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Friday, February 18, 2011

Democracy in the age of the internet…

Democracy - a form of political organization in which all people, through consensus, direct referendum, or elected representatives exercise equal control over the matters which affect their interests. 

I was reading an interesting topic of discussion on Quora around whether or not Japanese girls were still the best predictor of future trends in technology. This question made me think about an interesting trend that I see which I refer to as the democratization of technology.

For years tomorrow's trends were found in the sea of neon of the Akihabara district in Tokyo, in the hands on hyper connected young women. One example is their pioneering use of SMS or text messaging as a communication method. Today I think next big thing lies in a very different demographic however. 

What I see technology trends being driven by a traditionally Luddite demographic. Yes, baby boomers.

The Nintendo Wii as a great example rode a wave of success built off a consumer base of seniors, women and other non gamers. Every day during my subway commute I see more and more people from my parents' generation playing Angry Birds or checking their email on an iPhone as well.

Apps are what pushed the iPhone in to the mainstream. They make software available to everyone without requiring a degree in computer science. Apps do two things incredibly well. First, they eliminate the hassles associated with installing and configuring traditional software. No media to worry about, no minimum specs, they just work. The other value of an app is the ability to focus specific content for a user. They clear away all the information clutter out there on the web. My mom's experience is an interesting example. She doesn't like using Google to search for information. Even with the algorithm they use to push the most relevant searches to the top, she finds the mere existence of ten thousand other options to be a headache. 

With an app all the information clutter is swept away. A restaurant finding app as an example gives my mom the ability to focus only on the information she wants - where to eat dinner. The app has removed what intimidated her most about the internet, too much information. The statistics show that she's not the only one.

In the world of B2B I see a similar trend of democratizing technology. The big buzzword of the day in that world is "cloud computing". I won't bother trying to define cloud since many have already done this. Instead I will state that I believe the value of the cloud is in empowering the little guys of the world to compete with the big guys.

Whether you're going to Amazon to subscribe to a server farm with no capital cost, or simply using Salesforce.com to manage your sales opportunities, all these services give small businesses and startups around the world access to infrastructure and applications formerly reserved only for massive corporations who had access to massive capital, and the time to build these complex systems. Now all you need is a credit card to subscribe to whatever infrastructure or applications you need freeing you up to focus on your core competency.

I find all this quite refreshing. By making technology more accessible, and importantly as accessibility becomes the driver of innovation we have made step in an exciting new direction…


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