Culture Centered Digital Problem Solving

Digital is an assault to the senses whenever we scroll our feeds on Twitter or the hard copy pink papers such as the FT. There are a few characteristics of the digital which are exemplary, ability to aggregate users and for pattern recognition, and fundamentally to shrink space-time. We are surrounded by technology, and the ubiquitous nature of digital has taken quarter of a century to emerge as is gauged from a16z’s conversation to Kevin Kelly. The human being in the realm of the digital is a ‘data-double’ which is a data point or a coordinate available for transition. Data is the new oil, but for whom?

The prowess of the digital spans a spectrum from the core to the periphery as per my conceptualization as a scholar of technology and society. The traits of technology will interact, refract, and diffract of the terrain of the community and the company, which ensure that the other vital C, the client has its pain point in everyday operations remediated or solved. The sectors which generate a massive tranche of data at a velocity are well suited for the digital economy. Aggregators of any typology from real estate to retail will bring the service to the tap of a smart phone. ‘On Demand’ is a feature of digital economy, however the digital incorporates human labor as a technology in terms of ‘Humans as a Service’ as per Jeremias Pressel in his Oxford University Press Book of the same name. Digital is not sans human labor, however digital maps, morphs and mutates the human of the human into digital features, which are conducted by human coders only to optimize the business value. However, the question which cuts through a knife into the haze of digital rhetoric is.

What additional value is the so-called digital transformation, adding to the consumer?

The core purpose of a business is to serve the client at the point of their need, to solve their problems at the best sustainable price, rather than blindly jump on to a band wagon without critically thing through the second order impacts. Oman struggles with the digital economy as the local cartography is pinned to the building number and the way number rather than a name, which makes deliveries harder to make. The cash centric culture also makes it challenging for the digital players to map transactions. The Omani consumer is price sensitive client and seeks to touch the product before making a purchase, although the culture as other things with time evolve.

The cab transportation sector in Muscat was ripe for disruption as flagging a cab on the street at 45-degree August heat during peak summer was a strain especially when one is with elderly parents. But with the presence of digital cab aggregators such as O Taxi, it makes for a better quality of life in turn better businesses. In India, Cash on Delivery is a feature of local adaptation of the aggregator economy. The digital is therefore a plastic wrap which covers the product. The optimizer rather than the substrate, bringing a disparate set of actors to the consumer, and not a universal panacea.

Each local culture will lend imports into the digital paradigm, and Gulf will do the same. The applicability will also depend on the user case. It is about time that the focus is shed back on the need rather than the shiny possibilities that the digital offers, keeping in mind the culture.  With the gulf in the post oil, post pandemic scenario laser focused on job creation, digital is an opportunity for reskilling but also deskilling where low-income labor will be impacted. Digital is therefore deeply contextual, and the youth would have to be skilled as per the risks as well as the potential. 

Re-blogged from : Digital Transformation | Solving pain points (ketnode.com)


Migrant Crisis Pandemic Porn

I think this is important to put out in the light of what i see as migrant crisis porn. As a second gen migrant with active work and family links to both the Gulf and Singapore i can feel the pain of a genuine migrant in trouble. I have not been paid my former employers whom i have taken to court and have got my pending salaries. I have absolutely no hard feelings for them, rather a sense of gratitude as salaries is not the only element we earn at work. These are skills, ideas and life long networks too. I work with non profits and write on migration issues regularly. In the pandemic i have pitch in to many civil society micro initiatives. As a migration researcher, i speak multiple languages including Bangla and see a lot of unnecessary banter of migrants playing the victim card. Singapore has done the maximum in this crisis as have other Gulf countries even more than passport countries, ask anyone from India or Nepal. There needs to be gratitude. If the elevator in your dorm is not working, complain to the dorm management rather than defame the country.

If things were that great back home, you would not have mortgaged your family land to pay the broker to arrive in Singapore. Get a sense of proportion. Do not blame the host country for your migration debt when the bribe was paid to your relative for the IPA?Many migrant workers have done really well for their families as well. Let these stories also come out.

Border Studies Presentation

Such a humbling experience to speak at the University of Lethbridge Border Studies Group E Conference- ‘The Line Crossed Us’ on Racial Capitalism and Borders in the Post Oil Gulf.

Loved the kind, inclusive spirit of the congregation where academic solidarity rather than snobbery was in action.

Remote Conferences are a boon for scholars from the Global South, and the 11.5 hour time zone difference is bearable at 2.15am.

Loved speaking on the area of the world where I work and grew up in the Khaleej and there is so much interest as people want deeper insights rather than mere headlines.

The presentation topic

MFI Safeguard’s Interoperability

There needs to be a dialogue between IFC Performance Standards, Equator Principles and MFI Safeguards or the world of project finance with the realm of ESG ratings and emergent frameworks such as CSRD and TNFD for better transition finance mechanisms.

The world of MFI lending will provide the patient capital for long durée climate transitions. The interoperability of ESG frameworks should act as a bridge to MFI Safeguards.

The HRDD Era.

I am aware that companies are there to sell their product to make a profit and not sustainability considerations, however the global zeitgeist is evolving towards treating workers better while combatting climate change. Thus, it is a factor towards mainstreaming human rights reflected in the HRDD mandate in the EU CSRD law. The meta considerations behind ESG are quasi political, in transnational liberal politics, in a next wave of globalization and integration. Green parties are a major feature on the electoral landscape in the EU.

The HRDD mandate needs to go beyond tier one suppliers where the problems lie. If the civil society actors and journalists can identify the rot, I bet mega corporations with plenty of spare change can allocate resources more than the token sustainability team.

Having worked with labor and civil society actors at the base of the pyramid throughout Asia, there are ways and means to creatively detect and diagnose problems at various scales. I am happy to speak to actors who need the right insights beyond consulting obfuscation.

In the era of transnational litigation, each data point is material. There are forced labor and modern slavery legislations from the EU to Australia.

Transnational Social Protection Project

I start a small research project on transnational social protection of injured migrant workers, building on working with migrant activists and community leaders and NGOs in SE Asia and the Gulf since the past decade, as there needs to be better action research to protect and care for those who build our cities and communities with our remittances. I would work on this for the next year. Please suggest readings or names to speak to.

ESG as Sentiment.

At the soul of ESG reporting data is sentiment which reflects the meta performance of an entity, its workings at the scale of a number, which can be benchmarked and compared. The comparison triggers change towards achieving targets, which will be measured in the next cycle.

My Concepts.

I have been attributed to coining two terms which have been published and cited, being a non PhD so far it has been deeply gratifying:

‘Desi Khaleeji’ – encapsulates the lived experience of generations of south Asians in the Gulf who feel at home in Dubai rather than passport address back in South Asia. I published an essay on this topic in a creative-critical book published by Swalif Publishing in Abu Dhabi. The term has been debated and vociferously critiqued in webinars by significant gulf watchers.

‘Hindu Nationalist Intellectual Architecture’ was a term I introduced in a column for The Tilak Chronicle with whom I was a weekly contributor for a year. The term was picked up by Dr Sanjaya Baru for his book , The New Indian Power Elite, and I have a citation there.

For a person who was deemed to be a person unfit for a scholarship once upon a time by a certain supervisor, two concepts for a writer, if not a pretentious scholar is a contribution to the discourse none the less.

A South Asian Mecca

Fascinating talk which was illuminating as came to know that south Asians comprised of one third the population of Mecca on the eve of the First World War and that Indian Independence Stalwart Azad was born in Mecca to an Arab mother in the year 1888. I would like to know how many Arabs lived in Bombay, Karachi and Calcutta in the same time period.

The Roy Bar Sadeh Talk