Using Digital to Revolutionize Education in Pakistan

I think that the ilmapps challenge that has been launched by DFID and Pakistan Innovation Foundation (PIF) http://learninginnovatio n.pif.org.pk/ilm-apps-challenge/ is a great initiative to try and focus minds from the tech space to solve the pressing problems facing education in Pakistan. I had the opportunity of mentoring a team that had entered the competition from Karachi- Edequal. (www.edequal.pk). I was impressed with their model, and the degree to which they have been able to digitise content and testing for mathematics. The only area where I felt more research is needed is that they insist that students have a basic understanding of English, before starting the maths section. The reason is that the content is all in English (sourced from around the world). 

Having said that, what I liked about their approach is the assessment system. I want to lay the foundations of a system that works in replacement of the traditional educational system in Pakistan, and not work in consonance with it, as the current Edequal and other systems like Jugnu TV (www.jugnutv.com) do. 

I propose the following

A complete cancellation of the school based education in Pakistan, and a replacement by a system of life learning. This life learning system would allow students to advance at their own pace and not be reliant on spotty education systems that plague Pakistan. Assessments would be possible through assessment centers all over Pakistan to be run by a National Authority (like the NTS). Assessments would be done after biometric identification and would be online. Every child that is born in Pakistan, would be given a unique learning number (ULN). 

Since there would be no schools, so the question would arise that how would the students get any knowledge at all? In my opinion, learning given online and delivered through various mechanisms (tablets, pcs, mobile phones, blended learning in learning centers) is going to be more useful than the current state of both government and private school systems, barring a few high end schools where quality is delivered. 

The second thing is that the curriculum would be completely overhauled because different systems operating in Pakistan would all be abolished and one system with one testing system would be put in place. 

In a future post I will explore the question of language in such a system, and how various language formats can be incorporated into this. 

As would seem to be the case from the above argument, the issues are not really those of technology, but those of politics, and pedagogy. We have the tech to solve the problem of education in Pakistan, but do we have the political will?

 

 

The Case for Social Media

I have been known to be a detractor of social media.  I think its time for me to say something on the other side of the argument also.

In a society that constantly asks its members to play roles that are passed down from generation to generation, mobility within roles is always a problem. This applies to the work/career, hobbies/profession, course of study/skill and gender roles that are well defined. In such a society, it is not a surprise that people use the online world to discover themselves. Creating avatars, escaping and pushing the boundaries of what they are allowed to do in the “real world”.

People are shouting out about issues where they were told to shut up. The “twitter wali quam” (twitter nation) are pushing the envelope about what can be discussed and what cant. There is no carpet anymore to hide issues under, and everything can be brought into the public eye through social media.

The assumed avatars of the online world, are becoming more and more like the real constrained self’s that have been bottled up for so long.

As a tool of radical transparency, social media is opening up a can of worms. Change is happening. Its only a matter of time before traditional societies have to face radical change because the online avatars will become “real”. Occupy will take on a new meaning – the virtual will occupy the real.

 

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As can be seen, the countries on the left are all “South” Developing countries, who are using social media in higher percentages than the Developed world on the right. It is obvious the South is ripe for radical transformation.

Applying Kapferer’s Brand Identity Model to Digital Marketing

Much has been written about tactical deployment of brand communication in the digital world, however, there has been little effort at theorizing around existing models of brand communication and how consumer behavior and brand management is being fundamentally altered by technological change.

This post takes a look at Kapferer’s Brand Identity Prism, one of the most influential models of brand communication, and how digital technologies are challenging older communication models.

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Kapferer focusses attention on the sender receiver model, and how brands are senders of information and consumers are receivers and vice versa.

This model needs to be looked at in detail for the digital age, as consumers are not only connected to each other, they are hyper-linked to brands and any action that a brand takes has to take, has to account for this speed and depth of responses. Hitting the forward key takes no effort, and every false move has a much longer and deeper shelf life than it used to. On the other hand, because consumers are so connected to brands, those brands that have the digital connection worked out stand to gain by co-opting consumers into the product development process, utilizing word of mouth to develop communication strategy, and handle issues in real time.

Let’s take a look at each of the elements from the brand identity prism and how they apply:

Physique:

This is the recognizable physical aspect of the brand. In terms of digital marketing, this expands to include the online spaces that the brand inhabits and the community and brandosphere that is nurtured and developed by the brand.

Personality:

The brands character. When communication is expanded into the virtual world, personality, values and tone of voice become all the more important. All interactions in hyper-space, whether games or blogs, need to have the same personality. Once the personality has been set, there would be many things that the brand cannot do online just like, based on personality, people decide what to do and who to hang out with.

Culture:

The system of values that the brand inherits from the company. In virtual terms, this becomes all consuming, as the corporate entity needs to sort out its presence online, and to decide how the brand will communicate with the TA. Company values are being constantly assessed at all times by consumers before and after the purchase. (refer to the McKinsey Consumer Journey Model detailed in the Notes)

Relationship:

The relation between brand and consumer, and also between consumers, and how the brand facilitates this relationship. In the virtual world, ofcourse your brand could be facebook, and be the ultimate facilitator of relationships, or you might have to work at building a relationship with consumers. Here, an interesting tribal insight comes into play: Everyone does not have to be playing the same role to be friends, infact in a functioning tribe different people play different roles. Hence, it is not essential for the brand to be an exact replica of its target audience in personality  terms in order for it to have a good relationship.

Reflection (of the consumer):

This is the stereotypical user of the brand. In Kapferers model, it is important for the brand manager to know who the ideal consumer really is, and to focus communication on this consumer. Online there will be many groups of consumers who will engage with the brand, but the reflected consumer is the one who the brand should seek to target, and this reflected consumer should be used to engage the other groups. Brand advocates and bloggers with the right personas can be used to engage online audiences here.

