Mostly design, strategy, emerging markets, and stuff that caught my eye
890 stories
·
14 followers

TEDTalk video: Recognizing the value creation and economic contribution of the informal economy

1 Comment

My talk given at the TEDGlobal conference in Arusha, this August, went live on Ted.com at some point during the night a couple of days ago. At that very moment, I was on a Finnair flight from SIN to HEL, so with a wee bit of delay, here’s the link to the video of the talk. Also available is a recommended reading list I curated, along with footnotes.

I just want to add that its high time we considered the informal sector as a commercial operating environment in its own right. This change of perspective will transform the way we think about poverty, it’s alleviation, and, importantly, open the doors to innovating products and services that can help boost productivity and revenues for micro, small, and medium sized businesses across the developing world, but particularly in Africa and India.

By doing so, we can recognize the economic contribution and value creation by women who make up the majority of such entrepreneurs, and put dollar values to their investment capacity and growth opportunities. As long as they’re lumped together under the umbrella term “informal sector”, with its unquestioned assumptions of low skill and low productivity, they’ll remain invisible, and solutions meant to support their development will never reach them.

Read the whole story
infini
18 days ago
reply
Me
Asia, EU, Africa
Share this story
Delete

Today's Urban Design Observation: When People Can't Tell What's Level

1 Share

Situated at an intersection of two streets that each have a slight grade, this restaurant has angled sidewalks on both its south and east faces.

The restaurant owner had custom benches made to compensate for the grades on each side. But every morning when they open, the guy who pulls the benches out (in NYC if you leave them outside overnight, they will be stolen) always puts the blue bench on the wrong side.

Since I took these photographs, the restaurant has gone out of business. My theory is that the bench guy's incompetence bled into the restaurant's operation.

Read the whole story
infini
20 days ago
reply
Asia, EU, Africa
Share this story
Delete

Time to acknowledge the social cost of mobile and apps driven disruption

1 Share

Abandoned makeshift recharge cards stand (Source: Punch Newspaper, Nigeria)

From Lagos, Nigeria comes this moving human interest story that looks at the downside of modern technology and it’s impact on livelihoods. For those who must hustle to make a living, send the kids to school, or put food on the table, smartphone driven digitization of the services they used to provide are disrupting their incomes.

“On the negative side, it has seriously affected our business with about 40% drop in passenger traffic. There is nobody among us (cab drivers) that would say he’s not feeling the pain.”

Whether its Uber and Taxify grabbing customers from traditional taxis, or the ease of an online purchase of airtime eating into Mama’s recharge card sales, the long awaited and much hyped transformation of African economies by ICT is arriving at a much higher cost than noted anywhere in media, or in research reports on mobiles for “social good.”

Literate youth quick to pick up new skills have no choice but to adapt and adopt. Its the older traders, the taxi drivers, the less literate, the long established service providers in the urban informal economy who are shouldering the brunt of this disruption.

“Even the prices charged by ‘those phone things’ are not realistic. I just pity the people who are rushing to them. A time is coming that they would increase their fares. And by that time, people wouldn’t be able to do anything about it, because they would have killed the competition. They just want to destroy the taxi business, which many of us are using to take care of our families,” Baba Ayo added.

Whose responsibility is this anyway?

Disruption is what every techno bling startup seeks, blaring it in their press releases, as they launch an app for this and that. What falls by the wayside is consideration of the social cost of this disruption – much more expensive in developing countries like Nigeria where there is no social safety net, no welfare department, and certainly no old-age pension for those whose livelihoods are lost to look forward to.

“I have been selling recharge vouchers for about 10 years and I can tell you that the situation has never been this bad. It’s as if someone commanded people to stop buying airtime. I accused some of my customers of patronising other people, and some of them said they usually top-up their phones online whenever they run out of airtime,” she explained.

The entrepreneurial will adapt, or move on to other services that apps have not yet replaced. The article is illustrated with photographs of abandoned recharge seller’s makeshift stalls as the line of business fades away in the big city.

