Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Business and convergent technologies 24 – orphan issues and poster child priorities

Posted in business and convergent technologies by Timothy Platt on January 12, 2010

My first real experience living and working in another country was a year I spent living in Guatemala, setting up and working on wildlife habitats – sea turtle hatcheries on the Pacific Coast of the country. I had worked on a similar facility on an island off the coast of Georgia in the United States and really loved that type of work. I add that I went to Central America with some lessons firmly in mind from my previous experience in wildlife protection and habitat conservation. The easiest and often the only way to effectively protect an environment is by successfully marketing the need to protect some poster child species native to it. Very few people will go out of their way to protect 37 species of rare and endangered tree fungus or a newly discovered species of carpenter ant but a lot will sign a petition or send a check to protect a species of bird or mammal, or a species of sea turtle that is in danger of loosing a key nesting ground. Protecting that one poster child species means protecting its habitat and that means protecting all of the species living there. Poster child environmental campaigns work and they can provide wide ranging umbrella protection for the less photogenic and emotionally appealing species too. But this so very selective an approach also leaves a lot of room for orphan issues and in this case orphan species that can and do slip through the cracks.

That is the traditional story. The question I would raise and seek to address in this posting is a very simple extension of some core ideas I have touched upon in earlier postings in this series: Business and Convergent Technologies.

• How does the emergence of an all the time and everywhere capability to network and share information and knowledge affect this picture?

One point that has come up repeatedly in this series and in my research feeding into it is that this rapidly evolving capability has given voice and visibility to a tremendously expanded range of communities, views, concerns and perspectives. In keeping with a recent posting on Nonprofits and Blue Ocean Strategies I cite orphan diseases in this context as being the poster children, if you will, for orphan issues – issues with built-in if perhaps small and dispersed constituencies and communities. The real strength in ubiquitous computing and communications for these issues and for the people afflicted by them is in augmenting their ability to reach out and fine each other and to come together to form connected, vibrant communities. This creates for them the opportunity to share their stories with each other but more than that it creates opportunity for them to share word and concern for their plight with much larger communities who would otherwise never know of them or the diseases they face.

The basic issues and opportunities raised for orphan species at risk and for orphan diseases apply to orphan issues in general. For environmental issues and a wide range of others that impact on small communities, this emerging capability can help similarly affected groups and individuals to find each other, share experiences and ideas and to work and lobby together as a combined voice. Ubiquitous computing and communications can make orphan issues a bit less orphan by showing them to a wider audience and as perhaps for showing them as being commoner and more widespread than would otherwise be believed.

When one family faces the challenge of a rare form of cancer in one of their children, that is a personal tragedy. When it comes out that several and perhaps even many families are affected in an area, that becomes a cancer cluster and a concern for more than just the medical community and epidemiologists. If it turns out that a same single identified factor seems to correlate with the occurrence of those cancers (e.g. increased concentrations of a specific groundwater contaminant) that becomes a general public call to action. This is all about collecting and sharing information and information organized from raw data into actionable knowledge. This is all about empowering people to come together to create the imperative to follow through on those calls to action. This is one place where ubiquitous computing and communications will redefine the field, giving voice to potential orphans and reducing the need to connect efforts to poster children marketing campaigns.

The point here is not that orphans and poster children campaigns will cease to exist in a simple great playing field leveling. Ubiquitous computing and communications will not, after all, suddenly make everyone love tree fungi and carpenter ants and seek to protect them as vigilantly as they would a visually and socially appealing species of bird or a cuddly looking species of mammal. This posting is more about developing new capacity and new reach for organizing and for sharing a story and a compelling one. This is about lowering some barriers and making the issues behind them more accessible and better organized for efforts to address them. That is the essential first step.

The next posting in this series is going to look into private and public sectors and how they will change, both in form and in relation to each other under the impact of ubiquitous computing and communications.

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. private singing lessons said, on January 27, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Have you ever considered adding more videos to your blog posts to keep the readers more entertained? I mean I just read through the entire article of yours and it was quite good but since I’m more of a visual learner

    • Timothy Platt said, on January 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm

      Thank you for your feedback and for bringing up a very important issue, or rather two of them. Much of the Web and online experience is visually oriented and video can have both high impact and offer a great deal of information value. I know that there are a lot of people who would read a blog like mine as for topic areas and do so a lot more frequently if I added video and eye catching graphics. The viewer perspective is important here, and certainly where any marketing intent enters in.

      This brings me to the second point, or rather the second half of a set of connected points: content providers and their respective requirements and objectives. I enjoy thinking things through and writing for clarity to share this with others. I enjoy public speaking and have been filmed and otherwise recorded in that, but I would not find it cost-effective to prepare and include graphics or video of my own production, and I have not considered using third party sources of content for my blog.

      I appreciate your reading some of my postings and sharing your thoughts on this with me, simply adding that your point makes a lot of sense – but not necessarily in the particular context of my managing and maintaining this specific blog and with entirely self-produced content.

      Thanks, Tim

  2. Farmville Workers said, on January 29, 2010 at 6:57 am

    Saw your Blog bookmarked on Reddit.I love your site and marketing strategy.

  3. Billy Connolly said, on February 2, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Your website looks really good. Being a blog writer myself, I really appreciate the time you took in writing this article.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: