The multi dimension of networking
12 October 2020
We all know how important it is to build your own network. It is important for your success in business but also for your successful career. Last week I was in a debate with Stefan Soehngen, one of the best networkers I ever met. The father of three girls made “Relationing” his business and building relations is his real passion also in his free time and he successfully launched various non-profit initiatives.
He stressed the point why he prefers the term “relationing” rather than traditional networking. Because you need to build a relation with somebody. This creates trust and trust creates business. Therefore, traditional networking is not enough. To join an afterwork party, briefly meet five new people and add their business cards to your contact list is just not enough. What Soehngen also intends is to create creative friction by bringing people from different fields together to discuss specific topics. This creates interest and new ideas and what is even more: relations!
This concept does not only apply to business, I am convinced. Trust is needed everywhere, especially in hard time like these. Trust reminds us to act responsibly and with compassion towards our neighbors since that is what we also expect from them. Earned and reliable trust makes our planet a better place and everyone and everything benefits from it: Businesses, societies, and the individual.
No matter whether we call it networking or relationing, it is the same thing with a little shift in focus. In its core it is the same thing. Let us become aware of the power of our networks – and let us use this power. Covid-19 is a good start. We can only overcome the outcome of this by working together, with solidarity.
Let us get up and do it!
How should we think Innovation?
8 September 2020
I have been struck by this question a lot lately. Well, I should know, you will say. After all I am an ‘Innovation Expert’. That is correct, for sure, but you get to question yourself when you start writing a book on an issue you always believed to intrinsically know. This becomes even more of an issue if you had not planned this project and it kind of cunningly imposed itself on you.
You are thrown into a different kind of thinking when you need to develop content from scratch. You begin to question anything and everything. And, in my opinion, this process is very fruitful. I previously wrote about Wholistic Innovation in this column, and at the Diplomatic World Institute projects around this concept started to pile up.
Therefore, it was the right moment to hold my breath and start thinking about what we are really trying to accomplish with our approach. Covid-19 added a tremendous dynamic to the change that was already underway. And sure, we will have to innovate all sectors of our society, and of our existence, to keep pace with the new dimensions of change.
There should be a plan behind it! We should know what direction to take and what the concept is we want to see become reality. Our decisions today will determine how we will live in the future. To take a pause now, to take a breath and define details of the concept, I guess that is time well spent!
Trust and Suspicion
11 August 2020
Our global society is facing a deep crisis. I am not talking about Corona. The pandemic only makes it more visible and you cannot deny it any longer. Governments are facing massive suspicion from their people. I am not talking about autocratic countries. The phenomenon is particularly strong in countries that were believed to be those with the strongest democratic systems.
The reasons appear to be obvious but differ depending on who you ask. However, if you try to reduce everything into a nutshell you always get a similar picture: Things are changing rapidly and administrations are slow to adapt to the new situation. This creates a situation in which the average individual feels treated unfairly. This happens not only within national borders but on a global scale.
This, among others, leads to the situation where huge international corporations can operate outside national restrictions and e.g. can avoid paying taxes while individuals usually must pay more.
Who is blamed for this situation?
Governments, of course! As a result, they increasingly loose the most valuable asset for stable societies: Trust!
Today, during the pandemic with all the restrictions and rules governments need to implement on people, both this suspicion and resistance are growing. This may also have happened without Corona, but the development would have been much slower. If governments can defeat the pandemic quickly, the impact can be compensated. The longer it takes the more difficult it will get.
All this was foreseeable and could have been tackled easily. Now it becomes increasingly difficult!
17 July 2020
It is now about six months into the global pandemic and there are countries that seem to be past the worst, in Asia, and Europe, and others that are in their peak, in Latin America, the US and also South Africa… And already fears of a second wave are spreading. It could be easy: Stick to the rules! But people are getting tired of it – self isolation or simple distancing does not correlate with human nature. When infection rates are low, why bother.
Moreover, the fears of pitiful deaths lead to suppression and cause conspiracy theories: The virus is a hoax released by “the elites” to suppress the public. This provides the base for ignoring the danger. This is nothing new. Similar behavior has been reported during other outbreaks in history.
But, of course, this does not help control the situation. Other problems are not easy to handle either. In many big cities around the globe there is simply not enough space to provide the chance of sufficient distancing, especially in the poorer quarters. While in some countries masses of people started partying again, ignoring the rules and providing breeding ground for the expected second wave. In other countries conditions do not make it possible to stick to the rules.
Therefore, this pandemic will stick. Now, it seems that researchers are making good progress in developing vaccines. If all goes well, a first one may be available from the end of this year, one developer says. However, there is always the chance of setbacks, most scientists warn. And then billions of doses need to be produced and distributed. This will take some time. And people need to accept to be vaccinated, some being highly suspicious.
We need to accept: the situation will be like this for a while. It is not a new normal, at least not for eternity, but we will be changed when we come out of it. This again provides a big opportunity for turning things for the better. The price is high, but the outcome can be worth it – if we take this chance.
As a matter of fact: We have no other choice than taking this chance!
