Which population matters? Daytime or night time?

Another excellent post from Atlantic Cities.

Which population matters to planners, businesses and service providers? The number of inhabitants only captures part of the picture. New maps capture commuter data to show how cities grow or shrink during the day as people commute in or out for work. For example, Manhattan's population of about 1.5 million doubles to around 3 million every day.

As Emily Badger explains it:
If Manhattan ever needs to evacuate by day during a disaster, the city has to figure out what to do with all 3 million of those people. The city's transportation planners are responsible for every one of them, whether they live in New York or not. And anyone who does business in a service industry on the island – from lunch counters to dry cleaners to department stores – cares a lot more about how many people pass through during the day than who passes out in Manhattan at night. [...] This geography of how populations move on a daily basis should also tell us something about the importance of regional transportation infrastructure. If your city swells in size every day by 50,000 people or more, do you want all of them coming by car?


Special issue on Diaspora Investment and Entrepreneurship: The Role of People, their Movements, and Capital in the International Economy

A special issue of the Journal of International Management that I helped guest edit was just published: Diaspora Investment and Entrepreneurship: The Role of People, their Movements, and Capital in the International Economy.

From the introduction:
Significant scholarly attention in international business has been paid to cross-border movements of financial capital through foreign direct investment, portfolio investment, and international entrepreneurship. The transnational flows of people and the different types of capital that they possess have received lesser attention. Communication and transportation innovations associated with globalization now enable migrants to stay in contact with and visit their countries of origin more easily and cheaply than ever before. This has given rise to the phenomenon of “diasporas” — groups of emigrants who leave their countries of origin for a prolonged period of time but still demonstrate a strong link with their migration history and a sense of co-ethnicity with others of a similar background.
Diasporans often invest in their home countries through direct and portfolio investments or through the establishment of new ventures in their homelands. Diaspora capital – human, social, and financial – may be a useful development resource for migration-sending countries, many of which are among the most capital needy in the world. With the help of the Chinese diaspora, China has won the race to become the world's factory. In a similar vein, with the help of the Indian diaspora, India could become the world's technology lab. Capital from diaspora investment and entrepreneurship has also played an important role in industrialized countries, such as Israel, Ireland, and Italy, furthering economic growth and innovation.
And here are the main articles:

The Evolving Diaspora of Talent: A Perspective on Trends and Implications for Sourcing Science and Engineering Work, Arie Y. Lewin, Xing Zhong

Embedded Diasporas: Shaping the Geopolitical Landscape, Deborah E. de Lange

Diaspora Concentration and the Venture Investment Impact of Remittances, Paul M. Vaaler

To share or not to share: The role of affect in knowledge sharing by individuals in a diaspora, Helena Barnard, Catherine Pendock

Counterfeit Smuggling: Rethinking Paradigms of Diaspora Investment and Trade Facilitation, Kate Gillespie, J. Brad McBride

The Boundary Spanning Effects of the Muslim Diaspora on the Internationalization Processes of Firms from Organization of Islamic Conference Countries, Andreas Schotter, Dina Abdelzaher

The Atlantic's Best CityReads of 2012

One of my favorite sources for new cities research, The Atlantic Cities, has a best of 2012 list. From tickles to must-reads...

...starting with their title photo (courtesy of Reuters/China Daily).


More data visualization: migration

The International Organization for Migration has a cool interactive map on their website. Click on a country to see where its people are emigrating, and from where other migrants are immigrating. Fascinating to play around with.
It would be great to see something similar for intra-country migration too (though that data is more difficult to come by) to map urbanization and other trends. Or to filter by other data points, such as gender, education levels, economic indicators etc. And then to track the whole thing over time.....



Geographic data almost always makes more sense when it's visualized. But good examples are hard to find (probably because they're hard to make...).

Flowing Data pointed me to a particularly cool interactive map that shows the world's current and planned submarine cables. The blog collects data visualization of just about everything from serious to simply fun.

But my favorite one has to be this: a map that shows how large a city would be if the entire population of the world lived in it - by density of different cities.

