Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The blogosphere is alive with Microsoft's patent (link) for pay-as-you-go hardware services. There are a number of patents being filed and awarded and Microsoft has its fair share. What makes this different? I have two thoughts on this event relevance and the innovation process.

Relevance - Microsoft is a software ecosystem company (Cusamano of MIT calls it a platform company - which I feel is a narrow definition). Microsoft has built a formidable partner network that it depends on. So this patent appears to be more of a message to their partners (and the market) that the entire ecosystem needs to be renewed to take part in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) wave. It is interesting, that hardware vendors that are factored into the SaaS equation., as hardware players are often times ignored when discussing the SaaS wave. Could this spark a wave of more cloud-infrastructure providers? and not just the likes of Amazon and Google? Providers who would be enticed to provide SaaS platforms like Azure which was launched earlier this year. I recall Microsoft attempting a pay-as-you-go subscription model for its enterprise software sometime in 2002-2003. The model and the billing engine was in place but not rolled out. I guess CIOs were not quite ready to budget for software as a billed service - it was just too unpredictable. But, maybe now that PUPM ("per user per month") is commonplace, CIOs maybe more willing to discuss this. It will be interesting to see how Green IT, the economic downturn and other events and marketing hype shape this developement.

Innovation process - Microsoft has been a great follower and superb software business operator but not often considered as an innovator. I do not wish to debate what constitutes innovation and what does not, however I believe that innovation in product companies (eg Apple) is different from platform companies (Cisco) and is different from ecosystem companies (Microsoft). And that Microsoft is not doing enough to innovate. However, what is interesting about this patent is that Microsoft filed for patent in June 2007, and would have probably have been working on it for at least a year before that - and must have battled for at least a few months before that to secure funding. So we are talking about an "idea to patent" cycle of 2-3 years. And the hard part is still to come - to make the idea viable and pay off! There are many questions that need to be answered like how to secure intellectual property rights, how to fund open innovation, how to capitalise on investments in research and my favourite - how do we calibrate or overhaul our education system so that we can think and act "glocal".

The next year is going to show us many examples of innovations in the SaaS space. I believe this will drive service-based businesses to greater heights. Programming the web is getting real. And consumer/citizen-centered design will be the dominant way to create services.

Happy new year!

Monday, December 15, 2008

In earlier posts, I talked about Norway as a test-bed for developing services in a digital society (my first public statement on this topic was at the First Tuesday network event in Oslo, May 2006 where I presented contexts for digital services).

In an attempt to understand more about this vision of “citizen-centred design”, I decided to conduct “small experiments" that could serve as demonstrators and learning arenas. Using services in Norway as a departure point was both practical and necessary to create of these demonstrators. And as expected, making the journey from ideation to practice called for floating timelines, simplified definitions and results – basically adjusting to the constraints of reality. (I kept my day-job but stretched my free time to the limit – and honestly nothing would have happened if my wife and sons had not “allowed me” to spends endless hours in the blogosphere).

Anyway, let me summarize these last two years by sharing 3 interesting “demonstrators” that have given me invaluable experience and insight in citizen-centred service design (see origins). Hopefully, creating a better understanding of consumer/citizen-centred design. For the short term, as we move into the eye of the storm of economic downturn, I am convinced that the role of citizen-consumer-centricity is not only a good thing but is critical for businesses to emerge from the storm successfully. The three demonstrators are:

Healthcare insurance for retired teachers – A demonstrator inspired by the concept of social insurance as a basic right for residents of Norway and the undeveloped insurance market in India that had opened up for foreign direct investment. Targeting teaching and non-teaching staff (including retired staff) from my childhood school in Mumbai and leveraging the global network of school alumni as micro-philanthropists this idea demonstrates the benefits for staff (afford basic healthcare that poor salaries / pension would not cover), school (create a caring place to work), alumni (giving back to the institution), insurers (innovation in user-designed insurance products) and society (inspiration that a caring glocal society can work). After two terms of successful fundraising, one can see that the concept has merit. And that there is hard work ahead – to make this repeatable and viral. Also makes the case for a much needed societal digital infrastructure. Others who want to replicate this idea can read more here. See also this link.

