Knowledge around the world

To start the new year I’m linking to a couple of pieces on the BBC website: both are relevant to technology as a tool for developing knowledge globally, and both have elements of discussion of technology in the developing world, something that I can see generating a lot of interest this year.  One is an account of the emergence of knowledge transfer networks showing how some of the issues surrounding management of innovation are played out in practice.  My one (important) disagreement with the piece is that I don’t think the reference to Swindon as a centre for knowledge should cause any surprise.  Not only is it the base for the UK operations of Intel and Honda, and the centre for a somewhat unsuccessful experiment with the Mondex smartcard during the 1990s, but as the town’s excellent steam museum reminds us, it grew up in the nineteenth century as a technological centre for the Great Western Railway.

Meanwhile, the BBC also reports on the development of a tablet/touch screen device aimed at the developing world.  It’s a development of the one laptop per child project which aims to deliver chunky, colourful, and reliable machines for a target price of US$100 apiece.  At first sight, this seems some way from the original, low-technology, ideas behind the hundred dollar laptop, but in fact it’s a neat example of adapting to a new trend which nobody really anticipated.  Remember that two years ago if you spoke about a tablet computer, you were referring to a conventional laptop with a swivelling screen, aimed at a niche market.  And the demand for affordable devices in the developing world has everything to do with the increase in wireless connectivity, which in turn fits with the sort of switch between wired and wireless connections that Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of one laptop per child, was writing about many years ago.


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