I am having the greatest of difficulties (as far as one could say when referring to an internal blog dilemma) deciding what is going on with my electronic mediums. On the one hand, I want to write something respectable and useful to the world - maybe about technology. However, I have an overwhelming interest in churning out random drivel based on my personal experiences and life (which I am doubtful anyone cares about).
Let us examine option the first. The more I read different versions of the same thing on blogs and blogs and blogs (and blogs!) around the internet, I feel that my meager contributions would be unnecessary. Take this Nokia and Microsoft business, for example. Stephen Elop’s letter about the ‘burning platform’ was regurgitated in various forms on at least 10 blogs I pay some attention to. If you were to graph ‘blogs Ashley pays some attention to’ with ‘all blogs out there in the world’ you would find that the the BAPSA bar would be but a small line on a larger bar composed mostly of ABOTITW. We didn’t even need my imaginary visualization to know that there was A LOT of repetitive coverage. Whilst I am very happy for the breadth of press out there and democratization of journalism, these posts typically said exactly the same thing without adding anything. Then there was a lot of “It’s Microsoft! It’s Microsoft! Here’s why: we’ve decoded a TWEET” which was a bit informative, but still many times duplicitous.
To write about a topic like this, writers tend to differentiate themselves with different angles. TechCrunch seems particularly fond of covering non-topic, future-maybe-topics. “Blurry black plastic and glass rectangle probably the new spacetravelingphoneblet” is one example that didn’t happen but could have. An angle, an angle, I need an angle. So I was thinking.. I need to think about this some more.
When I look at the two previous posts here, which are indeed from my past and more upstanding blog, I can’t help but feel bored. I still think it’s interesting stuff, but I was using my grown-up voice, and let’s face it, that voice is a fraud. Well, like I said, I need to think about this some more. And while I think about it, I shall take my Focus Culebro out for a frigid flexing of wings on this low-lit Berlin Sunday afternoon, during which I shall fly. That’s option two speaking up for itself.
It comes as no surprise that when a company suggests they are sustainable or good for the world one should investigate their claims. “Sustainability” can be misleading. For our Strategy and Sustainability assignment at IESE, we analyzed the Global 100 Sustainability Index. It was interesting to see how an index that aims to help companies and consumers make sense of false claims is itself utterly useless.
The post is here.
This post is also from my earlier blog from June 2010. The debate is here:
One thing I found interesting is how Bunker Roy mentioned the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. I didn’t know it was the result of grassroots activism. It has undoubtedly been beneficial to the rural people, but it is so much less effective than a more “market-based” solution, but has ironically spurred the creation of a VC funded company (A Little World) that has helped create bank accounts for rural villagers, which will arguably do more good in the long run than the act itself.
Apparently there is a condition to the act which does not allow workers to work with certain types of tools, so they are not able to work on anything infrastructure related. There are tons of people who are being paid by the government, but the jobs they are being asked to do don’t always fill a need – like cutting bushes in one case.
However, this nationwide scheme triggered an entrepreneurial idea called A Little World. To get the employment funds to the workers, the government paired with “banking correspondents” which are non-profit organizations that deliver the funds to the rural villages. In an effort to keep this process corruption-free, the government requires a technology-based system. A company called A Little World (which I wrote a case on) created the rural bank-in-a-box, which is essentially a cell phone, fingerprint reader and printer that creates real bank accounts for the villagers and allows them to receive funds. Because A Little World used the language of business in their talks with external VC investors and banks, they are able to fund this project. Thanks to the government program, they are able to reach a lot of people with their technology. Now the technology solution can be used to transfer money from the village out in a corruption-free way, which is helping lay the foundation of financial literacy in rural India.
I think that’s proof – passion, commitment and business savvy are ALL important.
This entry was posted on Ashoka Tech last year. As I was reviewing my old blog, I thought to save it here.
It’s a strange world we live in where people on one side of the planet can earn a living creating iphone applications while those on the other side are using hazardous kerosene lamps to work into the night. Luckily, the 1’s (and 0’s) of change are a-blowin’ – in the Western world, that is. Social and environmental issues are given more and more attention by creators and providers of technology, businesses and business schools and others. These people are increasingly interested in using their technological, managerial and financial resources to empower the intelligent, hardworking local people who have been tiring over these issues for decades. Whether because we’re finally realizing that our planet and people need attention, the increasing access and immediacy of information is making it hard to ignore, or the collective Western workforce is looking for transcendental motivation, it seems we’re on the right track now. At a time when our industrialization is catching up with us, the fruits of technological innovation are feeding powerful change. In enacting this change, partnerships and co-creation with developing nations are necessary to ensure the technological innovations suit local needs best and that the value created is distributed equitably.
Here is some exciting evidence of technological innovation, which I’ve grouped into the four categories of a product portfolio, which I think can help identify the impact made by innovations, inventions and everything in between. (Source of product portfolio categories: Prof. Martínez de Albéniz, IESE Business School).
Cost efficient and micro-sized products, to me, classify as product innovation breakthroughs. These include LED lanterns (Philips, D.Light), variable prescription glasses and other radically new products that solve pertinent problems and create new categories. Arguably encouraged by C.K. Prahalad and his proposition that business can be done profitably with the base of the pyramid, the creative recombination of technology from the North for the purpose of conducting business with the South can yield maximum-impact new product innovation.
The use cell phone networks to overcome the lack of physical infrastructure is incredible. Services range from crop information for farmers (Reuters Market Light) to banking capabilities (M-Pesa) to anti-corruption verification and money transfer (ZERO) and others. New applications of existing structures have the power to create massive social change -through empowerment and livelihood generation. (Yeah, if I were Nokia, I’d be pretty psyched to have such a fan base in India, China, Africa and LATAM)
1. Advances in clean energy can be used for development and also enable the use of other power-operated devices.
2. Repurposed gadgets like cell phones, and eventually ipods and ebook readers can be powerful development tools. Arguably, the ebook is a transitory technology that will meet its demise with the advent of tablet PCs and more efficient devices. When this happens (or before, if the technology becomes cheap enough) the technology or the discarded devices can be sold cheaply as multi-level textbooks that can bring libraries of knowledge to the developing world.
3. As technology creates changes in company organization, the rise of virtual enterprise will provide opportunity to anyone, anywhere who can get the job done. (From Samasource to name-that-multinational)
In the Support category, I would put variations on existing technology that do not require any technological change, such as the use of social networks for consumer research with the Base of the Pyramid (BoP source), or blogs to disseminate information on the activities of social entrepreneurs, thereby inspiring more people to get involved and connecting people in the South to the resources available in the North. Also, increased access to cell phones can facilitate the reporting of crimes and election fraud, like the Ushahidi platform.
To explore the interconnection between technology, innovation and social change is to dive into a deep and refreshing sea. These few examples provide some hope and excitement for what is to come. In bringing these innovations to market, we who are slowly becoming aware of these opportunities must use our tools to empower those who understand their country, its people and their unique needs. Then, the vast potential for impact is incalculable.