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 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 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 and

(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.