Mar 20, 2009

15 million Africans are ready for work - Got Tasks?

I followed a twitter comment by Tim O'Reilly that quoted Nat Torkington saying "first 5 minutes redlined my awe-ometer."

So I just had to watch the video he was referring too, and the above screen-shot is how it ends. I know I spoiled the punch-line, but it's still worth watching so click the link and enjoy!

The presenter, Nathan Eagle, has started a service in Kenya and East Africa, called TextEagle, which allows mobile phone users to complete small tasks by SMS and get rewarded for it, in airtime or in credit. For a workforce living on $5/day and eager for more airtime, this works like a charm. Tasks include simple text translation services, local news reporting, and even listening to advertising!

This really is 'crowdsourcing' in action.

Mar 17, 2009

'The network is the computer' and 'the client plus the cloud'

I just read a very interesting article at computerworld, an interview with Craig Mundie of Microsoft, where he talks about the future of computing, and references some presentations he recently made. The article is titled "Microsoft's next big thing", which is a pity because it colours an otherwise interesting read with an overly self-congratulating attitude.

Craig described the future of computing as being 'the client plus the cloud', which reminded me very strongly of Sun's slogan 'the network is the computer' (originally coined by John Gage). Jonathan Swartz blogged specifically about 'the network is the computer' back in 2006, and gave a nice realistic picture about cloud computing, grids, and how both the average end user and corporate IT environments view and interact with these systems. Sun was, of course, announcing the imminent launch of their own commodity grid, Later that year Amazon launched the public beta of it EC2, which made a final release in late 2008. While Sun has not yet made the final release of their grid, many others have. It is clear that visionaries from these various companies have been on the right track for quite some time.

But, as Mr Mundie himself admitted, timing and market readiness are a very important aspect of the adoption of new computing paradigms. And according to him the future paradigm is all about the balance between the client (desktop OS) and the cloud (grids, the internet, etc.) He is absolutely right. And it is easy to be right when you are not predicting the future but observing the present. Aside from Jonathan's 2006 blog, we all know just how successful cloud computing, and commodity clouds like Amazon EC2 in particular, have become. Everyday internet services like google, yahoo, facebook and linkedin are all products of the success of the cloud. We are not about to undergo a paradigm shift, we have been in the transition for some time, and many, many vendors have jumped onto this particular train, including Microsoft, of course, with their 'Azure' grid.

While Mr Mundie may be a little off track about just how important Microsoft is to this new paradigm, one thing I must give him credit for is in making the whole subject much more interesting and enjoyable to read about. In particular his video presentation had the 'cool' factor usually associated with a Steve Jobs presentation.