Fast-forward to anno 2030 and many of the key trends we see around us will have come of age. According to UN predictions, we will be 8 billion people – 60% living in urbanised areas – and 5 billion of us will be online, with the majority of the online community living in Asia. For agile SMEs prepared to rethink traditional models, this means real opportunities for business growth.
Asia – the world’s online hub
Today, six of the world’s ten largest cities and more than half the world’s population are in the Asia-Pacific region and these vast communities are set to become centres for community interaction and innovation. China had 480m Internet users in 2012 making it the largest online community in the world. The US is second with 245m users, but India is predicted to overtake this, rising from 120m to 370m online users by 2015. This means that majority of Internet hubs driving ’big data’ intelligence will be in Asia, bringing vast opportunities to develop fresh solutions for tracking, remote monitoring, risk reduction, cost savings and green innovation. There seems little doubt also that centres of Internet governance – largely the US and Europe at present – must also shift east in order to reflect this new reality.
The ‘global brain’ and risk management
Working together brings empowerment to society, individuals and communities, but it is also essential to sustainability, productivity, innovation and competitive advantage. In Rethinking the Business Case for Sustainability (Future Snapshots, October 2013), I described how ‘big data’ connectivity is already driving some of the smartest city planning and urban co-operation initiatives in Seoul, New York among others. The IoT (Internet of Things) could be part of a bigger co-ordinated plan to reduce both global and local risks. Already the US harness data and communication tools from social media to create early warning and disaster relief systems. SMEs have the benefit of agility – enabling shorter lead times between initial idea and invention – and the key opportunities to win customer loyalty centre on ways to manage urban life and deliver affordable services that simplify the data overload. There is already a huge shift from physical ownership to virtual services. Cloud culture, with sharing and co-creation at its heart, is being driven by a generation used to free downloads, problem-solving apps and open source approaches.
The open source business model
Products and services will be connected directly to the IoT (Internet of Things), and therefore R&D and design methods need to evolve, allowing customers to participate and collaborate in the development process. Recently published research from Gartner and IDC revealed that massive growth in smartphone sales in China is currently being fuelled by the popularity of so-called AOSP (Android Open Source Platform) phones. These low-end phones, using apps from local providers, signal the trend towards a future of open source, where businesses that want to thrive must accommodate dialogue. Open source innovation will have an even bigger impact by 2020, when Millennials are forecast to make up 50% of the global workforce – all highly mobile. This group will rewrite the rules for what constitutes ‘progress’ and ‘success’. The impact will mean increased transparency, real-time collaboration, knowledge exchange, social networks and tools to enhance living and breathing digital communities.
The rise of Asian entrepreneurship
When it comes to true innovation, the courage to step outside the comfort zone of business as usual. An interesting case is techpedia.in, an Indian digital platform for industry and academia to co-create and foster disruptive innovation – and already it provides a fantastic entrepreneurial environment. Another is ifixit.com, a free, public and repair tutorial platform (a editable repair Wikipedia) empowering people to fix their stuff and save money – also keeping electronics out of landfill. It was originally invented in the US and is now deployed in India, where it is having notable success. In fact, some of the biggest opportunities to encourage disruptive product and service innovation strategies will be in India because of connectivity. Its assets include an entrepreneurial economy, good-sized business clusters and huge potential to convert its demographic advantage – an increasingly well-educated workforce with a much younger median age than China or Japan – into a sustained and SME-fuelled economic growth.
Anne Lise Kjaer, December 2013 SME magazine Asia
ALL KIDS SHOULD LEARN HOW TO CODE
Anne Lise Kjaer was born in Esbjerg in Denmark, but grew up near Ringkøbing, apparently the happiest place in the world. The title on her business card – ‘Futurist & Visionary Thinker’ – fills me with fear, but she quickly reassures me by saying with a smile: “And no, I do not use a crystal ball”.
In fact, Anne Lise Kjaer works with some of the largest multinational technology companies in the world (from Sony and Toyota through to IKEA), analysing the past and present to predict the future. Gizmodo en Español wants to know how this is done.
