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Friday, October 29, 2010

Same infrastructure different application...

I know that anyone who really knows what they are talking about in the internet arena will tut in a slightly annoyed manner with me and say, 'do try and keep up Greenway...' But I can only go as fast as my ageing brain allows, which is increasingly not very fast.

Two fascinating conversations I had recently are fermenting slowly in my head.

The first was with Chris Locke the MD of the GSMA Development Fund (and a lovely man to boot) who was telling me about how mobile phones are being used as a leapfrogging technology in parts of the world that lack a traditional infrastructure. The concept of delivering lessons to paying users for less than the price of a cup of tea is a destructive innovation that anyone in workplace learning should be worrying about now.

The actual learning is often deliberately low tech (it can be as simple as an SMS telling you to turn your TV to a particular channel) because of the pressures on cost. But the point is employing a network for a different use rather than coming up with expensive bells and whistles. Fortunately for those of us in the lazy and complacent developed world, they are focusing their attention on the parts of the world living on less than $2 a day. But it wont take long before they look at other targets.

The other conversation was with an old Serbian friend (and also a lovely man) who was telling me about a mayors' environmental conference he had attended recently where a chap (I forget the name) had come up with a solution for the infrastructure problems facing electric cars (to whit it takes hours to charge the battery and there are not many places where you can do it). The solution is genius. Owners buy the car but rent the battery. So when you go to a petrol station or other outlet, you don't have to plug your car in and leave it for five hours, you swap your flat battery for a fully charged one. One in classic Blue Peter form which 'has been prepared earlier' which allows the electricity grid to balance the demands of battery charging (which is the other problem with electric cars being charged overnight at home - everyone plugs them in at the same time whereas petrol stations can charge batteries at a steady rate throughout the day).

Again this employs an existing network for a different use.

I need to think about networks some more...