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Is Africa the Future of Finance?

Posted By E. Alex Floate, Friday, October 11, 2019

Alex Floate, a member of our Emerging Fellows program envisions the financial system of Africa by next three decades. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

2019 – There is a small isolated village in Africa. In this village is a small one-room schoolhouse built by a foreign aid society in the early 1970s and still used for its intended purpose. This school, like the rest of the village, is not electrified, but it does have large windows that allow light to shine on the large slate blackboard at the front of the room. Sticks of chalk fill the tray, and the board is clean except for a small note in the upper right corner; “Please silence your cell phones.”

 

2049 – A prefabricated multi-purpose building has replaced the one-room schoolhouse. An array of solar panels and small satellite dishes powers the air conditioning and connects the village with the outside world. In one part of the building, students engage in small groups or interact with holographic images. In another, villagers take advantage of the cool air to lounge and discuss village politics, or conduct business over their various networks. A message flashes across the glasses of one of the villagers; FedEx drone inbound, ETA 5 mins.

 

Even though the ancestors of all of us originated in Africa, the continent was the last place to achieve the post-colonial dream of self-rule and determination. In many places, local strongmen took advantage of colonial structures and culture to exert control over the people and the economy. The promises of freedom and economic prosperity fell mainly to those involved in the corrupt governments or local representatives of foreign resource extraction firms.

 

There was an advantage for Africa as the 21st Century began. Without large scale legacy infrastructure or deeply entrenched economic systems, Africans were free to begin creating new ones. For electricity generation that meant there were fewer coal plants or outdated nuclear reactors creating environmental and safety issues. For finance, that meant fewer established institutions to dominate the commercial and political landscape.

 

The first step came with the build-out of cell phone capability. In many places, mobile phone penetration exceeded access to electricity, with users dependent on gas generators or solar panels for recharge. As networks increased in broadband capability, the population became adept users of phone apps. They used local networks focused on creating and marketing businesses, sharing information on resources, banking, education, and news.

 

New financial products to meet the needs of the population began appearing. With over 50% of the population sub-Saharan Africa previously excluded from the financial system, these new products began offering new opportunities. The ability to save and invest allowed for an accumulation of wealth. Mobile payments allowed for participation in markets outside their local ones. Micro-lending and new insurance products provided farmers and entrepreneurs with increased opportunities. The companies providing these products prospered as well, extending their reach throughout the continent.

 

African entrepreneurs understood they did not need to industrialize, but to innovate in today's finance and technology markets. The impetus to build finance hubs throughout Africa, and in the process marshal both homegrown and foreign funding, increased both the quantity and quality of financial companies. Initially done at a city level, as the results began to show promise and profits, national governments began to examine how to duplicate the results through investment and policy.

 

By the 2040s, Africa had built a modern consumer and entrepreneur focused financial system, while creating and tapping new local and global markets. An expanding financial system built for purpose served as an example for the world on how a finance system can serve the needs of people while, in the process, unite a continent.

 

© E Alex Floate 2019

Tags:  Africa  finance  fintech 

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In a digital world does being faster, better and cheaper still count in business?

Posted By Paul Tero, Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Paul Tero a member of our Emerging Fellows program inspects the business agility in digital economy through a new post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

One of the dominant narratives of the business world is that in order to succeed the products you provide either need to be cost competitive, be differentiated in some way, or you need to be quicker to market than others. Will this narrative hold as the economy turns fully digital?

 

Consider what happens today. In order to maintain profitability an external improvement approach may be taken: variations of current products may be offered, or price discounting may take place to increase the quantity sold, or new markets might be opened up. Another approach would be to focus internally. That is to reduce costs and to streamline processes. And a third approach would be to go down the innovation route and develop new products for the same or for different markets. All of these are variations on the faster, better, cheaper narrative. A narrative that holds true in an economy based on atoms, but does it hold for an economy solely based on bits?

