Tech talk: Innovations for the next billion - Part III

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Continued from the previous article in this series. To read the previous part of this series, click



The need today is for disruptive innovations that become the bridges to cross the digital divide, which is pervasive in the developing countries of the world. This collection of innovations can bring about huge change and the creation of new markets.


Here’s the continuation of my list of innovations for the next billion.

4. Visual Biz-ic


For SMEs to start using computers for their business, they need to rethink their business processes. What is needed is a redesign of the way they do their business — keeping in mind the fact that every person in the organisation can now have access to a computer. SMEs need the equivalent of a "Visual Biz-ic", a library of business processes which they can assemble together, much like the way children put together creations out of Lego blocks and programmers craft their software via a development platform like Microsoft’s Visual Basic.

Visual Biz-ic is the mechanism SMEs can become intelligent, real-time, event-driven enterprises. It is also the environment which software developers use to quickly put together business objects relevant for specific industry verticals. Web services and business process standards offer the base to create loosely coupled representations of key business processes, which can then be assembled on demand by the managers in the enterprises.


This is how SMEs will reap the benefits in productivity which the larger enterprises have enjoyed over the past few years through IT and the Internet. The use of a single open-source database like PostgreSQL or MySQL, an application server like Jboss, a Java-based development environment like J2EE can complement, a user interface centred around a digital dashboard, integration with cellphones to provide real-time alerts of exceptions to provide the core around which a business process design platform like Visual Biz-ic can be constructed. Visual Biz-ic will thus fire up the independent, smaller software developers by giving them a complete foundation for using their knowledge of industry verticals to create specialised, reusable software that mirrors business processes.


5. Software Distribution Network

The big missing link in the value chain of software is the distribution network. It simply does not exist in most of the emerging markets. A mix of piracy and non-consumption has meant that there is little money to be made selling software. Buyers either find that they can get software at near-zero prices by simply copying it or that it is too expensive for them to consider using it. Concomitant with the need for affordable software solutions is the need for getting it from developers to the users.


There is a need to create the equivalent of the hardware industry’s distribution network for software. In fact, the inspiration needs to come from other industries like FMCG, entertainment and automobiles. There are three elements of the distribution network: a hub, which aggregates and commissions software development, the spokes, which are the local offices in cities and towns, and the server on the enterprise network as the final distribution point.

There is a need to educate users on how software can make a difference to what they do — both for personal productivity and for enterprise efficiency. It is the availability of affordable and packaged software that will convince users to make the investments in computers, creating a positive feedback cycle by getting more software developers as the domestic sales of computers rise. Hardware may have become commoditised and that is good for users. But software is the fuel which will propel usage and make technology a utility. If petrol pumps and roads were not ubiquitous, neither would be cars. Software too needs its distribution networks to connect the manufacturers to consumers.

To be continued. This is the third part of the article about innovations for the next billion.

About the author: Rajesh Jain is an enterpreneur from Mumbai. To read more of his writings and know more about him visit his blog