There's also a book: Visualize This: The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics


MTS India's redsparks campaign to hire a brand new innovation team

MTS India is hiring a brand new innovation team, 6-10 people. Looking for unique individuals who are passionate about spearheading innovation projects across the whole company. Junior and senior roles

MTS India is a mobile voice and data service provider.

redsparks is a campaign to find the creative enablers, lateral thinkers and outliers for an Innovation Team. It's the chance of a lifetime! Your decisions can impact the future roadmap of MTS India and change the face of the telecom market in India.

Applications are open now through March 20th on the redsparks Facebook page where you'll also find more information. "Like" the page to stay up-to-date, spread the word to all your friends and get going! To apply, simply click on the "GO" link at the bottom of the Facebook page.


India announces a national innovation fund for early stage capital

News alert

The National Innovation Council has recently addressed 2 major issues in the Indian innovation ecosystem
  1. Within the next 2-3 months a national innovation fund will be set up to provide early stage seed capital for ventures in areas such as health and education. The fund will reportedly have Rs. 1'000 crore (or around $220 mio) to invest.
  2. The Union Budget for 2011-2012 will cover the creation of a new knowledge network - an optical fiber network that will connect 1500 institutes across India
These are great initiatives, given that they address 2 major hurdles in getting great ideas to market: funding and finding/connecting to potential technology partners.

As always the devil will be in the details. Will the fund have the resources to disburse such a huge sum in hundreds of tiny investments, perhaps evaluating thousands before they find the right ones? Will an infrastructure network be enough to increase collaboration and knowledge sharing between dispersed and competing institutes? We'll see. For now, good things are happening.


China: Green cities don't have to come at the expense of economic growth

"How green are China's cities?" McKinsey Quarterly, January 2011.

In connection with the World Economic Forum's themes, McKinsey has published the results of a new study on the sustainability of China's cities. Unsurprisingly, they found huge differences between individual cities.

What may come as a surprise though, is that there was no causal link between sustainability and economic growth. Almost a third of the cities studied were "sustainable growers." They expanded economically while improving on sustainability measures. McKinsey found many "all-round" high performers, suggesting that good city management is key to success, and may even be more influential than potential trade-offs between growth and greening.


Science and the city

Johnson, Steven. Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World, Riverhead Books, 2006.

The map in the title of this book shows houses and wells in mid-19th-century London. In 1854 Soho experienced the most violent outbreak of cholera in the city's history. The map, compiled by the physician John Snow, shows the number of dead for each house and which well is closest in terms of walking distance. Its story is usually told as one of cartographic innovation - the map eventually helped to convince the political scientific establishment of the day that keeping drinking water clean (ie. improving and rerouting sewage systems) could prevent cholera epidemics.

Steven Johnson traces Snow's efforts and finds that the map was merely the final product of a much more fascinating story.

The accepted theories of cholera transmission at the time were a) a miasma theory that related disease to "bad air" and stench produced by unsanitary living conditions and b) that the lower classes were more susceptible to disease through unspecified "moral failings." 

Snow, a prolific scientist and distinguished physician - and more importantly a rigorous empiricist, could find no support for these theories. His observations suggested that patients contracted cholera by ingesting something harmful, not by inhaling it or through a weak moral constitution. He had a hunch that cholera was spread through water contaminated by sewage and set out to prove it by linking cholera cases and different water sources.

Snow's initial focus of inquiry was an area of London that had a mixed water supply, ie. different houses received their water from different companies. At one point, he spent days going from house to interviewing residents about their water consumption. When the 1854 epidemic broke out in his own neighborhood, he not only tended to the ill, but also kept records of cholera deaths by house and linked them to a specific pump on nearby Broad Street. Again, he spent hours interviewing people about their drinking habits and also managed to link several deaths further afield to the same pump.

Snow presented his data to the Board of Governor's of St. James Parish as they tried to deal with epidemic. The board members were skeptical - after all, the Broad Street pump was known for its particularly pure water. But they had few other options, and the risks of shutting down the pump were low compared to the potential of saving tens or hundreds of lives. So, a week after the first outbreak of cholera, the handle on the Broad Street pump was removed. While this was probably the first scientifically sound reaction in the battle against cholera, the neighborhood public and the national Board of Health were not convinced.

