Tech Revolution Continues

Forbes has a column by Cisco’s John Chambers:

What began as a technical innovation has become a cultural, political and business revolution. Bits and bytes change the ways we live, work, learn and play. In its infancy 14 years ago, the Internet drove advances in the ways in which we interact and communicate. Today we are seeing a new Internet-driven revolution, an entirely new level of instant, complex collaboration across the global human network.

This global collaboration has begun, and will continue, to fundamentally change business models, relationships, political networks, innovation, learning. Consider just one application: high-definition videoconferencing. With this, people as far away from each other as Singapore and Cincinnati can sit across the virtual table from one another. You hear the faraway voice as if it were in the same room. You see the other person’s pupils dilate, forehead sweat and fingers tap from thousands of miles away.

Mobile Payments

The Times writes:

Mobile phone manufacturers have now set their sights on supplanting your wallet. Their new generation of phones will link to your credit or debit account as part of a joint initiative with phone operators, banks and credit card companies. They predict this one-swipe payment technology will potentially replace cards and cash and make it possible to go shopping armed only with a mobile phone.

A pay-by-mobile system already operates in Japan, where it is nicknamed o-saifu keitai (mobile wallet), and trials are under way in the United States, France and Sweden.

Industry insiders predict the new technology could arrive in the UK within one year.

China’s New Green City

Wired Magazined writes about plans to create a new Chinese city:

Dongtan breaks ground later this year on a plot about the size of Manhattan on Chongming Island. The first condos and commercial space will hit the market by 2010, around the time a 12-mile bridge and tunnel combo and subway extension will link the city to Shanghai’s new international airport (45 minutes away) and financial district (30 minutes). By 2050, Dongtan will have a half-million residents, more than Miami or Atlanta today.

That may count as a cozy little town in a country of 1.3 billion people. But Dongtan is a dramatic gambit, and not just because a whole city will rise, fully realized, from nothing. With Dongtan, Arup is testing a radical new approach to urban design, one that suggests cities across China and the rest of the developing world can actually get greener as they grow.

How to Communicate Better

Mark Evans writes about how to use different tools to communicate effectively, and concludes:

I do think digital communications is far from perfect, and people who rely extensively on e-mail and SMS today arent communicating as effectively as they can. Sure, theyre communicating but its communications-lite.

Im certainly not suggesting we abandon e-mail and IM, which would be a big mistake because they can be valuable and extremely useful tools. But I do think that we can communicate better, and that stepping away from the keyboard is a good way to start. So rather than e-mail or IM someone, why not meet them for coffee/beer or, at least, give them a call?

TargetSpot

The New York Times writes about a virtual agency for online radio:

TargetSpot is planning a service that will let advertisers of any size from a local restaurant to a national chain create commercials for their desired audience and buy ads that will be slipped into online radio programming. The service, which CBS Radio in part financed, will debut June 28.

TargetSpot, which bills itself as a kind of virtual advertising agency, will allow clients to create their own commercials from a menu of options, as well as to define and locate their audience, using demographic data or geographic information like ZIP codes. A pizzeria, for instance, could use the sites research to focus on men ages 18 to 21 because they spend more money than other groups, then decide to place its ad at 6 p.m., because experience says thats when the desired audience is hungriest.

TECH TALK: Doing Education Right: China Comparison

By Atanu Dey

Education matters immensely when it comes to the health of an economy. There is a positive correlation between years of schooling and the GDP per capita. Lets look at the numbers that are indicative of the generalization. In 2001, school-life expectancy and the ppp GDP per capita for Ethiopia were (4.3 years, and $675); for Indonesia (10, and $2,844), for China (12.4, and $4,065), for South Korea (14.6, and $17,048), Japan (14.3, and $25,559), and the US (15.2, and $32,764).

Not just that, there is a correlation between growth and educational attainment. Consider one measure of the educational level of an economy, the literacy rate of adults (defined as those above the age of 15 years). In 1970, adult literacy rate in China was 54 percent, compared to Indias 34 percent. The ppp GDP per capita income of India in 1970 was $1,034, nearly double that of Chinas $571. Yet, twenty years later, China surpassed Indias annual per capita income: India $1,587, China $1,617. The adult literacy rates in 1990: China 78 percent, India 49 percent. By 2001, China had 86 percent adult literacy rate and a ppp GDP per capita of $4,065, and India languished at 58 percent and $2,319.

There are many reasons for modern Chinas meteoritic rise from its humble beginnings. But one of the most important factors must be their youth literacy rate, which is defined for the population between 15 and 24 years of age. In 1970, Chinas youth literacy rate was a whopping 83 percent, compared to Indias 46 percent. It is more than a little depressing to note that more than half of Indias youth were illiterate, leave alone educated, as late as 1970. By 2000, India was just at 73 percent, not even at the level at which China was 30 years before. Now China has achieved nearly universal youth literacy. The lesson is unavoidable: compared to China, Indias prospects are dim if education has anything to do with economic prosperity and potential.

It is important to note the sequence of development. Literacy preceded economic growth for China, as it does for every successful development story. Note that China was more literate than India in 1970 even though it was poorer than India. Thus poverty does not automatically condemn a population to illiteracy. It is a matter of choice: like individuals, countries can also choose to invest in education.

I deliberately chose China as a counterpoint to India in this narrative. I can tell the same story of how Singapore transformed itself from a mosquito infested swamp to a developed economy within a single generation. But then the usual objection is that Singapore is a tiny city-state and a behemoth like India cannot transform itself. It is a just-so argument, supposed to be compelling enough that no reason has to be advanced why the Singapores tiny size in the context of development is relevant.

But another just-so argument is introduced when India and China are compared. It says that China cannot be compared to India because India is a democracy. Again, no reason is provided why democracy prevents policy makers from choosing to invest in education. However, one can argue that Indias political structure has something naturally to do with Indias dismal failure in educating its population. I describe India as a pseudo-democracy, something that has the superficial trappings of democracy but just below the surface it is anything but.

Democracy, if it means anything at all, is more than mere head-counting. It has something to do with informed choice of the population at large, which in turn depends on the populations ability to understand the issues, which finally rests on the ability to read, write, and carefully consider the alternatives that confront them. As it happened, when India achieved political freedom from the British, the population was told that their emancipator knew best and all they had to do was vote for them, and the government so constituted would magically take care of their every wish. How that transformed India from being the darling candidate for becoming a developed economy in the 1950s to actually being a laggard in economic development we shall briefly note the next time.

Write to atanudey at gmail.com if you have questions or comments.

Tomorrow: Changing Objectives

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