Rural electrification – solar-powered computer room - Regions that should have been able exploit solar energy, are unable to do so due to the lack of infrastructure and investment – but even more so due to the lack of knowledge and incentives on making this possible. Watching the efforts of the Norwegian solar energy businesses like REC, led to a small project that provided a school in rural Maharashtra, India with an uninterrupted power supply to power the computer room. The solution is “service-oriented” in that it is delivered as a turnkey project including 1-year of on-site service. The added dimension to “service-orientation” is growing the potential to develop skills of local resources as means of livelihood and hopefully grass-roots innovation. Teaming with Tommy Fernandes of Insite International, a solar energy advisor here in Norway, who also financed the solution; school administrators in Talasari district, a supplier in Rajasthan India and my alumni network in Mumbai this demonstrator aims to provide a concrete solution and to increase knowledge and the potential for more win-win-win-win arrangements. For the investor, a working concept that can help close deals; for the school administrator, increased self-sufficiency and a better understanding of the potential of solar energy; for the supplier, a cost-effective means to reach to smaller markets and for the alumni (opportunity to give back and create business ideas). A HOWTO whitepaper is available if interested.

Learning platforms for hyperlinked education networks – With my technical background it was not long before I was involved in the efforts at my children’s school here in Norway -- in adopting an ICT-based learning platform. That was 5 years ago; the platform (Fronter) links schools in a creative manner allowing for the creation of “horizontal learning networks” and ability to do school work “virtually”. I visualized students and teachers of the 8th grade of Linderud skole in Oslo collaborating on a school assignment with the 8th grade of my childhood school in Mumbai! Together with Fronter we are working with two schools in Mumbai in a collaborative pilot as they try out the Fronter learning platform and explore the potential of horizontal learning networks. As my school prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2013, I hope we will have created a learning mesh to support collaborative learning. This is very much an on-going project with benefits for teacher (save time and build a community of practice for teachers), school administrators (easier admin and create a creative place to teach), alumni (give back creatively as mentors to students and teachers), parents (participate in the learning experience and follow progress), government (increase the reach to rural areas) – and most importantly for students (a learner-centric experience that prepares him/her for a world of collaborative work).

So, where is Norway as a test-bed? Well, last week 10th Dec, Fronter was sold to the Pearson Group. My first reaction was yanbga "yet-another-Norwegian-business-gone-abroad" -- and initial concern, but Roger Larsen, the energetic and visionary co-founder is a keen supporter of this learning experiment. Fronter has used Norway as a test-bed ever since they started in 1998 – and through a lot of hard work and determination now provide a learning platform for all public schools in the Nordic captial cities and London (about 3000 schools, colleges and univesities). And have become the 2nd largest player in the world in the learning platform market. 10 years on and in a move to take on the huge emerging markets like India, China etc they have teamed up with a learning content provider to increase the “service content”. Companies like Trolltech and FAST were acquired by Nokia and Microsoft respectively, presumably to reach a global market.

However, I am not convinced that selling out is the only way to “go global” – I believe there is a lot to gain in an alliance-based model. This is even more relevant in these days of the cloud. Some pertinent questions: how does one sell and price cloud-based services? how should cloud-based business operate? how should governments support (and tax) cloud-based businesses? As “the cloud” drives the shape and nature of the multi-polar world we must think differently. Businesses and national agencies should think creatively to create incentives to drive business activity “glocally”, knowing that some or all of business will inevitably end up "on the cloud" -- for the global marketplace. A lot of research to conduct and a lot to learn for all of us in this rapidly shrinking world – to be creative to retain the unique in our small societies while still being part of the global society - unity in diversity.

I wish us the best for a reflective, relaxed and fun-filled Christmas break. And for peace and success in our endeavours in 2009!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The events of the last few days in Mumbai - the city of my birth - has brought terror to me in a manner most chilling. Terror has reached my doorstep! I do not live in Mumbai, however my wife and I have our parents and siblings and loads of friends who live there. I visit Mumbai every year and exactly 4 months ago I was dining at the Cafe Leopold and at the Taj hotel.

I am still numbed by the magnitude of the events and trying to balance sadness with anger while trying to think constructively as to what we can do to move ahead. The blogsphere is alive with posts, tweets, and groups on Facebook. People are voicing their apprehensions and giving advice.

But how does one control a heterogenous crowd of 19 million people? Even if, hypothetically, one were to restrict freedom and curtail the openness of Mumbai, it is a difficult task! Difficult but not impossble, if we think creatively and honestly.

