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Facebook and Google Generation; Highlights from Dr. Eric Schmidt’s Carnegie Mellon University Commencement Address – Spring 2009


Dr. Eric Schmidt

While I was searching through in the internet yesterday, I came across an interesting piece of speech by Dr. Eric Schmidt – Executive Chairman, Google Inc. It stroked me most, because the speech was about us – ‘Facebook and Google Generation’ (Hereafter will be referred to as ‘F&G Generation’). F&G Generation is the generation I belong to. I wanted to share the highlights, because that is the generation my friends at uni, school, office, etc belong to.  Here are some of the highlights of his speech.

I watched a few other commencement addresses done by Dr. Eric Schmidt in various top universities, such as University of California, Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania, Boston University. I selected Carnegie Mellon University commencement address because, it was the shortest and it was the sweetest. In all the commencement addresses I saw one common thing. That is at the start of each speech Dr. Eric stated the importance of the university to USA and to the world. He speaks a bit about the contribution these universities have done for the betterment and advancement of mankind. He spoke about transistor, Bell Labs, William Shokley, Robert Noyce, Sillicon Valley, etc according to the situation. In other words he highlighted the importance of University – industry collaboration at the beginning of each speech.

So when I think about you all, I think about you as the Facebook and the Google generation, the first generation that really grew up with the Internet. When I grew up, you know, we had Tang, you had Red Bull. We used a program that was called basic, you all used Java. We had VCRs that held a half an hour of video that cost $700, and you all can upload 15 hours of video in to You Tube every minute.  We got our news from newspapers, you get yours from blogs and tweets.  And for those of you who don’t know, that’s not what you hear in zoos.  We stood in line to buy Pong, you stood in line to buy Wiis.  We just didn’t tell anyone about our most embarrassing moments, you record them and post them to Facebook and You Tube every day.  I am so happy that my record of my misachievements is not around for posterity.  I’m looking forward to yours being there for many, many years.

Above quote shows the significant difference which has taken place over last 30 years. For us it might not be a significant difference. But believe me, this is an unbelievable difference for your parents. Sometimes my father becomes furious when the sound ‘clog’ comes out of my laptop when a friend send me a chat message in facebook. Advancements happened in Telecommunications is one major factor for the rise of F&G generation. Telecommunications has made sure that F&G generation have access to internet via his/her smart phone, tablet, laptop, etc. In Sri Lanka mobile service providers have done a tremendous job in making sure that F&G generation in Sri Lanka get high quality data services. They have developed their products according to the requirements of the customers. I saw some recent advertisements of Dialog and Mobitel, promoting a package specially designed for youtube and facebook users. This is a fantastic thing, because these things weren’t happening 5 years back. I’m using a Dialog data connection and I have the luxury of using free Gmail, Google+ and Google Search services via my smart phone by logging into However, at the end of the day customers are benefiting, because of the competition between operators.

Did you know that we use mainframe computers with 300 megabytes of storage to go to the moon six times?  Your iPods, 120 gigabytes have 500 times more just to get you to your next class.  We thought friend is a noun, right, you think it’s a verb.  We had phone booths, anybody seen a phone booth recently?  You have cell phones. We wore watches, took pictures with cameras, navigate with maps, and listened to transistor radios.  You have a cell phone. We thought that the marvels of computers and technology again, largely invented here, would change the world.  You agree, and we’re both right.”

Everything has got miniaturized. Today a Samsung S4 or an Apple iPhone 5 could do almost everything you did with several equipments few years back. I don’t have a Samsung Galaxy S4 or an Apple iPhone 5. I have an Android smart phone which I bought recently (Dialog i43) for Rs. 16000. I feel like, I bought a TV, a Radio, A Camera, a Kindle, etc for Rs. 16000. Competition among smart phone vendors has done wonders when considering the features latest smart phones have. Android OS is another factor which has revolutionized the smart phone industry.

So what can we do with a vastly more powerful Web?  Right, the Web of information that comprises all of what we know. You can obviously have face-to-face meetings with colleagues around the world, but more importantly now we can do dynamic translations so we can translate between languages so you could actually understand.  You’re traveling in Mongolia and you’re on a motorcycle — many of you will do this right after you graduate, right, to get away — and you have an accident, and you can actually have a doctor consult with you around the world and they can translate and provide you the healthcare that you need.  These are very real wins.

Here Dr. Eric speaks about the applications available to F&G generation. There are millions of them at the moment in cyber space. According to the requirement anyone can download apps. What you need is a data connection which would connect you to the internet. Dr. Eric speaks about face-to-face meetings with colleagues around the world. Why does F&G generation want online conferencing?  In some parts of the world it is used mostly for fun. But in some parts it is used for things such as discussing about a start-up (may be talking about strategic plans), about a requirement given by a client to a newly formed start-up by a group of people belong to F&G generation. Actually speaking, after I bought the smart phone I rarely used my laptop to connect with my friends via facebook, skype, etc. That is because, using apps is more convenient. But when app usage goes high it would be quite a big challenge to maintain the same service levels. They will have to expand the capacity of their networks. In Sri Lanka also smart phone penetration continuously keeps on growing. So telecom service providers might have to expect some difficult times ahead I guess.

At the end of each speech Dr. Eric reminded everyone about the importance of being simple and humble in order to become successful. As the last words of his speech Dr. Eric Schmidt reminds a very important thing to F&G generation “always remember to be nice to your parents and true to your school”.

