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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nothing is impossible, not anymore

10:31:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments
A couple of days ago, my 8 year old daughter brought her best friend with her home after school. The friend's mother, who is a teacher, had left earlier that day for a two week long stay in Ethiopia. As we were having dinner, we concluded that her mother must had landed in Addis Abeba by that time. Since the mother had brought her laptop with her, we decided to try to Skype her. I went and grabbed our Skype phone, searched the Skype directory for the mother's name, found her and added her as contact. A few seconds later, the phone rang. It was the mother. She had noticed that I had added her as contact in Skype, assumed that her daughter was at home with us, and immediately decided to call us. Since she was using the free Wi-Fi at the hotel, it didn't cost her anything to try. And if she was lucky, she and her daughter could talk to each other as long as they wanted.

As late as the 1990s, making a long distance call was ridiculously expensive. You would have had to make a collect call, a telephone call in which the calling party wants to place a call at the called party's expense. With such a setup, you wouldn't call anyone outside your own family, unless it was agreed upon in advance, or an absolute necessity. You would definitely not call your daughter's friend in Sweden from a hotel in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, just to check if your daughter might have followed her friend home after school.

This might seem like a small change, but it isn't. It's enormous. There has been a collapse in costs of communication, and we can thank the Internet and the World Wide Web for that. New and innovative services using the web as platform, such as Skype and Google Talk, take advantage of this. These small applications aren't just changing the face of the Telecom industry, but they are also changing people's lives, and society as a whole. It might just not be apparent to us now, since we are always occupied with chasing down the next big thing. But if we cast an eye in the rearview mirror, we'll probably realize that we're in the middle of a great wind of change right now.

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