Institute for Business in the Global Context

Where the World of Business Meets the World

The “Smart Society” of the Future Doesn’t Look Like Science Fiction

by Bhaskar Chakravorti and Ravi Shankar Chaturvedi

What is a “smart” society? While flights of imagination from science-fiction writers, filmmakers, and techno-futurists involve things like flying cars and teleportation, in practice smart technology is making inroads in a piecemeal fashion, often in rather banal circumstances. In Chicago, for example, predictive analytics is improving health inspections schedules in restaurants, while in Boston city officials are collaborating with Waze, the traffic navigation app company, combining its data with inputs from street cameras and sensors to improve road conditions across the city. A city-state such as Singapore has a more holistic idea of a “smart nation,” where the vision includes initiatives from self-driving vehicles to cashless and contactless payments, robotics and assistive technologies, data-empowered urban environments, and technology-enabled homes.

More broadly, we might define a smart society as one where digital technology, thoughtfully deployed by governments, can improve on three broad outcomes: the well-being of citizens, the strength of the economy, and the effectiveness of institutions.

The potential for technologies to enable smart societies is rising. For example, internet-of-things sensor applications are envisioned to deliver a wide range of services, from smart water to industrial controls to e-health. The market for smart technologies is predicted to be worth up to $1.6 trillion by 2020, and $3.5 trillion by 2026. Surely, given the size of the opportunity, increasing interest among governments and policy makers, and the explosion of relevant technologies, we can start to understand what smart societies are  and establish standards and ideals to aim for.

Read the full piece in the Harvard Business Review

After the Wall Street crash of 2008, Fabian Olarte (MIB ’11) found himself seeking a new career path. He decided there was no better place to do so than at The Fletcher School, and is grateful for the warm, helpful community he found at the school: “A lot of people helped me get my job and helped me advance in my career, and I’m doing the same for them.”

Britain’s Digital Advantage

No wonder then that there is much anxiety among Brexit-watchers about the UK making a clean break and rejecting the ‘four freedoms’ that EU members enjoy − free movement of people, goods, capital and services. I would argue that there is a fifth freedom that negotiators ought to keep in their sights, one that may hold the key to re-balancing the terms of Brexit. This freedom has to do with the free movement of data.

Data matters because it is the fuel − and exhaust − of a critical part of the overall economy: the digital economy.

When one considers the digital economies of the UK and that of the EU, the latter would be losing a genuine star if barriers to UK-EU data flows were to be erected.

Read the full piece from Dean Chakravorti on the Chatham House website

Beware the Trump Effect

This is a tale of two septuagenarians; I hope they never meet. One is the country of India as an independent democratic nation. The other is the American president, a reminder that independent democracy provides no guarantee for its product. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Washington DC, he extended an invitation to the Trump parivaar to visit India. Ivanka Trump accepted right away and recently the details of her visit have been re-confirmed by the official medium of this White House — over a tweet. While Ivanka’s appearance would be harmless enough, it would be best if Daddy chooses to stay away.

Read the full piece from Dean Chakravorti at Brookings

When can we stop using cash?
by Kai Ryssdal & Maria Hollenhorst

Here’s a question: How much cash is in your wallet right now? If you answered not a whole lot, that’s not very surprising. It’s getting ever easier to operate in this economy without carrying cash. You tip your Lyft driver on your phone, you pay your dinner bill with a credit card and you Venmo your friends to split the check. Consider then, the future of cash. Bhaskar Charkravorti, the senior associate dean of international business and finance at The Fletcher School at Tufts, has done a number of studies on the subject, including the “Cost of Cash.”  Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal spoke to him about the future of bills and coins in this changing world. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Listen to the interview with Dean Chakravorti on Marketplace

Cash is falling out of fashion – will it disappear forever?

Cash is being displaced in so many ways that it’s hard to keep track. There are credit cards and electronic payments; apps such as Venmo, PayPal and Square Cash; mobile payments services; cryptocurrencies that operate outside the purview of central banks; and localized offerings such as Kenya’s mPesa, India’s Paytm and Bangladesh’s bKash. These innovations are encouraging cashlessness across communities worldwide.

