March 10, 2006
Perhaps everyone has wondered about this and perhaps the industry is also working towards this ...But its just taking forever.
Can I not have one device which I can use as my cell phone, PDA and mp3 player ... and yeah that can be within my student budget? Well isnt that what everyone is asking for ...
The closest product that I can think of that does all this is Treo from PalmOne which is still pricy at a hefty $249 (with mail-in rebate, 2 year service contract and all that) and there is a limit on the number of songs you can load etc etc ...
Apple is coming out with an iPod cell combo but still expensive and not on the market yet ...Why is it taking so long to get device convergence. I am sure it is not because of the underlying electronics ... Samsung has been a leader in PDA cell phones they should be able to come up with a product that does all this and more ...
I definitely want to switch from my Samsung SPH 3250 (or something like that) which I got about 4 years ago (yeah I have been milking every dollar I paid back then) but I dont have a good alternative. I guess I should just go for a bare bones cell phone and wait and hope for a medium priced all-in-one device ...
To read a more detailed analysis of device convergence and the options (specialized and converged) out there here are some links:
The Sharing Economy
In the previous entry I mentioned about new age economics ...I am not an economist so there should be better explanations for this. But what is happening with Skype and slashdot and maybe even Wikipedia ?
Its the sharing economy - says professor at Yale Law School, Yochai Benkler. Read the whole article here http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_25/b3938902.htm
So what does this mean ... strangers are coming together to produce goods remotely ... goods that are more like civic goods (for the commons) than private goods. Thats pretty neat! Open source projects, free content and knowledge sources are examples of these ...
But wait a minute. Whatever happened to the old saying ..."there's nothing like a free lunch". Well in this case, the producers are bearing the cost ...for the benefit of the commons. Hats off to them ... Their incentives ... respect and social capital in the online community. Good enough to sustain them so far ...
What does it mean for businesses? For starters, perhaps they should create such communities internally. Create communities which contribute for the benefit of the community ... not the regular tasks as part of regular jobs but "the above and beyond" part. Will employees work beyond their responsibilities to contribute for the growth of the company? Where is the WIIFM (What's in it for me?) question ...
Maybe they should sponsor more of the open source consortiums ...In any case, there is a new kind of market phenomenon at least in open source software, now content and communication.
P.S: There also seems to be two types of "economies" ... the production-sharing economy (produce for common good) and the community-based economy (where people trade within the community so that the cash flow is within -- an age old concept)
New Age Economics
Community based interactions are leading to new types of economic transactions. Information and Technology revolutions are finding new ways for people to exchange goods and commodities. There are several organizations which are doing research and studying these types of economic transactions.
Here are a few:
New Economics Foundation
New Economics Foundation based in UK is piloting several community economics projects as well as tackling bigger city wide issues. The Interra project is looking at community-driven marketplace for civic goods.
Perhaps this is the dawn of new economics ... maybe its time big businesses took notice of small communities.
Study of a Telemedicine Initiative
As part of my summer internship I studied a telemedicine project in Thirupathur in Tamilnadu. I am still consolidating the information that I gathered during my visit and I am putting that in words.
As a start here is a list of questions that I put together before I held some brief interviews with the social worker who was coordinating activities there, a local doctor and several local citizens who had used the telemedicine service.
At a high-level, my visit and interviews were aimed at evaluating the following:
Was the doctor comfortable in providing this service?
Was there a viable business model?
Questions for the doctor
1. How much time during the day/week do you spend on this telemedicine effort?
2. What do you collect in fees (total) per day and per week?
3. Are you comfortable communicating with the patient through the remote kiosk?
4. Do you feel the patient receives the best care through this service?
5. How do you think this service can be improved?
6. What other services can be provided that will be useful to the patient?
7. Do you think the charges are nominal, more or less?
8. Do you feel you are providing the same service (through the telemedicine project) as you were providing before (when making visits)?
