Mobile globalization

Aside from Acts of Nature, big things don’t just happen — they are talked about and planned, months if not years in advance.  That is one of the practical lessons that developers can take away from this extended discussion of Nokia X in connection with Opera and Internet.org.  The better you and your company are able to work with others, the easier it is for your efforts to achieve “economy of scale”.

Combine this with think tanks and forums for executive level decision making and you come up with ideas — and plans — for what can be called “economies of mega-scale”.  That’s in line with the concept of Internet.org.  It is also the function of organizations like the Singularity University, established in part by Ray Kurzweil, in collaboration with Google and NASA’s Ames Research Center.    Its mission is to “assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies and apply, focus and guide these tools to address humanity’s grand challenges.”  With the stated aim of producing “projects that can positively impact a billion people in ten years by leveraging exponentially advancing technologies” (per Wikipedia).

Bridging the Internet/Technology divide has been a goal of the United Nations since at least 1999 where the Internet is concerned.  As I referenced Wednesday, the goal of a $100 laptop was represented at the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos in 2005 by Nicholas Negroponte and MIT Media Lab in 2005.  It is also a hot topic with the WEF this year, too.

The World Economic Forum is —

a Swiss nonprofit foundation “committed committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas…  The meeting brings together some 2,500 top business leaders, international political leaders, selected intellectuals, and journalists, for a winter meeting, to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world, including health and the environment.

What needs to be heavily underscored is that this IS NOT a static group of 2,500 prominent people.  What is discussed at Davos is discussed in the participant’s own organizations, within their government agencies, with their colleagues — and filters out much further from there.  What is discussed there is what is happening out here “in the real world” — and to some extent, vice versa.  The decisions they tentatively reach has bearing on everyone.

So, when a few heads of industry and the tech world come together and say, “We are going to bring the Internet to everyone who doesn’t have it yet” — it is worthwhile to take heed.  The ramifications are awe inspiring because they will change the game.  If you haven’t noticed, the game has been changing for a while — now it is about to accelerate.

For starters, Nokia is going after a market substantially neglected by many major brand names (though, not all).  The introduction of $100-150 devices to Africa, SE Asia, South America and beyond coupled with the Opera Mini browser that compresses data, saves consumers on usage charges is a much better fit to the market as many countries in these areas have average yearly wages of $1500–$5000.  For many, $120 (or so) is still a hefty purchase, but Nokia (and the broader market) is in the very early stages of developing for this market.

Simply, what it does mean is:

  1. More companies will try to compete for this market and that will drive prices down.
  2. Some will sell their older mobile devices to help pay for their new Nokia X, leading to secondary growth.
  3. In as little as 2-3 years, we can reasonably expect for the average wages within these countries to increase (better matching of native products to buyers, better import/export mechanisms, increase of general technical skills, education, etc.)
  4. Aside from corporations like Nokia feeding new tech products into new markets, the governments themselves can be expected to implement more tech programs and likely receive diversified funding to do so.

That’s just the beginning of the cycle.

In the extreme long-term, the process of globalization — something that is inevitable when technology-communication-commerce so readily transcends national and geographic boundaries, one would expect to see a “fairly even playing field”.  This might take 30 years, but we are already seeing the impact of globalization in the West, particularly the United States.

In a free market environment, employers are not constrained to hiring locally.  Lots of western jobs have been lost as employers can find more competitive labor.  Detroit is a good example and not the only one.

This creates problems for people and challenges for governments. We will explore more in this direction next week with a special guest who is a member of Chatham House.  Specifically, the largest problem derived from major trade deals concerns the average worker.  While the corporations seeking favorable (to them) facility, tax and market conditions are well-versed in navigating the export of their business to foreign countries; the average worker is not.  They are not educated on how “globalization” can be beneficial to them; most simply find themselves without a job.

The jobs are not really lost, they just change locations (unless automation is involved, but that feeds into separate issues).  Leastwise, there is the potential to move where the new jobs will be, support it remotely, look for the same job with other local companies, or train for a completely new job.  The vast, vast majority of westerners who have lost their jobs have only applied to the last two options.  Few consider relocation, and even fewer seek to become bi/multi-lingual for the sake of supporting peripheral work via the Internet (recruiting, consulting, training, etc.).  The same possibilities and opportunities exist for people in countries where corporations are building new facilities or establishing new product lines.

This blog has mostly focused on specific tips, ideas and resources for helping developers.  Today and virtually all of next week, we will be looking at the broader picture.

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Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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