Ethics, Governance and Leadership
8 June 2020
I had the pleasure to talk to Fadi Saab last week, a Lebanon based financial adviser who is highly active in promoting business ethics and anti-corruption in many international organizations, including the World Business Angel Investment Forum, WBAF. “Values seem to have slipped down on the ladder of priorities!” This was one of his not really surprising statements. Nevertheless, his passioned drive towards changing this should be an example to all of us. Now, he states, it is the perfect time to stand up and re-introduce ethics especially to start-ups who must fight hard not to fail in their business ambition.
Following Covid-19, it will be much harder for them to find investors and banks to back their business models. Investors are living in a new paradise because they can pick the start-ups that provide the best deal to them. “A good business idea and high market potential is not enough anymore. Good governance provides the extra advantage over your competitors,” Fadi said.
Let us hope this is true! Challenges will be numerous worldwide once the Covid-19 situation is under control. The danger is that businesses in their struggle to survive will go for a more selfish path trying to secure the best deals for themselves no matter how they accomplish this.
Again, the choice is on us in which world we want our children to grow up.
A New Age of Innovation
11 May 2020
People certainly become more digital in pandemic times.
However, the real boost of innovation may only be coming now.
After lockdown, our economies need to be revamped and old ways of handling business are not working anymore.
Photo: Dieter Brockmeyer wearing a mask before entering a bank in Germany
We must realize that we need to think of globalization differently. When you listen to conversations in the StartUp universe, it has already begun. “We need to localize”, you hear everywhere. Nobody knows yet how this will work.
To give an example: Producing a chocolate cake in France to ship it frozen to South Africa for distribution in supermarkets is stupid. Consider how much oil is burned on the way and how much more energy wasted to keep the cake frozen across the ocean. Why not consider licensing the cake recipe to local South African bakeries instead? In addition to reducing heavy oil consumption it also would create jobs locally.
Technology alone does not provide the answers. That means we need to redefine the term innovation. We need a holistic approach including social and environmental developments.
Alternative development models are on the rise!
They really are, but this does not necessarily mean that they will succeed. The vast majority is simply waiting for markets to open again and to continue as they did before following the old mantra of maximizing profits.
There sure is a window of opportunity to create change to a more sustainable future. We must take it, or we will return to the old ways.
But what would this mean for mankind?
Let us redefine the term globalization
6 April 2020
We all underestimated this virus! Everybody! The entire globe is in shut down with rising death rates almost everywhere, with the worse still to come in most places. Afterwards a global recession will be unavoidable with more sorrows for people! However, what I said in the last column remains true: It’s the hard way – but we are learning some lessons of what went wrong the last decades. Decentralization, as I said, is not only a trend for setting up business cases and transactions online but also in the “real world”. Produce the stuff where it is needed. This does not mean globalization is dead, to the contrary. It just needs to be thought of differently.
And there are opportunities in this crisis. We are already seeing a huge increase in innovation. Small and large business owners are looking for new ways to keep at least some of their income streaming in. They are doing things they never thought of before and very often – it works, even creating benefit for our tortured societies.
Digitalization is taking a huge leap forward. Employees understand the benefits of the home office and employers realize that they are not losing control. Video conferencing is on the rise, many business trips for simple meetings will remain virtual once the crisis is over. This list can be continued without limit and change the way we work, socialize, live beyond the crisis.
Also, this crisis will be over some day. It is sure it will be a different world. How different and if it will become a better world is up to us!
On the other hand, there is a lot of selfishness and greed around us only waiting for its chance to rule the world.
We must remember: It is a global crisis that we only can overcome working together globally.
Let us redefine the term globalization!
10 March 2020
Big conventions around the globe are being cancelled because of Covid-19, the Corona virus outbreak. The epidemic has now reached many countries in the world, sending shockwaves and disrupting many industries including fair trade constructors, aviation and the hospitality business. It looks like this is just the beginning! Many fear a worldwide recession, maybe the worst that has ever happened. Sure, our globe, our industries, is closely connected making it easy for any virus to spread quickly.
However, for the time being, this virus seems to be a mild one. Lethal rates are currently below 2 percent globally. Of course, everything is very dynamic still. But experts expect that the lethal rate will decline in the long term. There seem to be quite a few unrecorded cases, obviously mild ones that most likely were considered to be simply flu. Depending on how many these are, the real lethal rate could be much lower. If this proves to be the case, after the first panic wave, this provides the chance that also global shockwaves don’t become as severe as many fear.
Even then something is likely to have changed in our minds and have an impact on the global economy. At least that’s the hope. Maybe we will have learnt that it is not good to focus on global production and supply chains in a single spot just because it is a little bit cheaper. Decentralization is not only a term in the blockchain universe and new banking. It also applies to new economics in total – to make markets more resilient to crises like future virus outbreaks. Decentralized structures may prove to be more stable, also for the globalized economy.
Protagonists of Change
11 February 2020
To deal with innovation is a dialectic process; I talked about it early in this column. To deal with this situation requires certain skills. Obviously the smaller a society is, the easier it adapts to new ideas. The limited number of stakeholders speeds the process towards a decision in favor of innovation. The more complex a society is, the more difficult it gets.