Economic Development of Sri Lanka and Telecommunications

In 1996 Asians already made up 3.5 billion out of a global population of over 5 billion (or about 70 percent of the world population). By conservative projections, the Asian portion of the world population will increase to 5.7 billion in 2050 out of global population of 9.87 billion, while population of North America and Europe will still remain relatively constant at 374 million and 721 million respectively. Clearly, in the past few centuries Europe and, more recently, North America have carried the larger share of the global burden in advancing human civilization. By 2050, when Europeans and North Americans make up one-tenth instead of one-sixth of the world population, would it be fair for the remaining 90 percent of mankind to expect this 10 percent to continue to bear this burden? Realistically, can the rest of the world continue to rest on the shoulders of the West? If Asians double in population in the next 50 years, will they be able to carry their fair share of this burden?

This is a quote from a book written by Kishore Mahbubani – Dean and Professor in the Practice of Public Policy of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, “Can Asians Think?” in 1998.

Sri Lanka is a country which has a great potential to answer Prof. Kishore’s timely questions. I say so, because, Sri Lanka has gained a continuous improvement as a country after the end of civil war in 2009, which lasted for more than 30 years. Below figure can be considered as evidence, to show the


improvement Sri Lanka has achieved. It shows the stage of development Sri Lanka was on at the end of year 2007 and year 2012 respectively. When deciding the development stage of a country World Economic Forum looks at 12 different factors. Below figure shows those 12 factors.


Extensive and efficient infrastructure is critical for ensuring the effective functioning of the economy, as it is an important factor in determining the location of economic activity and the kinds of activities or sectors that can develop in a particular instance. Well-developed infrastructure reduces the effect of distance between regions, integrating the national market and connecting it at low cost to markets in other countries and regions. In addition, the quality and extensiveness of infrastructure networks significantly impact economic growth and reduce income inequalities and poverty in a variety of ways. Well developed transport system, electricity supplies, telecommunication networks, etc are a few factors which need to be looked at when deciding whether the country is well equipped with required amount of infrastructure or not. Telecommunication comes under ICT and solid and extensive telecommunications network allows for a rapid and free flow of information, which increases overall economic efficiency by helping to ensure that businesses can communicate and decisions are made by economic actors taking into account all available relevant information (Global Competitiveness Report 2012 – 2013, 2012). Currently Sri Lanka is moving well with the technological changes happening in the world telecommunication industry. The most recent example to show this is, that Dialog Axiata PLC, Sri Lanka launched both fixed LTE and mobile LTE services on December 2012 and April 2013 respectively, while Sri Lanka Telecom – Mobitel launched only mobile LTE service on June 2013.

When it comes to technological readiness telecommunication plays a vital role. Technological readiness measures the agility with which an economy adopts existing technologies to enhance the productivity of its industries. In today’s globalized world, technology is increasingly essential for firms to compete and prosper (Global Competitiveness Report 2012 – 2013, 2012). When acquiring latest technologies information plays a vital role. Telecommunication makes sure that people and firms have access to latest information. For example, ‘internet’ has been the primary source for information in today’s world context. When considering Sri Lanka’s situation telecommunication service providers do a fine job in making sure that community gets access to information on latest up-to-date technologies.

Innovation has become a critical factor to any nation, in order to become competitive in today’s world context (Global Competitiveness Report 2012 – 2013, 2012). Nations which do continuous innovation have the capability to achieve sustainable economic development. Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong are 4 Asian nations which have achieved economic sustainability through continuous innovation. If we closely monitor the success of these nations, telecommunication has been one of the most decisive factors in their development. For example South Korea has been practicing the habit of adopting the latest technology available in the field of telecommunication. When it comes to innovation also, availability of information plays a vital role. Telecommunication itself is a field which there is a lot of ongoing R&D and innovative activities. 3GPP has been the most powerful standardizing body in the field of telecommunication. World’s leading telecommunication equipment vendors such as HUAWEI, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Nokia, etc and operators such as China Unicom, NTT Docomo, Telefornica, Orange, AT&T, etc provide their innovative ideas in developing those standards. Sri Lanka is a country which is blessed with talented and innovative telecommunication engineers. With the help of these engineers, telecom operators in Sri Lanka could also start contributing towards the standardization process.

Prof. Kishore’s question influenced me to write this article. To answer his question, as an Asian and as a Sri Lankan, Asia has already started to taken up its share of burden while Sri Lanka has shown a great deal of improvement and promise since 2009. Since the article is about economic development and telecommunication, I would say Sri Lanka is OK with infrastructure and technological readiness (Here, I’m considering only the field of telecommunication.), thanks to organizations like Dialog Axiata PLC and Sri Lanka Telecom. I say so, because Dialog Axiata PLC has been the pioneer in Sri Lanka when it comes to introducing latest technologies in mobile telephony market, while Sri Lanka telecom has been the pioneer in fixed telephony market. But when it comes to innovation in the field of telecommunication (which can consider as the field which takes place majority of the technological research and development), Sri Lanka is not in a good position. But Sri Lanka has the potential and resources to start R&D and innovation in telecommunication. State, Industry and Academia have a great responsibility to get together and converge, in order to make sure that ‘innovation’ component kicks off. If they do so, the field of telecommunication could provide a considerable contribution to move forward in Global Competitiveness Index Framework and achieve sustainable economic development of Sri Lanka (Would reduce the gap between Sri Lanka and Technological Frontiers), and help Asia to carry the burden of rest of the world in coming years.