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Innovating the Social Structure

Over at the BBC, Jo Twist has an interview with Iqbal Quadir, founder of Grameen Phone in Bangladesh. The real key to this type of social innovation is picking the right technology, seeing where the lever is. In this case, it's voice communication. I'm fascinated with the idea: connectivity leads to dependability then to specialization then to [increased] productivity. I'd really like to test that concept.

Technologies to 'Aid the Poor'

Talking at the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Global conference, a top US event being held in Europe for the first time, he criticised aid for developing countries that benefited authorities over the people themselves.

"The only way we can depend on each other is if we connect with each other. Connectivity leads to dependability which leads to specialisation and then productivity," he said.

A woman with a mobile becomes important in a village. This changes the power distribution
Iqbal Quadir
What was key about a technology as simple as the mobile in a rural village was that people's voices, not just those in authority, were heard.

The next step, he hoped, would be to get wireless internet via mobile devices into villages. But he warned of jumping on the technology bandwagon.

"If everyone can talk, it is more egalitarian," he told the BBC News website.