innovation Archives — Page 2 of 3


SLASSCOM is the software and BPO industry body in Sri Lanka. It is organizing a discussion on innovation-friendly policies. SLASSCOM are to host CXO Breakfast Briefing on “Impact of policies concerning the internet on innovation and economic growth” on 05th September from 7.30 to 11 AM at Kings Court, Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel, Colombo. This event will feature a keynote address by Ann Lavin-Director, Policy and Government Affairs, Greater China and Asian Growth Markets, Google.
A wide ranging discussion on ICTs carried in a government-owned newspaper I refuse to read. In Sri Lanka the amount of money that we spend on communication is about 700 rupees a month per household on average according to the government survey – According to the Household income and expenditure survey it is about 3.5 percent of our non-food expenditures. “We are getting more and more for the rupee that we spend for communication and we are using it more. So what I see is, the industry has to be very efficient and innovative because people expect more from them, for the same amount of money.
We’ve had quite a bit of discussion about the failure to supply toilets on our site and elsewhere. Now there’s movement on using mobiles to help get working toilets in schools and elsewhere. “It’s something that can have a little more impact than helping someone find the nearest bar or restaurant,” said Gary Gale, director of global community programs in the location and commerce division of Nokia, which works with the company’s mapping technology. After the event in Washington, the winners of the hackathon are set to travel to Silicon Valley for meetings with venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who are interested in the issue. The World Bank does not plan to invest in the projects, but hopes that others might.
We’ve been of the opinion that the only way to sustainably serve the poor is to see them as customers. Our research supported this conclusion. Here is a story from HuffPost about some people who are putting USD 8 million behind this idea. There is actually more. A team of technology veterans has raised $8 million for one of the first funds making early-stage investments in companies meeting the basic needs of low-income customers at the base of India’s economic pyramid.
My comments at the Main Panel session at IGF 2012. Question 1: What does it take to attract investment in infrastructure and encourage innovation and growth of ICT services, including mobile technology and how can these technologies best be employed to address development challenges? Indonesia is a success story in Internet use. In a six-country, representative-sample survey we conducted in 2011, we found the highest use of the Internet among the poor among the six in Java, where the most of the Indonesian population lives. Indonesia is one of the heaviest users of Facebook, in the top five.

China as a Galapagos of Innovation?

Posted on November 5, 2012  /  0 Comments

China is a mobile powerhouse. Chinese made Smartphones are spreading fast across Asia and Africa. Yet, where are Chinese developed apps? “The Chinese Internet market is so set apart from other countries that we inside the industry refer to it as the Galápagos Island syndrome,” said Kai Lukoff, the editor of TechRice, a China-focused technology blog based in Beijing. “Domestic Internet products are extremely well adapted to the Chinese market, but they are way out of place for global users.
The Economist carries a good piece on the innovation/entrepreneurial boom in Kenya centered around the mobile. There should be such a place in developing Asia. Where? In 2002 Kenya’s exports of technology-related services were a piffling $16m. By 2010 that had exploded to $360m.
Vertical integration has been a no-no. The advantages of specialization (sticking to one’s knitting) have been emphasized. And now, Microsoft moves into hardware. That, in turn, has limited their ability to take the kinds of risks on hardware innovation that have helped define the iPad. Furthermore, with the iPad, Apple has proved that there are significant advantages to designing hardware and software together.