I believe the answer lies in citizens getting more involved in how Mumbai is run and how the country is run. How? by getting involved in civic matters in your local environment. Why? To start some place small! To build trust! and to address issues that creates a sense of community. A community that is solution-focused and transcends boundaries of religion and social strata. Why? To understand how to share the responsibility with the authorities in creating a good place to live. This simple involvement will create an understanding of challenges and generate practical solutions. Those solutions will infect others and you will be infected by others. And then as the picture of the issues and potential solutions gets sharper; you can support politicians to make democracy work "for the people and by the people" on your terms. Your involvement will have created a sense of transparency and can be used to challenge politicians who are reluctant to change.

With what? Use social networking technologies like http://www.mysociety.org/ to create tools to make this work. Impossible? No! 2 years ago people dismissed claims that Barack Obama could be the next US president. With his roots in communty service, he has managed to galvanize millions to work for change. So lets start now and hopefully in two years we will have reached a milestone in creating a transparent society. A caring and just society. One that is proactive and bonded. One that destroys corruption.

Where to start? Begin by identifying the local politicians and what their promises were and what their responsibilities are. Confront them with this. Use the Right to Information Act and use social networking technology. Educate at the school-level! Educate at the ALM-level? Create networks with diaspora Mumbaikars! Grow at the grassroots! Leverage alumni networks and other action groups. Use this vast human resource that India prides itself with. Get involved!

A society that is transparent and proactive will never allow terrorists to operate in peace.

Comments please!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The chatter and twitter on the blogosphere these last weeks was about the US presidential election. And the pundits have commented and mainstream media moved on with the warning that "now, Obama must deliver".

To get an idea of the buzz, I checked out the Web 2.0 summit and was pleased to see a bunch of very interesting sessions on Web meets World that talked directly to Digital Society I have been trying to describe for the last couple of years. I watched four videos that covered everything from governance, energy and devices. (BTW, see also my post on my health care blog)

(1) Much is said abut mybarackobama.com and how the Internet was exploited to win this historic election. Watch the panel with Arianna Huffington, Joe Trippi and Gavin Newscom to get a sense of how this worked. I see the next stage is taking this to the global level.

(2) Shai Agassi used to be at SAP and is now CEO and founder of Better Place, watch this interview to get a sense of innovation through cross-pollination. Where the mobile telephony business model meets manufacturing to address the energy crisis.

(3) Larry Lessig is known for his work in the open source movement (and I have commented som of his articles on my blog). This presentation on trust is simply brilliant -- delivered in the unique Lessig format. Beyond the topic of trust, it also captured many of the facets of what I put into the term societal digital infrastructure (see also tag cloud). It also pointed me to a number of initiatives about people talking about open government, transparency and technology-enablement. Notable sites are mysociety.org and opengovdata.org.

(4) Finally, earlier this year I talked about the emergence of the dervice (device + service) and later when I commented Google's launch of Chrome, I mused about an internet device that could use Chrome as an operating system. Novatium presented their technology dervice for the Indian market. Now, if we could put an education service on this technology dervice we'd probably have an education dervice that actually makes a difference in a country like India and other similar economies.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The folks over at the AT ONE project are studying service innovation and have some very cool and practical ideas. Ideas that really excite me, because they talk to my ideas about the digital society (my first post here). After a recent network meeting where AT ONE was presented, I was reflecting on my experiences at a client engagement involving the de-merger and subsquent merger of a business unit. Working with the service management aspects of this engagement, I am struck by the challenges many service orientated businesses face..... and lack of understanding of the nature of services!

My personal learning experience has come from concealing the complexity of the service concept while engaging with people from management and operations. And in trying to understand the anatomy of a service. My Ah-ha! experience has been in recognizing the subtle difference between "customer care" and "customer service". Customer care is what service-orientated businesses MUST offer their customers -- not as a service but as an activity to take care of their customers. This fundamental shift of mindset will open the way for businesses to think about creating experiences for customers.

Many years ago, when working with eLearning technologies, we designed solutions for customer-education for a Telco who was launching ADSL to the mass-market. I recall this huge gulf that separated those who built the order management solution and those who built the customer portal. I believe this gulf was there largely due to this fundamental lack of understanding of the service concept within the organization -- as in "ADSL service vs Customer Service" ---- and a dysfunctional business operating model (a case of chicken and the egg?)

