ICEarth - Information Community Earth - Conceptual Framework - normALST 02/07/01: The Emergence of “Info Mediated Enterprise”
One of today’s most critical global imperatives is "universal access." In our world’s now thoroughly computerized, internetworked economic, social and cultural environment, all people must have access to like information technology (IT) tools, resources and capabilities. As access becomes increasingly universal, exciting interpersonal dynamics become possible; like distant learning, telemedicine, virtual community, and 'infomediation,' a core interest of this document that enables the other dynamics listed before and many still to be seen on our virtual horizons.
The concept underlying infomediation is that an individual should 'own' his or her own data and that only trusted parties should broker individuals’ data as allowed and authorized by the individual. Recent IT developments like the explosive growth of the Internet, maturation of wireless technologies, increasing deployment of extensible markup language (XML), Microsoft’s development of a .net (DotNet) philosophy, and the emergence of application service providers (ASPs) indicate 'infomediation' will rapidly become a big part of all our lives. Consider how it may impact yours.
In an InfoMediated Enterprise (I/ME) environment, when my daughter Kylie was born last year a database or map of known, standardized, internetworked databases of her information would have been established for her and included all her personal, legal, governmental, financial and medical records (actually, it would have been established in-uterus and included her ultrasounds, mother's tests, etc.). Her data would have been linked to mine, my parents', her mother's, etc. As she grew and lived, her databases would grow and live and include all her personal learning data, writings, photos, diaries, etc. Only she and her guardians, and government authorities as mandated by law, would have authority over and access to her data and most related access to and transactions with her data would be mediated by trusted parties assigned by the owners. These infomediaries would connect her data to the othside world, for what purpose was acceptable and specifically authorized.
When medical issues surfaced, medical providers would access her databases (which would actually contain all her correct medical records, images, etc.) and to the extent new records developed they would be added to her files (and linked to her relatives’ records). Access would be allowed only as needed for appropriate care giving, diagnosis, research and lifesaving purposes as she, her guardians and established precedent allowed. These medical data transactions would be managed by specialized, trusted ASPs established specifically for such purposes – of which there would be many.
When she starts school (or more accurately 'learning' - increasingly by computer), her learning data would be activated and grow. As she was tested, results would be added. As schools and teachers reported on her progress, those reports would be added. As she misbehaved in school, so her official record would show. As she developed learning work products, from book reports to a PhD thesis, they would have a permanent electronic home. Access would be allowed for her, her guardians, schools to which she applied and attended, and even potential employers she opted-in. Specialized eEducation ASPs and hubs will coordinate these processes.
Throughout her life, she may include personal photos and videos, already largely created in digitized format. She may keep a private diary, active from her earliest writings through her death. She may add poetry. She may include works of art and other creative expressions, whether scanned or increasingly made digitally through developments of enhanced, expressive information technologies. She may include voice notations, allowing her to allow others to hear her words, in her voice, from throughout her lifetime, and her great, great grandchildren may some day be lulled to sleep to her voice reading one of her favorite children’s stories. Shortly, she may be able to include a three-dimensional representation of her self that could preserve her presence in various states of time to share with future generations – in her christening gown, graduation robes, wedding gown, death shroud. She would have all this to have and to hold. Throughout her life, she may offer access to some or all of these digital expressions to friends and relatives and she may will them to her heirs to keep her personal expressions and expressive process alive for generations to come. I wish my grandmothers and grandfathers and theirs had been able to do that for my family to experience today and forever. ASPs, perhaps developed by traditional imaging companies like Kodak or created from scratch, will drive and manage this expressive evolution.
