The middle of this decade is here. A lot has been achieved in the first half and much more is expected from the second. While there are several key areas of focus that deserve attention and can create impact as we look into the next 5 years, in my view the following 5 are the pivotal themes. Each of them, on their own has the mega potential to transform the world.
Urbanization and Smart Cities
It is expected that the world will have 7.7 Billion people by 2020, an increase of 800 Million during this decade. The world is becoming more urban with each passing day. Towards the end of last decade itself, more people were living in urban areas than in the rural. According to UN by the middle of 2009 itself, 3.42 Billion people were living in urban areas compared to 3.41 Billion in rural. Over the next 15 years, 5+ Billion people will be living in urban areas, i.e. 61% of world’s total population then. Urbanization is rapidly increasing, with cities becoming mega cities (10+M people), UN expects the world to add 13 mega cities over the next 15 years, from 28 in 2014 to 41 by 2030 ; that’s almost adding one mega city each year over next 15 years. Approximately 800+M people, 16% of the urban population will be living in these mega cities by 2030.
So what does all this mean? With 3 out of every 5 people living in the urban areas and 1 out of every 10 living in a mega city over the next 15 years, rapid urbanization provides one of most complex challenges and at the same time some significant opportunities. Cities and urban areas need to become smarter and adaptable – that’s the only way they can provide a sustainable economic, social and environmental conditions for people to live and contribute effectively. Secure and smart buildings, transport systems, healthcare, energy, utilities, communication systems, government systems and policies etc. are the building blocks of the future. The opportunities lie in building ground up new smart cities and converting existing cities into smart – both need to happen depending on the biggest impact they can create region / country wise. While economic output of the mega cities will far outweigh the next tier cities, the number of cities in 1-5 million people will be almost 25% of the total urban population. Key opportunity will be to drive innovation and implementation at scale to impact people’s life positively and smartly for sustainable growth.
10.5% of the global GDP is spent on healthcare, that’s approximately USD 7.6 Trillion in 2014, and in spite of spending this colossal amount, the overall results are far from desirable. More than 75% of the spend is towards providing care for the chronic diseases. With the overall growth in population and people living longer, there is a dire need to ensure that healthcare is aligned both at an individual wellness and at overall population health level to deliver not only significantly improved care, but be accountable for results. As an industry, healthcare has to learn to embrace results rather than just providing care.
The year 2015 and the second half of this decade will be key to increase our focus in taking advantage of the advancements in compute technologies and life sciences healthcare core research and new discoveries. We must get better in driving predictive and result oriented care by combining big data, healthcare analytics, m-health, new drugs, genome sequencing etc. The world needs to be healthier and has to spend far less in achieving that care than what it spends today.
Power of Youth
Harnessing the power to youth is going to be extremely key to the overall global development. According to UN, there are 1.8 Billion young people (10-24 years) in the world today, that’s 25% of the total global population. At 356 million (28% of population), India has the largest number of young people in the world. Euromonitor estimates that 89.8% of the global population who are less than 30 years of age, live in the emerging and developing countries.
Clearly the global power of the youth needs to be channelized correctly, and 2015 is the year that should take an aggressive goal towards this alignment. Youth are the single biggest asset for the world at large for its long-term sustainable development and it’s the here and now opportunity. Providing healthcare, education, skill development, training and proper livelihood opportunities must become their fundamental requirement. The opportunity to harness youth power by the emerging countries simply cannot be missed or misaligned. It’s the topmost lever to bridge the inequality gap and to drive meaningful economic, social changes. It’s also the responsibility of the young people to take ownership and drive positive and progressive change all across.
Connect Rest of the World
Internet penetration globally is at 42%, that’s approx. 3.03 Billion people connected. The penetration varies from 95+% for Nordic countries to sub 10% for several countries in Africa. Biggest opportunity to increase the internet connectivity is in Asia and Africa. Combined, these two continents have 71% of world population with only 32.8% internet penetration. It also means that more than 3.43 Billion people in just these two continents still don’t have access to the internet. That’s more people living un-connected in these two massive continents, than we have the total number of people on the internet worldwide!
We clearly have a responsibility to connect the world, let people be online to share information, create content etc. which will help them improve their lives. Let 2015 be that year where we have more than half the world connected online, that’s adding 600+million people to the global internet population in this year and drive special internet infrastructure investments into the Asian and African countries where its most needed.
Mobility, IoT and Cyber Security
How does life change so significantly in a period of 7-8 years? Look at people with smart phones, none can do away with them any longer. With the introduction of iPhones in 2007, smart phones became mainstream and by the year 2015, over 2 Billion of them will be in use around the world. Over 50% of the people will use mobile connectivity to get online. Mobility is clearly mainstream. Businesses, government, individuals, communities and societies will be investing significantly more to leverage and harness this power in the remainder of this decade and it will become the bedrock for future development.
Internet of Things (IoT) is already beginning to impact our lives in a much more transformational manner compared to what internet per-se has done in the last twenty years. When everything around us is connected and collaborating on meaningful information, taking rule based decisions, driving significantly higher efficiencies etc. – the possibilities are limitless. Cisco estimates USD 19 Trillion worth of opportunities over next decade on account of increased connectivity driven by IoT. Over 212 Billion things are expected to be connected by 2020, an increase of 27 times during the current decade itself. No industry, however mature or old they may be will be left untouched by IoT.
With increased connectivity, comes increased cyber risk. Online security is still in the emerging phase and just about dealing with traditional internet based technologies. The rapid growth of Mobility and IoT will create enormous challenges and will also provide significant opportunities for cyber security. Although these trends are irreversible, adoption and pace of transformational change can be negatively impacted in case of massive cyber security breaches. Can 2015 be the year where the industry should resolve to stop the majority of the breaches, rather than reporting them after systems have been compromised.
Maximum impact on account of Mobility, IoT and Cyber Security in the year 2015 and the remainder of this decade will be for the developed economies. They also have the highest dependencies for their growth on them.