A service is not a product, it is an effect brought about by a provider for a receiver, based on mutually acceptable terms and conditions. The focus of this exchange is on "What" and not "How" -- so the means by which the provider produces the effect need not be disclosed to the receiver and vice versa for the receiver's use of the service. I believe it is up to the provider to find the right balance between functional, commercial, legal, technical and aesthetic elements of the service to create an experience for the receiver that actually addresses his/her intentions.

As a business architect, I am looking to explore the anatomy of the service so that we can model services in a manner that captures provider and receiver perspectives. One of the things such a model will hopefully provide, is the basis to establish quality-of-service parameters that create more transparency, objectivity and automation to service delivery and management. To narrow my scope, I am interested in services provided by government. To that end, I feel it is crucial to consider (a) the dualism of consumer and citizen in each individual (the "consumerzen") and (b) an intention-based approach to engage with consumerzens.

As value creation in our societies comes increasingly from service-based activity, we must rid ourselves of the antiquated concept of "customer service". For welfare-based societies like mine (Norway) we must move fast to harvest our experiences in creating services so that we can take this to the multi-polar world. What I mean by that is for another blogpost.

Monday, October 27, 2008

So its here. Microsoft's foray into the world of cloud computing - the buzzword everyone is using to refer to the "next big thing". Launching Azure today, Microsoft is taking on Amazon and Google who have their own cloud offerings. Actually, Microsoft has had its cloud offering in the form of Windows Live for sometime now (but only after Google put the pressure on them and then Amazon).

To me, this represents the next wave of programming and runtime platforms -- not just from a Microsoft perspective. The advances in virtualisation, storage technologies and operating system technologies is making software-as-a-service more realistic. Azure appears to follow the long line of Microsoft programming platforms MS-DOS, COM and .NET; Azure will attract a new wave of programmers and extend the shelf-life of existing MS-programmers. This opens for a whole new wave of services and therefore service providers -- and then business opportunities. Judging from Microsoft's past record in programming platforms, the developers are going to be the target for all attention and objects for Microsoft's marketing dollars.

The non-Microsoft world of developers will have to rely on Open Source solutions and Google APIs, that may slow them down somewhat. In a way, Microsoft has reduced Java to a programming language - even though Java represented a platform (remember the Java vs. .NET wars?) and with the rise of popularity of alternative langauges like PHP and Ruby, it is a matter of time before Java turns "legacy" (almost like COBOL).

In a different annoucement earlier last week, Aetna and Microsoft announced the use of Microsoft's HealthVault services. A demonstration that Microsoft is also addressing the "vertical" space for services. This opens for some interesting business opportunities in the healthcare sector. Watch my blog on digital health and wellbeing for commentary.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

As I learn more about the current global financial crisis and watch the crisis unfold and expand, I cannot help thinking that the crisis is a stark reminder of our increasingly digital existence. The digital society is here and I sense we may have been able to avoid this crisis if we had some of the important bits like global governance in place.

Perhaps if consumers had been more proactive in demanding full traceability of their liability from their financial service providers, then the story could have been different. I believe a consumer-centered design of financial services could have made consumers think twice before taking on loans that they were unable to service.

With the uptake of telephony and commercial air travel our society has gradually gone global over the last 35 years or so. The advanced nature of digitisation of our business transactions has made it very easy to use services that are very complex on the inside but deceptively simple on the outside. Borrowing and lending have grown wildly and without any sense of "ownership", global governance nor traceability. The speed and lack of transparency have made this network of transactions impossible to manage -- at least from the perspective of avoiding negligence and fraud. This has happended despite the fact that the banking sector has a robust institute like the BIS that sets guidelines for monetary stability. However, BIS cannot enforce these guidelines -- that is left to the individual nations.

It is inconceivable that our physical society would have exploited the innovations of the industrial age without the standardisation brought on by national and international bodies like ISO. But, our digital society is still young but moving fast -- and I believe we have not yet even conceived the standards that are needed to enforce security, traceability and interoperability -- some of the key requirements for collaboration without friction. We are barely at the early stages of standards for technical interoperability, something that allows software to collaborate. We have not yet scratched the surface of semantic and organisational interoperability -- that what is needed for organisations to operate and govern in a consistent manner.