 

We can gain some insights into this future state from the transition that is currently underway. This shift can be seen in the increasing proportion of business, of the economy, of even work itself being categorised as digital. Consider some observations. First, the marketing of goods and services. No longer does the maxim hold of “not knowing which half of the marketing budget is wasted”. For with the analytics available from advertising campaigns using social media channels and search engines the marketing budget can be spent more efficiently.

 

And second. What about the potential of big data, machine learning and the internet of things currently being brought to bear on say manufacturing processes, the logistics sector, and on agricultural practices? Finally, not forgetting consumers in all this data processing potential: we can find what we want or need more efficiently among the increase array of choices available to us.

 

Another insight from this transition is the merging of values with business activity. No longer can a company opaquely distance itself from that which is socially unacceptable. Today’s consumers, and even employees, increasingly call out participants in the local, national and global economies for lack of transparency and corporate behaviour at odds with forward looking standards.

 

A final insight is with respect to legal and political matters. Until recent times, the digital economy could be regarded as this anarchic wild-west frontier where the scale of profits was beyond comprehension and regulation was an anathema to the full gamut of stakeholders. But now we are seeing serious discussions concerning appropriate taxation regimes, effective safeguards of personal and private data for business use, and a range of attitudes of governments when it comes to how they use their citizens’ data.

 

So, from one perspective digital technology is making the market more efficient. Perhaps even moving it toward that holy grail of it being a perfect market. Where there is perfect information, sufficient products are available for consumers, and where the lowest cost is the hallmark of all goods and services produced.

 

And from another perspective, digital technology is making the market more transparent. Where the ulterior motives of its stakeholders become clearer and the governance of data is weighted in the consumer’s favour. In other words, there is possibility that a defining characteristic of the market of the future is its integrity. That across the globe the economy operates with a high level of ethics.

 

A fully digital economy, then, has the potential to be described in terms of it being a perfect and ethical economy. And this potential will shape the current dominant “faster, better, cheaper” business success narrative. Where even if you are “faster, better, cheaper” due to the nature of perfect markets long lasting economic rents will be almost non-existent. Where even if your business succeeds by being “faster, better, cheaper” the rewards may well be short-lived if that path to victory was less then ethical.

 

The implication is that “faster, better, cheaper” is becoming “faster, better, cheaper, clearer”. For even if the systems involved in the current transition to an economy based on bits seem opaque, the potential is for all digital economy systems to be fully pellucid.

 

© Paul Tero 2019

Tags:  business  digital economy  economics 

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Who are the Key Actors in Companies of the Future?

Posted By Charlotte Aguilar-Millan, Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Charlotte Aguilar-Millan inspects the key players of future companies in her tenth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

The key actors of companies of the future will demonstrate a significant influence from Generation Z. By 2030, 30% of the workforce within the US will be Generation Z. They will act as key stakeholders of the future through their purchasing power and consumer habits. Companies should not assume these habits will be the same as previous generations.

 

Climate change is rapidly becoming a higher priority for consumers. This will heavily affect the success and profitability of future industries. Greta Thunberg is a telling example of the future desires of consumers. She is a significant climate change activist and often heralded as the voice of the future generations. On her trip to New York from the UK in 2019 she rejected the efficiency and economic pricing of flying due to the affects this would have on the environment. Instead, she took two weeks to sail there on a journey that had a zero-carbon footprint. This carbon reducing style of holidays is evidenced by the rise of the staycation where tourists remain in their home country for their holidays. The majority (52%) of those in the UK who had a staycation in 2019 were aged 25 to 34.

 

Airlines must develop in coming years to offer not only low costs, many routes and reliability. Attributes which current consumers expect. They must also address how they are offsetting their carbon footprint. Today this is offered as an optional addition to consumers booking flights. However, the Company of the Future will have this as a mandatory cost. Most likely borne through taxation. Companies should get in front of climate action to not only help the planet but to act as a leader within their industry. Corporate social responsibility will also drive the Company of the Future. As the population live longer, aspirations of successful careers, fulfilling hobbies as well as families grow. The Company of the Future that demonstrates progressive working solutions for parents as well as offering true work life balances will thrive.

