Let's start with email. I have my own domain and as such can not only send and receive email to and from anywhere, I am also independent of any government agency or service provider apart from the dudes who are running the A-root-server, and that's as good as it gets. I can faithfully leave behind a trail of business cards with my email address on it and know that someone ten years later and two continents away will still be able to get back to me.
Now I grew up with the Internet and basically expect everything to work like it, only it doesn't. Take the telephone. Even most geeks admit that telephone numbers make better business and relationships than email addresses. So where is the telephone number, that works from anywhere, to anywhere in the world, independent of anybody?
North American 1-800 numbers come to mind first, and yes I am a happy customer of this company (no I am not getting commission) which is probably as good as any other. You don't have to be a US resident, any major international credit card welcome, you configure forwarding using a web interface, and you can forward the number to anywhere in the world. BUT! a) North American 1-800 numbers are by far not callable from anywhere in the world, much less the 888, 877 and 866 numbers that you're more likely to get, b) any scheme that's toll free for some people (in this case for callers from the US) is prone to abuse, and c) you're still dependent on the US authority that governs the 800 database (which isn't too big a worry since, although not being regulated internationally, this is somewhere in a league with the A-root-server).
Somewhat better, I recently got a number in Germany (country code 49) which is as "virtual" as 1-800-numbers and works like the one described above, except it costs the caller some money, even those in Germany, and it is much more "reachable" from abroad. No, I haven't made the test calling from Papua New Guinea yet, so take this statement as vague as it is. Germany's FTC set aside a special area code (700) for these virtual numbers. Downside to most k5 readers: You need a mailing address and bank account in Germany for this. Other countries might have similar services, I wouldn't know about the US though.
On horizon, the ITU is coming up with more lasting and independent solutions. With UIFN and UISCN, telephone numbers are being introduced that, dig this, are even independent of any country (-code) because they have their own virtual country code. +800 for free phone numbers (yes free to call from anywhere in the world) and +888 for "Universal International Shared Cost Numbers", the equivalent to those German 700 numbers above. North Americans please note: no, +800 does NOT mean 1-800, this is an international call, so you have to dial 011-800-.... The drawback with those number is that, because they are still relatively new, they too, are callable from far fewer places than 1-800's yet and they are expensive and complicated to obtain. If anybody knows a web site where I can just sign up with my credit card and get running in 5 minutes at reasonable rates, please let me know.
Next thing are banks and bank accounts. He, I can send a 1 meg email from the UK to Australia in 1 second essentially for free, yet sending $1000 takes 3 days and they charge me $50. (Yes fifty dollars.) I have an account at some global corporate monster entity bank, with a good credit rating at one of their German branches to be precise, yet the teller at a branch of the same bank, in San Jose, California, knows nothing of this and treats me like a criminal undocumented immigrant fresh off the boat and rates my credit accordingly. Credit cards have brought us the magic of paying from any account, to any retailer anywhere in the world, at minimal cost, why can't this be extended to all other banking activities, such a *being paid* for an instance, getting credit, paying larger sums of money etc. Heh, the being-paid-part is done better by some startup kids from California than any mega-global bank corporation. Can't globalization work in the little man's favor even for one moment please? I admit that there are a lot of locally diverse banking systems on the world, so my dream scenario would be that I get an account that is "wired" into all major national banking systems such that e.g. a direct deposit in the US to this account would look like a national wire transfer, yet the money is immediately available so that my landlord in France can withdraw my monthly rent from it.
One note about Swiss banks: I checked with two major ones, at least they offer accounts in Real Currencies (TM) (i.e. US dollar and Euros) in addition to their funny Franks, and have a good online system that allows you to make cheap international wire transfers, but it only goes as far as that, as soon as I asked whether I could have a credit card in Euros to spend the money, they actually wanted to convert the credit card bill from Euros to Franks and back to Euros to settle it out of the Euro account at the same bank, very funny indeed. So if you run a bank and offer any of the services I am hinting at above, please say so, all my money is yours immediately.
Next thing, postal service. Thanks to these guys (again, no commission, just a happy customer), I can have a mailing address in one of many countries, where people from anywhere can send mail and it'll be forwarded to anywhere I live. Could be better though. Why isn't there a mail-to-email gateway, i.e. they open my letters, scan them, and email them to me? Wouldn't that save a ton of postage and be so much faster? And why isn't there a service where I can send an MS Word or TIFF-file to, and they print it and mail it? Such things exist for faxing, (I am not a customer this time), and a lot of money can be saved if the thing is printed and 'envelopped' as close to the destination as possible thus minimizing physical delivery. Such a service is actually available in France but only to companies.
You get the picture. Now, there are other areas I am interested in, such a global health insurance, but that is probably a subject for another article ...
Get the comments rolling in.