Saturday, June 4, 2011

Broadband and Priorities

The Learning Explosion hits Sao Paulo, Brazil

I just returned from Brazil where, between discussions about soccer, I had the opportunity to speak with business leaders throughout Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

When I talked with them about launching online learning in their markets, the biggest problem they are faced with is bandwidth. Even in big cities it's "grinding to a halt" slow. And even when there is a dedicated satellite connection that delivers 10mbs, there are intermittent delays and problems that keep it from working smoothly. So what's keeping them from fixing this problem?? I think it's simply a matter of priority.

Think about this for a moment. What if the only way they could see a soccer game was over the Internet? How fast do you think every home would have a dedicated satellite connection?

Certainly there are major infrastructure issues in developing countries, especially in South America where cities are so spread out. But there are new satellite companies like Atrexx that are trying to bridge the divide which will certainly speed up the need adequate consistent quality in their major cities. In a couple of years I suspect some of the more developed countries like Brazil and Argentina will have decent coverage. But if they really wanted to speed up development, they really need to re-prioritize.

Korea has done this already. They have the world's fastest internet connections to nearly their entire population. They believe that their education depends on the Internet.

An excerpt of a CNN article supports this:

"The South Korean government has encouraged its citizens to get computers and to hook up to high-speed Internet connections by subsidizing the price of connections for low-income and traditionally unconnected people.

"One program, for example, hooked up housewives with broadband and taught them how to make use of the Web in their everyday lives.

"Parents in Korea, who tend to place high value on education, see such connections as necessities for their children's educations, said Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.

"These cultural differences mean Korea has a more insatiable demand for fast Internet connections, he said. That demand, in turn, encourages telecommunications companies to provide those connections.

"Faris, of the Berkman Center, said no one society has a stronger appetite for Internet connectivity than another. Korea's government simply has whetted that appetite, and provided the incentives to make high-speed connections accessible to a large segment of society."

So, although many parts of the world still don't have high-speed Internet, it doesn't mean you should wait start your online learning. You should start today so that when the access becomes available you will already have a strong understanding of your users and and even stronger hold on the market.

Even more importantly though, is to come up with a concept that will force the population to prioritize your product (requiring high-speed Internet) over something else. To win in the short term you may want to focus on an idea that includes soccer.

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