My Bangalore Talk

The Economic Times has a report on the talk I gave in Bangalore:

While the development of physical infrastructure has been a top priority for the government in the last few years, little attention has been paid to enhancing digital infrastructure in India. At a seminar on IT for the common man, held at IT.COM, Rajesh Jain, managing director, Net Core Solutions, said the focus needs to be on providing utility-based computing solutions for a cost of about Rs 750 per user per month.

Mr Jain said that three aspects were critical to enhance the digital infrastructure of a country. They included building one-for-one computing, making technology infrastructure available on a utility basis and charging around Rs 750 per month per user for it.

Through this it was possible to hit the 10-m PC mark by focusing on homes, SMEs and rural markets. While around 2.5m computers are sold in India, Mr Jain said this number could go up five or ten fold if machines were priced at around Rs 5,000. However, apart from developing low-cost computers, an entire eco system needed to be built.

To give a leg up to the SME fraternity, Mr Jain suggested the setting up of on-line academies. Engineering students could also be enlisted for some technical support, he added.

While open source technology is expected to play a key role in providing cost-effective solutions, Mr Jain said, it would be foolhardy not to make them Windows-compatible. He also felt that it was imperative to offer cheap software to nullify the effects of pirated offerings. The need to focus on building industry-specific applications was essential, he said.

The town of Tirupur, which had over 5,000 garment units, could use such applications to enhance their productivity. Mr Jain advocated the establishment of `Tech 7/11s that were one-stop solutions for all IT requirements.

He said that more needs to be done in the field of IT education. Instead of the present scenario where most companies in this field focused on training in technical fields, he said, education in areas such as e-mail, word processing and so on needed to be made the priority.

Google’s Predatory Food Chain

With Google seeking to raise USD 1-2 billion in the next few months, I think attention is going to shift to preparing companies for Google to takeover. I think there will be significant VC and entrepreneurial activity which will involve making bets (I think Friendster is an example) that Google will, with its newly acquired cash hoard, acquire promising companies before Yahoo and Microsoft get to them. This is a bubble which will be fuelled by a small set of companies with ample cash amongst them.

Google will have little choice but to make these acquisitions. Going public will change their life. Yes, it will make for great wealth creation, but it will also put pressure on them to deliver on the unrealistic expectations that will be there in the form ot the stratospheric stock price. For Microsoft, Google will become enemy no. 1 (currently that position is held by Linux, but there is no company in the Linux space that Microsoft can target). The best thing for Google is to stay private, keep improving its search technologies, and keep growing, considering the cash that it continues to generate.

Back to the food chain point. So, VCs and entrepreneurs alike will now try and position their companies as “Google-takeover candidates”, because the Google IPO is not likely to signal the arrival of other public offerings from the smaller companies. So, the only exit for many of these companies is an acquisition. This isn’t a bad thing at all. The networking space in the 1990s saw a food chain built around Cisco. My point: it is likely to be good for some VCs and entrepreneurs, but may not be the best thing for Google.

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Personal Knowledge Manager

Jon Udell writes:

My Web searches are observable, as are the sets of documents they return and the subsets I read. The browser sees all of this activity and remembers it (for a while) in its history and in its cache. A correlation engine could mine these data stores or, thanks to the transparency of HTTP, could monitor Web transactions and capture events directly.

Correlating unread search results with friends is harder, but should still be doable. Buddy lists provide important clues. So do patterns of e-mail interaction. For example, I respond to my most valued correspondents more promptly, and at greater length, than I respond to other people. And I tend to create folders and filters for my friends’ messages. The timing and quantity of responses would be easy to observe. Like the HTTP pipeline, the SMTP pipeline is transparent. No matter which e-mail application you use, a local monitor can see and correlate your message traffic. Foldering and filtering events, on the other hand, are seen only by e-mail programs, and they’re proprietary to those programs.

There’s an important lesson here I hope desktop applications will learn, courtesy of the emerging paradigm of SOA (service-oriented architecture). In the realm of SOA, events are represented in an open XML format and flow through a transparent pipeline that’s open to inspection and subject to intermediation. As a result, Web services management vendors are able to deliver proxy-based meta-services that watch message flows and relate them to SLAs, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) requirements, or business-activity thresholds. Given the right instrumentation, it’s not hard to do these things. And when the event stream is transparent, it’s not hard to create the instrumentation.

