Phil Wainewright has a mention of “personal service builders” and business process management, in the context of web services and the emerging SOA (services-oriented architecture). A few quotes to get one thinking:

Proponents of next-generation business process management (BPM) talk about allowing business users to directly manipulate process automation within the enterprise.

o the business, the PC loaded with a spreadsheet meant a radical simplification of routine calculations, transferring to the everyday businessperson a function that had once required special programming skills. Today, a similar symbiotic relationship is emerging between web services and BPM … What the spreadsheet did for numerical computation BPM will do for process work. (Howard Smith and Peter Fingar)

I see Personal Service Builders (PSBs) as the desktop element of the emerging trend in on-demand assembly of process automation.

I need to put these ideas together in the context of the things we are doing on the eBusiness suite…will write a more detailed post soon.

Lindows Webstation

Slashdot has a discussion on the Lindows Webstation, “a hard-disk-less pc that boots from a CD, similar to the now dead ThinkNIC, for $169 (no monitor). Different versions are available from 2 vendors, TigerDirect and iDOTpc.com. The TigerDirect version has a 1.1GHz Duron, 256MB PC2100 DDR, 56X CD-ROM, 10/100Mbps NIC, floppy, modem, keyboard and mouse. The iDOTpc.com version has a 800MHz C3, 256MB PC133 SDRAM, 56X CD-ROM, 10/100Mbps NIC, but without a floppy, modem, keyboard or mouse. The TigerDirect looks like a better deal, at least now ($169 = $189 – $20 rebate).”

This is almost like the Thin Client solution that we advocate to cut cost of computing as part of our Emergic Freedom solution, though in the Lindows case the machine will boot off the CD probably.

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TECH TALK: Transforming Rural India 2: The Two Applications

The first application is the use of ICT in providing education. Specifically, primary and secondary education, increasing literacy, and providing vocational education. The current system is unable to deliver due to number of reasons primary among which is its reliance on mostly individual content creation and delivery, essentially through the public sector. The economies of scope and scale attainable through the use of ICT tools would make education accessible and more affordable.

The second application relates to expanding market access for agricultural and non-agricultural products. This would increase rural incomes and thus alleviate income poverty. The internet can efficiently provide access to a vast market for traditional handcrafted goods which can be sold worldwide, for instance. This would be an effective way of integrating the rural population with the globalised marketplace.

Poverty can be considered to be the result of two gaps: one, the ideas gap, and the other, the objects gap. Poor people have less material goods at their disposal as compared to rich people. Hence the objects gap. The ideas gap arises from the inability of poor people to most effectively and efficiently use the limited material resources they have. For any level of objects gap, an ideas gap amplifies the problem. Knowledge goods, efficiently produced and distributed by ICT, can bridge the ideas gap.

The two applications are complementary. Primary education has tremendous social welfare implications but the return on investment is long term. Being a public good, the returns cannot be fully captured and consequently private investment is unlikely to provide primary education. In contrast to that, creating market access increases the incomes even in the short run. Thus provision of market access can be commercially sustainable through user fees and so the private sector can be relied upon to invest in that application.

Both activities require a common infrastructure in terms of power, telecommunications, human resources, etc. Therefore, the common provision of these two can lead to lower average costs. Given resource constraints, a mechanism for efficiently delivering the two would require some degree of concentration of investment in rural areas rather than thinly distributing the resources.

The paper discusses the economics of the two applications with respect to the costs, and the benefits. The need for joint provision of the two applications is shown to be commercially sustainable. We show that information technologies can potentially overcome the market failures that have so far not brought the benefits of globalization to the rural poor. The paper concludes with a brief description of a mechanism which efficiently delivers the applications in a commercially sustainable way.

Tomorrow: Solution Building Blocks

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