The Power of One

Tomas Krag looks at ICT projects and asks “What is it that makes a successful grassroots school connectivity project happen in Indonesia, and in Namibia, but not in the Phillipines and Angola?” and answers: “A large part of the answer is a specific individual, geek, hacker, leader, creator.”

What are these potential barriers? It seems logical that a person could be out there with the energy and skills to make something happen, but without the personal circumstances to allow him/her to deciate themself to a project. Equally obvious barriers could include legal and policy problems, and finally there may be people out there who would take the initative if only they knew such a thing were possible.

Is it too much of a stretch of the imagination to believe that there are people out there in every country in the world who could and would intiate and drive their own grassroots project of only they were nudged in the right direction?

Peronsally I am a big fan of Amercian Author Paul Auster, and his novels, that basically all revolve around the immense role of chance in our lives. The little chance meeting that makies a complete change in our careers, or the tiny little decisions that means we meet the love of our life. I want to play with this chance. I want to experiment with identifying potential grassroots hackers with the power, will and desire to make a difference and see if I cant trigger a few projects in that way.

If we succeed we may help starting some amazing projects that can do incredible stuff with little or no funding. If we fail well still only have spent a few hundred thousand dollars, which is such a pathetic fraction of the total money spent on infrastructure in the developing world, that it seems to me it will be money well spent on a valuable lesson.

It is always a few who change the world.

Isomorphic Smart Client

Ramdhan points to Isomorphic Software’s solution which translates to “Rich client + Thin client = Isomorphic SmartClient”:

Isomorphic SmartClient (ISC) brings the speed and functionality of desktop applications to standard web browsers. The ISC presentation layer is the first web application framework that spans across client and server, enabling live transactions and rich GUI interactivity without page reloads. ISC provides an easy, declarative authoring style for rapid development in either XML or JavaScript. And with a client-side system built upon standard browser technologies, ISC enables true zero-install applications.

Looks interesting. Try the test drive.

OS-enabled Mobile Phones

News.com writes about the increasing sales of smartphones, with Symbian, Microsoft, Palm and Linux all battling for a piece of the action.

Market research firm Zelos Group said sales of full-feature handsets will surpass those of PCs in 2006, when those handsets will be available for as little as $157, only slightly above the average price of $138 for a mobile phone. In 2008, shipments of full-feature handsets will rise to about 290 million, according to Zelos, making up about 43 percent of global handset sales.

So-called full-feature handsets are based on operating systems such as Palm, Linux or Windows Mobile, McAteer said, meaning that consumers can more easily upgrade the phones’ software beyond what’s now capable with Qualcomm’s binary run-time environment for wireless or Sun Microsystems’ Java.

Such a trend could be “disruptive” to the wireless, personal electronics and computing segments, as consumers adopt full-feature handsets in place of mobile devices such as personal digital assistants, digital cameras, game consoles and music players, the research firm said. An early indication of this is Nokia becoming a leading distributor of digital cameras, Zelos said.

Getting Your Resume Read

Joel Spolsky provides some tips:

  • Proofread everything a hundred times and have one other person proofread it. Someone who got really good grades in English.

  • Write a personal cover letter that is customized for the job you are applying for. Try to sound like a human in the cover letter. You want people to think of you as a human being.

  • Study the directions that are given for how to apply. They are there for a reason. For example our website instructs you to send a rsum to jobs@fogcreek.com. This goes into an email folder which we go through to find good candidates. If you think for some reason that your rsum will get more attention if you print it out and send it through the mail, that you’ll “stand out” somehow, disabuse yourself of that notion. Paper rsums can’t get into the email folder we’re using to keep track of applicants unless we scan them in, and, you know what? The scanner is right next to the shredder in my office and the shredder is easier to use.

  • Don’t apply for too many jobs. I don’t think there’s ever a reason to apply for more than three or four jobs at a time. Rsumspam, or any sign that you’re applying for 100 jobs, just makes you look desperate which makes you look unqualified. You want to look like you are good enough to be in heavy demand. You’re going to decide where you want to work, because you’re smart enough to have a choice in the matter, so you only need to apply for one or two jobs. A personalized cover letter that shows that you understand what the company does goes a long way to proving that you care enough to deserve a chance.

  • Productivity as New Engine of Wealth

    That’s according to Cisco CEO John Chambers. NYTimes writes:

    “The next big thing in technology is going to change dramatically our standard of living,” Mr. Chambers said in an interview. “If productivity grows 1 percent per year, your standard of living doubles every 72 years. If it grows at 3 percent, which I think is probable, you’re talking every 24 years.”

    While economists agree that countries with a more productive labor force grow faster, the drive for productivity is spurring many Western companies to relocate jobs, increasingly white-collar ones, to cheaper markets including India and China.

    At Cisco, where Chambers is pushing for productivity gains of 10 to 15 percent a year over the next five years…Cisco’s productivity jumped 9 percent in the last quarter, Mr. Chambers said, contributing to an 87.5 percent increase in profit per share.

    Moving jobs to lower-cost countries is part of that, Mr. Chambers said. Cisco, based in San Jose, Calif., has moved jobs to India and China, though he said he did not know the exact number.

