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While researching how web 2.0 technology can be used to help educate farmers about improving farming in Fiji, I came across this article in the New York Times. It’s a look at a team of Microsoft researchers in India who ‘approach the technology of emerging markets in unconventional ways’.
One project referred to as Digital Green, centers around using digital media to teach small farmers in the Indian state of Karnataka about sustainable agriculture techniques.
The article goes on to point out:
In the end, Microsoft’s best intentions may not satisfy what locals want. The company surveyed 8,000 people in emerging markets and found their most pressing needs for technology often revolved around entertainment and surfing the Internet.
“It reinforced for us that the emerging middle classes are sort of like the middle classes here except they don’t have as much money,” Mr. Toyama said. “It’s sometimes easy for us to get caught up in things and forget we are serving the needs of real people.”
The middle class everywhere likes to be entertained. This is a particular challenge and we have to wonder if ‘edu-tainment’ is up for the job. It’s difficult to talk to people about microfinance and sustainable agriculture when they’re trying to find the latest bollywood download. Still, with their ‘farmers idol’ approach Digital Green has found a way to get villagers to participate in the creation of instructional videos which then are received with much greater enthusiasm by others in the village. Viral marketing hits the village.
Increasing PC penetration in emerging economies looks to be within real reach with announcement from India. One of the largest telcos there, Reliance, is offering a free netbook computer for customers who sign up for a two-year wireless internet agreement. Read the story from GigaOm here:
This application of the wireless industry business model (subscription) to the computing business means that we may finally see computer penetration go up in emerging economies. It is not easy for people to buy expensive computers in the emerging economies, but these smaller netbooks that can be attached to a keyboard, mouse and a monitor can help overcome those barriers.