This is the season of the year for predictions. You will find little of that here. I feel like a fortunate seer in that none of my predictions have actually failed. I feel like a disappointed seer in that very few ever happened within the timeline of prediction, and indeed a few are still out there, ready to come screaming into focus on the “I told you so” arc of probability, in order to demonstrate once again that if you just forget the timing, everything you can envisage does eventually happen. And I don’t like predictions that follow the “whatever was beginning to happen last year will go on happening next year”, since I regard this as the province of newspapers with holiday space to fill. In its turn technology prediction is a mug’s game, and ever since I heard Alan Kay say that “everything that will be launched in the next 15 years has already been invented” I have resolved to steer clear.
Which only leaves us markets to talk about, and since they are ever-present prediction becomes a matter of when they come into focus rather than anything else. When we invented BRICS (and that last capital S is important if we are recognizing South Africa, as we should be) we were really saying, five years ago, that the long age of US global economic imperium was drawing to a close. A host of new nations was about to challenge that supremacy, and while the US was not minded to give it up easily, as demonstrated last year by its role in leading the global market once more out of cyclical downturn, economists now have a clear handle on when, in the next few years, China will resume its historic role of global market leadership, which it last held in the fourteenth century (think paper, gunpowder, printing and language).
This poses vital questions for information marketplaces. The Information Revolution has been led from the US both in terms of technology and in terms of services and languages. China seems well-equipped in the latter area, with players like Alibaba and Baidu, and the ability to use English very effectively – or buy its use. However, both India and Korea show more promise as the next hub of Silicon Valley proportions. And of course the US will not go away, though it may find it easier to go protectionist and isolationist in some aspects, living off its huge and wealthy internal marketplace, and no longer allowing itself to be the place where all information market prospects have to be proved. In many ways we are already seeing this, since success in the US no longer means automatic global market success. But if this is the outcome then it leaves the rest of the world with an issue – where do I go for growth if not to the USA?
Well, there is a very specific information markets answer to that. There is still huge and dynamic growth in BRICS. And beyond that, look at every country where half the population is under 25, and coming up to half of those are smartphone users. Markets where the smartphone is already the most important network connector and bridge to cloud-based computing, because there is no infrastructure around small populations of laptops or tablets that performs the role that we have identified in Europe, Russia, and the US for embedded network connectivity. These new fast-growth markets will teach us a great deal about cloud-working which we will bring back to the old world. For reasons best known to the economists, the first of these markets to show have been christened MINTs – Malaysia (or should that be Mexico? Or are Mexico and Canada too much part of a Greater US economy?), Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey. If it were not for sanctions, Iran would head this list. And note that we do not have Korea, the best networked country I have ever visited (10 Mbit broadband on a railway platform in Busan!) on either of these lists.
The ITU statistics tell the story (http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/facts/ICTFactsFigures2013-e.pdf),although they are now a year old. But if half of the world’s population is under 25, and if only 25% globally have smartphones at the moment, then we are looking at one of the most exciting growth prospects that any industry has ever seen in global history. It may astound some that 40% of the world’s population is now online, but it seems to me vital to concentrate both on the services we supply them with now, and the way those services draw more of the remaining 60% online as well. And as we look at that 2.7 billion online total, it is as well to remember that in a global population of 7 Billion, the planet supports 6.7 billion mobile/cellular subscriptions. As we go along, each of the cultures that come into play will add something distinctive and exciting to our knowledge of the way in which information services and solutions work to change society.
Finally, what about the Old World? Well, as I have indicated, much of the market that we are discussing was created in the US, and will continue to flourish there. And do not write off Europe. Just imagine what it would be like, in ten years time, if politicians had cast aside the petty nationalisms and regionalisms that bedevil progress today, and a really integrated marketplace was emerging. A trading entity from Ireland to the Ukraine that thrived from being the world’s largest free trade zone, which was utilizing new memberships amongst poorer Eastern Europe to drive growth and using the technology – Europe is the most online region of the world – to regenerate itself. Stranger things have happened – though not much stranger. I admit! Meanwhile, pour another libation, accept my very best wishes for every success in 2014 and venture out into those newly MINTed global marketplaces!keep looking »