Big Tech, Education and Italy: The Week’s Most Interesting

The world moved on to its normal order of business last week. From the US Congress setting up the most valuable Zoom call in the world to India revamping a 40 year old education policy the main dishes of last week were quite interesting. There were appetisers and desserts of Rafale jets being bought, and recovering auto industries but largely i’ll stick to the main course for this week. 

There is no point in fighting wars now. It doesn’t help. Because land is no longer the most valuable asset that the world has. The new asset is Data. So I have a different perspective on Big Tech. Imagine if Google is broken up. Local American competition becomes better. Now, because it is much smaller, it can’t compete with Baidu on a global scale as Baidu now is much richer. The world’s new information gateway is Baidu. Can India ban Baidu and build a new app, give it a hindi name (presumably Khoj). The information age is not a competition of geography. It’s a global competition. The problem is that we have past examples of breaking up Global Oil industries or Global finance industries which were tied down by multiple geographic factors. So you could break Big Oil and still be supreme as a country overall. That doesn’t work with Tech. In my opinion, the moment you break up Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple you remove the competition and they will simply be replaced by more powerful Baidu, WeChat, Tencent and Alibaba.
Whether that is something you want is a personal choice.Something to think about?

So with that this week I have three articles on Big Tech (unlike the american media and congress, I still include Microsoft on the list). It gives enough perspective on what the problems are and what needs to be solved. Also tells the story of the most interesting possible acquisition of the new millenia. The fourth article of this week covers the education policy of Finland, a hugely successful model and what can be learnt from it. In the last article we follow up on the EU’s most successful project and try to peek into the crystal ball of whether it would be successful or not.
So the food is ready!

1. Not too many 21 year old’s go through a midlife crisis. But the most important one twenty year old of our world is going through one. Google is caught between the values that made it what it is, and the way it wants to grow now. Innovation and Maturity are usually two dimensions on the company character axis, and everytime someone has tried to succeed at both, they have usually failed. Most often companies fall when consumers find a better alternative or the more common financial mismanagement case. For Google the  challenge will be more internal. It’s time to figure out what it wants to be. Google is about to be tested. Big time.

2. The most successful marketing and strategic initiatives of the last 10 years have to go to Microsoft. Satya Nadella will be remembered as the leader who made a tech company that everyone admired. Especially because the Microsoft of the 90’s and 2000’s was not a very loved company. It puts things in perspective when you realise how much goodwill Microsoft has earned in the last 10 years while others are going into court. I hope to write more in detail about it soon. But today we tie two names. which you wouldn’t have uttered in the same sentence. Microsoft is looking to buy out Tik-Tok. The best matches are always out of imagination right. I can see the synergies. Can you?

3. It’s rather surprising that the companies that probably know more about AI can hardly predict any problem that falls upon them. From election meddling to fake news to hate speeches, Facebook, Twitter and others have never pre-empted a problem and solved it. Somehow the brightest minds of the world are now in the business of scrappily solving problems. The expectations would be that they would preempt it. If it could solve that, it would be the best way to gain back the trust of its consumers and the legislature the world over. Everyone is sure that they have the capability, the question is do they have the intent?’s-no-winning-this-round/

4. There is enough material and judgement on the new National Education policy which is why I am not sharing my views on it. The Ken has written a very well balanced piece on it and you could have a look at that. But it is always good to get some perspective. Finland has always been celebrated as having one of the best school education systems in the world. While we certainly need to customize global learnings for a population many times the size, it’s always good to get some perspective. It’s a year old article but will surely give some insights. I had in the past worked on the Mid day meal scheme and how to make it more effective. It is a tool which has worked well both in Finland and in India.

5. Last week we covered how the EU took its most momentous decision ever with its new fund. Now the problem usually is always in execution. Italy has an old habit of squandering money and not getting results. Or as they say the RoI is bad. But this time might be different. This is my indulgent article of the week and while it doesn’t follow the menu, it’s a rather interesting article about global economics. In the end the only problem is always the problem of resource allocation, whether that resource is money, time or brains. Italy must decide how to allocate money wisely. It will decide the success and failure of the test of Europe’s most ambitious project.

Hope you had fun reading!

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