By Susan Cunningham
January 2, 2021
The most important theme of 2020 wasn’t the emergence of a technological innovation. Rather, it was how the pandemic supercharged certain existing trends in China while revealing cracks in the firmament we should have seen long before. At least, that’s what some thoughtful members of the TechNode community said in a remarkable display of consensus.
We asked them to reflect on the tech year in the time of coronavirus, and point to what we can anticipate in the year ahead.
They say that fast growth is likely over (and that’s a good thing). They say that many, many ordinary Chinese people lost their blind faith in giant tech (welcome as well). And governmental authorities began making firm strides toward regulation.
Whether pertaining to monopolies, fintech, or protection of personal data, long overdue regulations are now coming, our experts say, but what form they take will surely be a major source of worry, relief, and dispute in 2021. Will authorities, for example, regulate community group buying to protect vulnerable small enterprises?
Perhaps most significant of all, it turns out that tech trade wars were just beginning back in 2019. MORE
Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter (Bloomsbury, 2019)
Reviewed by Susan Cunningham
Los Angeles Review of Books
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE out-of-style clothing we dump in the charity bin? Or the decades of furnishings downsizing empty-nesters donate to the local thrift shop? What follows the surge of self-satisfaction we feel as responsible recyclers, along with the hope that someone else will get a little pleasure from our discarded things? In Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale, the intrepid Adam Minter sets off to find some answers, traveling from his home in Malaysia to interview cleaners, sellers, sorters, exporters, and importers in Japan, India, West Africa, and North America.
As with his first book, Junkyard Planet (2013), which focused on the far-flung fates of discarded scrap metals, Minter, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, does his best to sift sense from dodgy data. But it’s his vibrant sketches of entrepreneurial characters and his dives into obscure industrial histories that make a persuasive case: Discarded goods are becoming a big environmental problem. MORE
I served as the rapporteur at this annual conference in Yangon and wrote the attached report (as pdf). The subtitle is “Inclusive Independent Media in a New Democracy.” The presentation of a study at this conference about gender equity in media gave me the idea for this story for Mizzima. The conference’s chief sponsor is the Swedish NGO International Media Support.
By Susan Cunningham
The Star (Malaysia)
27 March 2019
When ride-sharing company Grab agreed to buy Uber’s South-East Asian assets a year ago, it seemed that its hardest and longest fought competition was finally over – at least in its seven markets that weren’t Indonesia.
In its home base of Singapore, Grab especially had a wide open field, having raised US$4.64bil (RM18.9bil) in funding from the likes of SoftBank and DiDi Chuxing.
Its chief competitors were those taxi drivers who didn’t use the Grab app. The hailing apps from well-funded foreigners – German-Brazilian Easy Taxi and Britain’s Hailo and Karhoo – had been driven out by 2016.
Yet instead of surging with an influx of Uber’s former passengers, the number of “Daily Active Users” of the main Grab app in Singapore plunged after Uber withdrew from the city-state in May.
The number of such users fell from almost 171,000 on June 1, 2018 to 135,576 by Dec 1, 2018, according to analytics firm SimilarWeb’s data on Android phone users. That’s a loss of almost 40,000 Daily Active Users over the six-month period. MORE
Postscript: I should have mentioned in the story that the Android operating system had about 75% of the Singapore smartphone/tablet market during most of 2018. In Indonesia, Android had about 92% of the market.
Hotelier Malee Tangsin and 35 of her scholarship boys.
In November 2018 Forbes Asia‘s 12th annual philanthropy issue honored a total of 40 generous people or families from Australia, Hong Kong and 13 Asian countries. I wrote about Malee Tangsin, 90, Chairwoman of Bangkok’s Ramada Plaza Menam Riverside Hotel. She and her family foundation have supported 450 boys while they attended high school in Bangkok. The photo shows the current three “classes,” most of whom are from Hmong or Akha hill tribe villages. More here.