Pradhalad goes to great research and length to uncover the hidden gold in impoverished countries. But what he builds is not a treasure map where “x marks the spot,” rather a series of principles, examples and techniques that prove these countries have the potential to enter the global market. In my previous reflection on the Collier book I mention a need to have a local partner to help with poverty campaigns, Pradhalad says the same thing. It is important that these nations are given the tools they need to be successful, without a foreign hand conducting them. Like Collier references, education could be the root of helping countries dig out of the hole. Education helps build awareness and allows free thinking.
Pal and Patra talk about their studies in “The Case of the Occasionally Cheap Computer,” and find that perceptions of how important computers are in education are not always black and white. In America, exposing children to computers is a necessary part of education. In some countries like India, parents feel sticking to the book curriculum yields higher results; “60% of parents felt that additional teachers would be a better investment for learning, whereas 40% thought that the one-time purchase of a computer would positively impact student learning,” (p 14). Are these parents biased because they were not exposed to technology at that age?
What we learn in Pradhalad’s case study of Voxiva is that technology and digital media can be very impactful. With a simple program people in remote areas with limited medical education can contribute to keep information up to date on infectious diseases. This can help ensure medicine is sent, and can create a trend for tracking epidemics. In a larger picture we see that impoverish people are willing to use technology and can contribute to the world market; Pradhalad calls this connection to participate the “dignity of attention,” (p 44). We also see the importance of technology in projects like Shakti in India which offers a network for women entrepreneurs to connect and get education on how to maintain their businesses.
Allowing children to access computers and the internet can create a flow of information to and from these impoverished countries and to people seeking to provide charity. Denying children the same amenities as other nations and not allowing them to experience the same technology further expands the “bottom of the pyramid.” With education people are able to innovate, which is one of the many keys Pradhalad mentions in his book. He feels, and it’s hard to disagree with the volume of case studies he provides, that these people are unique because of how they spend their money. They provide new insights for larger corporations because they require innovation in order to make them consumers.
As concerns regarding the technological gap between nations escalate, I believe it will also lessen as the “bottom of the pyramid” countries start becoming dependent on the simple programs and technologies they currently have. The wildcard is the ability to keep this idea alive. Success in the global market is a powerful driver, and education needs to be a factor in achieving this. This hidden gold can’t be accessed until the knowledge on how to sustain it can be achieved.
- The Case of the Occasionally Cheap Computer: Low-cost Devices and Classrooms in the Developing World: (Pal, Patra, Nedevschi, Plauche, and Pawar)
- Prahalad, C. K. (2005): The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing.