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robertogreco : leapfrogging   16

Urban innovation doesn't have to leave rural areas behind — Quartz
"A nice house in the country is an aspirational lifestyle for many: a little place in Norfolk or Maine, a few acres of land, an old farmhouse that’s been nicely retrofitted, maybe a few solar panels on the roof. You could grow some of your own vegetables in the garden and use the internet to video-conference into the office. You’d be back to the land, with all the creature comforts of the city.

But it’s very expensive to pull yourself out of Western industrial capitalism and give yourself the simpler life. If you try and do that in Britain, it’ll cost at least £300,000 (USD$380,000) to buy the place and get it set up. Then you’ve got to spend £20,000 to £50,000 a year to maintain your lifestyle on top of that. You’re basically going back to what the original builders of that farmhouse had, but the difference is that now you have an internet connection, clean water, and solar panels—and it cost you nearly half a million pounds to get there.

For so many of us, the urban phase of existence is seen as an on-ramp that will hopefully one day take us back into the rural phase; the city is where you come to make the money to buy yourself back out into the country. A simple rural life is the golden apple at the end of the capitalist trip, the brass ring that 30 or 40 years of successful work buys you. But it’s also a paradox: We want to pay to live in the near-poverty that the original builders of our dreamy farmhouse were working to escape.

That was 1600s England. Modern-day South America, India, parts of China, and most of Africa essentially have the same lifestyle niche that most of Britain had in the Elizabethan era. Their standard of living is very low. Their water is dirty. The open fires on which they cook on emit a lot of smoke, so everybody is smoking the equivalent of 20 cigarettes a day. There are all kinds of terrible diseases that lower life expectancy, and somewhere between one in five to one in 20 children will die before the age of five.

But rural life doesn’t have to look like this. It is my prediction that in the 21st century, the villagers of Africa, India, and South America will leapfrog over the city—and the rest of Western industrialized society. Instead of aspiring to migrate to the cities to make a bunch of money, the rural farmers of the developing world will be soon able to stay where they are with low-cost, local, distributed versions of all the critical amenities they need.

Start with a building, like a mud or thatched hut. Put a cheap, water-resistant coating on the outside and some solar panels on the roof, just enough to charge your cell phone. Thanks to cheap water filters—you can buy them for about 30 quid now—you’ll also have clean drinking water. There are some great designs from an English outfit called Safe Water Trust that are even cheaper, and they’ll last more-or-less forever in a typical village context.

With your phone charged, you’ll be able to access the internet; rural areas are increasingly equipped with 3G, 4G, or soon-to-be 5G connections. Your kids will therefore be able to get an education off your tablet computer—which now can cost as little as $35—and those solar panels on the roof can keep it running. You can make some money, too, like doing a bit of translation work for your cousin who lives in New York, or some web development for your ex-colleague’s start-up. You’re still growing your vegetables out the back, but now you can look up crop diseases, and there’s this thing called permaculture that you’re also taking an online course in.

Humans need to explore this mode of living if we are to continue catapulting down this materialistic path. When we wind up with a global population of 9 billion, where everybody has two cars and a four-bedroom house, there’s no other way of arranging the pieces. There isn’t enough metal in the earth, never mind enough money.

We’re therefore at a dead end. Inequality is here to stay. But inequality doesn’t have to mean abject poverty. These rural communities will have access to self-sufficient peasant agriculture, education by internet, and a standard of living that is roughly what we aspire to have when we get rich and retire—but they’ll be able to achieve it without going through the urban hyper-capitalist phase first.

This notion of rural life will be centered around the bicycle, the solar panel, and the tablet computer instead of the Land Rover, the diesel generator, and the combine harvester. A life of stable self-sufficiency, rather than precarious plenty. If leapfrogging rural communities can manifest an existence that would satisfy the lawyer-turned-faux-farmer, the notion of rural-urban-and-then-back-to-rural migration would reach the end of the cul-de-sac."
cities  rural  leapfrogging  vinaygupta  2018  capitalism  solar  internet  web  connectivity  simplicity  decentralization  mobile  phones  smartphones  technology  tablets 
march 2019 by robertogreco
The Future Is Made In China | MISC
"How Chinese Design and Values Are Driving Global Innovation

Like many other children who grew up in Canada with parents who did not, we felt the light embrace of a distant – yet distinctly present – country and culture. We learned what it was like to grow up in China through the stories of our parents and grandparents. The China our families remembered was one defined by a simple life but also underscored by a lack of basic infrastructure. There were no roads or bridges, they told us. Educated youths were sent to the countryside to pursue farm labor, where they would have the best chance of a secure livelihood.