Commerce in the world is advancing, and with an increasing amount of value-creation coming from the service economy. Not just finance, but healthcare and education sectors. Interoperability is then a neccessary condition for good and effective governance, but this governance must be global -- not in the sense of a hierarchical "one global head" sense, but in a consensus-driven format -- not unlike the way the Internet is managed.

Can our political and business leaders work on creating this platform without stifling innovation and entrepreneurship? I believe the time is right for government and commercial players to collaborate in creating a platform for innovation for the service economy. And for consumer-citizens to be aware of their role in making this platform useful.

PS! In some earlier posts I refered to this platform as the "societal digital infrastructure"

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Looks like Chrome may be taking the role of the operating system. What with all those nifty net-based applications building up on Google's home page. Google Docs is all set to take on MS Office, the features keeping increasing and the usability is improving (still a long way to go).

Once Chrome can deeply integrate with Google Apps --- not unlike the way MS Office (and other products) deeply integrated with MS Windows --- then we will be seeing the first steps towards creating a universal computer. One that just knows how to run a browser -- and drive a network card. That's all thats needed; the rest is on the cloud -- applications and data! 

Low power consumption will make it a preferred device not unlike the mobile phone. Talking of which, with the power that mobile phones are packing, phones will become computers (they already are) running a browser and using the mobile network. 

Google (and others) still have a lot of work to do to create the rich user experience in a world of all-net based applications. Which is why Microsoft is pushing Silverlight so hard and Adobe with Flash. Google still has the Android-card up its sleeve, with iPhone stealing a lot of the mobile-innovation thunder, I guess they will wait a bit.

We are probably reaching the stage where consumer-centered design of services is a very distinct possibility.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Last week, on my blog on Digital wellbeing I posted about Medical Tourism as the next level of outsourcing. Having just returned from a trip to India, I could see how medical services were being increasingly commercialised and could relate to the analyses about the "business potential" of medical tourism.

Yesterday, I got to learn of a completely new area of outsourcing -- lifestyle outsourcing (my term). Calling this virtual gaming gold, this BBC article explains how gaming is becoming a means of livelihood for people in the developing world. Developing skills by playing games and then offering services to lift other players' skills to the next level is a source of income for many. Selling virtual goods for real money is another source of income.

"Neccessity is the mother of invention" is an old saying; the internet era will show us creative solutions to address the challenges of poverty.... at least this is what I hope for.

Meanwhile, I am studying the potential of teaching/tutoring outsourcing, and see some creative businesses like HeyMath and EduComp have already taken the service+software business model to the education space. The US' No Child Left Behind act is also driving the business opportunity.

Services without boundaries is here to stay ... Exploring new frontiers have always had an element of lawlessness. At some stage we will need rules and regulations to allow serious players to act. What can - or should - government and trade organisations do? or should the "market" decide? Standardisation has a significant role to play here.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Web 2.0 is rolling on. I just came across these two pieces of software Flock (link) and Viewzi (link).

Flock is a social-web browser based on Mozilla, that gives a hint of the potential to develop specialist browsers. I'm not sure I'd want dedicated browsers, too much of a hassle. Rather, I'd like to change to a new "skin". A skin here is more than a layout theme or colours and fonts, it captures the user context. So, when I am browsing for people I activate a skin that offers a deeper browser experience. Similarly for shopping, listening to music etc.

Viewzi is a visual search tool. As one who prefers the visual/graphic over text, I find this user experience interesting. It actually interprets the results and content to present different views for the user to browse the content.

Now, I wonder what a Viewzi + Flock experience may actually look like?

Anyway, we still have a way to go before we can harness the power of Web 2.0. I am hoping for more contextualizing and visualizing. We need to focus on "a horizontal context" i.e. to exploit Web 2.0 in the context of work being performed for a given business activity. It makes things much more concrete.

Friday, June 27, 2008

So here it is. A network player like Cisco entering the home entertainment space -- by announcing that they will provide telepresence solutions for the home -- through AT&T and Walmart (!) see this article. I was hoping Tandberg would come up with a solution like this. But, Tandberg is focusing on the small/medium size business with the T1.

Anyway, the race for Telepresence is heating up; and as sales of LCD-displays increase it looks like we may be having these devices in the not-too-distant-future. As these devices reach the home and as the service economy grows; we can soon be using services that were previously restricted to face-to-face meetings. In a global world, this could be very interesting as I could receive services from the other side of the globe. Hmmm.... now what would my doctor think about that? And maybe the do-it-yourself store can finally offer services to help you fix the appliance you bought from them. Would IKEA try something like this?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The consumer-centered design wave is taking shape. I have come across a number of stories of consumer-centricity emerging in what seems like the next dot-com wave.

