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The World is Flat-ter
Dina Mehta, 13 May 05

Bill at SkypeJournal shares these thoughts :

"The New York Times Op-Ed Columnist THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, and author of The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century,(a very good read, by the way) tells a great story in his column today "Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio? as he continues his rant on Americia's failure to meet foriegn competition :

"I helped teach a course at Harvard last semester on globalization, and one day a student told me this story: He was part of a student-run collaboration between students in the U.S. and China. The American and Chinese students had recently started working together by using Skype, ... But what was most interesting, the student told me, was that it was the Chinese students who introduced their U.S. counterparts to Skype. And, he noted, these Chinese students were not from major cities, like Beijing, but from smaller towns."

How many of you have similar Skype stories? How has Skype made your world more flat? ...... "

Checking in from Mumbai India. I've introduced Skype to two of my clients in the US, and several friends in the UK, the US and Australia. Just yesterday I spoke with a cousin in Vancouver who was telling me how much she loves it, and how she got a friend in England to download it and how they talk for hours and hours, something they didn't do for over 20 years !

Developing world leapfrogging the 'developed' world :). The world IS flat, and getting smaller. In the same article, Friedman says:

"In recent years, though, with the flattening of the global playing field, it should be apparent that we are not just competing against ourselves. The opening of China, India and Russia means that young people in these countries can increasingly plug and play - connect, collaborate and compete - more easily and cheaply than ever before. And they are. We, alas, are still coasting along as if we have all the time in the world."

Alex has a message in her analysis of excerpts she's read on the book :"His overall thesis seems to be that since there are intelligent, skilled people throughout the world, and broadband has made global interconnectedness real, the skills needed to do almost any work can be found anywhere, and employed from anywhere. There is a message for those of us in the US about education and skill training, but I also think there are some exciting possibilities. Rather than worry about how jobs might go overseas, I like thinking about how we work collaboratively with colleagues around the world."

And here's an interesting perspective on Horizontal Classrooms:

"Command and control is "dead man walking." It will not survive in a world that is no longer built on command and control relationships. And our students will not be prepared for their futures if we continue to hold on to it."

The recent activity on the web after the tsunamis is such a great example of the symbiotic relationship this flat world, enabled by social tools, can encourage. There was a lot of activity on the ground in Asia, and the 'developed' nations gave it a voice.

There are those who like Mr. Friedman and those who don't, but there's no denying that the world is getting flat, and the internet and social tools are playing such a huge role in this. Just a small example - today, there are farmers in rural India who have unlimited access to trading prices for crop in Seattle. ITC, the company running the e-Choupal models plans to cover 1,00,000 villages in the next two years.

I'm going to spend the next week deep in small villages in north India. Will keep my eyes and ears open for more signs !

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I was introduced to Skype by a friend in British Columbia, whose workplace (a non-profit) is now fully Skype-enabled (Skyped? what would be the term for that?). Interesting to me is the social attitude behind the leapfrog aspect - in the US, it sometimes appears as though, once people reach a level of comfort, theres not much impetus toward innovation unless its conspicuous consumption/status related. i.e. a Prius is socially visible, while your choice of phone service is not. whereas, other nations seem not so hung up on the social aspects of consumption - do what works, leapfrog, dont just be complacent. coasting along? well, yeah, sort of...

Posted by: katuah on 14 May 05



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