 

Generation Z are not content with a static workplace. They have grown up seeing tech start-ups develop into unicorn IPOs. Generation Z are more mobile and entrepreneurial than previous workforces. They require a flexible workplace, as has been seen with the rise of the gig economy, that will enable them to fit in work around their lives. The largest actor in the Company of the Future will be the individual. As the individual becomes more aware, they will not accept a workplace that demands long hours that does not support new parents and will leave the individual at retirement without a liveable pension.

 

Social awareness of the profits and bonuses large companies make is on the rise. No longer can a company use employees as a resource without respecting the individual also. The individual will also vote with their consumer habits on the companies that will thrive in the future. Companies that do not actively plan to effect positive change for the climate cannot be successful. Companies need to take a leaf out of Greta Thunberg’s book to evolve into the Company of the Future.

 

© Charlotte Aguilar-Millan 2019

Tags:  company  future  generation 

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Is ownership a human right?

Posted By Ruth Lewis, Friday, September 27, 2019

Ruth Lewis a member of our Emerging Fellows program evaluates ownership as a human right in her ninth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Every minute of every day data about us is created, collected and stored somewhere. As more and more of the goods and services that we use every day become digitised, it is inevitable that the service providers and their downstream supply chains will want information about their customers (or potential customers), so that they can ‘service you better’, or create a supply-driven market-place. Our liberty to live the lives that we choose is scrutinised and forecast to drive demand, and thus supply. Who owns this data that is created and collected about you? Is it the service provider? Or should it be the ‘data subject’, the person about whom the data is collected?

 

There are rules and interpretive algorithms set up around the data, but have you stopped to consider what if these systems could be wrong, that the data is flawed? That the data does not really describe what you want or believe in, or what you want to do? And after you die, your digital representation may live on well after your death, like a digital Henrietta Lacks.

 

Our data selves live a shadow life that resides within the world’s data warehouses, often located far away from where we live. Economic decisions were made to locate our data there, and often our data selves are traded between various companies for a fee, so that they can get to know us too – or their representation of us. However, that is where human values and the freedom of the individual, and economic value sharply collide. Because ‘human values’ and ‘liberty’ are only considered where legislated imperatives such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation are in operation, which forces the user of the services to explicitly consent to their data collection and storage, and the service provider to have some accountability for collection of private information.

 

How can human value and human values be used to protect our shadow selves that exist in the internet’s servers and data warehouses of the world? Only by thinking about data as part of ourselves, and valuing it with the same care. We, as consumers of digitised services, should and must demand that our shadow selves be given the same digital rights as our human selves. We must be able to trust that the representation of ourselves is shown in truth, and is not abused or compromised.

This assurance should be the noble principle on which to base our aspirations for a better future.

 

In the future, could each of us fully embrace the online world, and create and own a digital avatar existing in cyberspace? A representation of our own personal human values, beliefs and thoughts that we are willing to share with others, and more importantly, owned and controlled by us? Could our digital agent be entitled to the human rights law under codified International Law? Could we use this personal image to ‘play’ with futuristic representations so that we can build a better world together? To try out different economic, governance, legal, technology and social structures through a range of scenario building, in much the same way as online gamers try out different virtual worlds? Perhaps this could create participative governance, citizen engagement and dialogue, as well as resultant political structures to promote the common good for society.

 

How would we then protect our own personal avatar from the creeping tendency for governments and corporations to undermine human rights to privacy under the guise of cyber security, ‘for the purpose of securing morality, public order and general welfare’?

© Ruth Lewis 2019

Tags:  ownership  right  value 

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Can resources own themselves?