If she develops products, ideas, images, stories, articles, books, games, videos and music to sell, she will have a store from which to market them and as optimal as possible a marketplace where they can be sold. This is where infomediation will most immediately offer her traditional models for commercial enterprise. If she has good stories, books and articles to share, she may self-publish, as Stephen King recently did, and infomediaries, like in his case Amazon.com, will make it possible for people to find her work and compensate her for its value if that is her sharing requirement. If she makes available her original music, she can freely distribute it by providing access to napster and gnutella type applications or sell it via ASPs specialized in on-line music commerce, of which there will be increasingly many. Even if she has things to sell that are not innately digital, like masks she carves or trees in her backyard, infomediaries will provide the markets and help her establish her optimal commercial values and perfect the transactions.
When Kylie starts developing a financial identity, with money she is given and earns, it will increasingly exist entirely in electronic form, recorded in her financial databases. All her wealth and debt will be clearly defined and she will always have available a current balance sheet of her networked worth. She will have a credit rating and line established based on her actual financial where withal and her bills, payments and debts will automatically be debited. She will have no need for traditional ‘credit cards’ but American Express and VISA may still exist as ASPs to monitor her finances and broker her transactions. Chase Bank and other ASPs are already providing personal financial data aggregating services so this scenario is right around the corner. There will be no ‘credit rating’ services, as her credit worthiness will be based on her actual finances, as defined by her accurate financial data thereinafter found only at the source
When she is pulled over for speeding, the police will scan her fingerprints and access her correct data from one central enforcement database system (this is already viable and, correctly or not, is happening). Even more likely, her vehicle will contain a ‘black box’ linked to global positioning satellite (GPS) systems, as recently introduced by Progressive Insurance in Texas, and she will automatically be fined when she speeds, the fees will be deducted from her financial databases, her insurer will be notified and rates increased, and she will very quickly learn to safely drive the speed limit. Speed kills, and people will stop speeding. Computers will soon learn the characteristics of drunk drivers, and their cars will automatically be disabled. I don’t want Kylie driving drunk, so I won’t mind her having an effective deterrent. Whether she’s the potential drunk or victim, IT could soon save her life and I’ll sleep better when she heads off to college, as this will be reality long before then. ‘Big Brother?’ Maybe. Whether an eye in the sky or a black box under the hood, we’re all being watched constantly already, so the system might as well be fair, reasonable and accurate. Rather than put this technological force in the hands of the police, let us choose ASPs to monitor our driving, enforce such basic laws and civil behavior, and escalate problems to police attention only for the truly problematic, like chronic drunk drivers, as they should be stopped for all our safety and well being.
In a perfect world, her data will only live in her databases - no credit bureaus, no FBI files, no psychiatric files scattered about doctor's offices, just one stop, reliable, confidential sourcing. She will opt-in or out as fits her needs, lifestyle and, of course, government mandate (which they will). All data will grow with her over her lifetime and survive after her death. What happens to it after then will be determined in her last will and testament.
Infomediation will pay for itself and make individuals (and technology and application services providers) money. For example, if Kylie maintains a database of her personal preferences, perceptions and buying activities (e.g. what products she buys and likes, her opinions on movies, her favorite Internet resources) that have market value (which for all people they do) she can sell that data to those that care (and the people developing products and services do care what we think). If she allows detergent companies to know her preferred brand of detergent, by allowing them access to her grocery store buying data now locked in the stores IT, they can offer to buy her business through eCoupons for their brands that will be integrated into her preferred stores information and register systems – never hitting paper but worth much in savings. Perhaps they’ll just send her free samples. In any case, she will be compensated. Companies like Nielsen may still exist, but we will own our preference data and they will become ASPs that will work for us rather than the other way around.
For all these concepts to work, we only need effective data management technologies/services/capabilities, common standards, and fair, reliable, secure brokering/access processes, which we have today and is why all these ASP models are rapidly developing. This InfoMediation revolution will put many powerful businesses out-of-business require survivors to realign their business practices, and offer entrepreneurs and established enterprises a wealth of new opportunities to prosper by doing IT right. An eRevolution has begun and for Kylie and the rest of us the realignment of individuals' data ownership, management and rights represents a new world of great opportunity.
