VON: What Next One Billion?

Connecting the next billion, a panel report from VoN Boston. I read it, and weep. I see the same people, same panel, same conversation every year. The next billion panel was a theme forever. Over past two years roughly 100 million Indians, about 60 million Latin Americans, and an equal number Russians, and about 200 million Chinese have bought wireless phones. Shouldn’t that be billion minus 420 million. Not sure… Math is not my strong point. Somebody chime in here! I read the report, and followed the comments of this panel. Not to be overly critical, what the f..k… let me just say it. Sitting in their haloed academic ivy league ivory towers and talking about bringing phone service to the next billion! Or to paraphrase Bill O’Really ….

It is highly arrogant for us in the west to decide and figure out what is going to work for the next billion. None of the panelists have a real grasp on realities of third world life. I know, because I grew up there. The next billion: they need food, clothes, water, electricity and perhaps phones… especially VoIP. Having said that, most PUNDITS don’t realize the third world social dynamics: most of the families, and I mean extend families stay in the same village or neighborhoods. Tom Eisenmann of Harvard Business School, somehow starts talking about next billion, and then regresses to the US, ILEC, and Cable business and opportunities for VoIP in US. If this is how they teach in HBS, now I know why things are so screwed up in corporate America. Oh wait… he is ex-Mckinsey… that explains it.

Some disconnect here. It starts with “the next billion” implying some truly global trends but all the discussion is about the next 10% in the USA only and how VoIP on top of Cable broadband will get it. Excuse me? Where are 1 billion new people using electronic communication going to come from there? The actual answer? Mobile phones, broadband and cable in China and India. Or was that $1 billion and I’ve missed the point completely. Julian Bond

Thank you Mr. Bond, for pointing that out! Tom Evslin of Evslin Consulting and founder of ITXC, now part of Teleglobe makes a good point when he says, that The greatest importance of VoIP is in the democratiziation of access to the network, tom says. “VoIP has democratized and lowered the barrier to entry,” he says, “There’s no question that VoIP is here.”

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