Monday, December 10, 2007

Technology around the globe

David Goodman, CTO of International Rescue Committee ( blogged about his recent trip to Africa, where he spent time in Kenyan and Ethopian refugee camps and reviewing technology needs ( One discovery was that the internet band-width was poor, and David's blog got me thinking in general about how technology is different around the world.

I was going to title this posting "global technology", but that implies we use the same technologies around the world, but that's just not true. Yes, there are similarities, but from a CTO's point of view technology management is quite different once you leave the US, whereas I am convinced that managing technology in the 48 continental states is effectively the same.

I am going to skip the obvious differences (currencies, consumer shipping & payment methods, multi-language, multii-byte character sets, telecomm, regulatory issues), and focus on other non-obvious issues relevant to a CTO dealing with technology overseas. Here are just a few:-
1) US companies do more custom/in-house development than other countries
2) No-name PCs are often used, as not all vendors are established in all countries (i.e. Dell recently lost their presence in Israel)
3) Phone text messaging is more prevalent at executive level than Blackberries

Clearly, some differences will change over time as companies adopt US practices. But the point is, you can't just apply best practices from the US overseas. Be careful about decisions like "every application must run in a browser", it won't necessarily work. I believe the best approach is to support local technology management in individual countries/regions, and as a CTO support those individuals. Disagree, or have a different experience? Let me know.