9. What are the problems that you face during a telemedicine consulting session?
10. Do you have many patients who come for an in-person consultation who wait during the telemedicine session?
Questions for the Kiosk Operator (KO)
1. How long has this kiosk been in operation?
2. What other services are provided at this kiosk?
3. What is the response from the local citizens to those services?
4. How many users have visited the kiosk so far?
5. How many users have availed the telemedicine services?
6. What is the average number of telemedicine users who visit the kiosk per day, per week?
7. What is the cost of providing telemedicine service?
8. What is the average revenue from telemedicine usage per day, per week etc?
9. How do you advertise this service? How do you attract new customers?
10. What is the net profit from telemedicine services?
11. Will you continue to provide this service?
12. How do you plan to improve the telemedicine service?
13. Does the telemedicine service affect the ability to provide other services during the time the internet channel is occupied?
14. How many users visit to use the internet when you are using the telemedicine service?
15. Is there a loss in revenue because of providing the telemedicine service?
16. Which is the most profitable among the services (agricultural information, voice chat, telemedicine, internet browsing)?
17. How will you compare the most successful service with telemedicine services?
18. What other issues do you face in providing the telemedicine service (both technical and others)?
19. How can these issues be resolved?
20. Do you feel the fees for telemedicine service is nominal or high?
21. What do you think is the nominal fees that will make patients visit the kiosk more?
22. How many repeat patients visit the kiosk?
Questions for the patients
1. How did you come to know about the telemedicine service?
2. Are you satisfied with the service that you got from the telemedicine kiosk? Is your ailment cured completely?
3. How do you find the telemedicine service?
4. Did you recommend this service to anyone else (family or neighbors)?
5. Do you feel you are able to explain all the symptoms and conditions to the doctor through this channel?
6. Do you feel you have the privacy in your interactions with the doctor?
7. Do you think the fees is nominal?
8. How much would you like to pay for the service you received?
9. Where would you have gone for treatment had you not been aware of this service?
10. Do you feel that this service is equivalent or better than the service provided by the Regional Medical Practitioners (RMPs)?
11. If you feel this service is better, why do you think it is? If not, why not?
12. How do you get the medicines prescribed?
13. Once you have consulting session through the telemedicine service, how long does it take to receive the medicines?
14. Do you feel you have been cured by the service you received?
15. Did you get any other medical service elsewhere for the same conditions after the telemedicine service?
16. How do you think kiosk operators and telemedicine services can be improved?
17. if the doctor asked you to follow-up, were you able to visit again? If not, why not?
This is clearly a work in progress and I will add more information or provide links as this takes a better shape.
Linked By Barabasi
I just finished reading this book and it is one of the well written books that I have read in a while. Barabasi explains how everything is connected to everything else and that the world and the Internet are indeed small. Throughout the book he also brings together various researchers and writers who are linked together in peculiar ways. I have tried to list here some of the characters in Barabasi's book and the links between them as mentioned in the book. I did this solely to help me put together the network that Barabasi weaves in the book but perhaps it also illustrates that the world that we are in is indeed small.
Craig Fass, Brian Turtle and Mike Ginelly
Non-profit Capital Market and Social Capital
I re-phrase / praphrase several points from Jed Emerson's article to emphasize the approaches to defining capital and returns in the nonprofit market.
Social Capital : "It is this very aspect of our community life, its "social capital", that we must reconsider and integrate more effectively into our understanding of value and worth in the context of the modern commercial society."
Most of today was spent at the n-logue office in Adyar, Chennai.
I started pouring through Jed Emerson's Nature of Returns paper and the REDF SROI methodology paper. I understand at a conceptual level the principle of SROI and the blended measurement framework. However, I am struggling to get anywhere in thinking how to operationlize this framework for telecenter monitoring and evaluation. The objective of this research study is to understand both of these - (i) Telecenter operations monitoring and evaluation (ii) SROI based approach to measuring socio-economic impact (or a blended ROI framework). The more ambitious objective is to identify concrete metrics for SROI by understanding the telecenter models better. The difficult part in this is to understand the context and nature of returns. I know it sounds vague and seems like I am just picking words from Jed's paper but that is exactly the problem as he points it out. There needs to be a consistent vocabulary and measures developed for SROI and blended value measurement.
