TECH TALK: Disruptive Bridges: The First Markets

The first set of markets to target are the cradles of learning the student community in schools, colleges, vocational institutes and the training centres. The educational institutions are the builders for tomorrow’s developers, workforce, managers and entrepreneurs. For a nation, they decide its tomorrow. Computing must become part of the educational curriculums DNA.

Students spend the better part of their day in schools and colleges that is where they learn, individually and collectively. That is where computers and the Internet need to be easily available for them to discover the magic of whats possible with technology. By targeting the younger generation, we ensure that the nation will have a computer-literate populace in the years to come. At the same time, students are the ones who can spread computing to their families, creating a positive viral effect. Since theyve been exposed to the benefits of computing and the Internet, they will play the role of evangelists and become the change agents that emerging markets need to bridge the digital divide.

The next step should be to create a franchise of Tech 7-11s. Technology needs to become, to borrow a phrase from IBM, “the next utility” for the people and enterprises on the wrong side of the digital divide. In developing countries, the individual ownership model will come later community ownership/usage needs to come first. The distribution point for this tech utility needs to be in every neighbourhood and industrial cluster.

Think of these hubs as the equivalent of tech “7-11s”. The 7-11 (which stands for 7 am to 11 pm – the store timings) chain of stores dot many of Asia’s cities. Most of what families need for their daily consumption is available at these stores. They are a part of life.

The Tech 7-11s also need to become part of the digital life. They can be housed in any number of places: schools, colleges, post offices, existing STD/PCO booths, railways stations, bus depots, bank branches, factory floors, and even hospitals. They serve multiple purposes. They have a 10-40 computers. They also showcase the technologies which can make a difference for the masses, host a digital hub for WiFi data networks, provide Internet access, serve as delivery points for eCommerce transactions, become eLearning centres, and serve as a physical world meeting place for people in the neighbourhood to share and learn.

The focus here needs to be on the Tech 7-11 franchisees, who will set up these centers. They can be institutions or private entrepreneurs. While we can hope for the government to set up these centres, I feel the driving force will be the individual space owners, who need a business model which says that for the space they have the best return on their investment can come not from a grocery store or a coffee outlet, but a Tech 7-11.

Monday: The First Markets (continued)

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Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.