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web 2.0 for development


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Vertical geography: the next frontier

If the question is “what do you see in the near future of the web?” my answer is for sure: “I see the explosion of vertical geography”. Nonetheless, while writing this post, I’m sure the value and the relevance of “Vertical Geography” have not been generally perceived yet.

But I want to add more details to my statement. As a consequence of the launch and spreading of GoogleMaps, I saw a new science taking place. In my mind, I call it “vertical geography” because it offers the ability to store data and content on a map, adding a vertical layer of information over the traditional horizontal one.

Since Google opened its service, many things changed for geography but I see the best yet to come. At the beginning (February 2005), GoogleMaps appeared to be a sort of  “exercise”, a geeky tool for the web surfers, who could have fun waiving through the maps of cities, vacation places and meetings. The real power of the tool was not clear at that time. But now, GoogleMaps is no more a simple gadget of our websites. With millions of information stored in its graphical layers of seas and mountains, it makes a totally different sense: it adds a new dimension to geography and our knowledge. Being passionate for geography, I perceive this power coming out powerfully.

Thanks to GoogleMaps we have a fully new approach to the way we mentally and physically organize and propose a bulk of information. By definition, a vast majority of the data we store in our minds is ideally connected with some places on planet Earth (and not only there but also on Mars, the Sun, Jupiter!). Adding generic details about data location can be the first step to localize them. Placing data on a map is the next big step ahead. This process happens because giving a visual approach is a tremendous help for recognition and storing of the information.

Commercial activities are the ones which immediately, and more than everyone else, benefits of the vertical dimension. But they are not alone. The possibility to create new virtual services is huge and only a small part has been explored and exploited till now.

Some examples? Download and launch Google Earth. Have a look at the left-hand menu of layers to switch on and off. What do you see? A lot! From hotels to restaurants, from hospitals to B&Bs, from charities to international organizations. Almost everyone wants to be placed somewhere on Earth! The recent explosion of location-based social networking like foursquare and gowalla (Google and facebook replied with Latitude and places) give us the taste of what we can see in the near future. Moreover, thanks to mobile devices, interaction is becoming mobile itself. While walking around the city everyone becomes a source of information and, at the same time, an information seeker.

So we come to the next big step. We have been talking until now of human beings and their activities. But what if also inanimate objects would have tags, labels, signals, voices and a digital soul? What if walking around I could receive messages from the world surrounding me? I would be living in the Augmented Reality: a world where interacting with matter is much more developed than today. Where I would be fully communicating with everything around myself.

A vast scenario is still to come and it is closer than it seems to be. My doubts are related to the way we will be able to manage and filter such an amount of information. Search engines, which solved the problem at the beginning of the Web, won’t be enough. We need something more active than passive: an active tool which pre-digest information in order to create a good-size information bulk that we can later manage. I’m still not sure what these tools will be like.


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Convergence is almost here, somewhere!

first mileIFAD organized an interesting workshop to learn more on the results of the First Mile Project. I really suggest to read here the details of the project because the methodology is quite interesting.

meeting ifadOne of the aspects I found particularly interesting is the fact that the whole activity started on a KM project called LinkingLocalLearners, above which a sophisticated commercial activity was built on. Another key point of the project is the massive use of the cellphones and Internet technologies to manage commodity prices in three East African countries: Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

At the end of the morning I had a question for Ueli, my fellow friend of KM4DEV list:

Connection among partners

“In this interesting communication/business chain (have a look at the image on the left), do you see a place for rural radios to become IBM (Information Business Manager) and use their communication capacity to promote the business model?”

For my experience, I’m really sure that radios, as communication centres, could be perfect partners of this mechanism: on one side, they have all the requisites to do properly the job of market analysis and prices communication. On the other side, thanks to their advanced communication skills and resources, radios could help the mechanism with additional support like: organizing live training, collecting feedback and news, broadcasting the prices of commodities, offering distance learning, etc.

So doing, the “tools triangle” (radio, Internet, mobile phones) would be closed!


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Prices are going down. Are we ready to exploit new possibilities?

iPhone 2Last year we discussed about the value of the iPhone and the most common doubts were about the price of the device. Yesterday Mr jobs launched the version 2 of his jewel and ops!!!, now the price is right!! The suggested price is now 199 USD, that is to say around 130 EUR. It was 499 USD last year…

In the meantime, almost half of the population of the world has a mobile phone. The numbers are incredible and the increasing rate is astonishing: 3,3, billion subscribers (this number does not indicate the number of people but the number of lines). The first billion was reached 4 years ago and the second billion, only 2 years ago!

I really think we have to start thinking about the ways to move our applications and competencies to mobile. And I see that other influential people agree on this idea!

We have to re-think communication in terms of mobile devices, instant and everywhere access. The idea is that we will be able to exchange (information in my case) everywhere and in every moment. Are we ready to exploit this possibility? So far, haven’t we been too much conservative due to the lack of connectivity for PCs? have been our applications planned with the possibility to be delivered through mobile phones, as well?

I hope so. I don’t think so. I want to work on this from now on!

p.s. iPhone is the hardware AND Android, the software, is coming out pretty soon. I see so much in front of us!!!


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The week of videos

Last week was a continuous discovering of interesting videos. Have a look at:

  1. TED Talks – Howard Rheingold: Way-new collaboration
  2. DLD08 – Day3 – Generation web on sevenload.com
  3. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns

p.s.: unfortunately it is a bit problematic to embed them in this post, so you have to follow the links…


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Are we close to the end of the bubble?

Always more and more people talk a lot about the bubble. Maybe the money facebook is able to absorb from the market is a tangible example…

To me, the great difference between now and the early 2000 is that today only some companies are close to crash while at that time most of the start-ups were close to collapse. And this shows the solidity of the Net today.

Let’s see what will happen.