Digital India

At present, there are about 30 million cellphones and 10 million computers in India. In 2004, cellphones will outsell PCs by a factor of 10:1 — there will be about 30 million cellphones sold to 3 million PCs. So, a year from now, we will have 13 million computer users and 60 million cellphone users.

The disruption in this can come from the following: what if computers were available at Rs 500-700 per month for hardware, software and support, and about Rs 1,000 per month including always-on narrowband connectivity. How would the numbers then be different? My estimate is that if computers came at the business model of cellphones, we could do 100 million in the next 5 years, starting with a doubling of the 3 million figure for 2004.

India needs affordable computers to be available. Reducing duties to bring prices down by 10% does not really make them affordable. What we need is a disruption to bring pricing down by 50-70%. This is what affordability is all about. And it needs a completely different way to think about computing.

Imagine where affordable computers can be deployed:
– 40 million Indian homes in urban and semi-urban India
– 10 million in 1 million schools
– 10 million in 100,000 colleges
– 30 million in 3 million SMEs
– 5 million in 5000 hubs in rural India
– 5 million in government

Now, re-imagine a new India: with 100 million computers, 300 million cellphones, an always-on broadband infrastructure. This can happen in less than 5 years. Nice? Wait! What will people do online? There is another piece of the puzzle that is missing: content and software applications which will leverage the emerging landscape. This is where India needs entrepreneurs and funding – like the one that didn’t happen in 2000.

e-Business 2003 Review

Portals Magazine links to a richly-linked review of e-business in 2003, covering 12 topics:

1. Consolidation
2. Outsourcing
3. Mid-Market Grind
4. Portals
5. Integration Evolves
6. Supply Chain Gains
7. BI/Analytics
8. CRM Crossroads
9. Offshore
10. IT meets Business
11. RFID
12. Business Process Management

Aspect-Oriented Programming

O’Reilly Network writes:

Aspect-Oriented Programming (AOP) complements object-oriented (OO) programming by allowing the developer to dynamically modify the static OO model to create a system that can grow to meet new requirements. Just as objects in the real world can change their states during their lifecycles, an application can adopt new characteristics as it develops.

Consider an example: many of you have developed simple web applications that use servlets as the entry point, where a servlet accepts the values of a HTML form, binds them to an object, passes them into the application to be processed, and then returns a response to the user. The first cut of the servlet may be very simple, with only the minimum amount of code required to fulfill the use case being modeled. The code, however, often inflates to three to four times its original size by the time secondary requirements such as exception handling, security, and logging have been implemented. I use the term “secondary requirements” because a servlet should not need to know about the logging or security mechanisms being used; its primary function is to accept input and process it.

AOP allows us to dynamically modify our static model to include the code required to fulfill the secondary requirements without having to modify the original static model (in fact, we don’t even need to have the original code). Better still, we can often keep this additional code in a single location rather than having to scatter it across the existing model, as we would have to if we were using OO on its own.

Laptops ahead of Desktops

InfoWorld’s Chad Dickerson explains why laptop sales are surging: “In most companies comprised mainly of ‘knowledge workers,’ a desktop is really just a laptop waiting to happen. Almost everyone needs to work at home occasionally and almost everyone has to work while traveling at some point, so anyone with a desktop ends up requesting a ‘temporary’ laptop eventually (often followed closely by a request from that employee’s manager to keep the laptop because the employee is working on a ‘special project’ of some sort). In looking at InfoWorld’s desktop needs for the current fiscal year, I’m planning to replace any retiring desktops with laptops. It’s time to remove the desktop shackles!”

Falling prices and WiFi are two enablers of the shift to laptops.

The Register throws some more light.

The Radio Revolution

Wi-Fi Networking News links to Kevin Werbach’s report. Writes Nancy Gohring (WFNN): “The most interesting parts describe a vision for the future where unlicensed spectrum and adaptive mobile phones rule the day. If a bunch of policy changes are made and technology continues to develop, Werbach describes a day when virtually anyone who wants to could have their own broadcast network. Then not only could anyone create content to broadcast to anyone, but people could use wireless devices to watch an instructional video to learn how to change a tire, for example, on the spot…A lot of the applications he envisions could be available in the near future with higher-speed networks that are in the works, but the content on the planned networks (particularly 3G networks) may be limited and expensive. He sees a much more open world where the creation and access of content is available to almost anyone.”

From Werbach’s introduction: “The radio revolution is the single greatest communications policy issue of the coming decade, and perhaps the coming century. The economics of entire industries could be transformed. Every significant public policy challenge could be implicated: competition; innovation; investment; diversity of programming; job creation; equality of access; coverage for rural and underserved areas; and promotion of education, health care, local communities, public safety, and national security. Yet the benefits of the paradigm shift are not guaranteed. Exploiting the radio revolution will require creativity and risk-taking by both the private and public sectors. At every step, there will be choices between preserving the status quo and unleashing the forces of change. The right answers will seem obvious only in hindsight.”

