TECH TALK: The Best of Tech Talk 2002: Bridging the Digital Divide

A recurrent theme in my writings is about building what I recently termed as Disruptive Bridges disruptive innovations to bridge the digital divide. Emerging markets like India and China are technologys next markets. How can technology become a utility for the hundreds of millions of users in these developing countries. We need to use technology to bridge the digital divide and achieve the vision of a connected computer accessible to every employee and family.

While I wrote often from the perspective of India and what needs to be done to build India 3.0, the same ideas are applicable to other emerging markets also. It is here where India and Indian companies can, using their prowess in software development, take a leadership position in creating the computing platform for the next 500 million users.

Among the series which explored these themes (in chronological order) were:

Envisioning a New India: “An Epidemic of Change is exactly what is needed to transform India. India needs to Tip, Bottom-up (like Ants), and in less than 2,000 days.”

The Digital Divide: “The digital divide is the gap in technology (computing and communications) usage and access. This manifests itself in many different ways: between the big companies and the smaller companies, between the people in developed markets and those in the emerging markets, between the urban and rural populations in the emerging marketsWhat is needed are technologies which can bridge the digital divide and create a digital dividend for the have-nots.”

Indias Next Decade: “To invent the future needs thinking which is very different. Computers for Rs 5,000 (the PPP equivalent of USD 700), Software on rent for Rs 250 per month and rock-bottom prices for broadband communications. This is about creating a mass market which does not yet exist – it is about creating this market. Think of Amul and its Rs 20 pizza versus the Rs 200 price-point of Pizza Hut and Domino’s. It is not that the high-end pizza eaters migrate to the lower price-point, but that a whole new set of pizza eaters are created. Like in a pyramid, the markets at the bottom are many times bigger. Each user may not be able to pay much, but the numbers can more than make up – creating an equivalently large opportunity.”

Technologys Next Markets: “Much of what we see and read about is the impact of technology in the world’s developed markets – and this is where technological innovation has become incremental. This is because there is already a huge established base, a legacy. But there is another world comprising the world’s developing nations like India which is waiting for technology to help it leapfrog. This is a world which makes up in volumes what it lacks in purchasing power. This is where the opportunities of tomorrow lie. This is where the road to utopia leads. But for people and companies in the developed markets, it is as if this other world did not exist. This is the Invisible Market.”

Tomorrow: Briding the Digital Divide (continued)

TECH TALK The Best of Tech Talk 2002+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.