Phillip Parker – TRANSCRIPT
Hello. I was wondering if you’ve ever noticed when you go to an American bookstore there is a very large self-help section; and it’s huge, about 10 meters worth of books. If you go to a French self-help section, that does exist in their bookstores, but it’s far smaller. You might interpret that to mean the Americans are flipped out and need a lot of help and the French are very centered.
The reality is there’s simply less people who speak the French language. The economics of publishing in smaller languages, especially those that have lower incomes, becomes very difficult for the publishing industry. A few years back, I was doing a workshop with the World Bank on poverty alleviation, and one of the keys to lifting people out of poverty is literacy, especially amongst young girls from the ages of about 5 to 11 years old. One aspect that is missing in that key period of life is there is often a lack of textbooks.
Many of the world’s languages don’t have spelling books, math books, reading books, and the like. It’s just a classic case of market failure. At the same time, I was working on some projects in development economics dealing with form-direct investment. A lot of people want to do impact-investing, investing in developing countries to small businesses. Unfortunately, these businesses have very narrow business models. They might make 6” copper nails and things like that. Things for which there is actually no market data. You can’t purchase data on the world market for some of these products and services. Again, a case of market failure.
And being a Professor of Management Science, I was thinking if there is any way to solve this market failure problem that seems to be not just for business investments but also for language learning? I discovered that there was a demand, it was a very narrow demand, but the key problem was actually the author. Authors are expensive. They want food and things like that, they want income. There is also the editors, the graphic artists, and all these people.
So, appealing to management science, which was founded by Frederick Taylor which is basically the use of mathematics to solve basic business problems, is there a way to augment labor productivity using management science techniques to overcome these market failures? Frederick Taylor is given a lot of credit for starting the notion of automation. In manufacturing, Ford, of course, took that to an extreme.