Posted By Tim Morgan, Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Tim Morgan inspects the ownership of resources by themselves in his ninth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

In April 2016 the world’s first decentralized autonomous organization was launched. This crowdfunded organization, aptly named “The DAO”, was a collection of interlocking digital smart-contracts designed to use the Ethereum blockchain to fund investor proposed projects. The only human interactions allowed were voting on new projects by shareholders. All other management activities were conducted according to its founding smart-contract rules. This organization worth US$150 million existed as a purely digitally managed company with no legal charter, no physical address, no board of directors, no CEO, and no human management. It was the world’s first stateless autonomous company. Though The DAO was shut down later that year after hackers compromised it, new frameworks like the Aragon project and DaoStack are actively being developed.

 

Decentralized autonomous organizations (Daos) represent a new stage in capitalism, one that embraces the idea of giving ownership control to non-human algorithmic entities. This is a continuation of a centuries old trend of owners progressively giving up more and more control of capital to managers, corporations, investment funds, and the like. This takes that progression one step further. A Dao controls itself and all the value associated with it. It can have investors. It can pay people for work performed. It could even own physical property if a government chose to charter a Dao as a corporation. We are one legal step from autonomous organizations getting personhood-like rights of a human-chartered corporation. Is it plausible we could take the next step? Can non-human entities have human-like legal rights?

 

The International Center for the Rights of Nature maintains a timeline showing the accelerating adoption of legal rights for nature. Ecuador wrote Rights of Nature into their constitution in 2008. Mexico City put language into its city constitution in 2017 that would “recognize and regulate the broader protection of the rights of nature formed by all its ecosystems and species as a collective entity subject to rights”. There are many other examples. However, one right seems to always be neglected: the right for nature to engage in commerce. That leaves even legally protected natural resources at the mercy of market pressure on governments and the court of public opinion.

 

What happens though if we put Daos and rights-holding natural resources together? What we get are autonomous resources that can become full active participants in markets and the legal system. These “deodands”, as futurist Karl Schroeder has named them, could protect themselves from exploitation by entering into commercial contracts for sustainable extraction of their resources, hiring security, funding scientists to monitor their health, and maintaining lawyers to sue contractual or rights violators. They could even hire programmers and engineers to improve their own decision-making algorithms and sensing technologies as the state-of-the-art progresses.

 

Can resources own themselves? They can if we let them. If we blend a bit of technology with a dash of nature and a smidgen of legal rights, then a whole new level of ecologically sustainable development will be unlocked. Best of all is that markets will be working for sustainability. Their new owners will demand it.

 

© Tim Morgan 2019

Tags:  economics  ownership  resources 

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Can transforming capitalism solve global inequality?

Posted By Felistus Mbole, Friday, September 20, 2019

Felistus Mbole a member of our Emerging Fellows program checks the possibility of resolving global inequality in her ninth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Global wealth has been increasing and is predicted to grow by 43% in the next 10 years. While global poverty has reduced in the last few decades, this wealth is mainly driven by markets and is held by a tiny proportion of the population. The current form of economic structure is defined by short-termism. It is focused on optimising returns to owners of capital at the expense of all else and the long-term good of the society. It is not sustainable. Can capitalism be transformed to solve global inequality? What could it transform to?

 

A good place to start in exploring the possibility of transforming capitalism for the prosperity of society is to first understand what is broken. Businesses have one key agenda: to optimise profits. Yet capitalism does not operate in isolation but within the broader society which has clear planetary boundaries. Businesses need to demonstrate this consciousness and should be held to account regarding serving the long-term good of society. Natural resources are limited and likely to be depleted in future unless deliberate action is taken to ensure sustainability. It cannot be profits at whatever cost to the environment. Measures such as green taxation for business could lead to a more sustainable economic system.

 

A heightened sense of industry self-regulation driven by an appreciation that, in the long-term, society together prospers or perishes could trigger the right change. Another pillar to sustainable capitalism is the need for economic inclusion. This can be realised through government policies aimed at taxing business resources and not labour which would lead to unemployment and further inequality. Businesses could also invest in upskilling their workers to fit within the new business environment.

