25 features of the ‘Silicon Valley model’ of tech / social tech development

Largely thanks to the research being done by Chris Csikszentmihalyi of M-ITI Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute on Social Tech Eco-Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, I have become very aware of how we are all in thrall to the Silicon Valley model of doing tech development including social tech development. This is not healthy. Taking one model from one country and trying to make sure that all projects fit this is anti-innovatory in so many ways. Obviously America has been a massive influence on how we successfully develop new tech. But we do need to be more aware of what might be more suitable to societies and countries elsewhere around social tech development. So here are the key 25 features I could think of that make up the Silicon Valley model that may well be constraining our imagination. Please feel free to suggest others or criticise my choices 🙂

  1. Hubs (which go by various names including hackspaces, impact labs, makerspaces, and innovation labs) are vital and should be the pre-eminent way of encouraging and sustaining social tech innovation.
  2. Hubs should be similar the world over in terms of how they operate and even how they look i.e. bare wood, table football, coffee machines, open brick walls, soft seats in block colours.
  3. Role models are male, white, and normally American. I’m thinking Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel. OK there are exceptions like Jack Ma but he’s also a man.
  4. Hackathons are key as ways of bringing together developers and people with ideas to generate new digital products and services. Also important that they feature young people / students, coffee, pizza, and intense activity.
  5. Key to success is the development of an app that people can use their iOS or Android phone to access.
  6. The main way people will access the internet and digital products is via their phone. Everyone has access to an iOS or Android smartphone. And if they don’t now then they will soon. And people will always aspire to upgrade their smartphone.
  7. Nobody that matters wants to keep their old featurephone. And things like SMS are really old fashioned or second best.
  8. Private business incorporation is the best governance model for a tech organisation. And as such directors, investors, and profits are all to be welcomed.
  9. Investment capital is easily available and projects do not need to be instantly profitable.
  10. Pitches and pitching ideas to investors and other key people is the most important way to get buy in for your new digital product or service.
  11. Project managers are key – someone who manages everything and is accountable for success or failure. Such individuals should be university educated and qualified in project management ideally in a tech context.
  12. Agile methodology, sprints, minimum viable products, and alpha / beta versions are the best ways to do tech development even in a social context.
  13. Contracts and legal agreements are vital to ensure everything goes forward in a ‘proper’ way. That is with the ability to take legal action if necessary.
  14. Connectivity is universally good. Indeed, if it doesn’t exist now then it will be very soon in coming.
  15. Data is cheap and people have contracts to access the internet via their phone. And if they don’t yet then it will soon arrive.
  16. Video is inevitably going to be ubiquitous across the internet (probably the same for AR and VR). And that data cost is not an issue for people in making or distributing these.
  17. There are wifi hotspots that people can easily access if need be.
  18. There are public recharging plug points that people can easily access if need be.
  19. Life of batteries is not the pre-eminent reason why people choose a phone or mobile device (though a camera might be).
  20. Advertising is a good thing and to be encouraged.
  21. There are role model digital products and services such as Amazon, Expedia, Air BnB, Uber, etc. And new ideas can easily be these models applied to other sectors i.e. ‘the Air BnB / Uber for childbirth’.
  22. The 5 big tech companies (Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook) are ultimately benign and good for humanity.
  23. Access to data is a good thing. Indeed ‘data is the new oil’ and that access is not abused by ‘trustworthy’ companies.
  24. Electricity is easily available, reliable, and relatively cheap.
  25. Developers and users are literate including being able to understand and communicate in English.

silicon valley shop front

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