By Marisa DrewAt a recent event this summer in London, I was fortunate enough to be in the audience to hear former US President Bill Clinton speak. He suggested that the multi-polar world is facing an unprecedented set of megatrends challenges, partly because of its interconnectivity.
The global economy is now so intertwined that issues in one part of the world ripple across the globe, reaching the other side at lightning fast speed. To think that a slowdown in the Chinese economy in the summer would reverse the US Federal Reserve’s stance on interest rate policy in the fall was unthinkable even five years ago.
As we ponder events such as the Arab Spring, where social media played a key role in galvanizing support against the leadership regime, or the current Syrian refugee crisis, where millions of people are receiving detail in real time about which country’s borders are open on a given day, the challenges of a single economy or market can no longer be considered isolated geographic events.
The Population Challenge
It is undeniable that global megatrend challenges, sustainability and demographics are interlinked in and of themselves. Population growth in the world is putting tremendous strain on our natural resources. As the global population continues to grow and people live longer (each generation is living approximately 10 years longer than the previous one), population issues will be further magnified. We also expect that cures to two major killers of human beings—heart disease and cancer—will be found within the lifetimes of our children, further amplifying the challenge. Countries where the aging population is a growing problem will increasingly feel the cost of elderly care and shrinking workforce.
It is undeniable that global megatrend challenges, sustainability and demographics are interlinked in and of themselves.
Other demographic trends such as the massive rise of consumer classes in previously rural economies like China and parts of Africa, have moved these countries from being net producers to net consumers. Because of the relative ages of African, Asian and Middle Eastern populations, these regions will be housing those who are most able to contribute to global GDP. With this, trends like urbanization will emerge. This could prove problematic as cities on a per capita basis use more water and electricity, produce more waste and create more emissions.
Solution to Megatrends Challenges
While these megatrends could cause us to become negative about the prospects of our world, President Clinton indicated that our planet is at an unprecedented time where the speed of technological innovation and the advent of social media mean that solutions to big problems are coming faster and faster. In the modern world, we can almost immediately share breakthroughs from one part of the globe with another. Clinton also said social media allows us to create linkages to a better understanding and appreciation of each other’s cultures, thereby helping us to bridge cultural divides. This is why what we term ”the sharing economy” is so mission critical.
The sharing economy has created a virtual marketplace that has cut out billions of dollars in infrastructure costs.
Human ingenuity knows no bounds, but in previous generations, knowledge was often constrained by geography. This inability to share and to communicate broadly meant that the distribution of critical knowledge often did not occur quickly enough to make a difference. The marketplace in which to deliver products and services was also limited by geography and infrastructural limitations.
Examples of the sharing economy put to work in healthcare in the US alone are projected to save its economy more than $350 billion per annum—more than the GDP of most mid-sized countries. Medical researchers can now share findings with anyone in the world. This means that the development cycle for producing new treatments and evaluating their efficacy is drastically shortened, saving time and money expended in pursuing research dead-ends. The use of big data also means that diagnoses can be delivered to the most remote areas of the world where hospitals or research facilities do not exist.
Similarly, exciting innovation is occurring around sustainability, and knowledge sharing is intensifying with every passing year. From more efficient uses of infrastructure, e.g. creating smarter cities and cars, to finding new sources of energy and new uses for waste, the ability to make an impact is massively multiplied by collaboration across borders.
Countries where the aging population is a growing problem will increasingly feel the cost of elderly care and shrinking workforce.
Today, the sharing economy has created a virtual marketplace that has cut out billions of dollars in infrastructure costs. Even the smallest companies have been rendered viable by their ability to reach global consumers. The cost of establishing a new startup company in the US has shrunk by one tenth, and the average time for the new generation of internet companies to reach 100 million customers has fallen by more than 300%. This is even more impressive when we consider that all of these changes have only come about in barely a decade.
If we as individuals, through the companies we work for, can continue to be oriented toward fostering collaboration and sharing, I am confident we can harness the power of human resilience and brainpower to address our megatrend challenges. This is why, like President Clinton, I am optimistic about what lies ahead.
This article was published in the 2015 edition of HQ Magazine, a publication of CSOFT International. If you’re interested in learning more about CSOFT’s globalization and localization solutions, visit our Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn pages or you can visit our webpage!