 

The current wave of digital technology characterised by use of personal data and machine learning has fuelled unprecedented economic growth. The challenge is that this wealth is not shared equitably across society. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. This situation is likely to get worse in the future as more low-skills jobs get taken over by machines and unemployment rates rise globally. It can be addressed through the effective use of taxes to equip the labour force with skills that would enable them to effectively engage in the emerging digital economy.

 

What can governments do to transform capitalism for the prosperity of society? Effective regulation of markets could transform the economic system of the future. This would include consumer and data protection. As the economy becomes more data driven, personal data should be made more public and portable across businesses. This could lead to greater benefit to the owners of data and reduce the current monopolies that have entrenched inequality.

 

The digital wave is sweeping through all sections of society. Many governments are transitioning to the use of digital platforms for delivery and payment for public services. Considering this and the growing use and importance of digital rails in the economy, digital infrastructure should be made a public good just like roads and other physical infrastructure. This might not necessarily mean nationalisation of the existing private investments. By assuming this responsibility, states could drive economic inclusion. Ensuring that the majority have access to the infrastructure and skills that are needed to gainfully engage with the emerging digital economy in the long-term will reduce the economic divergency.

 

Finally, a broader stakeholder representation in business ownership and governance could make capitalism more sustainable in future. The biggest aspect of capital in today’s data driven businesses is the knowledge and skills which is brought in by management and other employees in the business. This argues for an employees’ share in the profits and wealth of the businesses thus reducing inequality. Capitalism could transform itself by taking on cooperative characteristics to avoid potential future crises.

 

Capitalism has proven itself effective in delivering goods and services to the global society, but its long-term sustainability is threatened. It could transform itself to serve the collective good of the society and solve global inequality.

 

© Felistus Mbole, 2019

Tags:  capitalism  equality  global inequality 

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Ought education necessarily to satisfy the requirements of work?

Posted By Esmee Wilcox, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Esmee Wilcox inspects the usefulness of education in her ninth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

A simplistic, causal relationship between success in work and learning falls down in our mid-21st century globally connected, digitally enhanced, rapidly automating world. The institutions, corporations and capital that determine whose work we are preparing people for, risk the perpetuation of global skills shortages and rising income inequality. In the latter half of this century, what might the purpose of education become, that more effectively addresses the issues we face and the modes of work we are choosing? Should we attempt to create such a system that spreads the risk, or accept unevenly distributed effects of enviro-economic disruptions?

 

We face a conundrum: complex issues such as moving to zero-carbon cities by 2030 require a level of critical thinking and innovation that will disrupt the modes of operating of government and the corporations that fund education. They will require longer periods of education – lifelong and life-wide – that may reduce short-term economic output. That disrupts the balance in the funding relationship between the young, the workers, and pension beneficiaries. Governments intervene to equalise access on the basis of accepted social norms. Yet are increasingly ineffective at reducing the polarising impact of parent income on childhood attainment.

 

We might imagine a system that redefines the purpose of work first. Where the norm becomes dynamic self-managed teams within organisations, and self-organised networks of freelancers without, which rebalance our ambition for individual status with collective value. Our need to travel, to eat, to care for our families is dependent upon our ability to align paid work with the rhythms of community co-operation. We might – looking to millennials now in the gig economy - see paid work as essential but secondary to the roles we take on in exchange not for currency but usable commodities.

 

A more efficient system – that educates more of the population to be capable of tackling tomorrow’s problems – would alter the balance of power away from near-term beneficiaries. Educational returns on investment no longer felt solely by profitability or tax revenues: but also by longer term, distributed social and community gains. Financing mechanisms no longer the preserve of government and corporations, but flourishing community interest bonds. Lifelong learning the norm, and not dependent on personal wealth, fit with government strategy, or sponsorship by large employers. Accessible through communities prepared to invest in long-term resilience, understanding the purpose of work as aligned with community impact.

