Thanks DK. Cell phone technology certainly has opened entire populations to banking and financial services. Since these services are so new in some areas, Vodafone should take it upon itself to also provide elementary financial education to its customers regarding responsible borrowing practices. Financial access sadly also means the proliferation of ‘predator’ lending practices. It would be tragic if those who M Pesa were seeking to serve lost faith in the financial community. Furthermore, the Kenyan government should pass common sense usury legislation as an added protection.
Interesting topic. Kudos to the author for finding a subject often overlooked when discussing technological advances.
As a parent, I welcome anything that offers more visibility into child care services. The app discussed will not only offer a more efficient way to interact with providers, but also a way for parents to connect more often with their children. A concern is that the parents may feel less of a pull to spend actual time with their child if they can do so electronically and spend more time at work, exercising etc.  Let’s hope this great technological advancement does not become perverse.
Thanks Robby. Pests aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Aside from the safety recommendations you proposed, technology could also play a big role in the way that Terminix and other pest companies think about marketing and sales. Pest control services are often sold door-to-door by a fleet of sales people. Data collected from technicians could help the sales people understand what pest infestations have struck a certain area, allowing sales people to better target an area, boosting sales productivity. Geo-locating would also allow them to target areas that don’t have a sales fleet through zip code based mailers through the Postal Service.
Terminix could also outfit their fleet of vehicles with devices that track their driving, such as the Snapshot from Progressive.  Monitoring the fleet may incent better driving, thus reducing accidents and lowering insurance costs.
What a great narrative of how technology is transforming even the oldest industries. I believe John Deere is doing the right thing by moving into the data integration field. The massive amounts of data they gather could be monetized in the future by offering farmers better insight into crop rotation patterns and soil content.
My worry is the cost. A slightly used John Deere S Series combine still fetches around $400k. While an additional $20k only adds 5% to the total price, will the added technology increase yields by at least 5%? If not, it may be a hard sale for already cash-strapped farmers.
Great insights, Ken. Aside from changing the way that citizens interact with the IRS, Turbo Tax (and similar online tax prep companies) have also forced the IRS to evolve the way they interact with the customer. From direct deposit options to online tracking of your refund status, the private sector has been a first mover with innovation, making it less costly for the IRS to follow. While the above mentioned legislation by Senator Warren would allow the IRS to build its own ‘free’ interface, the worry is how much it would cost to do so and the loss in efficiency by transferring something from the private sector to the public sector.
Another menacing threat to Turbo Tax is a massive simplification of the the tax code.  While unlikely, the impact would be drastic. If I can do my taxes on a postcard, why do I need to pay $200?
I also saw similar trends working in the retail industry as we saw a high correlation with our store comp sales with any degree higher (or colder, in winter) than average. What was even more fascinating that this was a recent trend, meaning the swings were something relatively new and had not been incorporated into consumers’ regular purchasing behavior.
Another point to ponder regarding mass retail is what happens to the product after it leaves the shelves (or when it doesn’t)? Old merchandise is often clearanced or sold to 2nd tier retailers (i.e., TJ Maxx) at deep discount. If the product cannot be sold there, it is often purchased by an intermediary, packaged in bulk, and then shipped for resell in emerging markets. Eventually, it ends up in a landfill. With the supply of ‘widgets’ being produced and sold in the world outpacing the demand, companies should think start thinking more about quality rather than quantity.
While true that an electric car will net reduce CO2 emissions, Tesla should also be mindful of the impact of mass lithium extraction from the earth. In fact, some car experts (Top Gear) have gone as far as to claim that it requires the same amount of energy to produce a Land Rover Discovery as a Toyota Prius. The claim was later disputed by Greenpeace but the point remains that the environmental impact of a vehicle goes far beyond the fuel consumption.
A relevant follow up question is if the technology can be applied to diesel fuel as well. If so, the product may have a longer life within heavy equipment/heavy transport as these industries are lagging the car industry in terms of the migration to battery technology. For example, Hitachi, a global heavy machinery manufacturer, offers only one model of their heavy machinery completely powered by a Lithium battery.
A more cynical eye may see Wal-Mart’s sustainability efforts as only thinly veiled attempts to re-brand their tireless march towards cost savings. However, sustainability pursued for the sake of cost savings is better than nothing.
Another important aspect of Wal-Mart’s sustainability is how that will translate into the flex fulfillment and online fulfillment strategies. In order to compete with Amazon, last year alone Wal-Mart poured over $10 billion into their digital business.  With this ever-expanding digital strategy, companies should also turn their cost saving wands towards packaging and delivery as these challenges will be the puzzle of the future.
 Thinking Outside the Box” The Economist http://www.economist.com/news/business/21699961-american-shoppers-move-online-walmart-fights-defend-its-dominance-thinking-outside, accessed November 2016.
Thank you for the post. It’s great to see companies act responsibly to mitigate externalities caused by their business. It’s also great to see progress towards a reduction in water usage.
However, did you get any sense of the financial strain (if any) that the initiative is putting on the company? I ask because in order to be truly sustainable, good intentions need to flow to the bottom line.