It's hard to predict or foresee technology. Mainly, it becomes an
exercise in wishful thinking. So here are my wishes ...

On Mon, 2003-11-17 at 20:28, Global Knowledge Dev. Moderator wrote:

> 1. What new "high impact" technologies are on the 3-year horizon? Who
> (exactly) needs to do what (concretely) to make those technologies
> widely available?

Hardware: Cheap handhelds (approx $100) that are Wi-Fi (or GSM 3G)
capable. Either as a telephone or a handheld tablet. Processing power
won't matter too much, battery life will be more important. Linux is an
ideal choice for these devices. No keyboard.

- Manufacturers of hardware should standardize on a common, modular
platform. The size of a common global market for baseline computing and
communication should be well worth it and result in truly low cost
computing. Such a system could be modular and enable manufacturers to
place their own high value components, e.g. CPU in place of standard
components.

- Manufacturers should specifically target a low cost, mass market
device that can suit the needs of the less developed (and poorer)
countries.

- Bandwidth industry needs to make sure that Wi-Fi succeeds. The
network, the computing device and the person attached have a value much
greater than the sum of its parts.

Software: Social software - helps people keep organized and use
computers based more on their interpersonal relationships than on their
file structures. Networking moves from linking computers and programs to
linking humans and their data.

- Software developers need to create applications focussed on ease of
use and the end user experience. They need to work on software that does
groupware but breaks out of the business information mentality. It's not
about the documents, it about the people, so to speak. Right now, that's
the address book and obviously, there's a lot of room for improvement,
mostly in the need for new ideas.

- User interfaces should be keyed to voice and video. Crucial in getting
it to the largest number of people.

It's all happening already and three years will definitely see lots of
new and exciting technology. Change is about the only thing that is
certain.

> 2. What's the most valuable area for technology development? Voice
> recognition? Cheap broadband delivery? Cheap hand-helds (under $50)?

Cheap broadband delivery and cheap handhelds. Entirely new types of mass
market applications are possible with this. The combination of mobility,
low cost and connectivity makes it possible to extend information
services to previously unreachable areas.

Software designed not to assume a literate user is using the device.
Obviously, this changes a lot of common assumptions.

Error messages? How many spoken languages are there? Voice synthesis
and recognition research is going to be important. There's probably a
lot of research on that already, someone just needs to put it all
together and make that into a cross-platform software library that other
projects can easily reuse.

> 3. Where should we focus our efforts during the coming 3 years? On ICT
> policy? Creating ICT projects with revenue-generation models that are
> quickly self-supporting? Demonstrating the value of ICT to developing
> country communities?

3 x Yes.

> 4. What levels of access should we be able to achieve by 2007 in each of
> the major under-served regions? Who (exactly) must do what (concretely)
> to attain them?

The level of internet access must increase by an order of magnitude in
each of the major under-served regions. Could be foreign direct
investment - trade. If one underserved region has 1 in 10000 users,
target 1 in 1000 users by 2007. Numbers like this can be adjusted for
population density.

The aim is to grow the global market as much as possible. Investing
industries already have such a huge lead over the developing countries
that it poses no real threat to them but instead offers a means to
increase in size.

- Suitably high targets have to be set, otherwise its easier to just do
business as usual than to take a good look at it and fix it properly.

- The G7 should muster the collective will to pull this off. Political
will to use their collective financial and technological lead to pay
serious attention to human development in a profitable manner.

- People all over the world have to be educated to understand that it is
in everyone's best interest to make the world a more equitable and
peaceful place. Political will of world government leaders to push this
message for a sea change required.

Sharing the workload globally will make it much easier and what better
monument to build in this new century than one demonstrating civilized,
peaceful behaviour - a world that is simply a better place for everybody
in it.

> 5. What funding models should we develop over the next 3 years? Projects
> with business plans that provide self-sustainability? Support from
> multilateral corporations? Venture capital funds for ICT and
> development?

Funds get to almost all but those who need it. That's a problem. Money
is being managed in huge chunks and this reduces choice. A more
decentralized system of global finance is needed.

The Senegalese idea seems quite good, the Digital Solidarity Fund. If
only because it is at least a new idea with the popular support needed
to make it a reality. Alternatives to the stifling global finance system
are urgently needed.

- Governments need to recognize that institutions need change and
competition if they are to deliver maximum value over time. The Bretton
Woods system is not working to the advantage of less developed countries
and it is good to establish alternative methods of global finance that
permit better participation on a grassroots basis.

Alternative means of finance will help bypass repressive governments and
force governments in general to pay more attention to the needs of the
people (as opposed to the corporations and governments). Can this help
plug the corruption loophole? Yes.

Done properly, venture capital funds, viable projects and contract or
outsourced work for multilateral (multinational?) corporations could all
be potentially financed via such a global system. It should be capable
of running more efficiently too.

-- G.



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