Technology enables natural environments to be controlled and adapted. Whether it is the wheel, the printing-press or the smart phone, history has repeatedly proven that technology has revolutionised just about every aspect of the way we live our lives. In short, technology helps us achieve our goals more efficiently and effectively. In emerging markets, technology is facilitating the transformation of the futures of young people who now have access to free education over the internet. India, Pakistan, Nigeria and China represent some of the largest growth markets for smartphones and other technology devices. Next year, the ten largest growth markets – all emerging countries – will see a combined growth in technology devices of over $10 billion.
The increasing wealth and buying power in emerging markets should not be underestimated: these are the markets that will drive and shape the new technology to come. The exploding popularity of mobile use, combined innovation in payments technology has enabled individuals in emerging markets to make payments using their smart phones. The smartphone has become the primary lifeline for many people in these regions, and consumer adoption of mobile payment technology in these markets has far exceeded that of the US. For instance, it is easier to pay a taxi fare with a mobile in Nairobi than in New York.
Through technology, fundraising has also been revolutionised. Alternative finance initiatives, such as crowd funding and peer-to-peer lending has provided entrepreneurs and start-ups the access to funds that they crave. In 2012, crowdfunding platforms raised $2.7 billion for projects and successfully funded over a million campaigns. In the UK alone, the alternative finance market will have provided over £1 billion of growth and working capital to an estimated 7,180 small and medium-sized businesses in 2014. This is equivalent to 2.4 per cent of bank lending to businesses – a proportion of the market that will only increase as technology improves.
The world is now far more connected and individuals now have a greater interest and ability to invest in early-stage start-ups/businesses, particularly after having seen some of the incredible wealth created through technology. Importantly, technology is helping to positively impact the lives of people affected by disease and illness – from bionic arms to artificial corneas, the quality of life for millions is being transformed. Many people have already benefitted from being able to create cheap, customised prosthetic limbs from 3D Printers. Furthermore, the introduction of 5G technology in the next decade will help connect people living in the most remote areas to the rest of the world. Qualified surgeons and medical professionals will be able to connect with patients that they are unable to see in person, and in some cases even operating on them from around the world. Technology will continue to be a significant driver in improving lives in resource-deprived regions.
Technology has revolutionised the way business people communicate: the need to travel thousands of miles to sit in a meeting can now be eliminated thanks to globally-used technologies such as Skype, Google Hangouts and Slack. Social media platforms have transformed the way people send and receive information can now be transmitted globally and in a press of a button via social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn. Information and ideas are being shared in seconds, not hours or days. Behind many of these technological leaps, are young people.
Prime examples in recent decades include the likes of Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Steve Jobs (Apple), who were aged 19, 20 and 21 respectively when they founded their companies. Indeed, Larry Page and Sergey Brin had to wait until the grand old age of 25 before setting up Google. Why so young? It is my belief that it is because young people are not hampered by barriers to advancement; they are more aware of a need to disrupt the market and change the status quo. Today, young people aged 16 to 24 are digital natives; the internet is a ‘natural’ space for them to operate in, and it is a fully-integrated part of their lives. The role for experienced business people will be to teach the younger, tech-savvy generation about the ins-and-outs of business success: protecting IP, networking with investors, building a trusted management team, recruiting talent and achieving sustained growth.