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.

Diaspora Dockyard

The idea of a hegemonic post-colonial South Asia ruptures when the post-colonial diaspora becomes the refuge for the unwanted minorities such as the Bhojpuri speaker in Nepal or the Ahmadiyya in SE Asia. The migrant worker finds anchor in the diaspora as the margins of the homeland dissolve, and the shore of the diaspora becomes the dockyard.

Post Pandemic Check-In

As a professional PhD researcher who thinks, reads, writes, and interviews airport labor and automation for a living in Singapore over the past 1.5years across SE Asia and Gulf, it was surreal to observe the check in process at Changi T3 behind the glass screen with a masked-up airport worker and serpentine lines of passengers.

The process was as if the pandemic did not happen as the process was the same, although there was a shorter pre verified line where the passenger submits documents online 36 hours in advance. The approval comes in just prior to the check in beginning.

It was great to enter an airport after 16 months to drop off a kind soul who was heading for a family reunion after 30 months.

Pandemic immobility is real, but it was great seeing Changi again.

Hope to fly in July.


At the Jewel, for the first time


Public transport buses become a migrant sonic scape with bangla, tamil and punjabi music leaking out of earphones as these spaces map aspirations as much as heartache. Some of these bus rides from the little india district to the dorms take up to 90 minutes.

The last row of seats are often the preferred choice where video calls to back home are made, maximising time on an off day where each minute is valued.


Shawrma at Muscat St, Singapore: Eid 2022

Objects such as this tissue paper box couched in a glitzy decorative cover brings me back to my childhood in Muscat where restaurants such as Omar Khayyam in Ruwi or Golden Spoon in Al Khuwair used to have such tissue boxes.

This particular artefact was found at Tabbouleh, a Lebanese place at Arab St in Singapore on Eid Eve. The coffee and Kunefe brought me back to the aromas of Turkish House in Al Khuwair in my home town.

Bayt and Watan is sometimes a bite of kunafa, which is my favorite dessert of a time which was dear.

Exile is a state of mind for a Desi Khaleeji. The azaan post iftar, the last one before Eid in Singapore is always special, twice in two years.

This place was at Muscat St, a geographical irony, with a mural of a dhow and the Omani Flag.


The Gulf Style Tissue Paper Box