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robertogreco : leomirani   2

The secret to the Uber economy is wealth inequality - Quartz
"There are only two requirements for an on-demand service economy to work, and neither is an iPhone. First, the market being addressed needs to be big enough to scale—food, laundry, taxi rides. Without that, it’s just a concierge service for the rich rather than a disruptive paradigm shift, as a venture capitalist might say. Second, and perhaps more importantly, there needs to be a large enough labor class willing to work at wages that customers consider affordable and that the middlemen consider worthwhile for their profit margins.

Uber was founded in 2009, in the immediate aftermath of the worst financial crisis in a generation. As the ride-sharing app has risen, so too have income disparity and wealth inequality in the United States as a whole and in San Francisco in particular. Recent research by the Brookings Institution found that of any US city, San Francisco had the largest increase in inequality between 2007 and 2012. The disparity in San Francisco as of 2012, as measured (pdf) by a city agency, was in fact more pronounced than inequality in Mumbai (pdf).

Of course, there are huge differences between the two cities. Mumbai is a significantly poorer, dirtier, more miserable place to live and work. Half of its citizens lack access to sanitation or formal housing.

Another distinction, just as telling, lies in the opportunities the local economy affords to the army of on-demand delivery people it supports. In Mumbai, the man who delivers a bottle of rum to my doorstep can learn the ins and outs of the booze business from spending his days in a liquor store. If he scrapes together enough capital, he may one day be able to open his own shop and hire his own delivery boys.

His counterpart in San Francisco has no such access. The person who cleans your home in SoMa has little interaction with the mysterious forces behind the app that sends him or her to your door. The Uber driver who wants an audience with management can’t go to Uber headquarters; he or she must visit a separate “driver center.”

There is no denying the seductive nature of convenience—or the cold logic of businesses that create new jobs, whatever quality they may be. But the notion that brilliant young programmers are forging a newfangled “instant gratification” economy is a falsehood. Instead, it is a rerun of the oldest sort of business: middlemen insinuating themselves between buyers and sellers.
All that modern technology has done is make it easier, through omnipresent smartphones, to amass a fleet of increasingly desperate jobseekers eager to take whatever work they can get."
economics  poverty  inequality  uber  middlemen  2014  leomirani  thomaspiketty  mumbai  sanfrancisco  sharingeconomy 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Why you probably won’t understand the web of the future - Quartz
"The giants of the connected world are finally waking up to one of the biggest obstacles in their stated missions of connecting billions more people to the internet: The language barrier.

This week alone, Google announced the “Indian Language Internet Alliance,” which aims to get half a billion Indians online by 2017 by serving them content in local languages, and there are indications Facebook is already defaulting to local languages in India. Facebook’s head of internationalization and localization published a long piece about “The Internet’s Language Barrier” in Innovations, a quarterly journal from MIT; and Mozilla and GSMA, a trade body of mobile operators, published a white paper titled “Unlocking relevant Web content for the next 4 billion people.”

Language barriers in globalization are hardly a new issue. So why the sudden drive for polyglotism? It’s simple: As mobile operators and web giants try to expand their markets by bringing more people online, we have reached a tipping point where the imbalance of content on the internet has become too stark to avoid.

“A lot of the content online is about very few places and those are the places you might imagine: Western Europe, Japan, Korea, North America,” says Mark Graham, an associate professor who looks at information geographies at the Oxford Internet Institute. “And a lot of the contribution to the internet comes from those very same places.”"



"Making the web more usable for non-English speakers doesn’t stop at language. Facebook’s Orriss cites the example of Russia, where some users enter their names in the roman script and other in Cyrillic. This causes a problem, she writes: “You are searching for your friends’ names in Cyrillic, but some of them registered using Roman script. Therefore, when you type a friend’s name into the search field, the software has to search for the name in both scripts using a common conversion algorithm—in essence, it has to understand this cultural norm of your native language.”

Another example is color. In the West, red is associated with danger or bad news, while in China it means good news. Any company serious about serving a global audience needs to take such subtle cues into account."
language  languages  web  internet  online  2014  color  culture  russia  cyrillic  china  india  hindi  leomirani 
november 2014 by robertogreco

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