over 18

Divorce: 0.7 per 1000 over 18

Number of pensioners: 287,200

Crimes reported: 20,454 (Jan-Oct 97)

As percentage of same period in 1996: 114.4 per cent

Data 1996 unless indicated. Sources: State Statistical Office, Human Development Report Mongolia 1997

More from Jill Lawless:

Read a story by Jill in The Guardian (9 June 1999): Letter from Mongolia | Herding instinct 

Read a World Health Organization (WHO) report on substance abuse and alcohol consumption (WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004) citing Jill here: https://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/en/mongolia.pdf?ua=1 

Further Reading:

Modern Mongolia: From Khans to Commissars to Capitalists

The Mongolian Economy: A Manual of Applied Economics for a Country in Transition

The transition to a market economy: Mongolia 1990-1998

Wild East: Travels in the New Mongolia

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2018