Esther Dyson Interview

Dan Bricklin reports on an interview by Scott Kirsner with Esther Dyson (of Release 1.0). Excerpts:

In India, with a billion people, outsourcing is a tiny thing. Talent is being used to serve outside of the country, with no direct benefit to the general population. They know how to market their talents to the world. The Russians are terrible at marketing, but 90% of what they do is for customers in Russia. There is more of a sense of building for the future now then there was.

When asked about the Internet, WiFi, et al, and the developing world: She reminds us of “lower technology” that is very valuable, such as sewing machines and water pumps. Cell phones are more immediately and locally important than the Internet because of cost and accessibility, which is more relevant for now than WiFi, but she noted that the best underlying backbone for communications is the Internet. It is important to know the price of cotton, which you can do via SMS — you don’t need a web page with fancy graphics. What it all does is change the balance of power. Those in power, and especially those abusing power, tend not to like transparency. Usually bad governments create poverty; poor people don’t create it.

The point about India that Esther Dyson makes is, sadly, right. The Indian IT industry has become too outward (dollar focused) and is unable to see the opportunities that lie within. Longer-term, we have to build a stronger, healthier domestic base – across our SMEs, schools and colleges and our rural areas. This is where IT can be transformational, but there just isn’t enough work happening on this front.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.