Where are the battlegrounds for this eRevolution? At the home and by air, land and sea. Consider Kylie’s father - I'm an IT (Information Technology) have, to an extreme. I've an old but effective desktop PC, a state of the art laptop, DSL, dial-up, a cellular phone with data capabilities, all the latest and greatest applications, and the Internet and private domains for expressing myself and reaching all that is on-line. I can push to and pull from the Internet and well know how. I'm ultrawired and so will be Kylie.
Perhaps I'd rather not have any of this for her or me. I'd like to live in a low tech world, work with my hands, hunt and gather my food, and spend quiet mornings, days and evenings conversing face to face with friends and family, but that is not of my time and place and barring some global disaster not in the course of Kylie’s and my future times. So, we must make the best of IT, which will be much better than how it is utilized today.
As the world has become decidedly high tech, we must all be at the leading - even bleeding edge. I will make certain my friends and family are there with me today, and paradigms beyond in the future. As I consider every man, woman and child a friend, I want you all aboard for the ride.
Are there simple people still in the world who are better-off low tech, unconnected and ITless? No. To be so is to be excluded from what has become a decidedly global society and so economy. As a simple 'tribesman' sits in his hut in the Highlands of New Guinea, without electricity not to mention Internet access, global enterprises mine the copper beneath his land and clear the trees above and sell his natural resources over their private 'Intranets' at top dollar on their spot markets.
Should the tribesman care? His land's copper and trees are gone and he didn't benefit well, so yes. Would access to IT help him better his lot in life? Yes. If the people of less developed nations (and even less developed segments of developed nations) know the value of their resources through neutral ASPs in interconnected markets, resource holders can use information technologies to market their resources at more optimal levels. IT is helping 'tribesmen' of many tribes in every corner of the world balance the global economic playing field - for the first time in history.
That is the point of developing Universal Social Enterprise Information Technologies (USEIT). If we accept that the world is one interconnected marketplace, as it now is, we must view all people as members of a universal social enterprise where anyone excluded from IT resources is exploited. They are denied optimal virtual community. They are denied optimal education. They are denied optimal economy and income opportunities. They are denied the optimal value of their natural resources. In today's enlightened world, that is unacceptable.
The assumption of USEIT is that in today's universal social environment all people should be treated equally. They should all be as wired as am I. Of course, that means they must have electricity (ideally ‘green,’ of course - which is becoming increasingly realistic), and they must have internetworked-communications (a combination of wired and wireless technologies will be necessary), and they must have well standardized information technologies and application capabilities (Bill Gates et. al. will agree with that), and they must have InfoMediated Enterprise (I/ME), and access to neutral infomediators and ASPs. Only then, no one can be exploited. If one chooses to opt out, more power to them. But, no one should be opted out, as is the case for most of our world's people today.
What or who will pay for all of this? The once exploited, now enterprising tribesmen of the world through their higher productivity and optimized commercial enterprise. Sure, some enterprises, kings and princes will have to share some wealth - there is more than enough global wealth to go around.
To allow people to leverage universal access, I/ME, and USEIT, we need to put all people in synch with today’s optimal economic opportunities. To see where all individuals fit into the evolving global economic system, consider some perspectives from a May/June 2000 Harvard Business Review article titled "Syndication: The Emerging Model for Business in the Internet Era," which puts good terms and understanding around very real and important global business developments for us all.
Using the authors' terminology, anyone developing enterprise in an internetworked environment can be an 'originator' (which means they create original content), a 'syndicator' (which means they package content and manage relationships between originators and distributors), and a 'distributor' (which means they deliver content to consumers).
In my words:
As an originator, I can use the internet to sell whatever I create or have the right to sell; pictures, ideas, buying preferences, opinions, songs, masks I carve, diamonds I dig, and the trees in my backyard (this takes the model beyond HBR's intent, as I must).