It’s reasonable to expect cash to follow the path of other goods that have been replaced by digital alternatives, such as photos, music and movies. Will cash – and the ATMs that dispense it – experience a “Blockbuster” moment and disappear from our neighborhoods?

Read the full piece from Dean Chakravorti in The Conversation

If Trump, Modi Talk Climate

All this makes for an awkward prelude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington — a pity, since the two headstrong heads of state have a lot in common. Diplomacy may demand that the climate kerfuffle be kept off the agenda. In the unlikely event that it does come up, though, here is a cheat sheet for the PM.

Read the full piece from Dean Chakravorti in The Indian Express

Domestic Regulatory Traditions & CSR: Prof. Knudsen featured in Global Policy Journal

From time to time we like to feature some of the outstanding work of The Fletcher School’s business faculty. Today we look at a new article from Jette Steen Knudsen, Associate Professor of International Business and The Shelby Cullom Davis Chair in International Business.


A Global Policy special issue on public and private protections of labor and social standards in the global economy explores whether public and private regulations of such standards develop in harmony or tension with one another. Included in this issue was a piece researched and written by Prof. Jette Steen Knudsen titled, “How Do Domestic Regulatory Traditions Shape CSR in Large International US and UK Firms?”

Read the abstract below and follow the link to learn more:

This article examines corporate social responsibility (CSR) pertaining to labor standards in apparel and tax transparency in extractives and explores how domestic regulatory traditions shape CSR in large international US and UK firms. Reflecting their more collaborative business-government traditions, British firms are more willing to join international CSR multi-stakeholder initiatives with business-critical actors such as unions and civil society actors. The US has a more top-down regulatory approach, which promotes hard law international CSR or encourages business-driven voluntary CSR initiatives. This article makes three contributions. First, it argues that while corporations are the key actors in international CSR, their behavior reflects their respective national business systems. Second, focusing on a range of international CSR initiatives, this article finds that UK firms are more interested in adopting international (multi-stakeholder) CSR initiatives than US firms. Finally, the article shows that the US and the UK governments play a key role in driving an international CSR agenda, and in doing this it highlights government agency more so than other research has.

Learn more and read the full article from Prof. Knudsen

Growing the digital economy

The creation of the innovation hub will be a critical component in the drive to boost the Philippines’ ranking in the Digital Evolution Index (DEI), which ranks countries in terms of their readiness for the quickly expanding digital economy. The Philippines is one of the so-called “break-out” nations in the recent global DEI study conducted by the US-based Fletcher School at Tufts University, using data from 2008 to 2013. The country stands alongside China, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam as one of the “rapidly advancing countries” in the global digital topography.

Read the full article in Speed Magazine

Student Research: Engaging the Market: Investor Relations in Mainland China

As the calendar turns summer and another class leaves Fletcher, we reflect on some of the fascinating research we’ve supported from students in the past. In this post, we revisit MIB ’16 graduate Nathan Holdstein’s research on investor relations for companies in Mainland China.


For firms at various stages of development, listing shares on a major international stock exchange is the penultimate measurement for establishing oneself as a “successful” business. This is especially true of firms based in Mainland China. In many cases, firms choose to list shares outside of the country, mostly in Hong Kong and the United States, either as a primary listing or to supplement existing listings on local bourses. Those that do so can face intense scrutiny from market regulators, investors, media, and the general public. What can they do to better demonstrate the value they will bring to shareholders in international markets?

The author interviewing Prof. Zhigang Tao, Hong Kong University

My capstone looks at the investor relations component, and why Chinese companies should more actively engage key market players to better show their value. I am hypothesizing that companies doing so have larger percentages of institutional shareholders, which will reduce volatility and push the price up over the long-term. This occurs in large part because those firms that are successful will provide the market with a steady stream of reports, forward guidance, and general news updates to give analysts and stakeholders a better understanding of what the company’s value is.

With support from the Institute for Business in the Global Context, I traveled to the Special Administrative Region in Hong Kong to meet experts and practitioners of investor relations and finance there. Given its proximity to the Mainland and relatively market oriented monetary regulation & capital controls, it is no surprise that a number of Chinese companies choose to go public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. I wanted to get a better understanding of what it takes to have a successful listing in Hong Kong, in which the share price remains relatively stable and increases in value.

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