Monday, April 26, 2010

Educating parents on the educational value of the Internet

by Karen Coppock

Students in Mauritania fully understand the educational value of the Internet, their parents do not according to a recent article in Balancing Act's newsletter (issue #501). Since most of these students do not have access to PCs at home, they need their parents to give them money to use cyber cafes. Parents are skeptical, at best.

I observed a similar dilemma in Uganda - students and youth fully understood the wealth of educational and other opportunities that the Internet provided, their parents, largely agricultural workers, did not. In China, the situation appears to be similar - a Vital Wave Consulting analyst mentioned that computers are forbidden in some Chinese dorm rooms as administrators fear that the children will play video games and not study.

Often times there are two types of buyers of educational materials - the economic buyer (the one who pays) and the end-user (the one who receives the service). In schools the economic buyer is often the government and the end-user are students and teachers. The IT industry is adept at marketing to governments for large-scale public school technology deployments. Marketing to parents of children in rural areas of Africa may be a bit newer.

Firms could consider partnering with non-profit organizations, schools and even cyber-cafe owners to promote awareness on the educational-value of the Internet. Firms could also leverage traditional media such as radio, TV and perhaps mobile-phones to tout the educational value of the Internet and help children convince their parents to open up their wallets to enhanced educational opportunities.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mingling of ideas and individuals...

by Karen Coppock

United Nations Foundation along with Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment and Precourt Institute for Energy held a reception at Stanford last night.

Appears that the UN Foundation holds it board meetings in different locations and takes advantage of these meetings to host receptions in which executives, non-profit leaders and academics mingle and network. Last night was one such event.

Many familiar faces were in the crowd including members of
Cisco's Emerging Market team and the New American Foundation, executives from TechSoup Global and InSTEDD, and prominent UN Foundation Board members and staff (Ted Turner, former Senator Timothy Wirth and Dr. Nafis Sadik).

Greatly enjoyed speaking with
Craig Criddle a Professor of Environmental Engineering & Science and Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment. He and his team are doing some very interesting work on using methane to create biodegradable plastic bottles - will save money and decrease carbon emissions - a win/win proposition that is not being lost on the private sector.

All is all was an excellent event. Thank you UN Foundation for hosting these receptions in conjunction with your board meetings, think the mixing of diverse people and ideas can only lead to positive results and enjoyable conversations.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Features, Functionality AND Services, Oh My!

Both Microsoft and Nokia announced "social" phones designed specifically for optimal performance as social networking tools, according to the GSMA's Mobile Business Briefing this week. These announcements came on the heels of news from Ericsson that data surpassed voice traffic on mobile networks worldwide for the first time in December of 2009. Ericsson also noted that social networking is a significant source of this data traffic with more than 100 million subscribers accessing Facebook via their mobile devices.

The transformation to data-centric mobile networks is introducing a new set of variables into the handset design process. Instead of just including additional features or functionality, designers now are considering the types of services users want to use on their phone. In this new paradigm, designers must determine what combination of features is required and which features and functionalities optimize the device for a specific service. For instance, both the new Microsoft and Nokia devices have high-quality cameras, as sharing pictures is a key component of social networking.

Market segmentation and conjoint analysis are just two of the tools firms may consider to inform the design of service-specific mobile communications devices. Market segmentation will enable the identification of the specific services - and users - that warrant specialized design. Conjoint analysis can be used to measure the relative value of the different features and functionality as well as to determine the trade-offs required for affordability and sleek design. As the industry matures and reaches saturation, users will require more sophisticated devices. Fortunately, designers have a wide range of tools they can draw upon to satisfy these needs.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Base of the pyramid guru - CK Prahalad - passes away...

by Karen Coppock

Was very sad to read that CK Prahalad passed away on Friday.

Prahalad was instrumental in changing how multi-national firms, and the development community, think about the world. Segmenting the world's population by income, rather than geography, was groundbreaking yet simple - the perfect recipe for a compelling theory.

Certainly there were critiques of Prahalad's work, with some validity. What is important, however, is that Prahalad provided a new lens through which to analyze the world and a new vocabulary - base of the pyramid (BOP), middle of the pyramid (MOP) and top of the pyramid (TOP) - which will frame how governments, firms and NGOs discuss the world for years, if not decades to come.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Emerging-market firms dominate mobile industry..

by Karen Coppock

The GSMA's
Mobile Business Briefing and Wireless Intelligence teams just published a new report ranking mobile operators by the total number of subscribers worldwide.