Despite an awareness that things have changed since our parents were children, we have both found ourselves stuck in China’s past. Even when visiting several times in the last decade, we were always surprised and amazed by the country’s modernity each time we arrived. The advancements in technology and the country’s overall progress since the Open Door policy was introduced 40 years ago is even more startling from our parents’ perspective. Ever since then-leader Deng Xiaoping opened the country’s doors through the introduction of free market principles in 1978, China’s GDP has grown at a pace so rapid that the World Bank described it as “the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history.” Even more significant is that with GDP growth averaging 10% per year – three times the global average – an estimated 800 million people have been raised out of poverty.

Conversations within our social circles, as well as observations of China’s representation in Western popular media, have made it apparent to us that most people in North America share our original assumptions about modern life in the country our parents once called home. What they don’t realize is that China has been working tirelessly to catch up.

Watch, Learn, and Do It Better

The narrative that China is a “copycat” of the US, particularly in terms of its products and services, is a popular one in tech circles. In recent decades, however, this idea gained traction across the international community, and the Chinese government and its people decided they no longer wanted to be seen as imitators. They wanted to rid themselves of the misconception of China as “manufacturer to the world” – only executing others’ ideas, never originating new concepts themselves. This was the catalyst for a 2015 initiative known as Made in China 2025.

This initiative identifies 10 industries within which China aims to be globally competitive by 2025, ranging from robotics, to new materials (such as those used in solar cells), to new-energy vehicles. While these goals may sound familiar, particularly to Westerners, Made in China 2025 stands out because it clearly outlines how the country plans to grow in these industries. The project acts as an extremely public blueprint for shifting the nation from an industrial economy to a service-based economy driven by technology and innovation. As a country, China is unified by a holistic approach and a shared vision rooted in innovation and research, enabling the many public and private actors required for change to work toward a common goal. China’s long tradition of direct government intervention in the economy has enabled it to succeed rapidly and on a massive scale.

China’s tech industry continues to expand rapidly, though the recent trade tariffs introduced by President Trump’s administration highlight the unstable dynamic between China and the US. In addition, it appears that there is still a shroud of mystery surrounding China’s advancements as a leader in the global innovation space. In a recent Wired article, Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China and current CEO of venture capital firm Sinovation Ventures, said:

I think from a logical standpoint the time has come to copy from China … but in practice, it’s not. Chinese entrepreneurs know everything about what’s happening in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley people, a few of them know a lot about China; some of them know a little bit about China; most of them know nothing about China.

Rather than dismissing China or perceiving China’s advancement as a threat, it is time to acknowledge that in some areas, the country’s best-in-class technology has become an example to learn from.

Move Fast and Don’t Break Things

China is a blank canvas, largely due to a lack of legacy technology infrastructure combined with a uniquely enclosed innovation model despite substantial foreign investment. For China, following the common adage that spurs many companies in Silicon Valley – “move fast and break things” – would be a rash move with serious consequences. Freedom is a luxury that must be handled delicately, especially considering the sheer size of China’s population and its relatively nonexistent privacy laws. The following companies have managed to find this balance in their respective industries.

Payments: Alipay and WeChat Pay

At the forefront of the payments space are Alipay, operated by Alibaba’s fintech affiliate Ant Financial, and WeChat Pay, developed by Tencent. With Alibaba and Tencent both making the 2018 Top 10 Risers list in Kantar and WPP’s 2018 “BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands” report, the meteoric rise of mobile payments led by these two companies is proof of China’s remarkable ability to scale. The technology for quick response (QR) codes was originally developed in Japan in 1994 for the automotive industry and was later adapted by Alipay for use with mobile payments. China’s vast market and lack of credit and debit card use has expedited the expansion of mobile payments across the country. This, coupled with the centralized nature of Alibaba’s and Tencent’s ecosystems, quickly proliferated Alipay and WeChat Pay through ecommerce and social media, respectively. This meant that brick-and-mortar stores, from massive chains to the neighborhood food stall, had to follow suit or be left behind. And follow suit they did: Data from iResearch Consulting Group shows that mobile payments in China grew from 1.2 trillion yuan ($187B) in 2013 to 58.8 trillion yuan in 2016. In 2018, QR code settlements are expected to reach 165.9 trillion yuan: more than 90 times the size of the US mobile payments market, as reported by Forrester Research.