Social Networking Software

John Robb wrote recently about its value and limitations (think of these as opportunities):

  • It contains solid (but private) contact information on all members.
  • Profiles are available on each member (on LinkedIn you can put in a resume).
  • There is a safe, formal method of requesting contact with other members you don’t know. This is like UserLand’s spam free e-mail.
  • The connection info (you know D through B and C) is more of a gimmick than something that provides real value. There is a small amount of comfort involved in knowing how you are connected to other people (you can also get info on how many people they are connected to, which is like a PageRank for social networks). This is the part of these networks that confuses everyone.
  • There is a search function for finding other members based on information in the profile (interests, company, job title, etc).

    Now that we have demystified social networking software, let’s think about how to apply the features in an open system that works in conjunction with weblogs. The current systems are too closed and limited to be of much long term value. Here’s my thinking:

  • Solid information on weblog authors. It would be great to have standardized weblog profile and contact information. Currently, contact and profile information on weblogs, if it is there at all, is all over the map. It really sucks. Sure, you can read what someone is writing on their weblog, but you often need ESP to determine who they are, what they do, etc.

  • A safe way to share contact information. Way too many people publish their e-mail address in the clear on the their weblogs. There should be a way to restrict that (via a spam free e-mail feature) that would allow the weblog’s author to release solid contact information (e-mail, phone, address) to readers that they authorize.

  • Search!! This is a simple and powerful feature. Want to find Microsoft or Google webloggers? Why wait for someone to build a list that may or may not be out of date? A search function on social networking profile information derived from weblogs would solve this quickly and with much more accuracy than a random Google search.

  • Categorization. Have a look at Jon Udell’s lists of CXO webloggers on the right hand side of his weblog. How easy would this be to create if you had solid contact information contained in a social networking system. In fact, you could build directories on the fly customized to your needs based on good profile information.

  • Community and portability. The advent of open profile information would allow people to create custom communities. There is a lot of power in creating ad hoc communities of members using this type of information. It could also be used to allow members of that community to build contact lists in other applications (e-mail and IM) that are constantly and automatically updated (a new role for Newsgator — creating auto updated contact lists for e-mail apps).

    OK, this would be very, very easy to do in the weblog world if we start right now. All that is needed is a simple standard for an XML profile that can be published by weblog authors in a form on their weblog tool of choice.

  • TECH TALK: Good Books: Knowledge and Rural India

    As Atanu Dey and I wrote in a paper: 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. It is this context in which it is useful to understand the creation of appropriate technology and their diffusion to bring about an economic transformation of rural India. What can the history of the developed world teach us?

    Joel Mokyr writes in The Gifts of Athena:

    The rise of Western technology in the past three centuries suggests [that] knowledge has to flow from those who know things to those who make things. There are many forms these flows can take, from the lecturers, philosophical societies, and encyclopedias of the eighteenth century to the community colleges and internet of the twenty-first. But the institutions that facilitate these flows have to exist.

    For better or for worse, the history of the growth of useful knowledge is the history of an elite: the number of people who augmented the sets of prepositional and prescriptive knowledge is small, even if we take into account the majority of experimenters, philosophers, would-be inventors, and thoughtful mechanics whom history has not recorded because they contributed small sentences to the book of knowledge. The bulk of productivity gains come from the small incremental technicians and mechanics who find a way to tweak the instructions on the margin to make things work just a little better.

    The roots of twentieth-century prosperity were in the industrial revolutions of the nineteenth, but those were precipitated by the intellectual changes of the Enlightenment that preceded them. To create a world in which useful knowledge was indeed used with an aggressiveness and a single mindedness that no other society had experienced before was this unique Western way that created the modern material world.

    Adds figvine in a review on Amazon about the book:

    Apparently some economists believe that the Industrial Revolution must have been driven primarily by economic forces (new means of capitalization and rising demand) rather than by the availability of science, because of the multi-century lag from Kepler and Newton to the economic blastoff. But Mokyr argues that there was a necessary intermediate stage, the “Industrial Enlightenment”, which structurally altered the relationship between “what-is” and “how-to” forms of knowledge, as well as making both forms radically more accessible to artisans, entrepreneurs, and the general public.

    If urban India has to grow, it needs to take rural India with it. For the growth of rural India, it is necessary to create a mechanism to diffuse knowledge and innovations to create the enlightenment that will necessarily have to precede development. This is where we need to combine ideas from economics and innovations in technology to create a knowledge-driven platform for bridging the ideas divide first and then the income and object divides in rural India.

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