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Thursday, 21 January 2010

Stuff we learned today: Technology for Emerging Markets


I didn't know that the world's biggest microprocessor company even had a separate research division for emerging markets. Curious, The Nashman attended a lecture delivered by the man himself, the man who unleashed the classmate PC (but that really is another long story), the man at Intel whose remit is to define commercially viable technology products in emerging/developing countries. No, this talk wasn't going to be about the bleeding edge in teraflops science but about adapting mature technologies for the other half of the digital divide. And The Nashman was all ears (and all eyes...grabe, mas marami na palang babaeng gustong maging inhinyero sa panahon ngayon. Nung nasa kolehiyo ako idiay banbantay ket duwa wenno uppat laeng ti balasang, 50% pay ket nalasangen.)

Yes, those are goats - To highlight how a man in Nepal utilised the power of the internet to grow the local economy by tapping the disposable income of Nepalese abroad.

Let's introduce this new metric called TMI. How have countries adopted technology and punched above their weight...

Here are the factors: the Nation-state - why did South Korea adopt broadband in 1997(!) when the rest of the world were on dial up? Why was Estonia first to fly with wifi?; Normative ethos - which societies are more open to new technology?; Density - no matter what the CBCP tells you, overpopulation is not going to help drive development; Agile State (political) - nope, the Philippines is not one (yet...or ever?).

Very simple maths. Don't ask Chiz "Boy Laway" Escudero what it means. Basically, it's the same formula used in defining who is the best pound for pound boxer in the world.

The column on the left is all about potential...the column on the right is all about who's already there (no surprises). Estonia is very very small compared to the USA, but pound for pound, Estonia is just as adept as the USA in exploiting technology. Consider New Zealand, it's in both columns - it ticks all the boxes. In contrast, the Philippines which is not on either list - it decides to build a broadband network but rather than spurring local enterprises to shoulder the cost and tapping its deep and talented human resource, the Philippine government borrows money and goes looking for where kickbacks can be made.

How do you build a sustainable business in emerging markets? Ask the natives and never underestimate culture. What works in one country may not work in another country.

The moral of the story? Development (in emerging/third world countries) as a business proposition rather than a purely altruistic endeavour. The Nashman agrees. Trade, not aid.

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