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It is heartening to see BusinessWeek focus on indigenous approaches to technological growth in Asia ("Tech's future," Cover Story, Sept. 27). However, I believe the forces at work in Asia are far deeper socially than your analysis suggests. The technological world of mobile phones, computers, and other digital devices not only tugs at the physical aspirations of Indians, it also appeals to an inherent de-materialized form of growth. This growth may not mean building wide highways, industrial plants, or large glass buildings, but worlds of the mind.
Asia in general and India in particular have a deep social desire for this form of growth. The ability of a civilization to use a device invented elsewhere -- the microchip -- to align with its own genius and compete is not new. A quarter-century of industrial thinking originating from Europe and North America continues to blinker us from this reality.
The competition from Asia in the specific field of technology and mind industries may surprise the world far more than your article suggests.
Steve Hamm's story did not emphasize enough a crucial cultural difference that demands enormous conceptual and structural change in the world's leading high-tech firms: The concept of self is weak in many Asian countries, whereas the cultural center of technology (the U.S.) is dominated by the concept of self. This means that almost all technological development results in products that help "individuals."
To truly succeed in gaining increased custom outside the West, technology companies will need to abandon self-directed technologies and develop those that help communities and extended families, rather than just individuals. Intel is showing the way with ethnographic research, but that is only the beginning. A real conceptual shift is required in the boardrooms of America if they are really to succeed long-term in the new global economy.
The "middle class" consumers of the emerging markets that the tech companies are targeting have incomes mostly below the U.S. poverty line. So, even 1 billion strong, they do not have huge purchasing power. The real money will be made by the companies that help the bottom 4 billion of the world to get out of poverty by providing them training, tools, and raw materials, and then buying back the products made in homes and small factories.
In Pakistan, the villagers around Sialkot make components of sporting goods and surgical instruments worth hundreds of millions of dollars, which are assembled and then exported by city-based firms. By raising the living standards, this "grassroots manufacturing" will create a huge market for tech products. That is where the future lies, and the tech companies should also work to make it happen.
Muhammad Abd al-Hameed
Lahore, Pakistan Vladimir V. Putin seems to have become a target of the European Union and the liberal press for taking actions widely supported by the Russian population ("Next, the economy?" European Business, Sept. 27). Whatever other criticism one may level against Vladimir Vladimirovich, one cannot dispute the fact that he is a Russian patriot.
He inherited a lawless country being raped by a bunch of self-serving oligarchs and comical politicians. In a fairly short period of time, Putin has brought a measure of respectability to a great country that was being held up to ridicule. Sure, Putin has taken some "undemocratic" steps, but the vast majority of Russians are on his side. As far as Russians are concerned, he is a patriot who has the best chance of saving the country from further implosion.
When the Soviet Union broke up, the world became a much more dangerous place -- and that was before al Qaeda. If Russia implodes now, the world will become immeasurably more dangerous. The common Russian realizes this and supports Putin. The European Union needs to have that realization dawn on them. Give Putin a chance.
Hillingdon, England Health-Care Costs are ever on the rise, and a double-digit increase is pretty considerable in view of the big U.S. base ("Health insurance: Small biz is in a bind," News: The United States, Sept. 27). Taiwan's experience could be a guide to some extent for the States.
Taiwan's national health insurance (NHI) carries a coverage of 98.67% of the population. It relies on a premium rate of 4.55% of a worker's monthly salary or wage, with government sharing 27% and corporations some 33%. (The premium rate was raised from 4.25% to the current 4.55% in 2002, a 7% increase hike, the first ever in seven years.) Benefits offered include inpatient and outpatient services, dental care, drugs, and Chinese traditional medicine.
Taiwan's NHI is facing fiscal strains, as elsewhere in the world. An 11.2% hike of the premium rate, as predicted by a Kaiser study, will ensure a three-year sustainability.
In my observation, two factors contribute to its relative success: 1) A single-payer system aided with nearly full coverage provides a good pooling of risks, and 2) A low administrative cost, i.e., 1.7% to 2.0% of medical expense, renders it easier and more economical to run.
Deputy General Manager, Planning Div.
Bureau of National Health Insurance