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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Leapfrog Technologies and Media

Last week I had a conversation with someone about the future of global media. He agreed with me that some exciting things would happen in the developing world and even frontier markets but said that I was way too bullish on the speed of the changes that would occur.

I smiled but countered that their progress will be accelerated compared to past development due to “leapfrog technologies.” Historically, in development, western countries would owe much of their prosperity to expensive infrastructure such as rail lines, great roads, electricity, and telephone networks. As someone who spent the happiest years of my career in Dallas and Atlanta, I would add that air conditioning does not get the credit it deserves for the development of the American southeast and southwest.

Leapfrog technologies have turbo-charged the speed of development and put an upward spike in media usage as they bypass the traditional infrastructure build out that was necessary in prior generations. In essence, they are technologies that allow you to skip a step or two versus previous development paths. A great example was with telephones. About 20 years ago, urban legend has it that the then US West took over the Hungarian telephone system. As they began to update the Budapest lines block by block, apartment houses supers asked to be spiffed by the new phone company or the new lines might not stay in place. The company said no and went wireless.

In Africa, the mobile phone has brought telephony to rural and remote areas of the continent where it never would be profitable to build a network.

To get a handle on the speed of things these days, consider:

1) IOS and Android device adoption has had the fastest technological growth in measured history. Smart devices in the aggregate have grown 10 times faster than the PC’s we embraced in the ’80’s, twice the speed of late 1990’s internet usage, and three times the social media development of recent years.
2) The World Bank has stated that some 80% of the world still lives on less than $10 a day and some 2.56 billion or 35% of the world lives on less than $2 a day.
3) Additionally, the World Bank is projecting that internet usage will jump by 50% from the current 2 billion to 3 billion by early 2016.

With so many people earning under $10 a day, will they soon be buying big flat screen TV’s? Not likely. Yet, many will somehow get a smartphone and will have internet access, music, and video on that single device.

So, if your company is expanding overseas, you need to abandon thinking about legacy media. Perhaps a billion or two prospects of yours will never own a television set. That does not mean, however, that you will not be able to reach them.

If technology has been described as economic fuel, then leapfrog technologies are economic rocket fuel.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

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