Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Where the 'Net is Going

Angelo Pañares of local conglomerate Aboitiz asks where the Internet is going, and what companies should do about it. Here's my answer.

When it comes to where the 'Net is going, I think Sun President Jonathan Schwartz said it best: the Information Age is evolving into the Participation Age. As content management and knowledge management systems (blogs, wikis, bulletin boards, discussion groups) become more intuitive and accessible, as the networks that support those systems become more robust and widespread, the line between content consumers and content producers is blurred. The hybrid predicted by futurist Alvin Toffler, the prosumer, is now reality in the realm of digital content.

This change shifts the balance of power not only in markets, but also in organizations and how they connect with those markets. IBM, for instance, wrote its entire blogging policy not through overpaid execs on expensive month-long junkets, but through regular employees on a cheap ten-day internal wiki. You probably already know how Microsoft's 700 bloggers, led by Robert Scoble, are getting them free PR, or how your Friendster blogs like your own are increasing their customer loyalty and ad revenue.

This change is emerging in the Philippines, as well. With IDC counting 11.8 million Internet users in the Philippines last year, going up to 20 million next year, Filipinos are getting in on it. This blog, for instance, exposes alleged plagiarism by a big local clothing label. I don’t even have to tell you what people remixed and spread off the PCIJ blog. Your own blogging platform, Friendster, counts half its users as Filipinos.

Companies can leverage this change by crafting policies and selecting technologies that maximize collaborative content creation among employees and consumers. After all, consumers and employees are already talking amongst themselves and each other on the Web. Instead of ignoring or stifling these conversations, companies need to get in on them.

Just my two cents, of course. Many authors have written far more extensively on where the ‘Net is going; I cite some of them here.

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