 

Or corporations may continue to sponsor and polarise the deployment of mobile elite labour as effective in addressing their need for innovation and profitability. Governments may be less able to equalise access to education, with greater dependence on risky private financing, and a reduced democratic mandate to intervene. Even in highly planned, nationalist economies governments may justify focussing on elite education for the ‘greater good’. Or to diminish the impact of disposable income in exacerbating socio-economic advantages and access to learning.

 

Enviro-economic disruptions may force many of us to redefine the purpose of work and the values that we ascribe to it. Such that learning systems satisfy the requirements of the innovation, collaboration and community we need to succeed in the 2050s and beyond. We can look to communities and work organisations that are developing collaborative learning networks. Yet these are still an, albeit plausible, step-change away from funding mechanisms that achieve longer-term, distributed social and community outcomes. These may emerge through necessity in the development of closed-loop zero carbon systems in the 2030s. This could enable the purpose of education to shift away from the requirements of work to solving the issues raised by the complex problems we’re increasingly facing.

 

© Esmee Wilcox 2019

Tags:  education  government  work 

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The Bank of Facebook?

Posted By E. Alex Floate, Thursday, September 12, 2019

Alex Floate, a member of our Emerging Fellows program devotes his ninth blog post to Facebook’s digital currency innitiative. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

When Facebook first premiered their idea for a digital currency Libra in 2019, the reactions ranged from eye-rolling to predictions of a vast conspiracy to control the world. Most pundits could not understand how or why a social media platform would create or need a currency. The calls for regulation or legal action to disallow the notion were immediate.

 

However, within just a few years of introduction, more governments turned to nationalism or authoritarianism, and the Trumpian trade and currency wars of the early 2020’s disrupted global markets. Despite their mutual needs for trade and economic growth, the use of national currencies became a point of contention as the world fragmented into tribes.

 

The group most affected were entrepreneurs in the countries once called the third world. For them, globalization had brought a connection to the wider world of consumers, especially as 7G broadband and localized electrical grids were built out. The initiatives began by the Chinese in the 2010s to build out transportation infrastructure in Africa were bearing fruit by the mid-2020s. Small companies and farmers found they could directly market and ship to global customers. Into this currency void stepped the technology companies that were enabling the global marketplace.

 

Although Facebook was the first to market with a digital currency, Amazon, Alibaba, and a few regional upstarts began using their positions as marketplaces to promote their in-house digital currencies as a means of global trade. They created means to earn additional currency, such as an exchange for personal information, reviews, actions as beta or market testers, or selling and buying on the marketplace. The member could earn additional Amazonians or Alibablers to spend within their respective marketplaces, and even at many outside venues.

 

As the reach of the tech companies expanded beyond supply chains and into services, the ability to negotiate paying for goods in services in their own currencies was greatly expanded. This allowed many companies to offer the option of being paid in corporate or domestic script. The corporate script became highly preferable as the companies offering it were able to better manage it for inflation and deflationary pressures. Additionally, by restricting it from most secondary markets the ability to manipulate the currency via speculation was taken away from those seeking to make money off other’s misery.

 

Companies also created a social scoring like the system China implemented in the late 2010s. This system was more reward than punishment and sought to incentivize behavior in line with the company’s values and social conscience. By allowing the company to track the individual throughout their day, including conversations and actions, the company could determine if they were acting as a good citizen of the planet.

 

When a person’s interactions were friendly, helpful, informative, and advanced civility or relationships, the score could potentially increase. Energy and water usage, recycling, using public or personally powered transportation were also monitored and properly rewarded. The opposite of these positive actions lowered the score. Higher scores were rewarded with extra currency, merchandise, or socially with offers of more prestigious jobs or responsible public positions. By 2040 these new scoring systems had replaced nearly all other methods of determining financial trust for an individual or organization.

 

By the year 2050, most smaller countries had outsourced their treasury functions to either Amazon or Alibaba. For most of these countries the new currencies offered access and stability and an opportunity to grow their economies. Entering the global marketplace on an equal footing allowed many countries to shake off the ‘third world’ label, and this was especially true on the continent of Africa.