According to an article from Knowledge@Wharton, published by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, over the past three years Alipay and WeChat Pay have enabled 98.3% of Chinese consumers – including those in rural areas – to shift directly from cash to smartphone. By contrast, only 5.6% of the surveyed population in the US have used mobile payments. Looking ahead, Alibaba and Tencent are hoping to take their expertise in QR technology and go-to-market strategy to begin scaling in developing countries where consumers have less access to credit cards and other traditional banking services. If innovation is the process of turning ideas into outcomes, China’s nearly cashless transaction model has definitively allowed it to emerge as an innovation economy.

Online-Offline Integration: Hema Fresh

As ecommerce continues to boom and brick-and-mortar retailers find themselves coming up against rising land and labor costs, the question of how to blend digital and physical commerce becomes increasingly important. Many believe that the ideal state for bringing these two worlds together will come in the form of an integrated process that provides consumers with a seamlessly engaging experience while enabling companies to optimize both digital and physical operations. This future seemed elusive until recently.

For most, an important shift occurred when Amazon announced its purchase of Whole Foods in 2017 and opened its first Amazon Go location in January of 2018. Unbeknownst to many, however, Alibaba was three years ahead of its North American competitor, debuting its first attempt at “new retail” in 2015 in the form of Hema Fresh. For a first attempt, Hema Fresh is impressive. By connecting product barcodes with a mobile app, Hema Fresh allows consumers to research products during their in-store shopping experience. Shoppers can trace a product’s origin, delivery, and nutritional information, and the app also recommends recipes and other relevant products. The data taken from these cashless transactions enables further personalization of the user’s recommendations. The physical aspect includes an eat-as-you-shop option, where shoppers can hand-pick fresh seafood and have it cooked on-site. The food is soon ready for shoppers to eat in Hema’s dining area. Facial recognition is also used at checkout. Meanwhile, Hema stores act as fulfillment centers for online shoppers, who can have their orders delivered within 30 minutes of placement.

There are now 25 Hema stores across China, and Alibaba has plans to more than double the store’s presence in 2018. In a press release for Alibaba, Hou Yi, CEO of Hema, said that he hopes that “as [the] model becomes more established, it can be shared with other traditional retailers to help them transform in the digital age.”

Mobility: Didi Chuxing

Migration from rural areas in China has led to the ongoing expansion of urban populations over the past few decades, causing urban development to grow at breakneck speeds. Sprawling expressways and superblocks congested with cars now connect cities across the country. Didi Chuxing (“DiDi”), the world’s largest ride-sharing service, was founded with this simple frustration in mind. DiDi aims to “redefine the future of mobility” by leveraging big data and machine learning to help solve this problem, which is characteristic of many Chinese cities. While Uber and Lyft dominate ride-sharing in the US, the sheer scale and size of DiDi sets it apart. According to recent articles from Reuters and Wired, the service has 550 million users in over 400 cities in China, delivering… [more]
samanthalew  ronniepang  china  legacy  infrastructure  change  leapfrogging  2018  technology  design  didichuxing  mobile  phones  smartphones  alibaba  legacysystems  ecommerce  mobilepayments  wechat 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Designing for new cellphone users in Burma - Home | Spark with Nora Young | CBC Radio
"Just a few years ago, cellphones were a rarity reserved for the elite in Burma (also known as Myanmar). But now, they've exploded in popularity.

Spark checks in with a design team working on a digital communications tool for rural farmers there. Lauren Serota and Taiei Harimoto talk about how, because so many people in Burma are new to cell technology, they don't have the biases the rest of us have built up about how the technology is "supposed" to work. We also learn about novel uses for cellphones as income generators, and in the recent election.

