PCs and Mobiles

The Economist writes: “What is the best way to make the benefits of technology more widely available to people in poor countries? Mobile phones are spreading fast even in the poorest parts of the world, thanks to the combination of microcredit loans and pre-paid billing plans, but they cannot do everything that PCs can. For their part, PCs are far more powerful than phones, but they are also much more expensive and complicated. If only there was a way to split the difference between the two: a device as capable as a PC, but as affordable and accessible as a mobile phone. Several initiatives to bridge this gap are under way. The hope is that the right combination of technologies and business models could dramatically broaden access to computers and the internet.”

Peer Production

[via Veer] CTheory.net has an article by Michel Bauwens: “Not since Marx identified the manufacturing plants of Manchester as the blueprint for the new capitalist society has there been a deeper transformation of the fundamentals of our social life. As political, economic, and social systems transform themselves into distributed networks, a new human dynamic is emerging: peer to peer (P2P). As P2P gives rise to the emergence of a third mode of production, a third mode of governance, and a third mode of property, it is poised to overhaul our political economy in unprecedented ways. This essay aims to develop a conceptual framework (‘P2P theory’) capable of explaining these new social processes.”

Smart Tech Stories

Forbes has 10 stories. One of them:

Construction company Emcor Group put voice, e-mail and specialized applications on a handheld device that fits in a shirt pocket. That’s providing a practical way to keep the people closest to the customer up to date.

Field technicians are now more productive, using a wireless dispatching system tied to Emcor’s customer support center. The result: Customers are served better and faster and with consistently higher quality. Technicians arrive promptly and are better prepared to address customer concerns.

The same device used by the technicians for this service application also is their cellphone. Emcor recently added e-mail delivery to the device, further integrating the tools and resources needed every day. The approach has improved time to invoice, invoice accuracy and overall customer satisfaction by more closely integrating the field to the office.

MySpace and Attention

Om Malik writes:

The utility of MySpace is that it is more than a social network. It is a platform, which puts users in charge of taking and assembling their pages, regardless of where the content comes from. It became one, just because it did not care what and how people put their MySpace pages together. Wild wild web? Sure, but millions saw it as the page they started their day, and spent most of their time on it.

In other words, MySpace is an “attention page” not a portal page. For millions of users, MySpace is their most important page, the one that has all their attention. That attention is why MySpace accounted for 10.8% of Google’s search traffic, and the reason why News Corp subsidiary, Fox Interactive Media was able to craft $900 million deal with the search engine giant.

Perils of UGC

Rashmi Bansal writes about the problems with user-generated content:

The idea of ‘user generated’ content is a great one. And it works when you have millions and millions of people contributing such content – like at youtube.com. From a mountain of boring / mediocre trash you find a few gems and the system is designed such that users push these gems up to the top of the pile.

But when the number of users you attract is fairly low… you don’t have enough gems. And the trash attracts more trash and repels people who actually have quality content. Because you haven’t created an environment where the ego-driven creative types would like to showcase their work.

TECH TALK: The Now-New-Near Web: Leapfrogging

The Economist recently had an interesting essay on leapfrog technologies. It wrote:

Leapfrogging involves adopting a new technology directly, and skipping over the earlier, inferior versions of it that came before. By far the best-known example is that of mobile phones in the developing world. Fixed-line networks are poor or non-existent in many developing countries, so people have leapfrogged straight to mobile phones instead. The number of mobile phones now far outstrips the number of fixed-line telephones in China, India and sub-Saharan Africa. By their very nature, mobile networks are far easier, faster and cheaper to deploy than fixed-line networks.

…The lesson to be drawn from all of this is that it is wrong to assume that developing countries will follow the same technological course as developed nations. Having skipped fixed-line telephones, some parts of the world may well skip desktop computers in favour of portable devices, for example. Entire economies may even leapfrog from agriculture straight to high-tech industries. That is what happened in Israel, which went from citrus farming to microchips; India, similarly, is doing its best to jump straight to a high-tech service economy. Rwanda even hopes to turn itself into an African tech hub.

In countries like India, the Reference Web almost does not exist. Most businesses do not have websites; the ones that do have updates that are few and far between. This has been partly due to the slow growth of PCs and the lack of an inexpensive and reliable broadband infrastructure. Most of us in India rely on the ‘global’ Reference Web that we can search through the likes of Google and Yahoo.

India needs to leapfrog to the Now-New-Near Web. This is a web that will be built around mobiles and with a significant contribution coming from user-generated content. It will significantly improve life by bridging the information gaps that exist. It is a Web in which India can be the leader. The digital infrastructure and the devices to create and consume content are in place. What is missing is the set of services.

Another barrier to the creation of the Reference Web for the mass-market has been language. India has a multitude of languages. The computers that exist do not make it easy to create local language content. By adopting multimedia content creation techniques, India can break this barrier. Mobiles are the ideal devices for the creation of such content.

The Now-New-Near Web will be at the heart of the New India. It will be a virtual mirror of the physical world around us, accessible via the device we already carry and over networks that already exist. It will be the next big upgrade to the Web and one which India can lead.

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