Anne Lise Kjaer recently visited Spain to speak about the book she co-authored There’s a Future: Visions For a Better World, published through BBVA bank’s OpenMind initiative. We chatted with her for our interview series “7 Questions for…”, where we talk to people who are doing interesting and innovative things in the world of technology, design, architecture, media and industry. And that’s the starting point for our conversation…
- Name: Anne Lise Kjaer / @kjaerglobal
- Occupation: futurist
- Location: London
- Age: 51
- Current Computer: “MacBook Pro – in my first job in 1983 we had Macintosh, it’s all I’ve ever used“
- Mobile: iPhone 5.
Q: IS IT REALLY POSSIBLE TO PREDICT THE FUTURE?
We can certainly try. My specialism is to look at the science, technology and ideas that can point the way to the future. I have a background in design and innovation and, for me, the only way to make the future happen is to have a credible road map with pointers that enable you to make informed decisions in the here and now about the future.
Q: HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT THAT ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS?
It is all about looking at a mixture of trends, including politics, economics, technology, science, society, culture, in order to get an overview of how the future may unfold. I do not have a crystal ball and I do not invent anything – my role is that of a ‘future narrator’ – I tell inspiring stories about the future, and then the companies I work with use them to make that future vision a reality.
Q: THERE ARE MANY FUTURISTS, BUT NO ONE SAW THE BRUTAL ECONOMIC CRISIS COMING THAT MANY COUNTRIES STILL SUFFER FROM?
Well, a few people saw it coming. One was a woman, Christine Lagarde, who today works for the IMF. Lagarde who, as it happens was once on the French national synchronised swimming team, pointed out at a conference just before the crisis struck: “‘We are debating what kind of swimming costume we will wear and the tsunami is coming”. No one listened to her.
We did not have the foresight to imagine that something like this could happen. There were no regulations. There was a system that was based only on consumption, more consumption and even more consumption. I think we all confused the idea of the good life with a life full of goods – and these are not the same things at all. It wasn’t about missing the fact that a crisis was coming – more that we didn’t want to see it coming.
Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE MAIN TECHNOLOGY TRENDS IN THE COMING DECADES?
I think the biggest trend we will see is that of the Internet of Things, the building of a global brain. Devices, buildings, environment, people – in fact everything – will become interconnected through technology. And all this leads us on to The Cloud, a powerful innovation hub for individuals and businesses. Education, for example, will greatly benefit from this trend. Millions of people are beginning to study through virtual and free MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). In health, we will see self-diagnostics and mobile health as another big driver; this is happening already and will continue to grow in importance.
Q: WHAT SHOULD WE DO TO PREPARE FOR THESE CHANGES?
The problem with technology today is that most of us just consume it – we are not optimising and building. I think every kid in the world should learn to program. Because when you understand technology, then you can benefit from it. If you only consume, you do not learn to create anything or control technology, and will therefore continue in the consumption loop. Also, it is not a good sign that so few companies effectively control the entire technology industry and the Internet. It should become more democratic.
Q: STEPHEN HAWKING RECENTLY SAID THAT HUMANITY WOULD DISAPPEAR IN 1000 YEARS IF WE FAIL TO COLONISE SPACE BECAUSE, GIVEN THE SPEED OF DEVELOPMENT, THE EARTH WILL NOT LAST 1000 YEARS MORE. HOW DO YOU SEE IT?
I think he is right. Humanity thinks it knows everything, but we know very little. It is one of our biggest mistakes. And Stephen Hawking is one of those people that, the more he knows, the more he claims to know nothing, simply because of the enormity of our universe. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist and futurist, has explored subjects similar to Hawking. While it is clear to me that none of us knows what will actually happen in 1000 years, one way to consider the future is to look back at what has happened in the last 1000 years, and then we see that life has not changed that much – we have just got new tools for solving things. I do not think we’re going to live on another planet after this end date. But I do believe that our current consumption patterns are unsustainable, so my question would be: can our planet withstand 1000 more years of this conspicuous consumption – and I have no good answer to that.
Adapted from Gizmodo en Español, Madrid, 2013