 

© 2019 E Alex Floate

Tags:  digital economy  economics  Facebook 

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Who are the people democracy is supposed to serve?

Posted By Robin Jourdan, Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Robin Jourdan inspects the real audience of democracy in her ninth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

In the past governments tended to serve the governors before the people. Inspired by Magna Carta in England, the US’s Bill of Rights serve as starting gates for the idea of government designed so that the people can exercise control over their governing representatives. Governance bending to build future strengths for all, rather than fortifying old victories took its first tentative steps.

 

A myth is that every generation’s youth go through non-political periods. This can translate into a cynicism about government; but not always. A “Youth LEAD” trend seems to be appearing with data points going back at least 50 years that show the youth of an area, region, and nations pulling together to represent their interests in environmental and climate actions. They acknowledge that problems are complicated; but angry over the inaction about the conditions they’re due to inherit.

 

Today, nearly half of the world’s inhabitants is under 30 years old. It’s known that educated, healthy, employed, and civically engaged youth drive economic growth, democracy, and prosperity. However, less than 6% of parliamentarians globally are under 35 years old. Young people are under-represented and excluded in policy related decision-making. Fewer than 2% of parliamentarians around the world are in their 20s and only 12% are in their 30s. In the early part of the 21st century, efforts have sprung up, Millennium Development Goals, to increase youth representation in advisory capacities, constitution reviews, reporting, and more. For example, since the Arab Awakening young people have remained politically active through “political movements” instead of engaging with and in political parties. The United Nations (Development Program) formally recognized that when young people engage in peace-building via new and mobile technologies, these can lead to non-violent change. A Nigerian Youth Agenda on political participation was developed to encourage collaboration. Bangladesh and Jordan launched similar actions with the assistance of the United Nations Development Program. Even with this progress, this generation at the beginning of the century have been left behind and denied opportunities. Some suspect there may be a far-reaching re-negotiation in the social contract between generations approaching.

 

What could change in the last half of this century is multi-tiered: from AI advances, security issues, to social media. Youths around the world will turn to smartphones rather than adults for what they need. Younger people use these fingertip tools for change and impact can only strengthen. Reforms for who government serves may be waged from the inside out and change the global narrative.

 

The end of the century may bring well-practiced socio-emotional skills and growth mindsets. Continuing the Youth LEAD trend of youth-motivated leadership, education, advocacy and development, has long-term potential to raise their global political power. Forward acting nations may pressure laggards by limiting access to their workforce. Instabilities for isolated regimes due to internal power struggles and energy could erupt into battles.

 

Going forward, if a business as usual approach continues, focus on skills-gaps and employment can go on to distract influencers, and a lack of real engagement with residents will continue in pockets. A grim retaliation could result. AI may diminish unwanted interactions with police due to autonomous mobility, but jobs may be even more scarce. Again, a distraction. To the second half of the twenty-first century, if people live longer, mixed with low pay, decreased employment opportunities, and constrained health care may strain even the most resilient of systems.

 

When in the past has one generation sacrificed for the benefit of future generations? Two examples: medieval cathedrals were built for future generations and fighting wars meant risking your life now to keep your country free for future generations. Wishful-thinkers may dismiss the trend for young people’s stand on environmental issues.

 

Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out that each generation must get the knowledge, skills, and traits of character that underpin a constitutional democracy. It’s relatively easy to produce competent people. Lobbyists today teach us an essential lesson about the service of democracy. Regardless of your side of an issue, they’ve figured out how to work the system for their sponsor.

 

Young people will continue to demand their right to a healthy inheritance when their elders fail to act on their metaphoric cathedrals. Knowledge and education can’t be sequestered anymore. Democracy is intended to serve everyone in its borders. Reality says it serves best those who take responsibility to make it work for today and tomorrow. Youth-motivated leadership and actions could reach a tipping point in this century to catch responsibility into their increasingly capable hands. Who is government supposed to serve? There are two kinds of people, those who focus on something to gain, and those treading water over something to lose. Democracy must move forward with its people and with energy, gusto and everything to gain.

