Since Facebook announced its new Libra currency and mobile payments scheme, the global reaction has been very mixed. Libra is not truly a cryptocurrency though it will use blockchain. It will be pegged to a reserve currency, which cryptocurrencies are not. Libra will “potentially” be governed by an association independent of Facebook, though that association remains non-binding and sketchy at this point. Potential regulatory issues abound around the World, and Facebook is currently not viewed very favorably by many governments. But most interesting to me, Libra appears to be modeled after Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile payments system, the world’s leading mobile payments system, invented by mobile carrier Safaricom. Then I asked myself if Facebook, knowing that it needs to move away from selling personal data, has seized on Safaricom’s M-Pesa as its new revenue model.
Since I joined the high-tech industry years ago, Silicon Valley has had a fundamental need for highly educated engineers and scientists that could not be filled by American graduates. This reality has been bemoaned by Congressional politicians for decades now, who have essentially done nothing to increase the emphasis on STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) for resident Americans, and who instead chose to provide the H1-B Visa enabling Silicon Valley high-tech companies to employ immigrants to fill these crucial positions, and has enabled the high-tech industry to thrive. The election of Donald Trump has changed all that. His platform is almost completely devoid of any acknowledgment of the crucial importance of high-tech innovation to U.S. productivity and economic growth, the need for H1-B immigrants and the parallel need for greater investment in STEM education.
With good intentions, and also a good dose of Facebook business strategy to expand its base of users, Mark Zuckerberg has struck out to promote Free Basics, a free limited Internet for the poor in less developed countries sponsored by Facebook and its local telecommunications partners. While on the face of it Free Basics would seem to have merit, Zuckerberg has run into a wall of opposition. On close inspection of the details, Facebook’s problem, despite all of its global corporate sophistication, appears to be naïveté about the foreign markets it is trying to enter. It is possible to argue that Zuckerberg and Facebook have the best of intentions and sound arguments. But the best of intentions and sound arguments mean nothing if the key element lacking is a clear understanding of the current foreign market, and the crucial need to adapt to it or fail. Zuckerberg could have looked no further back than 2013 for clues to why he has failed.
An insightful interview with Reid Hoffman, venture capitalist and founder of LinkedIn. But to my mind, Hoffman seems blase’ about Big Ideas and “deep tech” funding. I share the views of Startup Genome founder, Max Marmer, and bemoan the limited focus of VC’s on world-changing technologies, leaving it to billionaire angels. I also sense myopia about the ongoing intense debate over the distortion of the sharing economy by Uber, Airbnb, and others.
At The New Yorker, George Packer considers one significant way in which this Gilded Age differs from the last one. Amazon, Apple and Google are not Standard Oil, Ford or General Motors, but there are parallels. We are facing monumental economic and social issues that we need to be prepared to address.
A number of my students have asked me about online privacy. Many of us, not only students, have […]
As many of my colleagues and students know, student cyber skills are one of my big passions. Having been […]