The Bandwidth Gap

One of the downsides of the insularity of the American culture and the self-enclosed European culture is its bounding effect on opportunity space thinking.

One example that is easy to illustrate is in technology. People in the post-development societies of western Europe and the U.S. live in a bandwidth rich environment. If they ever venture outside the post-development nations, they tend to travel to centers of commerce, bandwidth oases in the global bandwidth desert.

Due to thier limited world bandwidth view, what these post-development society people miss is that the rest of the world lives in a reality of low- to no-bandwidth.

The bandwidth rich conceive of, develop and implement technology solutions that further enhance and accelerate the bandwidth enabled. Meanwhile, the four to five billion people who live outside the high bandwidth areas are locked out of those solutions and those enhancements to life and development.

While many are aware of the digital divide, they conceive of it as representing those who have and those who do not have computers. In reality, the digital divide is a bandwidth gap between the high-, low- and no-bandwidth people on the planet.

High bandwidth costs real money, low bandwidth costs much less. Who can afford real money? Mostly those in the wealthiest one billion people on the planet. Who can afford low bandwidth? Just about everybody in the next segment lower, the three to four billion next wealthiest people, because they almost all have mobile phones. Who can’t afford any bandwidth? Many to most of the people in the remaining bottom tier.

The next wave of technology winners, those who understand what the bandwidth gap is all about, those who will define the next ubiquitous technology capability on the planet, will leverage the billions in the middle tier who have access to low bandwidth phones. Why? Because those who have low bandwidth phones now are the same billions who will have high bandwidth mobile devices in the future. Technology always climbs up the food chain, not down. Technology dominance always starts at the bottom and consumes the market as it moves up. Build a solution for the bottom now and consume the top later.

In this case, future technology dominance starts with those who have the least available bandwidth, not the most.

That’s a very challenging market to comprehend for those trapped inside the insular, inside-looking-out, high-bandwidth fishbowl.

Meeting the Lumabyte

“In the next 12 months there will be a zettabyte of information on the Internet.” – Dr. James Baty, VP and chief technology officer (CTO) of Sun Microsystems.

A zettabyte is the equivalent of 1 billion terabytes. Just a few years ago, it cost my clients millions of dollars to buy and implement a terabyte of data storage. The disk drives could fill a room. You can now buy a terabyte of data storage for $100 and the single drive is about the size of a typical hard cover book.

How much has the world changed? We have five terabytes of data storage on our overland expedition vehicle.

What’s driving the explosion in online data? In large part, social networking such as MySpace and Facebook.

  • Facebook users have uploaded more than 15 billion photos to date, making it the biggest photo-sharing site on the web.
  • For each uploaded photo, Facebook generates and stores four images of different sizes, which translates into a total of 60 billion images and 1.5 petabytes of storage.
  • Facebook adds 220 million new photos per week or roughly 25 terabytes of additional storage.

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