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.