If I want to sell my trees, I want to be a creator of tree transactions and could put a sign in my front yard proclaiming "trees for sale" and hope a logger happens by, or I could post a notice on the internet with the same compelling message. Unfortunately, even though my Internet 'for sale' sign may be accessible to 30+ million potential customers, the odds of a logger stumbling over my lone sign in cyberspace are about as remote as a logger driving by my front yard. Even if one does lumber by, under today's circumstances I'm unlikely to receive the best price in such a remote, closed market because I probably don’t know what they are optimally worth.
That is where a syndicator offers value. In a simple model in place today, I could use the Internet to auction my trees to the highest bidder. While e-bay may not offer a good market for my trees, some syndicator probably already does or should/will. All I need to find is the best tree syndicator. Considering the $600 billions spent on wood products world-wide each year, someone should want to take a cut of my action by helping me sell them and, like me, they will want the best price offering them the best cut.
An effective internet tree syndicator will offer me applications and capabilities to promote and market my trees to all the people and organizations that want to buy them - loggers, paper companies, nurseries, landscapers, gardening and firewood burning individuals, and even mask carvers as the case may be. To whoever buys trees, I want my syndicator to 'package' mine for me to sell in the optimal marketplace under optimal terms.
The syndicator needs to work effectively with distributors, who get the word out about my trees to the best markets and buyers. If I have mature, paper yielding trees, I want the distributor to get word out to Champion paper and all their competitors. If I have dead firewood trees, I want to reach loggers in my area selling firewood or, if I'll cut them, to wood-burners. If I have dogwood saplings, I want to reach gardeners, nurseries, and landscapers in my region and, if they ship well, even worldwide. For all these markets, I may use the same syndicator and basic applications, but my distribution networks to consumers will be very different.
As such, I want to be part of the optimal 'community' of tree syndicators and distributors to market to the optimal buyers, whatever they may be. I want to reach my highest possible Syndicated Community Horizons. My community may be local – all the tree owners in my area – or global – tree owners world-wide – and via internetworking they are all members of a virtual eTree community seeking their peak value horizon.
Consider the tribesman in New Guinea. Today, the logger comes to his village and offers to remove his trees for a dollar a tree (actually, he probably buys the land out from under the tribe and ten others for a dollar per acre, but now we're talking real estate - which we eventually should). Without optimal SynCH, a cheap deal is cut, the logger exploits the originator and pays as little as possible (as it's been done for centuries), and cuts the trees, floats them down river, and the tribe’s natural resources are gone forever. Welcome to today's marketplace, third world.
Under a USEIT model with SynCH, the tribesman would turn the logger away, having syndicated his trees to a fair bidder at market rate. With an effective syndicator and optimal SynCH, the deal the tribesman cut would probably even require a nonexploitative logger to plant new saplings to ensure more trees, natural resources and revenues for future tribal generations. This is the optimal paradigm and it is not remotely like the closed, exploitative market for most tribesmen of today. Hopefully it will be the model for all tribesmen in the near future – in many tribes it is already developing.
Conceptual Framework - normALST - 02/07/01
To reach optimal SynCH, individuals must have access to and embrace an Information Technology Syndicated Life (ITSLife). Rather than living in a closed world and economic environment, tribesmen to the most remote tribes must have access to optimal IT services and capabilities and use them effectively. Is this too much to ask? No - it is happening in the most remote areas of the world to optimal results everyday.
Consider a recent feature in the NYTimes on a small village in China using the Internet to optimize their market selling the processing of sheepskins, and making their village and its' people prosperous in the process. Before the Internet reached their community, they received far below optimal market opportunities and were isolated from the global economy and greater 'virtual community.' In a few years with the Internet and IT in hand, they've expanded every aspect of their lives - they receive higher prices for their products, sell much more product to a global marketplace, teach their children, and participate in a global society. All they needed to realize these great advances was ITSLife.
Is there any segment of society too primitive, remote or worthless to deserve such opportunity? No. So, what is holding back this better model of ITSLife?
