Leapfrogging and Development

Atanu Dey writes:

Leapfrogging is possible but mostly it is restricted to technologies.

Unlike technology, you cannot leapfrog the various stages of development. A century ago, to be educated, one had to be literate and numerate. Same holds for today even though we have digital gizmos and computers. Indeed, to be able to effectively use the products of high-technology, literacy is an absolute necessity. Functional skills required for using high-tech all involve the ability to read and reason. I grant that illiterate idiots can use a cell phone, but that is not what I would call the effective use of high technology.

The so-called digital divide cannot be bridged by simply installing lots of PCs in areas where they dont exist and connecting them up to the internet. If the people are unable to use them, they serve no purpose other than to enrich the peddlers of hardware and software. Furthermore, there is the opportunity cost of spending limited resources on useless high-tech gizmos.

You cannot leapfrog development. It cannot be done at an individual level. And it cannot be done at a societal level. Although development paths may differ, the sequencing within a path cannot be radically altered because there are strict dependencies. Basic functional literacy is a pre-requisite to pretty much anything that one does. The use of high-tech depends on literacy and therefore if the population is illiterate, even gifting them with free hardware will not make a difference. The pre-condition for bridging the digital divide is therefore the bridging of the literacy divide.

Long Tail vs. Bottom of Pyramid

Chris Anderson does a comparison:

The BOP model is focused on taking a single product or service and finding ways to make it cheap enough to offer to a larger, poorer, market. This is why I think it’s essentially about commodification.

The Long Tail, on the other hand, is about nicheification. Rather than finding ways to create an even lower lowest common denominator, the Long Tail is about finding economically efficient ways to capitalize on the infinite diversity of taste and demand that has heretofore been overshadowed by mass markets. The millions who find themselves in the tail in some aspect of their life (and that includes all of us) are no poorer than those in the head. Indeed, they are often drawn down the tail by their refined taste, in pursuit of qualities that are not afforded by one-size-fits-all. And they are often willing to pay a premium for those goods and services that suit them better. The Long Tail is, indeed, the very opposite of commodification.

So the Long Tail is made up of millions of niches. The Bottom of the Pyramid is made up of mass markets made even more mass. Both lower costs to reach more people, but they do so in different ways for different reasons. They’re complimentary forces, but fundamentally different in their approach and aims.

Communities of Purpose

Nova Spivack writes:

I can’t think of a larger publicly-accessible database of people, places, and things than Google. However, its vast database is actually quite disparate and scatter-brained. It does not contain a single, reliable identifying method to link you with what you need to be linked to no matter how good you think it is at finding what you’re looking for. Google still has to search through hell and high water for it.

A unique identification code for every event, person, place, and thing is the next logical step. It’s where the future is headed and we might as well go there now. There’s simply too much to keep track of to not have a unique way of identifying something you’re related with.

Wikipedia is the perfect platform on which to bring everything under the sun together. It is already well on its way, with hundreds of thousands of user-submitted articles and bits of information. This could easily be extended to include the man sitting in the cafe, the cafe itself, the event he’s waiting for in the cafe, and the book he’s reading while he waits.

Every person, place, thing, and event would be assigned a unique ID (this can be automatically done for both new and current entries). One could then form or enable the formation of a relationship with anything in the database merely by copying and pasting the ID. Put it in your blog profile, mobile phone, an email, feed reader, or other field in your client. It will automatically know what it is because of its categorically-oriented ID, and how to organize it in your profile. You could even select the type of relationship you have with it (“relationship key”) from a list of relationship types.