[via: ". @ProximityDesign design lead Taiei & @studio_d_rad design director @serota in this interview on mobile Myanmar http://www.cbc.ca/1.3338850 "
https://twitter.com/janchip/status/671924902069432320

"Myanmar is leapfrogging: People use Viber for calling and Facebook for messaging with no precedent for telephony. http://cbc.ca/1.3338850 "
https://twitter.com/janchip/status/672662678121353216

"In Myanmar, we don’t need to abide by design patterns that have been set by 30 years of digital technology.” http://cbc.ca/1.3338850 "
https://twitter.com/janchip/status/672662464518049792

"Designing services unencumbered by legacy technologies, such as telephones, banks, stable electricity, y'know that kind of stuff."
https://twitter.com/janchip/status/671925842319179777 ]
mobile  phones  myanmar  burma  2015  cellphones  telephony  leapfrogging  technology  viber  facebook  messaging  voicecalls 
december 2015 by robertogreco
For The First Time, Developing Countries Spending The Most On Renewables | Fast Company
"Spending on renewable energy is at an all-time high around the world, and in some of the poorest places on Earth, it may mean leapfrogging over dirty power sources in favor of clean ones."
leapfrogging  energy  renewable  cleanenergy  developingworld  2011 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Week 16: Busman’s holiday | Urbanscale [Oh, the implications for our education system as well: swarm-like behavior, informal solutions, tech integration, light touch of government…]
"…despite South Africa’s clear desire to benefit from so-called “South-to-South” knowledge transfer, Curitiba- or Bogota-style BRT strategies have proven untenable…more supple solutions have appeared, notably rise of informal transportation sector…

…swarm-like behavior…relatively effortless way in which taxi operators have incorporated tech…endlessly fascinating…But SA government’s pragmatic response to rise of informal transit…particularly clever & inspiring…[explained]…This kind of light touch on part of gov extends at least some basic protections to riders, w/out imposing laggy top-down planning on system as whole.

Pieterse really got me thinking about potential of informal transit for my own city…seems to be one of those areas where architecture of safety regulation, labor laws, & other protective measures we embraced in society—for good & sufficient reason!—also inhibits emergence of more flexible & potentially more effective & sustainable modes of getting around."
adamgreenfield  urbanscale  transit  mobility  informal  lcproject  toapplytoeducation  policy  flexibility  sustainability  southafrica  density  laborlaws  society  startingover  leapfrogging  regulation  diggingoutfromunderweightoflegallayers  safety  2011  technology  informalsystems  grassroots  thecityishereforyoutouse  pragmatism  johannesburg  edgarpieterse 
april 2011 by robertogreco
PhotonQ-Connecting with Nicholas Negroponte | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
"child becomes agent of change, as opposed to object of change"

"If you have to measure (result), it's not big enough." (Answering question, how do you measure success of the OLPC ?)"

“Computing is not about computers any more. It is about living.”

“Paper books will not exist in 5 years. The argument against books as paper objects turns out to be the developing world.”

"Every time the project is carried out, children all over the developing world ‘swim like fish’ in the digital environment …Ironically while often seen as a damaging distraction to western kids, ownership & use of a personal laptop in deprived areas is a huge advantage. Perhaps it’s because we have so much that we’re so bored & cynical.

…to own a networked laptop w/ access to internet means you’ve got access to the global conversation. You’re part of what’s happening all over world & can have digital presence as influential & dynamic as any kid in SF. OLPC machines are inspiring some interesting behaviour too…"

[See also: http://tedxbrussels.eu/blog/2010/12/01/430/ ]
nicholasnegroponte  olpc  education  outdoctrination  learning  global  deschooling  autodidacts  autodidactism  leapfrogging  cynicism  xo  behavior  society  internet  web  computing  lcproject  unschooling  autodidacticism 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Charles Leadbeater: Education innovation in the slums | Video on TED.com
"Charles Leadbeater went looking for radical new forms of education -- and found them in the slums of Rio and Kibera, where some of the world's poorest kids are finding transformative new ways to learn. And this informal, disruptive new kind of school, he says, is what all schools need to become."
charlesleadbeater  demos  education  future  innovation  pedagogy  poverty  learning  ted  technology  slums  unschooling  deschooling  tcsnmy  riodejaneiro  brasil  kibera  kenya  informal  informallearning  disruptive  lcproject  futureoflearning  finland  leapfrogging  compulsory  india  development  transformation  newdelhi  sugatamitra  holeinthewall  socialentrepreneurship  literacy  pull  push  engagement  belohorizonte  sãopaulo  mobile  phones  cities  urban  hightechhigh  outdoctrination  brazil 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Where a Cellphone Is Still Cutting Edge - NYTimes.com
"What if, globally speaking, the iPad is not the next big thing? What if the next big thing is small, cheap and not American?