In this forum, I would also sometimes paraphrase and sometimes quote verbatim words from Emerson's article to emphasize key points. The hope is that it would help clarify my work with the telecenters and prevent this effort from straying too far away from the SROI framework work that has been done.
World Bank Data and HDR on Assam
After trying to schedule my visits and coordinate times with Arvindd, I decided to dig deeper into Assam's context. I had data that I had previously downloaded from the World Bank website which had country-wise as well as state-wise data on India. This was data relating to the poverty level and included such information as population, consumer price index, distribution, poverty, rain (i still dont completely understand the connection between rainfall and poverty thought it sort of makes sense that in an agriculture based economy annual rainfall could determine income and poverty levels).
I reviewed the data (which is not in an easily usable format - in dbase file formats and with 6-7 word files that describe what the data is and how it is organized) and tried to understand what portion was relevant to Assam or the telecenter study.
I still have to do some more work on the data to understand it and use it. But at least it made me realize that there is another source (World Bank data) that I could use in understanding the impact of telecenters in Assam.
The HDR from UNDP on Assam also had very useful information that is directly relevant to development efforts in Assam. Reviewing this report, I realized how many people are involved in producing a report like this and what serious consequences it has on the state's current performance, perception and future.
Ah well ... the data is there but I have to make sense of it at somepoint if I have to use it.
WDI Internship Day 1
I spent most of today trying to plan my trips and talking to people on the phone. As per schedule, I am leaving to Delhi on May 1st and returning to Chennai on May 14th. I have tickets on Indian Airlines and Air Sahara - but thats about all :)
I still have to coordinate a lot of tasks before I can be ready for the visits. The contact persons at both Drishtee and n-logue are extremely helpful and seem very excited about this study. I have to put some more structure so that I can deliver something concrete at the end of the study.
After speaking to Arvindd, it appears that to really understand the Drishtee kiosk operations from a social and business performance stand point, I would have to visit the kiosks in Assam ! But luckily, there are people at Drishtee in Assam who might be able to accompany me to at least 2 of the 6 kiosks that I might visit. This is a big relief because it would have been very difficult to visit kiosks on my own without knowing any Assamese or Bengali. Hopefully my broken Hindi might be of some use!
I also spoke to Elizabeth (n-logue) to schedule a meeting with her tomorrow. The people at n-logue and Drishtee seem to be working some long hours. My original perception that you might have more control on your schedule in the citizen sector is vanishing. However, n-logue and Drishtee are not really citizen sector - both are for-profit companies so I guess they are just like any other company in the corporate sector except they are providing services to empower people. Anyways, from speaking to Elizabeth, it appears that the week from May 23rd might work well to visit the n-logue Telemedicine kiosks since the kiosks under this model would have been in operations for a full 2 months by that time. These kiosks might be in Sivaganga (???) district I think. I also readily agreed to these kiosks since they will mean less (or local) travelling and also I would not have the language problem. Hopefully I can provide some concrete schedules to her in tomorrow's meeting.
I also got an email from Vineeta Sinha about the World Links operations in Delhi. Again it was a very enthusiastic email offering all help that I would need to collect information from the kiosks. She had also asked for what information I was looking for ... if only I knew :)
Looks like the first phase of the study would really begin in Assam ...
Assam seems to be a beautiful place with lots of nature getaways but there is also poverty and unrest. I was able to find a Human Development Report (HDR) on Assam from the UNDP website. It appears that Assam is one of the poorest states in the country in spite of several efforts by the state and central government to improve the quality of life there. Also, an important statistic is that 7 out of 8 people in Assam live in rural areas. I could not have asked for a better place to study the socio-economic impact of telecenters on communities.
But of course, before Assam, there is an opportunity to visit the World Links telecenters in Delhi ...