Self-image:

The mirror the target group holds up to itself. The ideal self of the consumer. Brands must find and talk to the ideal self. In the virtual world most people put on their ideal self on display, and so brands who connect in the avatar affected world will be the most likely to succeed.

Action Points:

  1. Extend the brand universe to include all online properties
  2. Make sure brand personality is accurately reflected in all online interactions
  3. Let the real culture of the company do the talking
  4. Don’t get between people, facilitate the interaction
  5. If 4 does not apply, then create as real an interaction as possible
  6. Talk to your ideal consumer – others will automatically connect to your ideal – use brand advocates, empower them and let them speak for you.

 

Notes:

For a detailed account of Kapferer’s model: pg. pg 182-187, The New Strategic Brand Management, JN Kapferer, Kogan Page, Fourth Edition, 2008. I have taken the definitions for each facet of the Prism from http://www.eurib.org/en/knowledge-resource-centre/online-recource-centre/identity-and-image.html

For a description of how the consumer journey is changing according to McKinsey, and how the funnel is no longer a valid analogy: http://cmsoforum.mckinsey.com/article/winning-the-consumer-decision-journey

 

 

 

8 Practical Steps you need to take to make your Advertising Agency Digital Ready:

Dear Agency CEO:

It is my pleasure to present 8 things you need to do now!

  1. Bring media planning back to the central focus of the agency. Uptil the time that media buying was agglomerated into specialist media buying agencies, Media was the way that Advertising Agencies made their money; digital media buying allows Agencies to come back into the game. Avail this opportunity and train your media buyers and planners in digital planning and buying.
  2. Change the focus of your copywriting team to content writing. This has two implications, telling brand stories is not just about sexy headlines and neat copy; it’s about blogging, about writing websites, and creating interesting social media content. Also, there is the issue of time: The digital world cannot wait for your copywriter to have his epiphany. Hire people who can think fast. In short: Hire journalists.
  3. Completely new skills are needed in your studio: Your studio needs to know how to optimize images for internet usage. They need to know how to design websites, use CSS and flash and also know sizes of mobile applications, and simple animations for banners. They need to know what fonts work on internet, and what don’t. An inhouse training program conducted by a professional web designer, should be good enough to get you started.  In case the older lot of art directors are not willing to change, the new generation that you hire must be internet enabled.
  4. IT focus: Your IT department has been sitting around running the network, and updating and maintaining your PCs. Its time to upgrade and reposition them also. They need to be the focal point of your technology efforts. When you go and make a pitch to take on an application development or website portal project, you must have inhouse resources to carry these out. Upgrade your IT department to implement CSS, CMS and HTML 5 websites. One solid resource is a good start
  5. Think BTL. Think about ways to connect brands to events, memes and current affairs. This requires the thinking skills of an event planner: eg. Whats our eid plan? And what is our brand saying to the Pakistan team on losing to India in the T20 worldcup. So, sometimes its OK to set aside brand thinking, and connect to consumers through engagement. This thinking needs to be done by the planning / strategy team. Train your strategy team in non-strategic ideation, or hire BTL planners.
  6. As CEO of a Digital enabled agency, you just cant say I don’t have a facebook account. Get with the program. Get a facebook account, and a twitter handle. Insist that everyone in the company be online. Get bandwidth allocated so people can access facebook and twitter, and online websites
  7. Does your agency have a website? When was the last time it was updated? Put this into the Critical Things to Do List.
  8. Now on to the real payoff. Will your company be able to deliver interactive content based on world class ideas of user experience design and game dynamics? There are agencies who are able to do that (akqa is my favourite). My suggestion is to keep this as the goal and build to it.

 

How Public Space in the Real is impacted by the Virtual World

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The subject I want to talk about today is How Physical Activity can be promoted through the internet. Masayoshi Oka  in his paper

Toward Designing an Environment to Promote Physical Activity http://lj.uwpress.org/content/30/2/280.abstract

talks about how the physical world and the social world come together in public space. I have taken this model further and trace how TV takes people indoors (away from public space) and then internet starts to replace the community that is formed in public spaces. My theory is that the internet can be used to bring people in the public spaces together (proximity, location based services) and can also be used to bring people together in public space (facebook event calendar). What we saw in tahrir square in the Egyptian uprising can also be analysed through this tool.

To conclude, I believe that old world media definitely brings people away from community (even though they may have a shared sense of “imagined community”), but new media can definitely bring people out and into the community.

why computer games are a global phenomenon

Just as narratives have global appeal, it seems that computer based games are globally accepted as play tools. Ive been doing some thinking about this, and the wider demographic that has been exposed to games thanks to smart phones now comprises people who are further down the socio-economic classification than before, and also more women are playing computer games than ever before.

Gaming is no longer the bastion of the american, male geek expressing his pent up testosterone in the virtual world.

So, whats the reason for the newfound love of games worldwide? First is the obvious. The new games that have made it really big are not on console but on phone / tablet. These devices have limited computing power, and hence the games too are simple to view and simple to play. Play times are short, generally, and you dont need to be genius to enjoy these games for a few minutes. Infact digital natives would remember similar games on commodore 64 and sinclair zx80, atari etc. Its almost a reprisal.

The second observation that i have may or may not make sense to a lot of people, and that is: computer games allow moral plays. Computer games reward good behaviour, and punish bad behaviour. Many succesful games are based on a quest (something akin to the heroes quest). Infact, all multistage games are quests of a sort, even if the back story is absent. By their quest based nature, and their inherent moral engines, games today are connecting with women, children as well as lower education individuals around the world.

I know grand theft auto went against this, and now some games allow you to play from the bad guys perspective, however, in my opinion, this will never be mainstream. Humans are wired to a moral economy. Like it or not.