Vail makes some great points in her post… points that flashed me back to some fascinating discussions from my STIA-305 class (Science and Technology in the Global Arena) last year. Much of this course centered around understanding and analyzing a technology’s life cycle. If I had kept my notes I could give you a more thorough explanation (with the correct terminology) but this essentially refers to a technology’s trajectory path from the invention and design stages to a local market and beyond. A staggering majority of new technologies fail miserably once left to the mercy of our free market system, but lucky few gain popularity and then enter improvement and further development stages. Depending on the specific technology, the next stage may be exportation, possibly for implementation in a developing country.
One of the books assigned for the semester was titled “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid” by C.K. Prahalad and the themes within it were drawn upon through the entire course. Many of the themes echo Vail’s thoughts from the last blog post. Much of the western world believes that throwing money at developing nations is the way to solve the myriad of issues plaguing these countries. While this charity is honorable (though a great percentage of funds are commonly funneled away from the deserving toward corrupt groups and leaders) it is not the economical nor efficient way to bring these nations up to a more comparable political, economical or social standing with the rest of the developed world—which should be the real goal. This is a mountain of a task, however, as “The Fortune” points out.
If you have a passion for any developing country in particular, have a future plan to start any charity or entrepreneurial endeavor in a developing world, OR are just looking to learn… I highly recommend picking up this book. It’s skimmable with comprehensive lists that summarize the lengthy paragraphs. If the book had one thesis it would be this: A technology that has been assimilated into a modern culture cannot simply be picked up an dropped into a developing world. To succeed, this technology and all mechanisms, marketing images, and functionalities related to it must be significantly altered to function in the potential market and appeal to the new population. Entirely new business models are necessary to assimilate a technology into the poorest areas of the world. As Bill Gates puts it, this book “offers an intriguing blueprint for how to fight poverty with profitability.” NOT a bad phrase, eh Compass?
To make this tangible, this book brings up questions beyond the typical “what does this area need,” and “where can the funding come from?” But expands to ask questions like “what kind of instruction manual would be most easily understood so the learning curve isn’t the downfall of this technology?” “Are replacement parts easily accessible?” “Are experts needed to get this company/tech off the ground? What about when these experts go back to their home country?” “Is this tech sustainable with local resources?” “Does this company fit into the cultural norms of this area?” And on and on… ACTUALLY aiding the developing world involves so much more than money.
I am currently studying abroad in Ifrane, Morocco for the semester and have spent the entire three months so far with wide eyes, this being my first living experience in a developing country. While my campus is quite modern, and serves many of the richest in this country, I have traveled extensively with fellow exchange students and have seen how the many modest of Morocco live. Tying Morocco to the aforementioned idea of reforming business models to be applicable in emerging markets is easy. Click on the pictures I’ve attached (I don’t know how to make them bigger!)… it is blaringly obvious that companies or technologies that are dependent on internet, electricity or RUNNING WATER need to get creative to succeed in certain areas here. And by some standards, Morocco is pretty advanced.
Food for thought.. sorry this is so long! See everyone in January! (:
~ Maria Hayden, Georgetown SFS 2011