[iDC] Documentary: The Next Web

Guido Sohne guido at sohne.net
Tue May 29 21:25:56 EDT 2007

On 5/29/07, Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten <boris at fleck.com> wrote:
> We asked them the following basic questions:
> 1: How are you influencing or building the Next Web?
> 2: What will be a problem for the future of the Next Web? What will
> be the next bottlenecks?
> 3: Will people keep investing time and effort in services if they
> don't get a financial reward? And if so, why?
> 4: Will the web (your company) become more like traditional media
> companies or will traditional media companies turn to the web?
> 5: What do you think is the Next big thing on the web?

I haven't seen the documentary yet, but I would like to venture some
notes I made thinking about Web 2.0 in Africa. I would be interested
to find out what overlaps with their thoughts.

Web 2.0 in Africa

 - challenges are non trivial
 - barriers -> awareness, capabilities, resources, connections
 - estimate we are ten years behind. more in other areas, less in other areas

 - awareness: low but growing awareness of opportunities and possibilities
 - capabilities: labor pool is too small and fragmented. imposes a
scaling barrier.
   - skilled creative labor is hard to find. hard to retain.
 - resources: little or no vc. expensive bandwidth. pipes aren't fat enough.
 - connections: linkages missing, such as e-commerce. no payment
process, no commerce.
   - bandwidth is tight. becomes difficult for high bandwidth
applications such as with video
   - internet exchange points still developing, and not yet locally interlinked
   - API hooks missing. telephone, banking and commerce sector
linkages are largely inaccessible

 - easiest and most common solution is to outsource infrastructure
   - host elsewhere (web hosting, dns, mail servers)
   - services elsewhere (web mail, search, discussions, content)
   - people elsewhere (entrepreneurs, sysadmins, coders, specialists)

 - mismatch in demand and supply. remote services are coming in to
provide value and profit from opportunities that are created by wide
usage of the applications delivered.

 - local services simply aren't keeping up. but local services is what
local businesses need and so we have people in the loop, because
people are people everywhere and we have companies out of the loop
because they can't find enough people to do the services that they
need. or they don't even know what they need ... or they can't sell
what they have, or buy what they need electronically

 - can be mitigated with a strong focus and investment in training
people, best long term strategy. there's a need for more investment
from elsewhere, that can help create the incentives and markets needed
to sustain a high tech ecosystem but this is the last place many
people think of when they are first creating a solution

 - tropically tolerant systems. that take into account the extra
constraints that may be faced by people here. what do you do when
electricity becomes problematic? you go solar. and if there is no
bandwidth? you become off line capable. you develop the ability to
mesh with others and reach bandwidth that way. it looks like a
completely different evolutionary path, a new way of doing things.

 - funnily enough offline support is starting in Firefox 3. solarnet
(by gnuveau) is  creating solar powered clusters that can seat seven
people for a full working day together with internet connectivity. no
electricity needed. ever. semacode and other 2d barcode technologies
are working on tagging atoms with some bits.

 - these are glimpses of a very different future, maybe the next
evolution of the way  we use our electronic interconnectivity. the web
browser is maturing into a rich client and the PC is maturing into a
laptop and a capable cell phone. and with  Apple's iPhone coming as
well, we can see the direction this may take.

 - to solve the problems here Web 2.0 isn't good enough, you need Web
"3.0" running  on Mobile "3.0" ... so in a sense if we are able to get
our act together with respect  to human resources, capital, business
models we may wind up with a decent head start over the slower,
different evolutionary path than we see now. I'm guessing applications
are going to have to be a lot richer than what we get in the browser.
first to reduce round tripping (multiple request/response cycles for
each transaction step) and second because having a smaller screen
makes you have to do more with less and third because phones are
inherently far more personal and consumer oriented than a PC; they
need rich media and a compelling user experience. just take a look at
what the ipod does ...

Hope you find it interesting ...

-- G.

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