    “If you’re talking about an engineering job in the U.S., or here in Europe, versus an engineering job in China or India, the price differential is 5 or 10 to 1,” he said. “That’s not going to change.”

    Mr. Chambers said, though, that the number of people Cisco employs in advanced economies had not decreased because it trains its displaced workers for new jobs. It is a prescription he offers for countries, as well.

    “The jobs over time will go to the best-educated places with the best infrastructure and the most supportive governments,” Mr. Chambers said. “How you create an environment where the jobs stay is going to be a key element.”

    India’s New Rich

    At our Book Club meeting yesterday, we were discussing how BPO was fueling dramatic salary increases for the lucky (and qualified) ones. WSJ writes:

    As outsourced jobs pour into India, they are bringing much more than money to this nation of one billion. They are also creating a young, affluent class absorbing Western attitudes at the office, far from parental supervision. The independence of these twentysomethings is helping to unravel time-honored social mores in India, where young people are expected to marry someone their parents choose and live with an extended family. The idea of women working at night was unthinkable until recently.

    With all of it came foreign attitudes and behavior. Young people such as Ms. Kalro prefer to spend, not save. They chat on cellphones, buy using credit cards, zip around on motorcycles and eat out at restaurants or cafes. And they are targeted relentlessly by companies that have long waited to see India develop a Western-style consumer class.

    “I call these kids ‘liberalization children,’ ” says Rama Bijapurkar, a Bombay-based marketing consultant who sits on the board of Indian software giant Infosys Technologies. “This generation has a hunger in the belly for achievement and all the good things money can buy.”

    The WSJ article is more about how call centres are transforming conservatively brought up children into hip youngsters in a short time. It alsmost seems as if Indians are also getting a taste of outsourced Western culture and mores also.

    Taking a slightly different view, I think of it as another form of brain drain – the rising salaries are putting this set of people out of reach of Indian companies, and this is happening on Indian soil. I don’t think we’ve considered fully the implications of this.

    On a related point, Karthik and Abhay said [in our Book Club discussion]: “This will force Indian companies to start becoming more productive and start using automation.” I think that’s a good opportunity coming up for domestic consumption of IT and IT-related services, deepening the existing market. It will also increase the pressure on Indians to get better educated. So, overall, we should come out ahead, as demand for quality people outstrips supply in the near-term.

    TECH TALK: Rethinking Search: What Other Say (Part 2)

    Wired News: As wonderful as Internet search engines are, they have a pretty big flaw. They often deliver too much information, and a lot of it isn’t quite what we’re looking for. Who really bothers to read the dozens of pages of results that Google generates? Some intriguing technologies are getting better at bringing order to all that chaos, and could revolutionize how people mine the Internet for informationIf the Internet is a giant bookstore in which all the books are piled randomly on the floor, then Vivisimo is like a superfast librarian who can instantly arrange the titles on shelves in a way that makes senseConsider it a 21st century Dewey Decimal System designed to fight information overload. But unlike libraries, Vivisimo doesn’t use predefined categories. Its software determines them on the fly, depending on the search results. The filing is done through a combination of linguistic and statistical analysis, a method that even works with other languagesA similar process powers Grokker, a downloadable program that not only sorts search results into categories but also maps the results in a holistic way, showing each category as a colorful circle. Within each circle, subcategories appear as more circles that can be clicked on and zoomed in onAnother visualization possibility is offered by TouchGraph, which has a Google plug-in that shows links as an interconnected web, an appropriate image for the World Wide Web.

    News.com: [1] Search providers are increasingly trying to deliver a wealth of information onto results pages quickly, rather than having people sift through numerous Web sites to find answers. The more successfully they can do this, the greater the likelihood that people will return and develop a loyalty to that provider. And [2]: Yahoo CEO Terry Semel said that the company has only just begun with its grand plans to grow its Web search business, highlighting 2004 as a year when search will become omnipresent throughout its family of sites.

    An Asian success story is the Chinese search engine, Baidu. Wrote Forbes: Beijing-based Baidu is China’s most popular search engine, Li said, averaging 30 million text searches a day in Chinese alone — a seventh of Google Inc’s 200 million in myriad languages Co-founder Robin Li declined to disclose revenue, but said the number was doubling or even tripling every yearAbout 80 percent of turnover last year came from sponsored links, where a client pays to have its name and Web link appear at the top of a results list when particular words are searched.

    As we look ahead to what can be done in the search field, we would do well to remember these words by John Battelle: To profit from search, a company needs three elements, all of which Google already has. First, you must have high-quality algorithmic search, which attempts to match users perfectly with what they’re seeking. Second, you need a paid search network, which allows you to display links to paying advertisers alongside your editorial results. And third, you need your own distribution. In other words, you must own the site where the consumer makes his or her query and the results are displayed.

    So, from Amazon to Baidu, Google to eBay, Microsoft to Yahoo, everyone seems to want in on the Search business. And yet, in India, search languishes. We havent even recognised its importance for boosting traffic, utility and revenue. India needs its own search engine focused on our local needs (the answer is not Googles India search). We have a khoj.com (which my company, IndiaWorld, had launched in March 1997, and is now owned by Sify), but a lot more needs to be done. By combining ideas from what the worlds best are doing and some emerging technologies, it should be possible to rapidly build one.

    Tomorrow: The Next Indian Search Engine

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