TECH TALK: A Presentation at PC Forum: The Event

The January meeting with Esther discussed SEraja and Novatium, both companies I have been involved in co-founding. While SEraja is bringing the EventWeb to life, Novatium is building the $100 network computer to make computing affordable and simple for the rest of the world. Esther was fascinated by the Nova NetPC and suggested that she might get us to present at PC Forum in March because what we were doing fitted in nicely with the theme, Erosion of Power: Users in Charge. Our work would empower users in emerging markets like India with the benefits of computing and the Internet.

I waited anxiously through January to hear back from Esther and her team. Christina Koukkos, the Managing Editor of Release 1.0, set up a call with me to probe deeper into what our vision was for Novatium and what we had accomplished so far. A few days later, I got an email from her confirming our participation. I was delighted. I would now go to PC Forum, not just as one of a few hundred attendees, but as one of a chosen few who would get a chance to present to everyone attending.

PC Forum is the annual event that Esther organises in March, getting together an amazing mix of start-ups entrepreneurs, industry veterans and venture capitalists for a deep dive into a single theme. For the past few years, I had to satisfy myself reading the transcripts well after the event was over. This year, I finally had an opportunity to be there. And so it was that I made my way to PC Forum in Carlsbad, California, on a sunny California March afternoon.

The March issue of Release 1.0 (an 96-page treasure) has in-depth write-ups of the individuals and companies who had been invited to participate as speakers, panelists or company presenters, all built around the theme of users in charge. This is how Esther described the trend:

The biggest shift caused by the Internet is not the technology that people use. Its how people interact with one another and with the institutions in their lives (also composed of people). The power institutionsonce held over them is eroding for three technology-based reasons:

First, people have better information about everything about the behavior of institutions, about the provenance and cost of goods, about one another. They also have the opportunity to interact with far morepeople and institutions than ever before.

Second, because of the freer flow of information and the abundance of processing power, it is now possible for anyone (but especially for institutions) to mass-process individuals and track them and even treat them as individuals if the institutions so desire.

And third, much the same processing power and information are potentially available on a retail basis to individuals; they can benefit from economies of scale, while institutions generally still lack the flexibility and the ability to innovate that individuals and smaller team have, even though they have the tools.

We need to build new technology, new applications, new habits. Just knowing that individuals should be in charge doesnt make it so.What are the mechanisms? What do people need to know and learn about new rules and conventions? How can we provide the right defaults with visible but not confusing alternatives? How much disruption can people stand?

This was the backdrop for Novatiums participation at PC Forum.

Tomorrow: Novatium

TECH TALK A Presentation at PC Forum+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.