A caution on Jugaad

Posted on June 21, 2012  /  1 Comments

Workaround was a key theme across the chapters in our 2008 book. People were doing all sorts of things, like using WiFi to haul data over long distances in Indonesia, that made sense in the specific circumstances, but had no other value. As soon as the Indonesian telecom incumbent provided leased lines, the WiFi use stopped. This was a classic jugaad. A contrast is the budget telecom network model, that came about because companies were trying to deal with the low purchasing power of their customers and the low transaction cost afforded by pre-paid mobile.
The New York Times has an interesting feature about 32 innovations that can change our lives. Here is the problem that requires fixing according to David Pogue, the NYT’s resident tech guru: That we’re heading for a bandwidth crunch. We’re saddling the Internet with amazing new features — movies on demand, streaming TV, Siri voice recognition, whole-house backup — but they’re starting to overwhelm the existing Internet’s capacity, especially on cellular networks. The Internet and phone companies respond by imposing monthly limits, and the F.C.
Response to the Draft VAS Guideline (BTRC/LL/VAS(391)/2012, dated 31-01-2012) LIRNEasia is a regional think tank that has, among other things, conducted research on VAS in Bangladesh. The comments below are based on (a) examination of the policy, regulatory and business issues pertaining to mobile VAS in the context of LIRNEasia’s 2008-2010 research program on mobile 2.0; and (b) detailed analysis of the practical experience of CellBazaar, a successful VAS developed in Bangladeshi conditions. The peer-reviewed journal article on a successful Bangladeshi value-added service, CellBazaar, is attached. LINK.
I was at dinner with some people who advise governments earlier today. One said they had identified the top four apps for government. I asked who would develop them? And who decided? Without being rude, I said that innovation is like throwing 100 things at a wall and seeing what four things stick.
The IDRC workshop at which I spent the last two days was on the subject of Universities and Intermediaries in Innovation for Inclusive Development. I’ve been thinking about inclusive development in the context of the summative paper on agricultural supply chains work we’re doing. But then I’ve been thinking about universities much, much longer. Are they the appropriate vehicles for driving innovation in emerging economies, let alone inclusive innovation? The answers would be different if the question were asked about the American model of the university?

Bill Gates on inclusive innovation

Posted on January 29, 2012  /  0 Comments

In a recent in-house piece I did on LIRNEasia’s work on inclusive innovation with emphasis on agriculture, I concluded that inclusive development occurs when “the necessary condition of high, sustained growth above 7 percent year-on-year and the sufficient condition of a majority of the country’s work force being engaged in high-growth sectors are satisfied.” Innovations that contribute to inclusive development qualified as inclusive. In most developing countries, a high proportion of the work force is engaged in agriculture. Therefore, one cannot envisage inclusive development occurring without agriculture being transformed from a laggard sector to a leading growth sector. In this context, Bill Gates’s thinking on innovation is highly relevant to any discussion of inclusive innovation: We can help poor farmers sustainably increase their productivity so they can feed themselves and their families.
We have always emphasized that telecom is a complementary input: Does not solve problems by itself, but makes solutions possible; Multiplies the effects of interventions. Here, in Bill Gates’ thoughtful year-end message, is a great illustration. He is talking about the first winner of a Gates Foundation innovation award, a doctor from Bangladesh: In 2009, Dr. Hossain was assigned to two districts where immunization rates were 67 and 60 percent, respectively. In 2010, they were 85 and 79 percent.

Innovation and the state

Posted on December 18, 2011  /  0 Comments

We had the pleasure of engaging with an erudite politician at the inauguration of LIRNEasia’s principal capacity-building event, CPRsouth in Bangkok last week. Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who used to teach economics at Thammasat U before he went into politics, had this to say, as reported in Bangladesh’s Daily Star, about innovation and the role of the state: “Creativity takes place very much in the private sector, so regulations must be friendly for them,” said Vejjajiva, in his keynote speech at the inaugural session of a two-day conference on Communication Policy Research south 6 (CPRsouth6) in Bangkok on Friday. Vejjajiva, now the leader of the opposition in the House of Representatives of Thailand, also emphasised independence of the regulatory body, but not without accountability. I found it quite a contrast to a long article in the New York Times about how the Chinese state is treating innovation by the private sector, ripping it off and bringing it under the control of the state: The usurping of private enterprise has become so evident that the Chinese have given it a nickname: guojin mintui. That roughly translates as “while the state advances, the privates retreat.