 

© Robin Jourdan 2019

Tags:  democracy  governance  politics 

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Who and what is holding us back from a fully digital economy?

Posted By Paul Tero, Friday, September 6, 2019

Paul Tero a member of our Emerging Fellows program discovers the future of digital economy by adding one more piece to a series of blog posts devoted to this topic. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Consider the fields of human affairs in which we are experiencing change. There’s environmental change, shifts in international and domestic politics, technological advances and the constant innovation in the health and human services sectors. Let us not neglect the spheres of finance, education, and governance. The list goes on. Trends, change and drivers of change. All threads in the dynamic tapestry of early 21st Century life.

 

In amongst all of these changes that we are witnessing this article is focusing on one thing. We are examining the unfolding phenomena of the digital economy. In particular, who and what is stymieing the realisation of a fully digital economy in the decades ahead. As we attend to this, we need to be mindful of our own responses to this particular phenomenon. Are we more sanguine, saying: “Yes, bring it on. We will be utterly enmeshed in a fully digital economy by 2050”. Or are we more phlegmatic: “Don’t know. We could be more reliant on the digital economy by 2050!

 

However, asking questions is the key to the examination of the digital economy. Questions like: Who benefits from the status quo and who loses if we go fully digital? What are the social, political, economic, legal, environmental or technological barriers to realising a fully digital economy? Are cultural worldviews and belief systems the obstacles in the path to building an economy that is fully digital?

 

Turning firstly to the status quo. Benefiting from the status quo are those whose influence, power and profit are founded on the world of atoms. If these attributes of prominence do not translate to the world of bits, change is resisted. Remember the retailers of a few years back? To them the internet was but a passing fad. They saw no need to embrace the digital economy.

 

Our reference point for an examination of the social barriers could be the introduction of Facebook. Once Metcalfe’s law kicked in, ordinary people could see the inherent value in sharing their lives online and overcame their reluctance to enter their personal and private details into the Facebook database. Turning to one potential aspect of life that could be with us in the time ahead: personal artificial intelligence assistants (we do have Alexa, Cortana & Siri now don’t we?). Our uneasiness with being second guessed ahead of time by artificial intelligence may be rendered moot because of the value and ease these new machines bring to our lives, relationships and careers.

 

And what of the governing class and the way political life is conducted. Is it because of the Machiavellian dictum “never attempt to win by force that can be won by deception” that political barriers will remain? For with this category of barrier the perspective that “a fully digital economy is equivalent to full transparency” may well be the non-negotiable impediment raised by its stakeholders. An anathema to the political class.

 

And what of legal barriers? Consider the difficulties presented by cryptocurrencies, the machinations we have with privacy in a digital world, and the conundrums with copyright. And let us not forget the implications of RegTech, the jurisdictional challenges faced by taxation authorities in this digital world, and the quagmire at the interface of human bodies and technology.

 

Finally, there is who we are as individuals, as members of families, communities, tribes and nations. All revealing a rich and complex global panoply of worldviews and belief systems. We can conjure images of dystopia, pockets of doomsday preppers, and activists driving the techlash movement. All as symbols of resistance to a fully digital economy. And similarly we watch the countervailing forces of progressives and conservatives. Progressives seeking a better way, conservatives seeking to only incrementally improve the way things are. And then we have the reactionaries who are bent on impeding any forward movement that the forces of improvement show.

 

Given all this, is it any wonder that we have so far been able to thread the needle of change. Is it any wonder that the quality of so many parts of our daily life for so many lives is better than what it was decades ago? There is no single “who” or “what” holding us back from a fully digital economy. But there is this: a multitude of challenges that are to be overcome on our collective arc of accumulation.

 

© Paul Tero 2019

Tags:  digital economy  economics  finance 

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