July 21, 2005 § Leave a comment

Redmond, USA

I am really liking the ’emerging markets’ folks I am running into on my travels. Last week in Delhi, I met Joydeep Bose from Intel and Anirban Mukerji from HP. Today I hooked up with Kentaro Toyama from Microsoft.


Kentaro’s group at Microsoft Research in Bangalore is charged with early phase experiments on things like computing for rural, poor and disconnected contexts … exactly the kinds of places that need telecentres. A few of the things their working on include: ‘featherweight computing’ (low cost / low power / easy to use); machine translation integrated with chat (Sean: “A machine translation of a web page is a dead end street. You get what you get. With chat, you can negotiate meaning.”); and community created maps (satellite data + blogs + user created contextual data … and who knows what else). Very cool to see what they are all playing with.

Even cooler, though, is the degree to which they get the long term game of telecentres and rural computing. Kentaro and his team have worked a lot with NGOs and entrepreneurial village kiosk groups in India, because they know this is where the learning is happening. They also know that patience is one of the key ingredients in this kind of learning. You can’t (and, of course, shouldn’t) turn a rural village into a market to your products. But you can help people in villages learn how to use connected technologies, and then see what those people want to do next.

Of course, ‘what they want do next’ – they ways people adapt technology to their own needs – is likely to be both unpredictable …. and the future of computing. Kentaro and his group get this. It will be interesting to learn with them along the way.

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