But who will think of all the rest who may not have the energy or youth to start over, and whose responsibility is it to ensure that technological progress is not exclusive?

This post is a reminder to us all of the tradeoff we make when we choose to innovate or disrupt in societies where the margin between hunger and full belly is as slim as this year’s latest smartphone model.

Read the whole story
infini
37 days ago
reply
Asia, EU, Africa
Share this story
Delete

Absolute Numbers 2007-2017: The “Developing” World Now Dominates the Internet

1 Share

Source: http://tmenguy.free.fr/TechBlog/?p=161

Traditionally, the data on ICT usage across the world tends to be presented proportionally – per capita usage, or penetration in the form of percentage of population. This made sense 10 years ago, when the world had just begun to notice the rapid growth of mobile phone adoption in developing regions. The typical example shown above was extremely popular – many of you will recognize it – Africa was outstripping the world in phone sales, and the prepaid business model had opened the floodgates.

At this time, however, devices were still at the feature phone stage, and Nokia owned the market. Voice and SMS were the real time communication disruptors, and smartphones only just entered the public consciousness. Internet penetration was still in the future.

Recently, however, I came across current data on internet usage presented in absolute numbers – shown above – of people online. The difference is rather stark, when compared to the proportional representation – see below.

Not only are the next two billion online, but the absolute numbers re-order the regions in a very different way. Asia leads the world online, and even Africa ranks higher than North America. Here’s the same data presented, by region, as a pie chart.

The distortion created by proportional or per capita presented skews the true landscape of the actual human beings who are using the internet. Ten years ago, this might have made sense given the passive content consumption nature of much of the early world wide web.

Today, given the dominance of social media, and the frictionless ability for anyone to share their thoughts, their photos, or their music video, its the absolute numbers that actually make a difference. There is more content available in Mandarin than in English, though we may not know it, and there are more Africans talking to each other every morning than there are North Americans.

I’ll be following up with more writing on the implications of this historic decade in human history – between 2007 and 2017, the long awaited next billion not only came online, but began showing us how to disrupt everything from cross border payments, to cryptocurrency adoption. They are my hope for a more peaceful, inclusive, and sustainable future for our grandchildren.

Read the whole story
infini
53 days ago
reply
Asia, EU, Africa
Share this story
Delete

Okawa City Launches Line of Miniature Cat Furniture

1 Comment and 2 Shares
Okawa City in Fukuoka prefecture is known as one of Japan’s furniture capitals. The city is even home to Okawa Kagu, a consortium of over a dozen artisans that are steeped in the craft of furniture, tatami and lattice making. Using their exact same skill set that goes into any piece of furniture, Okawa Kagu […]
Read the whole story
infini
55 days ago
reply
Asia, EU, Africa
Share this story
Delete

Research Risks

5 Comments and 13 Shares
The 1919 Great Boston Molasses Flood remained the deadliest confectionery containment accident until the Canadian Space Agency's 2031 orbital maple syrup delivery disaster.
Read the whole story
jepler
55 days ago
reply
I just knew the mouserover text would be about "molasses storage".
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
brico
53 days ago
M
infini
55 days ago
reply
Asia, EU, Africa
Share this story
Delete
4 public comments
daanzu_alt_text_bot
31 days ago
reply
The 1919 Great Boston Molasses Flood remained the deadliest confectionery containment accident until the Canadian Space Agency's 2031 orbital maple syrup delivery disaster.
lamontcg
55 days ago
reply
Seems like the people studying supernova precursor candidate stars in the local group, and the possibility of the neutrino flux sterilizing all life on earth, would push astronomy more to the right...
snarfed
55 days ago
reply
made me https://www.google.com/search?q=define%3Amycology 😂
mooglemoogle
55 days ago
reply
Two things:
1. dentistry seems too low on the super villain scale
2. I like that Paleontology isn’t quite all the way left.
Virginia
Next Page of Stories