The top 5 - by total number of connections - are:

China Mobile - 525M

Vodafone - 310M

Telefonica - 202M

America Movil Group - 187M

Airtel Group - 170M

Three of the top five are based in emerging markets - China Mobile in China, America Movil in Mexico and Airtel in India. Although Telefonica is based in the UK, its growth and ranking is largely based on its Latin American operations.

China Mobile's incredible size is mostly due to the immense scale of its home market - it is home to almost a fifth of the world's population. It did branch out and invest in a Pakistani operations in 2007, but has not made another investment since then and most of its subscribers are in China.

Telefonica and America Movil are de facto duopolies in the Latin American market. Telefonica has branched out and invested in operations in other European countries and even in Africa, whereas America Movil has stayed closer to home. America Movil, lead by Carlos Slim - who beat out Bill Gates for the title of
the richest man in the world - has always had aspirations to tackle the US market, but has had little real success there.

Airtel jumped from 8th to 5th place due to its investment in Zain's African operations. Imagine it will be a while before it digests these new operations and is ready to make another significant investment, but it obviously has an appetite to be a global player.

Due to the vast size of emerging markets and the fact that for many of its citizens, it will be the mobile phone, and not a computer, that opens the door to the Internet, emerging-market mobile operators will likely continue to dominate the rankings in the years to come.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Planning for the Future: Latin America Leads the Way on Laptops for Kids

What started as a trickle three years ago in Uruguay is turning into a flood. That nation's decision in 2007 to purchase 100,000 ultra low-cost OLPC netbooks has created a domino effect across Latin America. Peru recently announced a deal to buy another 260,000 OLPC units for primary schoolchildren, bringing its total to 590,000. Argentina, meanwhile, took delivery of the first of 250,000 Intel Classmate PC laptops for technical high school students and the mayor of Buenos Aires announced an initiative to buy 190,000 laptops for primary school students. Brazil has also jumped in, launching a bid in February to acquire 1.5 million low-cost laptops. Latin America now leads the developing world in efforts to provide laptops for every student, with Uruguay becoming the first to give every child in primary schools their own computer for use at school and home. The Inter American Development Bank estimates that the number of children in the region covered by these programs will jump from 1.5 million to 30 million by 2015.

The move by Latin American governments to provide laptops to the region's children (and its primary schoolchildren in particular) is notable for several reasons. It marks an increased commitment on the part of these governments to raising educational performance, one of the factors many experts cite as a reason for Latin America's economic underperformance relative to Asia. It also signals that the region's governments are serious about building a tech-savvy workforce in order to better compete for knowledge economy jobs in the future. Yet these deals also demonstrate that governments believe that providing children with these computers will at the same time build local technology ecosystems in the here and now. All of these elements mean more work and skill development for local companies and workers.

These developments also present an opportunity for multinational firms. One-to-one computer deployments are enormously complex undertakings, requiring comprehensive plans for capacity building, teacher training, technical support and repair services in order to succeed. Many countries hope to build that capacity locally, but in the short term companies willing to partner with local enterprises might find numerous opportunities to provide products and services. Getting in early might also position firms for the future, when the tech-ready workforces produced by these programs enter the consumer base and workforce. Spotting the early signs of a blossoming tech economy can pay big dividends down the road.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Census starts in India

by Karen Coppock

Ever wonder how many mobile phones are in use in India? how many broadband connections per household?

This and many other questions will soon be answered through the collection of
2011 Census data, which began in a few Indian cities yesterday. For the first time, people will be asked if they have a broadband connection and/or a mobile phone.

The data will be collected by hand, by workers going door-to-door with paper surveys...then the data will be entered into a database. It is a shame that mobile phones, PDAs or some sort of smart phone isn't being used to collect the data - would be much quicker and also would reduce data transcription errors.

The US also started collecting census data and we are also using paper census surveys, Mexico and Indonesia start their census data collection next month - with house-to-house visits and paper surveys - and the UK starts next year - also with paper surveys - so it appears that Census bureaus across the globe (developed and developing world) are behind with regards to technology innovations...I should note that
Estonia appears to be breaking out and will have an eCensus for the first time.

The good news is, a great deal of new data is being collected around the world and will be available for businesses, governments and non-profit organizations over the next few months. Check out the
UN cite on the 2010 World Population and Housing Census Program for info on which country is conducting a census and when.