TECH TALK: Disruptive Bridges: The Vision

To bridge the technological digital divide in developing countries, we need to look at disruptive innovations. These innovations are ideas and technologies which for the most part are already in existence. Each idea as a singularity may not be earth-shattering, but taken together, they can make a big difference. The whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. I have talked about most of these ideas here in the past, so Ill summarise them briefly. Then, we will look at three markets which need to be targeted first in our efforts to build digital bridges. We will also consider marketing strategies which can be used to proliferate technology into these markets.

Let us first begin by stating our basic objective. A computer on every desk and in every home used to Microsofts mantra. We need to think of an adapted version of this vision for the developing countries: A connected computer accessible to every employee and family. Lets look at each of the phrases.

Connected computer signifies the use of both the Internet and the computer. The Internet is crucial it becomes the window to the outside world. At the same time, we want to make available a full-fledged desktop computer. It is hard to use handhelds or cellphones for many significant length of time.

Accessible does not necessarily imply ownership. This is an important difference. Microsofts vision was about giving each worker and home owner a computer. In our world, we want to look at sharing of resources and community ownership to bring costs down. This is akin to the STD/PCO booths in India, where telephones are used by the neighbourbood, rather than owned by an individual. They have proliferated telephony to even the remotest corners of India.

Every Employee needs to have access to a computer. This is what their counterparts in the developed markets have. Computing needs to become central to the enterprise. It needs to become ingrained into every business process. This is the only way we are going to see an increase in productivity. An enterprise may be selling its products and services locally, but it needs to be globally competitive with its product quality and pricing. Competition has no barriers. Competitive organisations imply a productive workforce. We need to use new software concepts to share information, collaborate better, communicate faster and manage customers and the supply-chain better.

Every Family too needs to have access to computing. This will help in many different ways. For starters, it will take away many of the daily pains that are faced in some of the things that we have do booking tickets, interacting with government agencies, paying bills. Next, it opens up new opportunities for both education and business for the younger generation. Just as the railways blew away the geographical limits in the world on the nineteenth century, the connected computer shatters distance in todays world. Everyone young and old can expand their horizons through the Internet-enabled computer.

At the heart of this vision is the promise of a computer-literate populace, which will serve as the underpinning for both the real-time society and the real-time enterprise. Information and knowledge will become the new rivers, whose flow creates fertile minds and competitive organisations. By empowering their people with technology, the developing countries can create the foundation for bridging the digital divide.

Tomorrow: The Building Blocks

TECH TALK Disruptive Bridges+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.