A lot of solutions are taking the shape of "dervices". A what? Well, I have coined this term to represent the phenomenon of a content service that is powered by software and made available on a preferred device that is connected to the net. The service can be consumed by other generic devices as well, but the user experience will decide which device is best suited to host the service. For eg listening to music would be best on your iPod, while updating playlists would be best via a wide-screened browser or even better ... through feeds from a community portal. I expect "dervices" to be the way how Software-as-a-service will execute and how subscription-based models (as opposed to ownership) will take root.

Imagine all your devices like a humungous remote control that exists on the cloud that captures all your interactions via your devices -- mobile phone, TV-remote, GPS, Gaming console, Google-searches, e-mail, IM etc and then offers it to you through a Chumby or on your TiVo or your laptop. As all our devices become data-acqusition devices the likes of Google and Microsoft would like to get a hold of that data. Now extend the range of the devices to include devices like the Automatic teller machine (ATM), health care devices and one can see how things get more difficult to manage effectively.

An interesting service (not a dervice) that is right along the consumer-centricity path is Communispace. This service is aimed at enterprises wishing to engage with their customers in a more interactive manner. This takes enterprise feedback management to the next levels -- vendors like confirmIT may have to extend and embrace ... or even redesign.

Yes! I am happy the consumer-centric wave is gaining momentum... but am also a VERY worried that my politicians and law-makers are blissfully unaware of how the digital society around us is changing. Change that challenges the old laws and regulations!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Last year I posted about Microsoft's global launch of Unified Communication. And today, I read Mary Jo's post on Echoes. Echoes is evidently Microsoft's attempt at Unified Communications for the consumer. What is strange, is that just this morning I was installing a VOiP handset I received from my broadband operator (an upgrade of my broadband package). The handset was working in a few seconds but when it came to personalising it, I gave up after entering the first 3 names in the address book. When my wife commented "Why does'nt our broadband subscription come with a networked address book?". Ah ha!

Well, let me start with my user-context. I have all my contacts stored in Outlook, I can synchronize them with my phone via my PC or via the corporate email server (Exchange). I use WiFi, GPRS, Infrared or Bluetooth as the available communication protocols/technology to do this. I use web-access to my email server to access my contacts should I be fortunate enough to leave my phone at home.

Now, here comes the hard part. I would like to share some of those contacts with my family - a few business contacts but mostly family and friends. I can do it today but it requires everyone to have a degree in computer science. I would have expected my Telco to provide me with tools to make this painless and in the process actually have gotten me as a sales agent. Get my social network closer to them (the Telco). But, the story is sad. The solutions offered are so difficult to use, they are hardly used (some are really fantastic). But then, Telcos are so caught up in thinking as network people they forget the value add that usable software brings.

So, I am happy that Microsoft is "pushing" Telcos to offer better services. As for privacy, I'm not all that concerned, my Telcos have long had access some of my very private content -- my conversations. Let them battle with Microsoft to ensure that privacy is not violated. And I'll be expecting my Data Protection Agency to put some pressure too.

As Microsoft (and Apple) are giving Telcos a hard time -- in my opinion, this is for their (Telcos) own good. Hopefully, Telcos can provide a platform that allows for creating value through better services (communication and entertainment) for a Digital Society.

PS! Plaxo users reading this must be wondering why I did not mention their solutions. I am waiting to watch as to how Comcast intends using Plaxo content after acquiring them. See this post. Actually, I am more concerned with privacy through Plaxo than through my Telco.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ashoka, flatness and being local

I just discovered Ashoka a well-established organisation working in the social sector -actually been around since 1980 (!) driving for local change with a global network. Causes is bringing societal responsibility to social networking by creating applications for Facebook and mySpace.

The world is getting flatter every day -- but it is also retaining the uniqueness of acting local. Flatness and "localness" represent different dimensions. I think one represents access to knowledge and tools while the other represents the actions and solutions. Access speeds up action... I think.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It is long overdue, the time to split my blog into a separate blog that focuses on a special theme of the Digital Society.

