[governance] FW: [bytesforall_readers] UN warning to Silicon Valley over digital rift

Michael Gurstein gurstein at gmail.com
Mon Mar 5 12:56:58 EST 2007

Another journalist's interpretation of the GAID meeting.


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From: bytesforall_readers at yahoogroups.com
[mailto:bytesforall_readers at yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Frederick "FN"
Sent: March 4, 2007 7:52 PM
To: bytesforall_readers at yahoogroups.com
Subject: [bytesforall_readers] UN warning to Silicon Valley over digital


UN warning to Silicon Valley over digital rift

By Richard Waters in San Francisco

Published: March 2 2007 00:27 | Last updated: March 2 2007 00:27

Silicon Valley has been slow to develop technology and business
approaches specifically suited to customers in the emerging world,
according to representatives at a UN-sponsored gathering in the US
technology heartland this week.

As a result, it risks missing out on one of the next big potential
markets for its products, while also leaving a widening "digital divide"
that is seeing the growing ranks of broadband users in the developed
world leap even further ahead.

The warnings surfaced during a UN-backed meeting that brought officials
from many developing countries to the valley this week to try to develop
more systematic approaches from the many piecemeal experiments under way
to boost the spread of information and communication technologies. For
some of the valley's biggest companies, which have long viewed this as
an area for non-profit activity, the effort reflects a new business
focus on the emerging world.

"We have around a billion users today - what we're all interested in is
where the next billion users are going to come from," said Craig
Barrett, chairman of Intel and head of the UN-backed committee leading
the effort.

However, the valley's focus on creating technology for the developed
world, then trying to adapt it to poorer countries, has left it
ill-suited to addressing the real technology needs of these countries,
according to several observers.

"There is a bit of a challenge for Silicon Valley," said Farrukh Qayyum,
Pakistan's IT and telecommunications minister. "While it is true that
mature markets need new products, there is really a need to look at the
needs of people who could be customers in the developing world."

Thomas McCoy, chief administrative officer of AMD chipmaker, added: "The
capability of Silicon Valley has yet to be fully deployed in focusing on
the innovation that is required in those huge markets. We can't just
build a Mercedes and then try to simplify it."

IT companies needed to learn from the experience of the mobile
communications industry, which now has more than 2bn users and has been
far more successful at reaching emerging market users, according to
several people at the event.

The mobile industry "meets a basic need, which is communication", said
Mr Barrett. For IT companies, technology adoption would take longer
because its usefulness rested partly on the availability of local
content on the internet and education to help people use the network, he

Others, however, said more work needed to be done to identify the basic
needs of potential customers before the valley could adapt its
technology and business approaches to developing markets.

"We don't know what they need - we don't have the intelligence about
what poor farmers in Africa want," said Mr McCoy. Without a clearer
agreement on the most immediate needs that their technology is
addressing, the big technology companies and development officials
risked failing to agree on how to proceed, added Mary Smaragdis,
director of the charitable foundation set up by Sun Microsystems.

"I don't see a lot of alignment" among participants at this week's
meeting, she said. "We're all taking on this problem through our own

In a sign of Silicon Valley's slowness to address the emerging world's
technology needs more directly, one of the highest-profile efforts to
make computing more affordable, the One Laptop Per Child initiative, was
led by Nicholas Negroponte of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
None of the main companies behind the push is from the valley.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

FN M: 0091 9822122436 P: +91-832-240-9490 (after 1300IST please)
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