Associate Director of Research and Doctoral Research Fellow for Innovation and Change, Ravi Shankar Chaturvedi speaks on the latest Digital Planet Smart Societies research at Digital Nations 2030 in New Zealand.
by Bhaskar Chakravorti, Ravi Shankar Chaturvedi, and Ajay Bhalla
The year 2018 is barely underway and, already, digital trust initiatives have captured headlines. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has said his platform will de-prioritize third-party publisher content to keep users focused on more “meaningful” posts from family and friends. Google has led off the new year by blocking websites that mask their country of origin from showing up on Google News. And the European Union’s upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will affect every organization around the world that handles personal data for EU residents. The regulations will also, no doubt, inform data protection laws and corporate trust-building strategies elsewhere.
Even China’s opaque behemoths have started the year with unprecedented acknowledgements of the need to address trust concerns: Tencent had to publicly deny that it collects user WeChat history after it was openly challenged; Alibaba’s Ant Financial apologized to users of its mobile-payment service for automatically enrolling them in its social-credit scoring service.
What these stories underscore is that our digital evolution and our productive use of new technologies rests on how well we can build digital trust. But is it possible to measure digital trust and compare it across countries? Are there countries where guaranteeing trust is a more urgent priority and will draw a larger share of trust-building resources and regulations? The Fletcher School at Tufts University and Mastercard have a launched a research initiative to address these questions by studying the state of digital trust across 42 countries. Here are some of our initial findings, drawn from the study, “Digital Planet 2017: How Competitiveness and Trust in Digital Economies Vary Across the World.”
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.
Why failing to protect net neutrality would crush the US’s digital startups
American leadership in technology innovation and economic competitiveness is at risk if U.S. policymakers don’t take crucial steps to protect the country’s digital future. The country that gave the world the internet and the very concept of the disruptive startup could find its role in the global innovation economy slipping from reigning incumbent to a disrupted has-been.
With the United Kingdom greeting its referendum on the European Union with a resounding “Leave,” the sheer weight of the “Brexit” was felt at 10 Downing Street and on Wall Street, with shock waves quickly reverberating far beyond. From world markets to international security, geopolitics to national elections, uncertainty around the effects of the vote persist. Among many of the questions being asked there sits a single thread:
So what does this really mean?
At The Fletcher School, our faculty has grappled with its impact in a number of spheres. While the search for clarity goes on, looking at Brexit in the context of the world in which we live, and from a variety of viewpoints on campus, can hopefully shed a light on the referendum’s far-reaching implications. Here’s what some of our faculty members – from those specializing in security studies to business innovation to international law – are saying about the current situation.
Dean James Stavridis
“The US must face the fact that the UK will likely be less of an effective and reliable partner in global affairs. The US-UK relationship is about to get somewhat less special, unfortunately.”
UK-US Special Relationship Shaky Following Brexit Vote, Financial Times
The United States and Europe will be confronted with a raft of bad news that goes along with [Brexit]: economic turmoil, a faltering British economy, a deeply weakened political entity in the European Union itself, the high chance of a Scottish departure from the UK, to name just a few of the challenges. The political and economic institutions of the West all seem worse off […].
The sole exception might be the military. Brexit, counter-intuitive as it might sound, will likely produce a stronger NATO.
How Benchmarking Can Help Countries Become More Digital
When it comes to understanding the pace of global digital evolution, the digital growth of developed countries usually has little to tell us about the digital future of developing ones. This has big implications for businesses, entrepreneurs, and innovators seeking growth beyond their home markets: there just isn’t a one-size-fits-all app or approach to building scale in the global digital economy. But if a country wants to become attractive to new investors, what it can do is learn from its better-connected peers and play some “digital catch-up.”
Before becoming consumers of digital marketplaces, the current three billion Internet users started with surfing and emailing. But the next billion will be different. They will start not as mere users, but rather as e-consumers – and this has profound implications for the future of global commerce and digital marketplaces. Who are the next billion e-consumers? So, who are the standouts of the future?
Which countries will race to the front, and which will be left behind? Hint: It’s not the usual suspects.
As part of our “10 Questions” Series, we delve into hard questions of international business not easily answered by a single book, class, discipline, or school of thought. They herald a future where the world and the world of business are ever more interconnected, where decisions can’t be made in a bubble, where real expertise demands deep ‘contextual intelligence.’ This series reflects that contextual intelligence we cultivate in our students in the MIB program.
Bahrain: Betweem Iran and Saudi Arabia in More Ways Than One
by Jess Delaney
Ravi Shankar Chaturvedi, a research fellow at Tufts University, agrees. “Bahrain’s best interest in the medium term is to deepen economic ties with both Iran and Saudi Arabia if it wants to realize its dream of becoming the Singapore of the Middle East,” he says. “If it needs inspiration, it need not look far beyond its own neighborhood. Dubai is already well on its way there.”
“Inside Bahrain’s Sovereign Wealth Fund Mumtalakat”
by Jess Delaney
Like a young Temasek in its first decade of existence, Mumtalakat’s mandate is to play the role of a state entrepreneur, to make investments in related companies and infrastructure to help build the domestic economy — a role that Bahrain’s nascent private sector is unable to undertake,” says Ravi Shankar Chaturvedi, a research fellow at Tufts University and author of an academic case study of the fund. Both entities tap global bond markets for financing and were created to turn around state-run businesses and attract investment to diversify their domestic economies, he adds.
Where is the digital economy moving fastest? And, when we know that, what it all mean for what the future holds?
These questions and the many more answered and posed by the pioneering research of our Planet eBiz initiative have captured the attention of thousands of Harvard Business Review readers (including Bill Gates). As the calendar flipped to 2016, HBR looked back on the year that was and found the February piece from Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti, Ravi Shankar Chaturvedi, and Rusty Tunnard among their Top 20 “Most Read Articles from 2015.”
The piece, “Where the Digital Economy is Moving Fastest,” examined 50 countries around the world over a five-year period and categorized their digital performance into four trajectories — Stand Out, Stall Out, Break Out, and Watch Out. The article even inspired a corresponding video from HBR based on the Digital Evolution Index.