Sept - Dec 2016
Global Digital Innovation
Edu Tech 


TV purchases a distant reality – the virtual goods gap

By Ayesha Dawood

Watching TV is a shopper’s paradise in the US. You see, you click, you pay and the virtual goods arrive at your doorstep. That is digital terrestrial television (DTT) at its best.

South Africa's DTT technology — while not similar to the US — has the potential to offer this function. SA is similar to Europe in terms of its DTT roll-out.

That wonderful ease of purchase and attendant endorphin rush from a cool purchase gets lost in this country. Even with DTT’s potential slaunch in SA in 2015, with its anticipated digital switchover, there is a yawning gap that disables this ease of a TV purchase.

This gap relates to user interactivity and it is not possible on analogue systems, hence DTT’s value and attractiveness, but DTT in SA is likely to fall short on this conveyance.

We have no policy or regulations, and the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) has to grant broadcasters additional bandwidth to enable virtual TV sales. ICASA has no such regulations and SA’s policy on backchannels is as yet non-existent. This critical back stream is exactly what enables user interactivity to click on an item for sale and pay. This means airwaves enable purchases and transform e-commerce.

In the absence of a backchannel, an alternate means would be to use a telephone line as a backchannel. This is a practice in Europe where countries that have DTT use the telephone line as the backchannel. What may be smarter though is the Irish innovative approach: Irish DTT has pioneered an internet/interactive service. They will operate this service on a limited access basis comprising special sites which are adapted to TV. They are arguably first to market with this and they will be utilising WINDS (Wireless Interactive Network for Digital Services).

The backchannel need not be via telephone — as with most European countries — but will be piloted via terrestrial waves. It does require the Irish to manage engagement with their settop boxes and these will now have to contain a micro-transmitter which sends information back to the Irish DTT broadcaster. The Irish will soon be known as the harbinger of DTT airwave purchase. We must and should learn from them.

It is time to mobilise a call for policy and consequent regulations on backchannels. This refers to the capability that allows for the sending of signals via terrestrial airwaves and not the internet or telephone. Backchannel technological capability will bring ease of purchase and consequently greater consumer access and a wide range of choice in virtual TV purchases.

For companies, it will reduce overall costs of marketing spend and enable greater content distribution via a new distribution channel.

We have an anticipated digital switchover but as yet no ability for interactive virtual airwave purchases on DTT.

But then again, that is only one hurdle — this country still needs to move into the Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) trajectory space and this is a potential medium-term wait. As a matter of background IPTV in SA is what the Americans and Europeans call “cable”.

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Creator Spaces   Designing Innovation Economics


Ayesha Dawood

I liked this when I came across it “Thinking is a kind of making, and making is a kind of thinking" says Jessie Shefrin former Provost of The Rhode Island School of Design and past Dean of Graduate Studies of The Rhode Island School of Design.

I like this too, alot 'design thinking ... is the expression of communication – the form itself...' that is the response I got when I asked John Maeda, at a talk at MIT this year what design thinking is -- Is it the form, is it the way it is presented .. and how does it impact international affairs? His response has got me mulling on innovation economics – and a very 21st century focus. The innovation economics idea was introduced to me by Professor William Fisher of Harvard Law School, Wilmer Hale Professor of Intellectual Property. And so Professor Fisher I take the liberty to propel this idea to designing innovation economics in the 21st century. So here I am positing Creator Spaces as innovation economics in action. And yes, Prof Fisher, Intellectual Property is important and as you say, only and only if it creatively engages with culture. So I take the creative engaging with the culture of a people, the culture of counties ... to a culture of creation. So, I am building and creating and designing too. Is this Ronald Dworkin`s chain novel theory playing itself out – a step by step building of things.

In particular I focus on Creator and Maker spaces which I call Creator Spaces. It is a movement rapidly gaining traction – and pioneering new pedagogies – tinkering, creator and playful learning pedagogies. No doubt this is influencing and will continue to improve a whole new wave – tinkering, playful learning and learning through play and exploration heralding novel creations as well as iterations in the new edu- tech era.

This is innovation economics birthed. A world of tinkering, software and hardware creation including an immersive engagement with technology and with materials –that is what empowers us to be courageous and creative. To make, to create – the art of playful learning and innovator spirit is boldly borne.

In seeing what we create – both online with immersive engaging of technology to building with our minds and hands to creating with materials to embracing the realm of possibilities and yes frameworks ( the lawyer in me screams legal frameworks as much computational thinking calls for system frameworks ). That is the power of Creator Space. They energise, motivate, uplift and propel growth in ones own sense of self, in creativity, in making, in building, in designing and cognition and critical thinking. And this is why it makes sense – it is innovation economics in both the digital and physical – a new form of a connected world – a world of immersive technology made simple – a world of creative making and a world of design and designing new things – software, new hardware, new things and while the search for new hardware forms and hardware materials is increasingly opening up new possibilities in materials.... Creator Spaces are about working with what is available as well making new from afresh and in that process new forms are birthed – New software creation is Creator Space and open source learning and remixing also lend impetus to this. See what amazing creations Scratch, an open source computer programme inspiring community learning and inspiring kids to create stories, animations and games - initiated at the MIT Media Lab Lifelong Kindergarden Group - is doing for kids globally here

Designing Creator Spaces is about inspiring people to take charge of their minds and ideas. I marvelled at watching the excitement and agility of the kids at MIT `s Scratch Day this May. Boundless enthusiasm and fun creations – and such confidence.

A new creator pedagogy in the making – yes – but maybe not so new in Africa and emerging economies where creator crafts and tinkering necessities were birthed. It is this staple that will take the shift to tinkering and artful play in emerging economies to levels unparalleled and a boon for innovation economics. Now that is design thinking innovation economics.  Creator Spaces is innovation economics. And yes, Intellectual Property matters.

Ayesha Dawood is a lawyer, writer and artist and educator. She is a Harvard and South African educated lawyer (@ConsultAyesha) She has an LL.M from Harvard Law School and is a recent Fellow of the Weatherhead Centre for International Affairs, Harvard University.