Posts Tagged ‘Technology for Emerging Markets’

Gossip Girl taps ICD4D

June 4, 2009

Gossip Girl is a total guilty pleasure of mine. Initially intrigued by its being set in two posh, private Manhattan schools, I knew after watching the pilot that this would be my mindless TV joy. But recently I was unable to suspend my disbelief when GG’s world of shiny things attempted to fuse with ITC4D. Preppy cad Gabriel and his faux socialite sidekick Poppy (a name that’s even more fun in Afrikaans, doll) have been running all over New York pitching a business idea so obviously profitable that they have heaps of rich folks falling over themselves to invest after only vague elevator pitches at swanky cocktail parties. Problem is it’s all a con and they plan to skip town with the money. But that’s besides the point – what is their super convincing idea? Its very vaguely described as “backing a company that wants to provide wireless access to the developing world”. The really fun this about this idea is that the investors don’t seem to be in it for the warm charitable glow, but because it is set to triple their money “by the end of summer”. As fang-toothed Gabrielle tells a googly-eyed Serena van der Woodsen this startling prediction at a party, she responds with the following blithely unaware gem:

yes that's chuck in the background looking rightfully suspicious

"Come on, without you how else will all those African teenagers send in posts to Gossip Girl?"

Yes because that’s what African teenagers really want Serena – to gossip about whose shack has the shiniest tin roof. Later, as Gabriel schmoozes with more potential investors, he explains:

"The governments, the ISP's and the big companies need to use these satellites. We can be the only game in town" and implies that the free wireless is a happy consequence of the big business "Doing well by doing good"

"The governments, the ISP's and the big companies need to use these satellites. We can be the only game in town"

Satellites? I am so intrigued but, oh no! Before he can explain more about those pesky techno details, he puts on the money squeeze:

“There’s a ticking clock, some of the major Internet corporations are looking to do a similar thing. If we act now we block them completely and we make at least triple on our investment”

Are you convinced? Lily Bass was:

"You can tell your backers I'm in!"

"You can tell your backers I'm in!"

After 5 seconds of thought? Perhaps that last husband of Lily’s should have thought twice about leaving his Trump-esque fortune and company in this lady’s hands when he croaked.

In the next episode this delicious con continues with Poppy stepping up during a swish lunch with Georgina at the Russian Tea Room spinning more wireless yarn while drinking martinis and eating caviar:

business lunch

business lunch

G: Who knew you could bring wireless to third world countries? What a great job!

P: Yeah it’s really more of a passion that a job. I mean it gives so much to the children.

G: Of course! I mean they can look at faraway places and read Bible stories. Oh! They can download Kirk Cameron movies!

Ah, it’s all about the children, Kirk Cameron movies for development, yay! Having been recently immersed in ICT4D during my internship at the Technology for Emerging Markets Group and attending ICTD 2009, this was a total laugh. The idea that wireless internet for people who probably don’t even have computers could be a free side effect of a profitable business in Africa where governments needed some other awesome ass satellites. That browsing the internet to look at faraway places and Bible stories would be its main mode of improvement for poverty stricken children. The preposterous idea that people would have the speeds needed to download whole movies (using which computers and what storage if I may ask).

But I am too harsh, truly I expect GG writers to be experts in Manhattan and debutant balls, not technologists so all is forgiven. (Though I do wish they hadn’t rushed it in the end, I would have liked to see the take down of Gabriel and Poppy rather than have it tacked onto the final episode as a btw)

XOXO

ICT4Dancing

May 6, 2009

Last week was kind of crazy. I finished up my last round of experiments for my project at MSR India on Monday, then on Tuesday I furiously recorded data into spreadsheets and started working a presentation for my final pow-wow to the TEM group. The pow-wow pretty much consumed Wednesday and afterwards it was off to a farewell/birthday party consisting of about 3 hours of high-energy Bollywood dancing at Zero G. This is touted as one of the most happening places on the Bangalore night-life scene, particularly on Wednesday nights when they have their famous Bollywood night. Zero G is a club on Laverly Rd. right at the top of a building. The place is half outdoors and half indoor and the setting is pretty swcheet. The amusing thing about Bangalore’s night-life scene is that it comes with some serious restrictions which, I think, are meant to curb garrulous hard partying. The weirdest of these restrictions is that drinking and dancing may not occur simultaneously – yes this is not a joke, the Bangalore police commissioner is very dedicated to protecting the eyes of unsuspecting innocents from the wild, uncoordinated flailing that might occur when a good buzz (or more) is set ot music. Another, recently imposed, restriction is that everything – clubs, bars and many restaurants close at 11:30pm – 11-freakin-30!! After this time no more alcohol is served, no more dancing may take place and people are expected to scurry to their burrows like good little boys and girls. This meant that at 11:30pm, the last song was announced, lights were cruelly faded up to bright and, after a minute or so, people started blowing whistles to encourage us to leave. Not really the nicest mode of parting I must say. But what made it better was that, once outside waiting for cabs, everyone sang happy birthday to me at midnight 🙂

Zero G was followed by a midnight dinner at the Taj Hotel’s 24 hour restaurant Mynt, which was all very pretty and fancy. Conveniently there was a piano in the hotel lobby and Kentaro regaled us with what one might describe as a peice of music on the opposite end of the music spectrum to Bollywood hits. I think we probably had dinner till about 2am during which there were two casualties, David and Divya, who simply fell asleep at the table. The life of a Microsoft researcher is brutal like that – don’t know say that no one ever warned you!

After getting to bed around 3am, I dragged myself out of bed on Thursday (my actual birthday) to begin my last day at MSRI. There were last minute meetings, data backups, administrative tasks (which were a bit tricky since it was also Admin day and all the admin folks were away on a fun day) and, finally, packing up of my desk *sigh*. Thanks for a great 3 months and an awesome farewell TEM!