America went into a frenzy last weekend with the iPad’s release. But even as hundreds of thousands here unwrap their iPads, another future entirely may be unfolding overseas on the cellphone.

Forgotten in the American tumult is a global flowering of innovation on the simple cellphone. From Brazil to India to South Korea and even Afghanistan, people are seeking work via text message; borrowing, lending, and receiving salaries on cellphones; employing their phones as flashlights, televisions and radios."
mobilephones  africa  india  technology  innovation  internet  ipad  communication  phones  mobile  statistics  trends  leapfrogging 
april 2010 by robertogreco
These Things Are Related - Anil Dash
"technology adoption happens now because of culture and media, not simply for its own sake or because certain types of capital are available. It happens because a vision is ambitious enough to capture the attention of artist and writers and creators of all sorts, not just other technologists or people within the bubble of the existing tech community. And cities like Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C. and, particularly, New York City, have a decided advantage when it comes to connecting to those in the tech community to the rest of the world. We also have an unparalleled history of ambition (and, yes, ego) to match that potential. I hope entrepreneurs learn a lesson from the few underwhelming startups that are out there, and realize that the model of making incremental improvements on companies that already exist is a recipe where, even if you achieve your goals, you may not have achieved much of a success."
anildash  startups  entrepreneurship  trends  creativity  technology  culture  innovation  success  tcsnmy  cv  glvo  environment  siliconvalley  chicago  boston  washingtondc  nyc  cities  disruption  gamechanging  progress  small  change  reform  leapfrogging  intuit  mint  comparison  bayarea  dc 
september 2009 by robertogreco
Sci-Tech Today | Getting Mobile Technology into Schools
"Rather than spending a bundle on building a sophisticated wireless infrastructure and another bundle on maintaining it, a school could make use of cell-phone computers and the telecoms' existing wireless infrastructure for Internet access. Besides connectivity at school, the students would then have wireless access to the Internet at home."
mobile  phones  schools  education  tcsnmy  learning  mobile-computing  mobilelearning  leapfrogging  laptops  information  teaching  lcproject 
january 2009 by robertogreco
(the teeming void): Array Aesthetics (Olympic Edition)
"The Water Cube and the Birds Nest don't simply display China's modernity, they claim a jump into a digital, sustainable, mega-scaled future. The computational aesthetics of multiplicity that mark these structures are, again like the opening ceremony, a powerful cultural narrative: coherence, strength and beauty made of countless tiny pieces. Like the flickering grid of the drummers, the ordered diversity of these structures is important too, in that it's not total uniformity, a simple (modernist) grid. In fact these buildings contain a kind of post-industrial grid, where the uniformity or regularity is not literal or material, but procedural or computational - the computer's ability to resolve complex distributions of force is what enables the "organic" multiplicity here."
design  technology  society  culture  architecture  cities  china  olympics  beijing  2008  led  patterns  multiplicity  narrative  grids  postindustrial  leapfrogging 
august 2008 by robertogreco
Switching On: Connecting the World: Developing nations leapfrog West as mobile phone useres explore the limits - The Guardian Weekly [.pdf]
"Corruption is bypassed, elections checked and poor farmers informed...African farmers get commodity prices by text, pushing out 'briefcase buyers' who turn up and offer less...How text messages save lives in India."
technology  leapfrogging  development  world  global  mobile  phones  gamechanging  change  international  filetype:pdf  media:document 
july 2008 by robertogreco
Kevin Kelly -- The Technium - Why Leapfrogging is Rare
"little evidence for leapfrogging...current trials w/ solar, hydrogen power, nano-technology [= possible] leap in future...may require min. set of necessary technologies...like literacies...allow to learn (& leapfrog to) all kinds of state-of-the-art idea
leapfrogging  technology  literacy  development  theories  thinking  mobile  phones  learning  infrastructure  kevinkelly 
march 2008 by robertogreco
Ten things holding back tech - ZDNet UK
"1. Microsoft's stranglehold on the desktop 2. Operator lock-in 3. Input methods 4. Battery life 5. The mania for speed 6. Intellectual property law 7. Skills inequalities 8. Web 2.0 9. National interests 10. The current lack of global wars and/or disaste
future  innovation  technology  trends  progress  information  development  change  microsoft  speed  input  batteries  ip  skills  web2.0  disasters  war  twitter  skype  facebook  leapfrogging  qwerty 
november 2007 by robertogreco

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