What if the traditional lenses through which one sees the world will need to be refined? The outdated binary model of developed versus underdeveloped economies faces infinite shortcomings when considering key targets and innovations in social providence.
The so-called underdeveloped countries have been building excellent best practices for healthcare, education, banking and basic services, outcompeting their “developed” counterparts in a number of ways.
In spite of low gross domestic products and degrees of social inclusion, developing countries are advancing at an exponentially faster rate than Western economies. Does the division still make sense in today’s globalised world? And what are the implications for learning and advancing knowledge?
Minding The Gap
The Western world suffers from an exaggerated Europe-centric perspective, consolidated historically through colonialism and myopia. The whole conception of developed and developing countries led to a blinded, GDP-driven view of societies, according to which the western model should be replicated in emerging countries regardless of local ambitions, customs and contingencies.
In the same way that globalisation has imposed Western ideals over local ones, it also has reinforced the biased concept of a superior western culture. Developing countries are unknown and erroneously considered inferior in many respects.
This gave life to a unilateral liability of foreignness, through which emerging economies are perceived somewhat worse than equally important counterparts. Furthermore, the phenomenon is so subtle and radicated within minds of people that even admitting or realising its existence are complicated matters.
Due to information asymmetry, little is known of what happens outside of one’s own geographic area and established prejudices are hard to detect and overcome. Thus, when bringing innovations up to Western markets, companies from developing economies should be aware of the risks and misunderstandings involved in the process.
Moreover, when looking closely at the differences between first, second and third world, the former have much to learn from the latter. How can developing countries achieve extremely fast improvements in quality of life, accessibility of social services and economic empowerment in spite of an exponentially growing population spread across rural areas? If one considers improvements in infrastructure, life quality and education, the world has never witnessed a change as radical as the one happening now.
For example, in the case of India, every year more than 20,000 startups are founded, most of which are in the subsidised sectors of education, healthcare and agriculture. The country is pioneering life-saving technologies decades ahead of Western nations. Innovative services, such as video medical services, do-it-yourself healthcare facilities, virtual wallets and cashless solutions have been profitably implemented widely across the nation.
Partly because of its intrinsic need for social innovations and partly because of its action-oriented culture, India is challenging common assumptions and advancing at a rate hard to imagine. Boasting an advanced banking system and first-class medical research centres, the country is pushing to extend welfare, employment and education to a broader population.
Who ever said that a teacher should be himself educated? Or that a classroom needs a teacher? Or that a classroom needs to be in place at all for education to happen?
Today, the anachronistic distinction between developed and emerging countries is most definitely outdated. The latter far outcompete the former in innovativeness, entrepreneurship and adoption of new technologies.
The next wave of disruptive innovation is arising from there and, sooner or later, it will move its way forward to richer economies. For instance, drones, cashless payments and tele-education are already finding their way through the intricate labyrinth of cross-country social norms and regulatory constraints.
Those societies with a deeper need for innovation will be the first to master disruptive business models and lead radical change on a global scale. Thus, companies in emerging economies should be aware of the challenges of internationalisation, including mental barriers and negative perceptions of Western consumers.
Originally published on The Market Mogul