Henry Whitehead, a clergyman, spent most of his days walking around the Broad Street neighborhood, talking with his parishioners. When the cholera epidemic hit, he saw the consequences first-hand. He soon discredited both the "miasma" and the "moral weakness" arguments. He realized that there were fewer higher-class deaths than lower-class deaths per house, simply because the lower-class apartments were more densely populated. In fact, per capita death rates were unrelated to class. One of the most severely affected houses was locally known to be one of the cleanest, unlikely to suffer more from miasma than many filthier houses that had fewer cholera cases. The local work house which should have been hit worst, reported remarkably few deaths.

When Whitehead heard of Snow's water-borne explanation, he set out to debunk it like the others. He had seen several patients recover after drinking large quantities of water from the Broad Street pump (thereby almost stumbling on the cure for cholera), so he thought that discrediting Snow's theory would be easy. However, the more he spoke to survivors and former residents who had fled the epidemic, the more supporting evidence he found. Where Snow had tallied deaths and linked them to the pump, Whitehead added survivors and linked them to alternate water sources (or beer consumption instead of water).

Eventually, it was Whitehead who discovered the source of the epidemic: by chance he stumbled on the record of the death of a baby girl, reportedly from diarrhea, who fell sick a few days before the outbreak. The girl's address was immediately next to the Broad Street pump, and the family used a (officially nonexistent) cesspool located just a few feet from the pump for their household waste. By now, Snow's and Whitehead's case was convincing enough to warrant an inspection of the well. The final confirmation came when the cess pool was found to be leaking into the well.

These results were reported by the vestry of St. James parish, and both Snow and Whitehead wrote extensively about the cholera outbreak in the following years. Still, the scientific community clung to miasma and class/morals-based theories. The official report of the national Board of Health blamed miasma for the 1854 epidemic and all but ridiculed Snow's water-borne theory.

And finally, we come to the map. Snow started working on it several months after the outbreak. Several maps had been created to analyze the cholera epidemic, but these weren't linked to rigorous scientific theorizing and data. By reducing the map to streets, houses, pumps and cholera deaths, Snow made a striking visual case for his theory. A revised version was included in the St. James vestry's report, and this contains the most innovative technique used on the map: a dividing line shows groups houses together in terms of which well is closest by walking distance (a so-called Voronoi diagram). The geography of Soho streets and alleys meant that walking time and distance as the crow flies were not always correlated. This version posed an even more striking argument linking the Broad Street pump to the 1854 cholera epidemic.

While the map was important, Johnson shows that it - and the theories it supported - would never have seen the light of day without the incredible depth of local, even amateur, knowledge that Snow and Whitehead brought to it. And while the map legitimized the first correct science-based response to a cholera epidemic, its authority was based in the scientific inquiry behind it.

Johnson also argues that the epidemic was as much a product of the city as the ultimate measures to prevent it. Cholera could never have spread as virulently without the incredible population density found in London in the 1850s; it would never have found a way to spread if London hadn't been overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of human waste produced by this population. On the other hand, two working class men (John Snow and Henry Whitehead) would hardly have gained the education and reputation to influence public health policy anywhere outside the socially mobile city; high population density also meant that Snow and Whitehead were able to gather enough data to convincingly prove their theory.

The massive reconstruction of the sewage system that followed many years later (and only after another decimating epidemic) essentially rid London of cholera. This example, not only allowed other cities to improve their sanitation cities, it also proved the enduring viability of the city. Widespread ideas that cities of a million of more people were destined to self-destruct and drown in their own waste were refuted once and for all.

Online resources for the book (incl. links to the map and the UCLA department of epidemiology's John Snow site).
Steven Johnson's TED talk on the cholera epidemic.
The map (without the Voronoi diagram showing walking time).
Review of Johnson's first book, "Interface Culture."

Get The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World.

Get Interface Culture.



A while back I was excited to discover Innocentive, an online platform to match scientists around the world with people who needed a problem solved. One of the greatest things about it was the high proportion of solutions that were submitted (and accepted) from Brazil, Russia and other emerging economies. They have since developed to become more of an open innovation platform. Whereas their challenges used to be exclusively in the hard sciences, there are now a few business challenges, searches for suppliers etc. There are also "Ideation" challenges that require less technical know-how. They have an entire section on developing country problems now, too.