Ironically, the graphical desktop popularized the event-driven model that’s being writ large in the Web services network. Now we need to come full circle. Local event streams need to be open in the same ways as network event streams are and for the same reasons. At the interface between so-called rich Internet apps and the services cloud, this will happen as a matter of course. Browser, Windows, Java, or Flash, a SOAP call is a SOAP call. But the apps and services that live on our own machines use a hodgepodge of protocols and message formats. Moore’s Law says we can soon abandon these binary protocols and proprietary formats. The inexorable logic of service-oriented architecture spells out why we must.

What Jon wants is a Memex. The elements to do it (as Jon describes) are all there – what is needed is for them to be put together to build the “personal knowledge manager”.

India and ICT Usage

Atanu Dey writes about the need to deploy information and communications technologies for India’s domestic usage in its quest for development:

India has had a reasonable amount of success in the export of ICT products and services. But until IT is used, it is hard to predict what exactly the impact will be. However, it is a reasonable expectation that IT cannot but have a beneficial effect by its use.

Domestic ICT use must be given the attention it deserves because only through broad-based ICT use can the benefits of modern technology be made available to all and bridge the income divide. Domestic use will have important linkages to the supply of human capital required for the export of ICT products and services.

For a large country such as India, domestic demand for ICT products and services can provide the necessary base for sustaining the industry and to shield it from external shocks. Therefore, India must create the institutions that encourage the use of ICT domestically.

Finding Nemo

I finally got around to seeing the movie yesterday. Liked it (no surprise). I have a soft corner for animation movies, anyways. I was actually surprised at the fast pace of the movie. It has quite a lot of emotion, too. Pixar has done an amazing job in creating a completely new genre of films.

Circuit to Packet Switching

[via Kevin Werbach] Telepocalypse writes about the shift: “The technology to make the end points smart is here today. We might not be able to do reliable wireless VoIP on wide-area networks with the deployed technology of today. There is a usability gap still to be filled, and profit to be made from filling it…The abandonment of the circuit-switched world for all communication that isnt both real-time and two-way is seriously overdue.”

Mobile Web as Third Place

[via Smart Mobs] FOXNews writes about a place which is “not the home or office, but a place that combines the best features and the familiarity of both locations.” This is being enabled by mobile Internet access.

It is also making its presence felt in India. I am seeing people use Reliance’s cellphone (CDMA service) and GPRS services from other operators to connect to the Internet from anywhere.

TECH TALK: SMEs and Technology: 1:1 Enterprise

What is the roadmap for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to adopt technology and become 1:1 Enterprises? The assumption being made here is that most SMEs are relatively IT immature: in most cases, while there are computers, they are being used sub-optimally. The most common usage for computer ends up being for emailing, web browsing, documentation and printing, and accounting, and little else. This can be considered as task automation employees doing specific tasks are using computers to automate what they are doing. As a result, not everyone has computers in the organisation only those who are doing important tasks are given the PCs.

There is a 4-step roadmap to migrate these IT babies to 1:1 Enterprises, who are making use of computers effectively to regulate and automate information flows and make the SMEs event-driven, real-time enterprises. The first step is focus on how to best use the desktop applications to improve individual productivity, the second step is to install a server which takes care of the backend infrastructure, the third step is to provide computers for all employees, and the final step is to deploy the productivity for information and business process management.

1. Increasing Personal Productivity using Computers

We have to begin with individual productivity. Amazingly, we are not even taught how to use the tools at our disposal. Right from the email client to the way we should store our files, no one tells us anything. We just kind-of-figure things along the way. What is needed is a methodology to best use the tools that are available with us. Here are some simple pointers:

  • Managing Email: Try and answer an email within one business day. Do not move it from the Inbox till you have answered it. Just have one folder: Keep. Anything that you need to store, put it in there. So, now there are only 2 folders to search Keep and the Sent folder. One does not have to worry about managing lots of folders, and making a decision for each email as to where it needs to be filed.
  • Managing Personal Information: Keep a personal blog and outline, so that notes made can be searchable.
  • Maintaining an Address Book and Online Calendar. Keeping business card information electronically in a database all we need is for someone to do the data entry can help in getting the information quickly when we need it.
  • Use of Instant Messaging for the quickie communications. This is especially useful if someone calls, and one needs to do a check with a colleague.
  • Backup. Ensuring that all critical files are backed up on to secondary storage, just in case.

    This is just for starters. Basically, we need to give people tips on how to use technology and make themselves more productive. It makes better use of the investment in technology that has already been made. Only, if they develop the right personal habits can we move on to making groups productive.

    Tomorrow: 1:1 Enterprise (continued)

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