Two cyber-gurus take a second look at how the internet is changing the world
AFTER Kenya’s disputed election in 2007 Ory Okolloh, a local lawyer and blogger, kept hearing accounts of atrocities. State media were not interested. Private newspapers lacked the money and manpower to investigate properly. So Ms Okolloh set up a website that allowed anyone with a mobile phone or an internet connection to report outbreaks of violence. She posted eyewitness accounts online and even created maps that showed where the killings and beatings were taking place.
Ms Okolloh has since founded an organisation called Ushahidi, which puts her original idea into practice in various parts of the world. It has helped Palestinians to map the violence in Gaza and Haitians to track the impact of the earthquake that devastated their nation in January. It even helped Washingtonians cope with the “snowmaggedon” that brought their city to a halt this year. Ushahidi’s success embodies the principles of wikinomics.
Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams coined the term “wikinomics” in their 2006 tome of that name. Their central insight was that collaboration is getting rapidly cheaper and easier. The web gives amateurs access to world-class communications tools and worldwide markets. It makes it easy for large groups of people who have never met to work together. And it super-charges innovation: crowds of people can develop new ideas faster than isolated geniuses and disseminate them even faster.
Mr Tapscott and Mr Williams have now written a follow-up to their bestseller. They solicited 150 suggestions online for a snappy title. The result, alas, was a bit dull: “Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World”. But the book is well worth reading, for two reasons.
The first is that four years is an eternity in internet time. The internet has become much more powerful since “Wikinomics” was published. YouTube serves up 2 billion videos a day. Twitterers tweet 750 times a second. Internet traffic is growing by 40% a year. The internet has morphed into a social medium. People post 2.5 billion photos on Facebook every month. More than half of American teens say they are “content creators”. And it is not only people who log on to the internet these days. Appliances do, too. Nokia, for example, has produced a prototype of an “ecosensor” phone that can detect and report radiation and pollution.