Hypios is taking the same idea in a slightly different direction. They have a similar platform, but they extend it to include advertising, marketing, social sciences, humanities etc. They also include a social networking angle and the opportunity to solve problems as a team, not just individually. Right now they're in beta and still setting up the site. They're using their own problems to demonstrate how the platform might work to source algorithms or marketing materials. It will be interesting to see how they do - and how they compete with Innocentive. A comparison of both companies' IP approaches might be interesting too.


The size of cities

2 recent NYT columns about the size of cities caught my eye.

Edward Glaeser explains why India's (and emerging economies') cities grow so large. And Steven Strogatz explains the power law that describes the exponential distribution of city sizes within a country - and relates it to similar distributions observed within living organisms.

Here's a particularly interesting insight from Strogatz's column:

For instance, if one city is 10 times as populous as another one, does it need 10 times as many gas stations? No. Bigger cities have more gas stations than smaller ones (of course), but not nearly in direct proportion to their size. The number of gas stations grows only in proportion to the 0.77 power of population. The crucial thing is that 0.77 is less than 1. This implies that the bigger a city is, the fewer gas stations it has per person. Put simply, bigger cities enjoy economies of scale. In this sense, bigger is greener.

The same pattern holds for other measures of infrastructure. Whether you measure miles of roadway or length of electrical cables, you find that all of these also decrease, per person, as city size increases. And all show an exponent between 0.7 and 0.9.

Survey on Indian and Chinese immigrants/returnees

Wadhwa, V., Saxenian, A., Freeman, R. B., & Gereffi, G. (2009). America's Loss is the World's Gain: America's New Immigrant Entrepreneurs, Part 4. Available at SSRN:

This just landed in my inbox... I've been wondering for a long time where to find numbers on Indians returning to India from the US. There is still no comprehensive data, but Wadhwa et al. have been interviewing Indian and Chinese students and alumni of US universities for several years and put together a decent sample.

The study is skewed towards the most highly educated immigrants/returnees. These are the people most likely to contribute disproportionately to science and technology in the countries where they choose to live.

Here are some highlights:

We find that, though restrictive immigration policies caused some returnees to depart the United States, the most significant factors in the decision to return home were career opportunities, family ties, and quality of life.

Immigration to the US and back to the home country appears to be driven by very similar (though not exactly the same) reasons.

The returnees cited career, education, and quality of life as the main reasons to come to the United States.
- Amongst the strongest factors bringing these immigrants to the U.S. were professional and educational development opportunities. Of Indian and Chinese respondents, 93.5 percent and 91.6 percent respectively said that professional development was an important factor, and 85.9 percent and 90.5 percent respectively said that educational development was important in their decision to migrate to the United States.
- Other key factors were quality-of-life concerns, better infrastructure and facilities, and better compensation. The majority (67.4 percent of Indians and 69.1 percent of Chinese) said that the availability of jobs in their home countries was not a consideration in their decision to migrate to the United States.

Returnees cited career and quality of life as the main reason to return to their home country rather than stay in the United States.
- The commonest professional factor (86.8% of Chinese and 79.0 percent of Indians) motivating workers to return home was the growing demand for their skills in their home countries.
- A significant majority (84.0% of Chinese and 68.7 percent of Indians) believed that
their home countries provided better career opportunities. Furthermore, 87.3 percent of Chinese and 62.3 percent of Indians saw better career opportunities in their home countries than in the United States.
- Financial compensation was a factor important to 62.1 percent of Chinese and 49.2 percent of Indian returnees.

Family considerations are strong magnets pulling immigrants back to their home countries. Care for aging parents was considered by 89.4 percent of Indians and 79.1 percent of Chinese respondents to be much better in their home countries. Family
values were also considered to be better in their home countries by 79.7 percent of Indians and 67.0 percent of Chinese. Additionally, 88.0 percent of Indians and 76.8 percent of Chinese reported that the opportunity to be close to family and friends was better at home.

Indians, in particular, believe that their quality of life is better in India than in the US, and that India provides their children with a better environment in terms of emotional growth and education.

While visa issues were not cited as a main driver of the decision to return home, they were often mentioned as a significant difficulty of settling in the US and exacerbating the distance to family and friends by restricting travel.

