By, Gary J. Beach
Publisher Emeritus, CIO Magazine
Author: “The U.S. Technology Skills Gap“
Columnist: The Wall Street Journal “CIO Journal”
Editor: The Skills Gap Almanac (#skillsgapalmanac on Twitter)
Mobile: 508 654 8462
“Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure” is one of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Though ranked ninth, in my opinion, it is the most important sustainable development goal because it, and its’ key ICT component, enable and support all of the other 16 goals. No significant future accomplishment in health, fighting hunger, erasing poverty or creating renewable sources of energy happens without “industry, innovation and infrastructure”.
“Industry, innovation and infrastructure” is about to get a massive digital facelift. Several months ago, the World Economic Forum introduced the concept of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” into the lexicon of world leaders. While steam powered the First Industrial Revolution, electricity defined the Second Industrial Revolution and IT drove the Third Revolution, the Fourth Industrial revolution will be predicated on the confluence of the cyber and physical ICT world.
To understand the Fourth Industrial Revolution think cloud, think mobile internet, think robotics, think virtual reality. Think the “internet of things”, a coming era where every human being and inanimate object on earth can be digitally connected to billions of other people and trillions of objects.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution also sets the framework for the delivery of another basic human right: the right for every human being to be assigned a unique internet protocol address and have unfettered access to the internet. In 2016, InternetLiveStats.com, a research firm, reports 3.7 billion people, or 48 percent of the world’s population, have no access to the internet. While eight people log on to the internet for the first time every second, a pace which scales to 656,000 new users each day, it still will take until 2030 to get every person connected to the net.
That pace is unacceptable.
An analysis of internet usage by continents reveals a bifurcated world of internet connectivity. As the table below reveals, internet usage among people who live in the Americas and Europe is significantly over represented while usage in Asia and Africa is under represented.
|Continent||% of World Population||% of Internet Users||+/- Usage|
Table Reads: European representation of global internet users is 73% greater than Europe’s percentage of world population.
Here’s the main takeaway: businesses, governments and NGOs in the Americas, Europe and Asia have a social responsibility to make sustainable investments to connect the 830 million human beings who live on the continent of Africa who have no opportunity to connect to the internet. The world’s goal must be this: by the 2020 decade 16% of the world’s internet users must emanate from Africa.
For years in my role as publisher of CIO Magazine, I sat through thousands of marketing presentations from tech vendors. Usually around the fourth slide in the PowerPoint deck was the proverbial “global” footprint slide highlighting the vendor’s “global” presence. Here’s the rub: rarely did a vendor actually claim they did business in Africa. It was truly the digitally “dark” continent.
Thankfully, that situation is changing rapidly.
Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, Accenture and smaller firms like Andela and NGO’s like “We Think Code” have come to the realization that the talent pool in Africa is as deep in human potential as any place on earth. Encouraged by that potential, large telecom firms are wiring the continent with massive undersea cables. Other firms are launching low earth orbiting satellites telephone and internet connectivity. Solar and wind farms are being built in both North Africa and Sub-Saharan regions of the continent. And global asset management firms like The Carlyle Group are also in the initial phases of making significant investments in Africa.
And the timing of all these exciting developments is right on the mark.
As I researched my book, “The U.S. Technology Skills Gap”, I read about an economic theory published by Mitsutomo Yuasa, a Japanese physicist, in 1962. Dr. Yuasa’s theory, also known as “Yuasa’s Phenomenon”, claimed that every 100-110 years the world’s scientific/economic center of the world shifted from one country to another. Starting in 1540 in Italy, Dr. Yuasa plotted the shift to France, England, Germany and finally to the United States in 1920.
Do the math. If “Yuasa’s Phenomenon” is in play again, and many believe it is, the world’s scientific/economic center will shift away from the United States in the 2020 decade. So the seminal question is this: to which country will it shift to between 2020 -2030?
Many believe it will be the Peoples Republic of China. Or, perhaps India! Both of those conjectures are wrong. In the 2020 decade, the world’s center of scientific activity will indeed shift away from the United States. But on this evolution of Yuasa’s Phenomenon, it will shift not to a country, but to a borderless place whose citizens need not carry a passport.
That place is the internet.
Access to the internet is a basic human right that must be bestowed on every one of the 7.1 billion who inhabit Earth.
It should also be the United Nations 18th Sustainable Development Goal.