Originally posted December 2008.
Yesterday I had a great conversation with Romanus Berg of Ashoka, the world's largest network of social entrepreneurs and a long time customer of Enomaly. In the conversation we discussed some of the opportunities that cloud computing may offer as a social empowerment tool in emerging economies.
In case you've never head of Ashoka, founded by Bill Drayton it was one of the first groups to popularize the concept of Social Entrepreneurship. The core foundation of social entrepreneurship is found within businesses that recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Whereas a business entrepreneur typically measures performance in profit and return, a social entrepreneur assesses success in terms of the impact s/he has on society.
Ashoka acts as a kind of people aggregator, finding the diamonds in the rough. Those 1 in a million that effect major changes within their local society. Ashoka believes that we are in the midst of a rare, fundamental structural change in society: citizens and citizen groups are beginning to operate with the same entrepreneurial and competitive skill that has driven business ahead over the last three centuries. People all around the world are no longer sitting passively idle; they are beginning to see that change can happen and that they can make it happen.
During the conversation it became clear the both Romanus and I shared a similar vision for cloud computing not just a method of increasing IT productivity but as an empowerment tool for "under-enabled" people. People that up until recently have never had the opportunities that modern information technology has afforded the western world.
This concept of a socially conscience cloud stuck a cord with me. In many emerging economies technology in particular can skip whole generations. For example the move in China to mobile phones, skipping past more traditional forms of telephony. Similarly cloud computing may represent a major opportunity to bring both knowledge as well as modern computing technology through the use of low cost, wireless networks and mobile devices connected to regionalized clouds.
Cloud Computing as a socially conscience enterprise may not just be limited to emerging economies but may also enable the latest eco-trend of green technology. Global cloud computing represents the opportunity to make adjustments based on your carbon footprint. Imaging being able to adjust your computing energy consumption levels based on which provider of electricity is using the best and greenest sources.
Like Ashoka, I believe we are in midst of a rare, fundamental structural change. At the end of the day, cloud computing is about choice, mix in a social consciousness and we start to see one of the bigger socio-technological revolutions of our time, the information revolution.