Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have long remained in silos, isolated and islands of information. At best, they have been hubs connected to the spokes (the bigger companies, whom they may be doing business with). They have never been able to easily connect together. This is what the combination of the technology infrastructure within the SMEs along with the creation of self-organising SME Clusters on the Web makes possible – for the first time, they can now interact much more deeply with each other. The Ants start talking. These interactions and feedback will help build out an Emergent system, where the collective intelligence is far greater than that of the individual entities.
Why is this important? Because in today’s world, the voice of business belongs to the ones who are Big and can spend the most, and not necessarily to the majority. Look at what happened just before the Indian Budget in February. The newspapers were full of reports of the “representations” made by various industry associations on their demands for the Budget. But whose voices were they? In most cases, only those of the bigger member companies who could afford to send people to make pitches before the managing committees. The smaller companies just go about doing their business, silently.
But what if this silent majority could interact together? It is not easy (from a logistics and cost point of view) for the smaller companies to meet up together physically. This is where the SME Cluster Blogs come in – on the Net, they can voice their opinions and collectively, push up the good ideas and pull down the bad ones. No single entity can dominate, and yet collectively, they will wield enough power to make themselves heard. The SME Clusters give voice to the silent majority.
The only way this can happen is via the Internet. Just like an eBay could never have been possible in the physical world. For this, it is important first for SMEs to build up their own IT infrastructure and get “plugged” into the flow of information – through cost-effective hardware, software and communications. The logical next step then becomes to aggregate the SMEs together into online communities.
A lot of this may seem very speculative or implausible. But changes are afoot in the world of technology, which are going to make these emergent networks happen in the coming years. One indication of this is how journalism is going to change in the near future.