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.


After my usual evening run, I usually decompress by sipping chai. The Chai and Sandwich upgraded tapri which I have been frequenting for the past couple of months has been a window into the slice of life moments. The soundscape is chirpy, located next to a jogging area and a prominent hospital. It is a melting pot of people from various backgrounds from paramedics to families.

The tapri is run by an industrious local micro businessperson, employing staff to support his chai business. Today he quipped during our chat, he did not understand whether his sales are making sense after selling three hundred cups at INR 10 per cup. So, I asked him a few questions.

What are your input costs daily?

He said,

Milk -1280 for a 20-liter pack, Chai Masala- 45, Tea- 200, Paper Cups Packet for cups: 200

This is about 1800 per day

And other costs:

Electricity: 10, 000/month, Gas: 2000/month,

Average: 400/Day

Manpower costs: 300/Day

Total costs per day then are approximately 2500 per day only from three hundred cups a day at 10 rupees. The margin for the owner is five hundred rupees only from cutting chai revenues.

He makes coffee, and other snacks which are his main income then.

He also sells cutting chai in a bigger cup at 20 rupees, which I partake. As a good Samaritan I suggested that he should increase the 20-rupee cup sale, as input costs remain the same, doubling the margins referencing a case study that I had read on increasing the toothpaste opening leading to more purchases, and greater daily use.

A ten-minute chat was an insight into bottom-up businesses that focus on cash in the pocket rather than valuations.


Learn for Learning Sake.

Learning for growth is about challenging yourself to explore the uncomfortable, the unknown in ways of seeing and ways of thinking, which is the spirit of the journey itself. Instead, assessment anxiety and optics demolish the fun in learning mostly.

As an embodied lifelong learner and training junkie, the incline itself trains one to think. The resume was always the last aspect on the agenda.

ESG on its own terms.

The crisis which ESG in the current avatar is of underperformance or at least the optics of it. ESG is not a monolith and has to be gauged on a sliding scale. The non-financial risk metrics are weak signals of material risks to be, which is a temperature check equivalent of something which might go wary. ESG itself needs to be assessed on its own terms rather than a proxy for the weight of our collective aspirations regarding climate change. ESG is a proxy for an aspect for which it is, it is a way of doing business the right way.

Power Dynamics Within ESG Ratings and Rankings

ESG is the flavor of the corporate zeitgeist for all kinds of drivers and is often treated as an acronym which might be a temperature check for ethics. Environment as a domain when double clicked on, leads to drop down menu of number of sub domains starting from climate change to biodiversity to waste management. Governance is a vast sea of knowledge of their own from anti-graft to board diversity to compensation matters.

As an environmental engineer who retrained as an ethnographer by reading PhD level coursework in Human Geography and Sociology while working on Policy Projects, the S is my area of expertise. However Social itself has several buckets from Health & Safety to DEI to BHR to Community Stakeholder Engagement to Inclusive Governance. Now a days i focus on responsible supply chains and modern slavery concerns including decolonizing HRDD.

The intertwined nature of the various elements and their effect brings about the real nature of the weak signals that ESG as a riskfication paradigm is trying to achieve. All these elements need to be mapped along a spectrum and drawn from the ESIA playbook; the cumulative impact is a vital measure. The interpretive nature of the assessment requires an appreciation of the organizational context.

Ratings and rankings are bundled value judgements; thus, the methodology matters in the way that assessments are done, rather than looking at the rankings at face value. Important questions to ask as a ready reckoner are:

Who is assessing?

To what end is assessment driven data utilized in decision making calculus?

For ESG to move from risk to resilience, power dynamics need to be included.