People Exports

One Nation, Overseas: An article in Wired on the export of people by Philippines.

Having discovered its prowess as an outsourcer of labor, the Philippines is now pursuing the opportunity with fervor. Whereas the US has spent decades bemoaning the export of its jobs (to Mexico, to China), the Philippine government revels in the export of its people. Using technology to stay involved in family life back home, Filipino global commuters constitute one of the biggest sources of stability for the economy of a country perennially known as the Sick Man of Asia. Remittances, the money they electronically send back to their families, account for 8.2 percent of the nation’s gross national product, stabilizing its peso, improving foreign currency reserves, shoring up consumption, and making more than a dent in the unemployment rate (now 11.1 percent). Last year, overseas Filipino workers sent home $6.2 billion. Indians sent home twice the amount – with 13 times the general population.

Note the last two statements above (emphasis mine).

India’s model seems to be to focus on becoming the back-office to the world.

A New Kind of Science

I found this through John Robb. A new book by Stephen Wolfram has become the #1 best-seller on Amazon. I read 2 articles: in NYTimes and Wired. Amazing reading! Wolfram, whose company also sells the Mathematica software, spent the last 10 years in isolation working through the nights, writing this book. The claims are amazing.

Wolfram: “Three centuries ago science was transformed by the dramatic new idea that rules based on mathematical equations could be used to describe the natural world. My purpose in this book is to initiate another such transformation, and to introduce a new kind of science that is based on the much more general types of rules that can be embodied in simple computer programs.”

NYTimes: “He has, he argues, discovered underlying principles that affect the development of everything from the human brain to the workings of the universe, requiring a revolutionary rethinking of physics, mathematics, biology and other sciences. He believes he has shown how the most complex processes in nature can arise out of elemental rules, how a wealth of diverse phenomena the infinite variety of snowflakes and the patterns on sea shells are generated from seemingly trivial origins.”

Wired: “The idea of complexity arising from simple rules – and that the universe can best be understood by way of the computation it requires to grind out results from those rules – is at the center of the book.”

Blog Predicament

Steven Johnson captures the challenges facing blogs and bloggers (this is again from his speech at the O’Reilly Emerging Technologies conference) — the note is via Doc Searls:

  • Problems forming higher-level groups
  • Managing overpopulation
  • The tyranny of time
  • Little passive organization
  • Readers lack input

    Finding solutions to the above is what we hope to do via BlogStreet.

  • Wireless Networks

    A presentation made by Rob Flickenger on Building Wireless Community Networks. 802.11b networks are important in emerging markets because they use unlicenced spectrum (2.4 Ghz) and can be built in a bottom-up manner for very low-cost, bypassing the traditional connectivity solutions.

    Like Linux, what may be a niche alternative in one set of markets can be a mainstream solution in another set of markets.

    Teachable Search Engine

    David Plotnikoff writes about the need for a teachable search engine.

    My teachable search engine would watch my every move, looking at sets of search results and collecting a wealth of data about the pages I view — and perhaps those I don’t, as well. It would archive this vast personal history but it would not be able to tie it to my personal identifying information. In a perfect world it would only know me when I log in as “anonymous user No. 12345.”

    The search engine would note whether I visited a page once — or 20 times. It would find similarities between relevant pages, without me ever having to tell it, “This page was close to what I’m looking for. This one was not.” And in this manner, over the span of a hundred or a thousand searches, it would build a pretty good understanding of how I search. With each new search it would turn to this history and look for similarities between the current query and all previous searches.

    A good place to try out some of these ideas is with a Blog Search Engine. Its a much narrow cluster of documents, and its also about “connecting” to people like us.

    Mainstream Linux

    A series of articles in Business Week on Linux. In a nutshell: “Linux is gaining momentum in nearly all corners of computing, and more and better programs now run on it. Now, it just needs a business model.”

    The big opportunity for Linux, Star Office and other such software solutions is in targeting the new users of the world. No point trying to go after the existing Microsoft users. There are the next 500 million users who are not in the high-income countries of the world. They also need computing. They are the ones who should be targeted. The problem is that most of the articles we see provide a viewpoint from the developed market, that is where the journalists are!

    Linux and the other open source alternatives can only get a niche market share in countries like US, Europe and Japan. But in countries like India and China, they have an opportunity to become market leaders. This is where Sun should be focusing their Star Office efforts. This is a point echoed by Amy Wohl in her weekly newsletter: “I have some advice for Sun: Look for customers who aren’t Word users – if you can find them. Remember, most of them will be outside the U.S.”

    TECH TALK: A New Mass Market (Part 5)

    The third of the W elements is perhaps the most interesting and at the same-time, open-ended. Weblogs are creating a new two-way web. This is a true example of grassroots user energy in action. Weblogs can also serve as the base for a new read-write environment within the enterprise. This opens up perhaps the most opportunities for innovation.

    For example, think of a new digital dashboard on the desktop (thin client) built using instant outlining and weblogging for use within the organisation. This takes the idea of blogs (knowledge blogs, narratives, story-telling) to its logical conclusion in the context of the enterprise. This can be built using XML-RPC/SOAP, RSS, OPML as the building blocks.

    Outlining helps people to write hierarchically. Instant Outlining takes what they have written and enables it to be shared with others. Most of the “new users” (new to computers) need a simple read-write environment. The Outliner is a good start. It needs to be placed it in a collaborative context. Weblogs are the next step. Outliners are good for short points, and are more likely to be arranged by task/person/project. Blogs complement outliners in that they are naturally suited for longer writing and doing so chronologically (organised by time). Taken together, Instant Outlining and Weblogs create a read-write environment which complements (or even reduces the need for) Mail and the Word Processor.

    The Endor a New Beginning?

    Once again, let us put these thoughts in context. We are not trying to displace the existing technologies. We are talking of making available a new set of products to open up new markets. (New products and new markets are often described as the suicide quadrant in marketing!) The new markets are in the worlds less developed countries. The new users are the ones who have not used computing before — the worlds computer base is only 500 million, which means at least a billion more users could do with computing.

    The game set in place by Microsoft, Intel and Cisco has just begun. The options are very clear: we can either accept the Technology Raj of todays imperial superpowers and pay for dollar-denominated technology with lots of our rupees, or create our own version of the Independence movement and do for India and Indians what it did in 1947 herald a new dawn and a new beginning. The choice is ours.

    Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 were published earlier in the week.