Welcome to the Digital care and well-being blog. I will post there on matters of healthcare and well-being. I will continue posting to my Digital Society blog on all other matters until I find another topic that is appropriate to branch out to. After all, Society 2.0 is a huge topic.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Software platforms for NGOs - Open Source is more than software

Open Source is definitely reaching the 2.0 state and becoming a real alternative to commercial software. However, most of all it proposes value to take "Social Networking" to the NGOs and non-profits who work tirelessly to make changes in their respective societies.

Latest is Kaltura a video platform and DimDim a web-meeting platform. These are just two of probably hundreds such software platforms making the news. As a specialist in collaboration technology my personal favourite has been Drupal and civiCRM.

My thoughts immediately go to the small non-profits driven by energetic, passionate and skilled idealists -- always short on funds and striving to make the kroner or rupee go as far as possible. Looking back at the 80s, I see how user-centered design became possible when Microsoft, Lotus and Borland let-loose the power of the PC with development tools and software architectures. This ultimately led to mass adoption of computing in the workplace. I sense a wave of citizen-centered design approaching and I wonder how governments and bureacracy will react. More on this later...

I suspect Kaltura will be challenging the likes of YouTube and Google Video - not directly - but in allowing for the development of solutions without the hassle of those "pesky ads". And DimDim is taking the battle to Microsoft, Google and Cisco (Webex). On the other hand, these could also be partners... it is difficult to say in this new era of Darwinism; those who adapt will survive. The trick is in "How to adapt".

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The folks at NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting) have experimented with the use of multi-platform technology to understand how they can make their programming more accessible. They used one their most popular series as content for the experiment. Smart guys. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. I have just had my first taste of the user experience and it is really fascinating.

So whats the big deal? Well, there are many aspects to this experiment, you need to visit their sandbox NRKBeta and hang around to understand what I'm getting at. Just 3 points and then I'll leave you to experience NRKBeta.
  • (a) the sandbox is social networking in practice -- the site does not make a big point of it, it is too busy using the technology as a tool to drive the main agenda i.e. experimentation with media and media technologies. Very refreshing in these days of Social Networking hype (don't get me wrong, I am a fan of SN, its just that the focus is on technology and not on its application
  • (b) foresight and planning - the folks at NRK have evidently shaped the contract for the programme and removed legal issues that would have prevented them to experiment with this technology. Issues that copyrighting and sponsorship clauses bring along. Now, that must be at least 2 years before this experiment.
  • (c) use of BitTorrent - a technology that has been associated with questionable practices like file-sharing of copyrighted material etc. The point NRK are making is that, as with all technology, there is a difference between the application of the technology and the technology itself. Actually, I don't think they are not making a point of it, they are too focused on experimenting with the use of multi-platform media distribution.
I can see my TV license fees being put good use! NRK is doing a good job -- and Eirik is excellent at communicating in an easy-to-understand language and a steady stream of articles and presentations.

I'm looking for an application of this technology in the field of education. Education in urban regions, rural areas, in developing countries, where access to good content is not cheap and bandwidths are not broad enough. NRKBeta is definitely a "testbed" for media services for an open digital society.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The semantics of "Healthcare services" are getting richer and "self service" seems to take on a whole new meaning. This article is the latest describing innovative health care solutions that can transform the way health care services are disbursed. There are some interesting opportunities for a welfare nation like Norway to get more out of the tax-kroner -- or other welfare states where health care services are managed and provisioned by the welfare state. My other blogposts on health care.

The opportunities could be just as interesting for the private insurance business -- if not just as obvious. Just yesterday, in a conversation with a financial advisor, I learned of health care services offered by his insurance company -- both supplemental and alternative to what the state offers (not primary health care services). Since welfare states cannot match the service levels needed by a demanding population, there is a huge business opportunity for health care insurance. I guess, expecting some tax reform, in light of this competition, is wishful thinking :-)

PS! The shirt is not a new invention, this technology has been around for some time (for eg Lifeshirt from Vivometrics has served special groups of users). However, what makes it interesting now is to see this technology in the context of recent moves by Microsoft (HealthVault) and Google Health.

So what is new? Could the public and private sectors in welfare states collaborate to benefit from these innovations? The emergence of the multi-polar world and this huge marketplace in India, China, Brazil & Russia should create a solid business case for the export of lifestyle and welfare services. The public sector can then offer better services to their local populations.... they could actually be the test-bed for the next generation of lifestyle services?