So perhaps I should be starting to gather some data and readings on Delhi and the World Links operations there. The case study could come in handy but there is contextual information (like the SI 501 contextual information) about communities, income and poverty levels, general education levels for which I might be able to find data online.
I should also finish the research draft for Mike and start writing some outline for both Drishtee and n-logue. It would be easier to produce the reports if I started the study with a rough draft.
NKS and Brown
I spent three weeks in June/July at the beautiful Brown University campus for the New Kind of Science summer school. Though we spent most of the time at Macmillan hall (our lecture and work center) or Machado house (our dorm) we ventured out a bit to see the campus and downtown Providence. I enjoyed my time there completely especially the company, the Saturday morning soccer and the conversations. I would strongly recommend anyone who is interested in Complex Systems and Wolfram's work to attend this conference ... the energy and camaraderie is extremely motivating.
You can find more information about the NKS Summer School 2005 and about my project at http://www.wolframscience.com/summerschool/2005/participants/
The Simple PHP Blog
I was able to find this blogging tool on sourceforge.net. Its really a very lean, hassle free, no-nonsense program that is easy to deploy and maintain. So I decided to consolidate and move all my blogs to this and host it on one site. Not that I had a huge fan following or many entries in my other blogs anyway. Some unique features of this blog include theme, color, categories selection, static page addition etc.
One drawback with the simple blog is that it does not allow you to pick the date as blogger does. This is a disadvantage for the "not so regular" bloggers like me who want to blog stuff once every 3 months but have several blogs to enter. Anyways ... who cares when I blog stuff ...
Risks of Online Auction
I heard some discussions around what the price of the most expensive item sold on eBay. I have some sources telling me that it was to the tune of $4.9 million (apparently a gulfstream II jet was sold online). eBay generated $8 Billion dollars in value of transactions with about 104 million registered users and 45.1 million active users. With such a high volume of users, trades, auctions and cash transactions, some questions that arise are
How safe are these transactions?How is identity theft prevented in online auctions?What resources are available to average buyers and sellers to guarantee a fair trade?Whose responsibility is it to ensure that fair trade happens and fraud is prevented?The last I know on this topic (something I heard from a leading online auction company employee) is that the onus of detecting fraud still lies in the hands of the user. As a buyer, I am expected to determine if a seller fraudently raised the prices (using a duplicate id or other means). I was told that users are quite smart these days and they figure out detailed information about frauds including originating IP address. I consider myself pretty computer savvy but I would still not be able to determine with any level of certainty whether I was (or was not) cheated on eBay, let alone tracing who was involved in the fraud.
So the only advice for online auction users (especially if you are going to buy your next gulfstream jet or your next home) is to find ways to verify that you are getting a fair trade in the transaction. Attached below are some resources including articles on online auction frauds and the FTC advisory!
Measuring Project Success
The way we measure success of projects has a lot to do with the issues of accountability and ethics in corporations today. How do we say projects are successful? Why do we say a project is complete when the project tasks are completed? Why is measuring the success of the project included in the list of project tasks? Corporations always complain about consultants who implement or make recommendations about projects but are not around to see if the project was successful. Why do such client organizations pay the consultants before measuring the success of the projects? Why are such measuring mechanisms included in the contracts?
To introduce ethical behavior, ownership and accountability, our fundamental approach to project management and measuring the success of projects should change. A project should not be marked complete till the success parameters (ROI, production improvements, savings, cost control, efficiency etc) meet the required criteria. Once a solution has been implemented, instead of saying the project is complete, the project should go into the critical phase of "Project Measurement". It is only at the end of this stage we can call the project complete and both celebrate the success of the project or measure the losses. Consulting companies and consultants should be paid after this stage. This approach will promote accountability and corporate ethics.
Below are some resources which describe project success measurement, tips for better measuring processes and factors affecting project success. Though most of these resources are quite valuable, not all of them prescribe project success measurement as a step in project management or as an ongoing exercise.
Project Management Partners
Tasmanian Government Project Management Guidelines
Tips from Technical Pathways
Advogato Project Management advice