Social Web Ladder

Dan Farber writes: “Forrester analysts Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff have published a report, “Social Technographics,” ($279) that identifies six levels of participation in the realm of social media or the social Web in the U.S. based on a recent survey.”

OLPC, Microsoft and Linux

Larry Dignan writes:

According to an AP report, Nicholas Negroponte said the $100 laptop for kids in developing countries actually runs about $175. He also added that it will be able to run Windows and could be used in the U.S. too.

A few big points to ponder in this one:

1. Microsoft’s $3 software package looks more brilliant by the minute in terms of heading off Linux encroachment. The One Laptop Per Child project represented Linux’s big chance. Teach the fastest growing areas to grow up with Linux and Microsoft would be hurting in a generation or two. By offering a $3 package of software, Microsoft makes itself competitive with desktop Linux. As Dana Blankenhorn notes: Microsoft gets a strategic win on the desktop. It’s too early to count out open source though.

3. The OLPC would wreak havoc in the U.S. According to the AP report, 19 governors have expressed interest in the OLPC. That should spark fear at Apple and other PC players in the education market.

Vudu and Video

The New York Times writes:

Insiders familiar with Vudus hidden magic say that this 41-employee start-up has everything weve come to expect from Silicon Valley: a daring business plan, innovative technology and entrepreneurs prone to breathless superlatives when discussing their new offerings possible impact on the world.

Vudu, if all goes as planned, hopes to turn Americas televisions into limitless multiplexes, providing instant gratification for movie buffs. It has built a small Internet-ready movie box that connects to the television and allows couch potatoes to rent or buy any of the 5,000 films now in Vudus growing collection. The boxs biggest asset is raw speed: the company says the films will begin playing immediately after a customer makes a selection.

Motorola’s Mobile Problems

WSJ writes:

Motorola’s travails illustrate the risks for a company that rides high with a big consumer hit. Amid its success with the Razr, it fell behind on developing a phone with the next generation of technology. Missing a beat is especially hazardous in cellphones, where it can take two to three years to develop a new line.

Meanwhile, Motorola faced corporate infighting during the transition to a new CEO from outside the industry, which interrupted new-product development. Mr. Zander has also struggled to bring his Silicon Valley ways, developed from years in the computer business, to the cellphone world.

Mobile Advertising

Knowledge@Wharton has an interview with Omar Hamoui of AdMob. Omar’s response to how mobile advertising is different from web advertising:

It’s pretty different. The devices are different. Technically, the way you have to integrate advertising into the page is different. All the advertising done on the Internet is syndicated with JavaScript. JavaScript doesn’t work on mobile devices so you have to do it a different way from a technical standpoint.

The targeting is [also] very different. If you are an advertiser, you likely care what carrier the person is on, what handset they are using, whether the handset will support Java or [the] Symbian [operating system]; is it Microsoft Windows or is it Blackberry? — all those things matter to you. Online, none of those things matter.

The web pages themselves are not translatable onto mobile [devices]. You have to have a different landing page. We would love it if we could just find an ad network to fill our inventory with existing online advertising. But we can’t, because those ads would link to web pages which wouldn’t render on the mobile device in the first place. [The mobile web] is sort of its own silo.

TECH TALK: Doing Education Right: The Problems

By Atanu Dey

Education is one of Indias biggest challenges. It is not about building the best schools though that will help. It is about creating a platform to educate 200 million of our young. If India is to to benefit from the demographic dividend, then we need to get our education system in order quickly. My colleague, Atanu Dey, looks at how we can get education right. — Rajesh

The fractal nature of the generalization that education matters holds across time and space. Irrespective of the granularity of analysis, education aids development through the intermediate step of economic growth. At the finest level of detail, an educated individual anywhere in the world is more productive than an uneducated one. At the broadest level of analysis, the modern world is more productive arguably because it is more educated compared to the world that existed before. A cross-sectional study of the world today, or at any earlier time, reveals that the general level of education of the population is a good predictor of the success of the population.

The observed positive correlation between the macroeconomic variables of the level of general education and economic well-being has microeconomic foundations. There are two avenues, private and public. An educated person is simply more likely to make better-informed private choices regarding his or her production and consumption. Aggregated over the lifetime of the individual, that translates into greater individual production and therefore individual income. Individual incomes aggregated over the entire population determine the macroeconomic health of the economy. At the public level, an individual indirectly contributes to greater economic development by making informed choice among various public policies. An educated population is more likely to endorse enlightened public policy.

Indias present economic standing both in its limited successes and its myriad failures is to a large extent a reflection of its education system. It takes justifiable pride in the successes of its handful of elite institutions of higher education in turning out world-class super-achievers. But that exceptional success of the few is overshadowed by the dismal failure of the educational system as a whole. At the primary level, the enrollment is around 90 percent but studies have revealed that even after five years of schooling, around 50 percent of the students fail basic reading tests and are unable to perform single-digit subtractions. Ninety percent of Indian children drop out by the time they reach high school.

Of the ten percent who do get post-secondary education in Indias around 300 universities (comprising of 17,000 colleges), their results are disheartening. India produces around two and a half million college graduates, including 400 thousand engineers annually. But the quality is so poor that only a quarter of them are actually employable. Stark statistics reveal the oversupply of raw graduates and the undersupply of employable graduates. Infosys, an IT giant, last year sorted through 1.3 million applicants only to find around two percent were qualified for jobs, according to a recent report in The New Yorker.

That India is not an economic success today is significantly attributable to its failed education system. More importantly, its prospects of even moderate economic success in the future are bleak unless the educational system is urgently fixed. The fatal flaw in the system most likely arises from its near-complete government monopoly control. Practically all aspects of the system suffer from political and bureaucratic meddling. Who can run schools and colleges, what is to be taught, who is going to teach, how much they are to be paid, who is going to learn, how much fees must they be charged, what will be tested and howevery minute detail of the enterprise is rigidly defined and mindlessly enforced. Consequently the system has degenerated to become ineffective, inefficient, and irrelevant.

In this series of brief articles, I present a personal perspective on what is wrong with the Indian educational system, and why. I believe that if we have to fix the system, we have to necessarily first understand the system and what ails it. To the extent that the problem is understood, it is tractable. I hope to present the broad outlines of a solution as well.

Write to atanudey at if you have questions or comments.

Tomorrow: China Comparison