Technology Democratization In Action

CloudU Notebooks is a weekly blog series that explores topics from the CloudU certificate program in bite sized chunks, written by me, Ben Kepes, curator of CloudU. How-tos, interviews with industry giants and the occasional opinion piece are what you can expect to find. If that’s your cup of tea, you can subscribe here.

For a few years now I’ve noticed a convergence in the different areas I write about. Almost 20 years ago I wrote a paper about the dawn of a new type of organization, one that was organic and which morphed depending on the situation it was in from week to week and month to month. That was a great concept, but in the past technology was a barrier to this – staff couldn’t work remotely, infrastructure couldn’t be spun up (or down) quickly, and collaboration across multiple projects and departments was only a pipe dream.

Over the past few years however we’ve seen some seemingly disconnected changes in the way we work, and in the way technology works for us. The rise of mobile data and the ability to work via the Internet from anywhere; the increasing adoption of solutions that are built with a view to collaboration; and the ascendency of cloud infrastructure with the ability to spin up servers at will. All of these things, powered to a greater or lesser extent by the cloud, allow organizations to compete like never before, to react to changing situations like never before and, most excitingly for me, allow smaller organizations to absolutely “punch above their weight.”

The other day I read of an example of this in action. Tuihana café is a small café in Auckland, New Zealand. I’ve been involved in the hospitality industry and know that generally it’s a case of eking out a living and working on cost reductions to improve the bottom line. Tuihana, however, had the luck of being co-owned by a software developer, Nate Dunn. Dunn, being something of a tinkerer, decided to combine his love of tech with his new business. He created what is, essentially, a very simple system. Patrons text, email or tweet an order to the café where it is outputted to the barista to complete. The technology is simple – a GSM modem connected to a receipt printer; a script to automate collection of messages; and some search parameters within email and twitter. Nothing really out of the ordinary, and nothing, at first glance, to do with “the cloud.” I disagree, however. In my mind the cloud stands for a lot of things, one of the most important of which is the democratization of technology. The fact that a tiny café can leverage technology in order to introduce an innovative solution that meets its customers’ needs … well, that’s democratization in action.

I’m always keen to hear little anecdotes about technology being democratized in action – drop me a line if you have any…

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