To succeed, we need to move toward universal access - first by tribe and then to the individual level. We need to embrace standards for simple, cheap technologies, access, applications and services that make IT viable to the least educated segments of our societies, and then use ITSLife to bring all people to a higher level - teaching them about and through IT.
Some of this will happen literally overnight -people able to use and leverage ITSLife will immediately leverage IT the day it arrives in their village. If I take an Internet enabled computer with access running a few simple, valuable syndicated applications to a remote village in Tanzania, as I intend to do, the tribesmen will immediately start selling their products and resources at a far more optimal level than they can today. Their children and less sophisticated people will quickly start working with the new capabilities to experience the greater world offered therethrough and learn in the process. Illiteracy will go from 80% to 0% as quickly as access is expanded and optimized - probably in a matter of very few years. AIDS will slowly be eradicated.
Will they lose their cultural identities as an outcome? More likely they will strengthen it, share it with the world, and survive and prosper in the process.
Reality has shown we should expect the best for all those who have access to ITSLife and their societies. If there are any among us who wish to prevent that from being the reality for any people, we must be concerned about their individual motives and interests as they are not in synch with optimal SynCH
Consider the currently hot issue of eMusic. Many musicians have started self-publishing their work via the Internet. They digitize their music, or create it electronically, making it their Individual Data, and they either distribute it freely, sell access, or provide samples encouraging Internetworked listeners to purchase CDs or other things and services they originate. In this evolving industry, individuals increasingly use IT to leverage their ID for personal commercial enterprise. They retain their own rights to their own data and manage how it will be used, and they receive the benefits.
Consider people who shop at the grocery stores using their ‘shopper cards.’ The stores scan their individual data and all shopping data, establishing market trend data of value to the stores and their suppliers. This data has significant value, as it allows product developers to measure buyer trends and preferences, down to the individual buyer. Nielsen compiles similar user specific data from television viewers to establish its ratings system, which has significant market value. All this data is sourced from individual product users, yet individuals do not share in profits generated. By linking this ID to individuals’ preference databases, individuals could be adequately compensated, and all people could participate in the surveying process ensuring more honest and representative results. As such, you would be paid for shopping, and watching television, and going to movies. And the products you bought, shows you watched, and movies you sat through would better suit your interests.
As one progresses through the conventional education process, they take many standardized tests and are graded on their learning achievements. This process generates significant data that resides many places. At a high level, if one takes the SAT exam, their test data is sent to them and a few colleges of their choice, but the official record remains with the testing service. If one wants additional copies later in life, they must request the information from the testing service and pay for access. This ID should be included in an individual’s lifelong learning database, along with all the other ID from their schooling, and so made available by the individual to anyone who needs access – future schools and even employers if that is of value and acceptable to the individual.
From before birth until death, an individual receives considerable medical attention from many caregivers, and very often past medical records are of value for current diagnoses and treatments and of value in establishing historical guidelines for diagnosing relatives. Under current medical data records management systems, of which there are truly none, a current medical provider might hope to track down past care providers and obtain old records at cost. They are not at all standardized in format or file structure. This is not right. All medical records from pre-birth to post-death should be a core element of an individual’s ID. When access to data is required, it should be found in one file system, one structure, at the source. When researchers want to purchase medical data on the effectiveness of a drug, they should obtain authorization to purchase the data from any users of the drug that opt-in to the research, and the data should be standardized, authentic and correct and the research subjects should be compensated. When the government wants to study environmental impacts in a given community on the health of residents, all the dots should be available to connect.