Once they are back in their home country, returnees tend to do well, advancing faster in their careers than they would have in the US. They view financial compensation (adjusted for cost of living) and career appreciation as better than in the US. However, they also face significant difficulties from reverse culture shock to infrastructure problems and pollution.

26.4 percent of Chinese and 26.5 percent of Indian returnees indicated that it was highly unlikely that they would return to the US.

In print

... at least in the UK. The US edition will follow in a month or two.

Gurneeta Vasudeva and I contributed chapter 5: "R&D internationalization: building organizational capabilities to balance exploration and exploitation" to A New Generation in International Strategic Management edited by Stephen Tallman.

Here's the publisher's page.

Available at Amazon UK and on pre-order at Amazon USA.

From the chapter introduction:

Building on recent research that examines how firms balance exploration and exploitation over time and within organizational domains as well as across these domains (Lavie and Rosenkopf, 2006), we suggest that R&D activities in emerging market economies that are both geographically and institutionally distant constitutes an exploratory strategy. However, to balance such exploratory learning, MNEs are more likely to pursue exploitative strategies for building organizational capabilities in other important domains of their R&D internationalization strategy.


Dissertation abstract

Now that the dissertation draft is complete, I feel it's time to put my abstract online for those people who want a bit more than my "elevator spiel" about what I actually wrote. Find it here thanks to Google Docs.


Innovation has a long way to go in Bangalore

As the headlines proclaim Bangalore to be the next Silicon Valley, more critical voices are often drowned out. This one will hopefully fare better. NASSCOM and BCG recently published a report on the innovation ecosystem for the Indian IT system. The following graphic from the report basically sums up their conclusions: India has a long, long way to go.

In addition, the authors found that the willingness and initiative of Indian IT firms to invest in firm-level innovation could use a massive increase.

The Indian innovation system has a lot of potential for improvement. Given that the the Bangalore IT cluster developed in response to foreign (not domestic) demand, one could ask whether other elements could also be "imported" into the local innovation system. For example, it appears that much of the more fundamental research in Bangalore's corporate R&D labs is being conducted by US-trained researchers. On the one hand, the knowledge and relationships that these researchers bring with them may help accelerate the development of Bangalore's innovation system. On the other hand, relying on foreign research training is definitely not sustainable.



I haven't yet figured out a simple way to publish Endnote files online. Until then, here's a link to my reference library in Google's text format.

The first page has links to generally useful websites. The rest are references to books, articles, working papers, etc. The references aren't grouped, but they generally deal with
- regional economics/clustering
- economics and management of innovation, R&D etc.
- networks in social science and economics
- information and communication technology
- how distance relates to collaboration
- technology clusters around the world
- Silicon Valley, Bangalore / India, Taiwan & China

Feel free to browse, though given the size of the library (587 refs and counting), searching may be a more fruitful strategy...


R&D Outsourcing and the Economics of Innovation

The Institute for the Future (ITFT) has set up a project called Delta Scan, speculating on the future of science and technology for the years 2005-2055. It includes a plausible argument on increased R&D outsourcing and offshoring. And a good, concise collection of references.

A shift in R&D processes from “ivory tower” models to global networks of contractors and alliances could have a significant impact on the economics of innovation. [...]

Over the next 20 years, the geography of R&D may shift again – from regional clusters in the developed world to global networks with large outsourced operations in the developing world. India and China, in particular, will provide large pools of highly skilled workers at 25% to 50% of the cost of their counterparts in the West and Japan. The Indian government estimates that outsourced R&D in India currently generates about $1 billion annually; this is projected to rise to $11 billion by 2008, mostly in software. China's manufacturing capacity gives it a natural advantage in computer hardware R&D. Both nations also have the long-term potential for large-scale work in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.

The trend towards sourcing R&D off-shore may change the economic significance of sourcing services off-shore generally. Up to now, the practice has tended to free up capital and labour in developing countries and provided resources for the creation of new, higher value-added enterprises. However, some of the R&D jobs that may be outsourced are among the most highly prized.

Serious obstacles still remain, in particular, quality control and the protection of intellectual property. Furthermore, for the near future R&D outsourcing will be limited to 'modular innovation', namely incremental improvements in existing lines of research. Radical, breakthrough innovation will continue to be the domain of regional clusters in developed countries.


