Critical Thinking/Learning Review

Public Transport as Democracy in Action

According to Enrique Peñalosa the former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, the allocation of road space everywhere undermines the democratic constitutional right of equality. Mayor Peñalosa’s wicked problem was how to allocate road space to reflect equality. Mayor Peñalosa proceeded to give examples of the unfair allocation of road space undermined equality, noting that not even children were afforded protection from vehicular traffic. The former mayor also noted that cyclists in addition to pedestrians had to compete with vehicular traffic. 

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Public transportation and in particular busses are, according to Mayor Peñalosa, are one way to ensure the equitable or democratic use of road space. By allocating specific lanes to mass transportation, it is possible for high volume vehicles to deliver passengers to their destinations faster than if the high volume conveyances shard lanes with regular automobiles. As Mayor Peñalosa argued, it is unfair for road users that do not possess personal automobiles to be stuck in the traffic that results from personal vehicle use. The fact that vehicle users are the minority worldwide compared to those without personal vehicles, and that yet vehicle owners use up almost all road space underpin the former mayor’s rationale for allocating lanes for mass transit vehicles. 

Another part of the solution the former mayor espouses is redressing the unequal allocation of road space on the basis of a precept enshrined in the majority of the world’s constitutions that accord citizens equal rights. With the premise of equal rights, Mayor Peñalosa went about ensuring the use of Bogota’s road space was equitable, an undertaking that the former mayor admits was easier said than done. According to Mayor Peñalosa, the unequal use of road space around the world is largely a reflection of inequity, with the impression being that citizens with automobiles are more important than pedestrians and cyclers. Clearly designated pedestrian and cycling zones on public roads were in addition to the lanes dedicated to mass transit vehicles and in particular, buses. Greenways installed prior to the buildup of urban settlements, lanes dedicated to mass transportation as well as spaces dedicated to pedestrian and cycling traffic are Mayor Peñalosa’s answer to the unequal allocation of public road spaces. 

Latin American Startups

1. Latin American startups (LAS) prioritize organic growth as opposed to seeking venture capital (VC). The organic growth is evident from LAS’ focusing on delivering to the local market over attracting VC. Put simply, LAS offer their products to the local market and pursue their subsequent market decisions on how the market receives the product. Admittedly, the LAS approach is slow and arduous, but because it is rooted on effective market demand, the approach results in forging organizational resilience. LAS’ focus on paying customers contrasts sharply with US startups that often focus on hyper-growth. Therefore, the LAS’ prioritization of paying customers over securing VC for expansion is a model US starts can and should emulate.  

2. Adapting initial business models in response to the market developments has been crucial to LAS startups. Because LAS recognize that each market is unique organizational, even within their countries, they learn early on how to adjust their business model to effectively deliver the products and services the market they enter into demands. LAS’ expansions are also cost effective and by the time they international, they are usually dominant players in their national market. As a result, LAS have to contend with less adaptability challenges when entering new markets, usually in neighboring Latin American countries. The adaptability LAS develop makes it possible for them to launch internationally, because they understand the dictates of the new market they enter. 

3. LAS source their top talent from what is available locally, meaning they can secure the services of top tier employees at competitive rates compared to the U.S. where competition for global talent abounds. Because LAS source their talent locally at competitive rates, they are able to launch world class products and services at competitive rates too. Consequently, U.S. startups and even established businesses take advantage of the convergence of marketable concepts and competitively priced skilled labor by outsourcing segments of their business to Latin America. Further, Latin America possesses a considerable bilingual workforce as well as insights into South American markets, making the workforce a valuable partner in any U.S. businesses with a view to expanding their operations south of the continent.

4. Early on, LAS adopt customer-driven revenue generation. This makes it possible for the LAS to operate within their means as it were, with expansion being driven by a solid market presence. Consequently, LAS only scalable up their operations in response to successful market demand or, in response to the growth of their customer base. As well, LAS adopt business models that are easily replicable across local and regional markets. LAS scale up their operations and replicate them as they expand cost effectively compared to U.S. startups. Solid market base underpins the scalability and replicability of LAS business models. Bootstrapping, or building their businesses from it, has demonstrably proven to be the primary avenue LAS use to grow their businesses, as opposed to most startups that seek VC financing early on in the commencement of their operations. 

Startup Chile

1. The programs with a social component include Huella, Seed and The S Factory programs are the primary offerings of Startup Chile. However, the Huella and S Factory programs have an overt social component, given that the former focuses not only on ventures with an economic impact, but social and environmental as well. Equally, the S Factory programs though economic, focus on startups by female founders. Because the S Factory empowers women professionally, it too contributes to social equity because it directly addresses gender imbalance in business. 

2. Agriculture continues to be a major employer worldwide, with women being major investors in agriculture in terms of labor and delivering the crop to the market. However, the presence of middlemen such as transporters and renting space at the market can erode the gains women make and when interposed with the labor they invest, can result in net losses. To mitigate such losses, the development of an application that makes it possible for buyers to preannounce the crops they need and at what price. Farmers, the majority being women in developing economies, on the other hand can also declare the produce available and at what price. The application therefore makes it possible for the hard working farmers to determine the delivery costs of their produce as well as how much income eventually accrues to them. The application essentially acts a mobile commodity exchange that will charges users a modest facilitation fee to maintain operations. 

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