Throughout a lifetime, even the poorest of the poor make and spend money. They receive entitlements. They establish and loose credit. They make and receive investments and loans. The records of all this financial activity are scattered around the globe, brokered, traded and shared by just about everyone, but the individual represented by the data. They, typically, don’t even know the data exists, much less where it resides with whom and whether it is correct. That can easily change, as processes and ASPs can establish secure repositories of individuals’ financial data, activities and balance sheets containing all that ID, that individuals can access and verify, and that others can access and use to the extent the individual opts-in to the intrusion or access. When one opens a savings account, the balance becomes their ID. When one opens a checking account, the ID is integrated with the savings account data and the individual’s balance sheet shows their actual financial state. Get a credit card, have the same integration. Buy stocks; see them interface in real time. If a bank wants to access an individual’s credit rating, they must have authorization to access their ID, go through an ASP authorized or selected by the individual, and the credit findings will be correct.
There is no lack of controversy about individual data rights, and that is because they are so readily abused by so many. Time to get things right.
To realize the existential growth opportunity (EGO) for individuals through I/ME and all else discussed herein, consider an article published in the August 7, 2000 New York Times titled “It Takes a World Wide Web to Raise a Village,” reporting on the efforts of a former Newsweek journalist who formerly covered Asia and has more recently founded American Assistance to Cambodia, which has created a permanent Internet connection to a primary school in the village of Robib, a cluster of six rural communities in north central Cambodia. Bernard Krisher says he hopes to assist in the economic transformation of a region of Cambodia in which the average per capita income is about $37 a year.
From the Times article:
In addition to providing computer education and Web access to a village school attended by 400 young students, the Internet project is supporting the creation of a small woven-silk industry in the village, which plans to sell silk scarves and table runners on the Internet. Once production begins, Mr. Krisher said, it might be possible to generate as much as $2,000 a month in revenue.
"We're trying to show that the Internet can really help a single village," said Mr. Krisher, whose nonprofit group is based in Tokyo, where he lives.
"If this is copied elsewhere around the world it might help eliminate the digital divide."
Though the effort is on a small scale, Nicholas Negroponte, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer scientist who is also engaged in the effort to aid Cambodian villages, said the project demonstrated that the global impact of the Internet could ultimately serve to reverse the disparity between urban wealth and rural poverty.
"The Net will reverse urbanization," said Mr. Negroponte, director of the M.I.T. Media Laboratory. "The past 150 years of development have been one of urbanization. To be rural has meant to be poor. The Net could bring some of the same opportunities to the rural world and maybe even turn being rural into being rich."
A satellite dish provides a continuous 64,000-bits-a-second connection to a small group of computers in the village, which are powered for part of each day by a small solar power system. The hookup is also being used for a simple experiment in telemedicine that American Assistance has organized.
A group of doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston has agreed to answer health-related questions from villagers via e-mail, as well as offer general guidance on diseases like malaria and H.I.V.
"This is not what we usually think about when we talk about telemedicine, where a doctor may transmit an X-ray to a colleague for a second opinion," Mr. Krisher said.
Part of the challenge of Mr. Krishner’s effort lies in helping recreate the social structure of the village, which was disrupted by the Khmer Rouge military under Pol Pot.
"It was a nice, traditional Cambodian village," Mr. Krisher said. "They had some old, dilapidated schools, and the Khmer Rouge arrested all of the teachers."
The hope is to construct 200 rural schools in Cambodian villages, under a program in which donors contribute $14,000 to build small school houses, with matching funds from the World Bank.
The article ends:
"This is it," Mr. Krisher said. "You have to do things in a micro way that doesn't require a vast amount of money. My basic philosophy is to build a small sample and make it work and then just copy that."
It is fortunate for all mankind there are people on Earth like Mr. Krishner that care to make a difference and have the intelligence and courage to follow through. He has well demonstrated to all of us how easy it really is to use IT to offer all EGO. So, let’s all follow his lead. Billions of people need education, economic opportunity, news, contact with other cultures, and a reward for their ID. This will truly offer them all existential growth opportunities.
So how will we, the people who care about all, help enlighten those who don’t care or understand the opportunities IT offers mankind? By following Mr. Krishner’s lead and build small, optimal models, make them work, and then copy them. Little steps repeated to support all IT needs will revolutionize IT management and advantage for all.
More to come. But when?