New technologies at work

Christina Garsten and Helena Wulff (eds), New Technologies at Work: People, Screens and Social Virtuality, Berg Publishers, 2003

See the full review at the RCCS website.


New Technologies at Work: People, Screens and Social Virtuality, edited by Christina Garsten and Helena Wulff, is a set of ethnographies, and as such it is no surprise that the authors aim to bring people, place, and social interactions to the forefront in their discussion of technology. Computers and the internet are treated as objects in a world still bound by geography and sociality. Computers are objects bought and sold; technology and its application are subject to rhetoric and false expectations; people integrate the virtual into their lives with surprisingly little fuss.

The chapters in this volume cover an impressive range of both subject matter and technology discourse. Reading about dancers, stockbrokers, and hospital porters side-by-side is not only fascinating, but also frames technology discourse in a broader context than the white-collar environment it is often implicitly limited to.

The contributions provide interesting, detailed insight into people's actual experiences with technology and debunk some of the more extreme utopian and dystopian rhetoric around computers and the internet. The authors remind us that technology may help or hinder people in navigating their lives, but it won't uproot their social and physical nature.


Argonauts, ethnic scientific communities

AnnaLee Saxenian, The New Argonauts, Harvard University Press, 2006
William Kerr, Ethnic Scientific Communities and International Technology Diffusion, HBS Working Paper 06-022, 2006
Ajay Agrawal, Devesh Kapur, John McHale, Defying Distance: Examining the Influence of the Diaspora on Scientific Knowledge Flows, Working Paper 2004

Entrepreneurial networks carry regional advantage across distance

AnnaLee Saxenian has long been a follower of localized firm and professional networks in the hi-tech industry, highlighting their superiority over corporate hierarchies in her book "Regional Advantage." More recently, in "The New Argonauts," she has turned to ethnic professional networks in Silicon Valley, especially in the Indian, Chinese and Israeli communities. These networks, originally founded for social purposes, evolved to become professional networks for advice, capital and know-how for immigrant entrepreneurs. As immigrant entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley identified business opportunities in their home countries, the networks extended to support these new ventures. They also tied into their home-countries' networks through alumni associations and family ties.

Thus, organizations that were once highly localized began to reach across continents - and their benefits with them. Access to tacit knowledge (technical and managerial), a common understanding of entrepreneurship, shared language and culture have all been considered factors that are bound by geography and contribute to the success of regional economies. Now, they are transcending vast distances thanks to the kinds of networks described by Saxenian. New "Argonauts" (people who work in two or more regions, shuttling back and forth several times per month) literally carry market and technological knowledge, contacts, business models and capital around the world.

As a result:
Silicon Valley, once the uncontested technology leader, is now integrated into a dynamic network of specialized and complementary regional economies.
These new technology regions are not replicas of Silicon Valley, nor are they becoming new Silicon Valleys [...] Even as the returnees seek to use their experience in Silicon Valley to reshape these institutions, distinctive regional and national histories ensure that the identities and technology trajectories of these regions are unlikely to converge.

Some quantitative evidence

Ajay Agrawal, Devesh Kapur and John McHale analyzed patent citations within the Indian diaspora. They found that co-ethnicity increases the likelihood of knowledge flows. Diaspora membership is also found to substitute for co-location as a conduit for knowledge flows.

In a similar study, William Kerr has found quantitative evidence for the power of ethnic networks in a patent citation study. By linking patent data with an ethnic name-database, he was able to analyze ethnic scientific communities in the United States and the communities' home countries. He found that ethnic communities contribute significantly to technology adoption within the first five years of a new technology being developed.

Kerr also found tangible benefits for the home countries using a factor productivity approach: Greater integration with the US technology frontier contributed to an increase in manufacturing output in these countries. In more advanced economies the effect was due to productivity increases; in less advanced countries, productivity increases combined with a reallocation of labor from agriculture to manufacturing.

From Bangalored to Bangalore envy

Gleefully reported by the press today: "Bangalore envy" is one of 10 new now-words being flogged by Ira Matathia and Marian Salzman. It means: the movement of much of the world's smart money to where many of the world's smart people are.