(this post is the summary for my presentation at the Münchener Kreis on May 12th, 2009 in Berlin)
Emerging countries are developing an increasingly supportive infrastructure to bring more and more people out of poverty: A marketplace for social businesses, extended reach of social services and widespread Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The three “basic interventions” for sustainable improvement the Noble Price laureate Muhammad Yunus calls out. This lecture focuses on the enabling function of ICT and its impact on social businesses, social services and innovation.
ICT is becoming widely available throughout the world, including rural areas of emerging countries such as China, India and even Africa. Mobile telecommunications nowadays covers nearly all people in South Africa and already more than one quarter of the population in one of the poorest countries on Earth, Bangladesh.
Microfinance provides hundreds of millions of loans to people that are not served by normal financial institutions, creating local entrepreneurship and sparking a local economy.
This is a highly promising foundation for the developing world.
Unfortunately, this foundation is only rudimentary as it lacks a critical element for long term improvement: Scalability. Trying to overcome this situation with traditional solutions is expensive, slow and short of any innovation.
Fortunately, a new computing model has emerged that fundamentally transforms one of these “basic interventions” and makes IT in general more accessible, affordable and – most importantly – more scalable: Cloud Computing. Based on a Dynamic Infrastructure that is standardized, highly automated and centrally managed cloud services provide IT-as-a-Service; faster, simpler and cheaper than ever before. Using Cloud Computing and applying its principles is already transforming social business and social services around the world to overcome the lack of affordable scalability: Microfinance institutions in India and Latin America use standardized backend services from a cloud-based processing hub, cities in China provide a cloud-based innovation infrastructure to local entrepreneurs and African hospitals collaborate using a cloud-based open education system to provide medical instructions to the broad population via mobile phones. All of these services require a minimum of locally deployed IT, configuration efforts and maintenance expenses. And they all have inherently affordable scalability in common.
In summary, the opportunity to leverage ICT to gain widespread access to affordable services is hindered by a foundation that lacks scalability. Business-as-usual cannot be the solution to this problem. With Cloud Computing emerging countries can leapfrog generations of traditional ICT and create an environment where results are sustainable and can be reached much faster, simpler and cheaper.