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Once a shepherd had two horses. One was strong and fast, another one was slow and weak. The shepherd instead of looking after the weak one and trying to make him fit, he preferred riding the healthy one and taking him almost everywhere. He also fed him better which in long-term led the healthy horse to become heavy and feel lethargic all the time. Later the healthy one became sick and the shepherd then instead of having healthy horse has to deal with two sick and weak horses.

 

What does this story have to do with digitalization? Well, this is our approach to the whole idea of digitalization and its implementation worldwide. Instead of investing time and resources and bringing the idea of digitalization to the underdeveloped nation or the “weak horse”, we are feeding the already “healthy horse” or the developed nation with fascinating ideas and projects which might result into sickness in the long term. The early symptoms of this sickness can already be witnessed. A World Economic Forum (ref:weforum.org)report says that labour markets will witness a net loss of over 5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies. Is this in line with the idea of digitalization?

The World witnessed more than 4.000 ransomware attacks per day in 2016 (ref:Justice.gov) which approx. 300% more than that in 2015. This since we made the whole IT infrastructure more vulnerable to such attacks by simply connecting every electronic device to the internet. Are we just simply neglecting the side effects of digitalization?

Being not able to read your power meter values on your smartphone is not a problem as compared to not having access to water and electricity due to scarcity. Being not able to sit in a self-driven car is not a problem as compared to be stuck in traffic jam in peak summer for hours and breathing exhaust gases all the time. These are some of the typical problems of the underdeveloped or developing nations. The question which the Gurus of digitalization should address is that if the idea of digitalization/IoT for industry/IT giants are about to create business and thus pushing up the turn over, then why not boosting digitalization across such nations by diverting the resources there. This is far better than making own factories intelligent and then laying down hundreds or thousands of hardworking and loyal employees.

Here are some of the typical problems of the under-developed or emerging nations, the answer to which could be well-implemented digitalization.

Corruption: According to an IMF report more than $ 1 trillion dollars is paid in bribes each year around the world with underdeveloped and developing countries topping the list of being the most corrupt nations. People in these nations pay up to 13 percent of their income to bribes which later discourages them from services made available by the government. Corruption is the root cause of crime in many countries and acts like a fuel to poverty and social inequality. Institutes worldwide are trying their best to strictly monitor and thus eliminate corruption worldwide, unfortunately without much success until now. This, however, might change in future. Experts nowadays are betting on the invention of blockchain to fight corruption. The blockchain is a centralized technology which offers full transaction transparency, thus providing no room for fraud or capital manipulation. Blockchain implementation, however, demands a solid digital infrastructure which in my opinion is an area where IT communication network provider should look into.

Image courtesy: Wikicommons

 

Commodity wastage or theft: Water and electricity to two important needs of every society. Their scarcity or theft leads to a major human rights problem. The figures about water scarcity worldwide are very alarming with some 780 million (ref: Water.org) people having no access to clean and safe water. One of the major reason for water scarcity is wastage or theft in emerging/underdeveloped nations. The electricity theft worldwide touched $89 billion (ref: Northeast Group LLC) annually in 2015 with India, Brazil and Russia being the top 3 nations with highest losses. With an introduction of smart water and electric meters along with in-built sensors, certain startups are trying to monitor the overall water and electricity supply and consumption. Based on which a customer profile can be generated so that any irregularities can be immediately reputed to the consumer as well as the respective authorities. This again needs support from government and the industry without which it will take ages to tackle the mentioned problem.

Image courtesy: Wikicommons

 

Landfills: Seems like the never-ending problem of nations with poor or insufficient infrastructure People in some of these nations spend their lives in an area surrounded by a heap of waste or landfills. This is there exist no proper waste management plan due to lack of manpower or resources. This bottleneck can, however, be eliminated by daily tracking and monitoring of location (webcams) with landfills and adjusting the waste management plan accordingly. Here, for instance, the resources can be diverted to a location with a frequent buildup of waste. This, however, demands a strong digital infrastructure which can only be established if government and industry work together.

Image courtesy: Wikicommons

 

Street crimes are on the rise in nations with higher social inequality. Authorities in these nations feel helpless due to the degree and frequency of crime happening every day versus the available manpower. Interestingly, the biggest problem is that many of these crimes go unreported since people in these nations have lost their faith in government/authorities/police. The legal structure in these countries needs a face-lift which can be achieved by digitalization the complete process of monitoring, documenting of crime and its prosecution. The street light camera or public surveillance camera project in the US is a good example of crime monitoring here. The public surveillance camera installed in Baltimore and Chicago (ref: Urban.org) region not only resulted in reduced crime but also proven to be cost-effective than the conventional way. A cloud-based complain lodging system can be established allowing the verified victim to lodge complain straight via smartphone. A digital platform managing all these complains based on degree or severity of the crime as well as the date of occurrence can be created.

