Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Business and convergent technologies 20 – access and opportunity, and making choices of global impact

Posted in business and convergent technologies by Timothy Platt on December 16, 2009

This is now my twentieth posting in this series, not counting supplemental entries and I have to admit, assembling the series and fleshing it out as short essay length postings has prompted me to think issues through in new ways. That means I have developed the series in ways that I would not have anticipated when drafting that first posting in it.

The topic I want to address here, however, has been on my mind since the very beginning and the exercise of thinking through and writing the preceding postings that lead up to this one has simply brought its importance into clearer focus. The basic topic is one of choice – our choice and the consequences of how we make it. We are rapidly approaching a cross roads that will have global impact, and on a lot more than just our choices and selections of technology and communications moving forward.

The world has been publically acknowledged as being divided into first, second and third world countries and regions, and into have and have-not countries and communities of nations for several decades now. And the concept of the bottom of the pyramid for people, communities, countries and regions stands in stark contrast to the situation and to the levels and type of choice and opportunity at the top, and even in the middle of that pyramid.

This is an area of concern that touches on everything we do and for all of us. It affects public health and issues of war and world peace as well as direct economic issues. Its distinctions provide fuel for the fires of unrest and terrorism, and carry costs that are both difficult to fully capture and that continue to grow, and on a lot more than just direct monetary measure.

International treaties and treaty organizations offering free trade opportunity and other measures of inclusion are in at least some measure intended to address this. So are the charters and actions of a great many global nonprofits and individual government-backed efforts. International organizations like the United Nations seek to address these issues too, both by limiting the impact of these disparities in opportunity and choice and by reducing the barriers to inclusion in global communities and markets.

Some real success has been achieved but there is a tremendous amount more to do, and even just with the barriers and the problems that create and support them now. And that is where this newly emerging ubiquitous computing and communications context for global creation and sharing of value comes in. We are approaching a cross roads, and the choices we make in defining out path forward will have vast long term consequences.

• This new sweep of technology and its applications holds potentially for increasing access into the more traditionally have-not places in our global community and for increased sharing and creation of new value for all. We can use this to help bring the bottom of the pyramid into a more politically, socially and economically enriched and sustaining place in the world community, and bring the people of these bottom of the pyramid places into a richer, more fulfilling life.
• We can simply develop these new and emerging computing and communications resources with the have nations and peoples in mind and leave the have-nots behind steeper, more limiting barriers, and in a more deeply entrenched, more limiting new bottom of the pyramid position. And if we do, the level of unrest and reaction will come through to affect us all.

If these newly emerging resources and capabilities for connecting to create and share value come to offer even as little as a small fraction of what they are likely to for those who use them, a failure to be included now will devastate opportunity for advancement and inclusion long-term. And whether we make these cross roads decisions by conscious choice or by the accumulated impact of day to day and seeming disconnected parochial decisions, we will make a choice and be stuck with it and its consequences. The only point I can add to that with absolute certainty is that if we collectively come to make the choice of exclusion, whether by design and intent or simply by backing into it, we will be making the wrong choice.

I am going to come back to this in another posting, presented as an open letter to the United Nations, and more specifically to the agency within it that I participate with as a member of their Champions Network – the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (where ICT stands for Information and Communications Technology.) Meanwhile, the next posting in this series is going to be on global commerce and market partitioning in a ubiquitous computing and communications context.

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