Healthcare: Proper healthcare is still considered as a luxury in many of underdeveloped/developing nations. Approximately 80 percent (ref: facts and details.com) of people in these nations rely on public hospitals for treatment. These hospitals are often running over-capacity and are ill-equipped.  A healthcare digital platform which integrates the existing database of all the hospitals in the region along with a list of their respective treatment capabilities, services could ensure the even distribution of patient load in these hospitals. Thus allowing treatment to each and very needy individual without any delay. Access to a healthcare App coupled with the platform can allow the patient to see which hospital nearby has an available bed and a doctor and can provide him/her with an option of online booking.

Uncontrolled traffic: Interestingly an ongoing problem of developing countries. With four-wheeler getting cheaper and infrastructure narrower day by day, the traffic condition in these countries is on the verge of a breakdown. Traffic jams and road accidents are on increase with pollution level due to an increased number of vehicles on road, reaching new peaks. Equipping traffic lights with infrared sensors or webcams can help the authorities to divert the traffic in case of traffic congestion. Moreover, long-term monitoring (analytics) can be beneficial in planning infrastructural change, road buildups in regions where traffic jams are frequent. Car sharing/renting/hiring apps should be promoted. By combing the complete transportation system along with consumer profile, one can monitor the user segment preferring public transportation over own. This segment can then be rewarded in form of discounted bus/train/metro tickets or by means of an annual grant.

Image courtesy: Wikicommons

 

The list of problems of these nations is long but properly implemented digitalization along with the synergy between government and industry could be the answer to all of these problems. We should not repeat the mistake of the shepherd and should help the weak horse to be as fit as the healthy horse. Only this way we can achieve social and economic balance across the world.

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10 Comments

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  1. Michelle Crapo

    I read this blog twice, and skimmed it a third time.   I see the need for help in the underdeveloped countries.  I know there are projects that ask for our help.   I really have to dig around to find them.

    Now my question is that’s nice, I’ll help with a digital solution.   Some of those countries do not have people that use computers.   A lot of those countries don’t have computers…   So how does digitization help them?

    I could read this blog and think – we need to help.   But then there are no links to sites where we could help.

    Any ideas / thoughts?

    Michelle

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    1. Vivart Kapoor Post author

      Hi Michelle, that’s exactly what I want to highlight in this article. There are companies claiming to bring internet to the moon, though we have countries still lacking access to broadband internet or even 24 hours electricity supply. What shall we call this? Ignorance?

      Anyways, coming to your question: Some developing nations along with certain tech giants are taking measures to digitize the existing processes. One such example is the Digital India movement. The idea here is to ensure that Government services are made available to citizens electronically by improved online infrastructure and by increasing Internet connectivity or by making the country digitally empowered in the field of technology. This, however, can be achieved if the public and private sector come and work together to achieve a common goal.

      There are few public funding projects ongoing in some underdeveloped nations with more or less same goal as mentioned above. Herre, it is important to make the government or authorities in these nations understand the power of connectivity and digitalized solutions. Educating them by means of seminars or conferences should help to achieve this. Big IT giants should set this as a goal for the coming business year.

      There is no need to go to Moon if we can make earth a better place to be.

      Regards

      Vivart

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      1. Michelle Crapo

        Agreed – no need to go to the moon.   It seems like the gap between countries, our poor,… (more) is getting larger based on technology.

        I like the man with a horse example.

        Now to just get it implemented, and to convince big companies it is profitable. And that is a huge goal.

        Love this blog – hence my reading it several times!

        Michelle

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      2. Frederic Bada

        There are also private companies trying to increase Internet access in “difficult” areas, like Facebook’s drones or Google’s stratospheric balloons… not for the same reasons, obviously…

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  2. Sujatha Venkataraman

     

    A very good perspective on how the push towards “Digital” transformation at a national / societal level has to be balanced and grounded in reality. The key point here is collaboration between public services and private sector that can enable the transformation. Well written!

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  3. Karsten Hohage

    Thanks for this!

    Many interdisciplinary thinkers have been pointing to the social effects of digitalization and automation for a while now. The technocrats and profiteers of this world seem to be only marginally interested, though.

    I like your aspect that digitailization is not only a danger to many jobs and thus existences, but also an opportunity for the “slower horses” – if those with the privilege of being shepherds deal out the benefits fairly.

    Only one point you state I would like to comment critically:

    If we solve the 1-trillion issue of corruption with the blockchain, it may well become the largest contributor to the world’s energy and thus resource consumption…

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    1. Vivart Kapoor Post author

      Not necessarily. The issue of blockchain consuming energy is owing to the fact that the transaction approval is certain cases (bitcoin for instances) is competition driven. This might not be the case in other sectors since it will become a daily job rather than a reward-driven task. Even if it turns own to be resource intensive, there are other better technologies now available (tangle, hashgraph) which try (atleast they claim) to overcome the shortcomings of blockchain.

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