However, we’re not all living in small countries like Liechtenstein that is now bundling all its forces to become a serious player in the new decentralized finance industry based on the blockchain. To the contrary, we usually live in much more complex societies and are confronted with much stronger resilience.
Being in innovation you always need to see yourself as avantgarde. Whether you like it or not! And you always need to question yourself: Is it really innovation that drives me or some selfish attitude? You need to assure yourself. This gives you the strength to deal with resilience and with frustration. And still, after a long period of feeling like fighting windmill blades, somebody else may bypass you, taking the honor of that innovation you had been fighting for all along. You were too early but he came at exactly the right time.
Innovation – and change – can’t be stopped, but it needs the right character to become a protagonist of change. It is not easy!
It is a war about what?
13 January 2020
Our globe really appears to be in a state of geostrategic instability that seems to endanger peace to a degree not seen for many years. This is not untypical in periods of constant change with old and former stable structures being challenged by changing or new protagonists. We had it before.
The hot spots of crisis are numerous, and it seems we just slipped by major disaster. In this case it is a dangerous game played by both protagonists. Both can’t afford a hot war but need to appear strong towards their own country. Moreover, both know it about the other making it easy to place stings into the opponent’s flesh. There will be no harsh reply.
However, the longer the game goes on the stings get stronger. And the stronger they get the more unpredictable is the answer. In addition, other risks of fueling the conflicts by incident increase. I do not want to imagine what would have happened if US citizens would have been on the flight unintentionally downed!
It’s a dangerous game indeed! Both protagonists are not likely to listen to advice. However, in this case and at this point there is some hope. Let’s see how long it lasts. However, this does not decrease the risk coming from the other hot spots. Earth is once more at the rim. It has been before. Till today it survived regardless the deep scars on its surface. However: There is no guarantee it will be always like this!
What slows down Innovation?
8 December 2019
We all love to see ourselves as innovators, always on the cutting edge of developments, technological, social… it does not matter. We want to see us first. Unfortunately, very often it is just the opposite!
Why is this! At both panels I hosted in November this question, too, played a role. Why is blockchain not picking up faster? For sure, blockchain innovation got retarded: In 2018 Bitcoins did skyrocket and so-called Initial Coin Offerings, ICO, promised to solve all financing problems forever. We all know there is nothing like easy money and quickly the market was reminded of this the hard way. The bubble burst faster than any bubble did before! Early this year Bitcoin and blockchain were declared dead by many who had been sceptic before! Of course, they were wrong too!
Blockchain Technology and Cryptos are back, without the hype, or at least much less of it. It was stressed that the blockchain itself must be disconnected from currencies because blockchain still is synonymous for bitcoins. We need more awareness that the technology provides the basis for secure and transparent online actions.
Of course, this will take time. The resentment at work last year will remain active as the pattern always remains the same: On one side you’re having very quick adopters showing the innovation’s potential. Shortly after they proved the model works, besides first serious adopters, those who follow are only seeing the chance for a quick buck creating a huge bubble and failures – killing the initiative and strengthening the opponents. Innovators need to struggle to slowly re-establish the model, always battling with those that, at last, understand that innovation can’t be stopped and therefore try to implement tight regulation.
Some regulation – or standardization – obviously is necessary to create a level playing field. However too much of it is slowing things down trying to restrict new opportunities within the borders of the old model. This is the basic model that can be applied to all innovation cycles. They are active within the big picture but also in the little steps within it. What we didn’t mention yet are the consumer’s comfort zones that delay market implementation once innovation is ready to market.
That’s the struggle. I don’t think we can do a lot about it.
The golden Age of Television – is it dead already?
14 November 2019
These years have been proclaimed “the golden age of television” and, true enough, never have there been so many high-quality TV shows and series produced around the globe. Not only new global streaming giants like Amazon or Netflix, that newly entered the entertainment markets and started to develop their own content libraries, also forcing traditional players to invest more into unique content. Competition is good for business; this proverb seems to prove right again.
However: Too much of it may cause the opposite effect. Most high-end TV series are way too expensive to be recouped via the domestic market. With TV channels and platforms multiplying in all local markets around the globe in the last 30 years, the viewership base for individual outlets declined making it even more difficult. US old and new majors recoup their premium productions via international sales and that is a way many other protagonists would like to choose. However, even with increasing platform numbers, slots for purchased licenses are declining since more and more platforms decide to produce their own serial content. Co-production may be a way out of this dilemma. But also, here capacities are limited.
At some point this bubble will burst! It does not seem it is going to happen soon (…but you never know and the launch of Disney+ may soon mark the turnaround). For the time being many interesting projects are coming to life, projects that never would have had a chance.
At this year’s ‘mipcom’, an audiovisual content market held every October in Cannes at the French Cote d’Azur, the new German streaming platform ‘joyn’, a joint venture of Germany’s ProSieben Sat.1 TV group and Discovery Communications, introduced their event series to launch the service’s premium offer this fall, a co-production with Chile: “Dignity” is about the horrible events around “Colonia Dignidat”, a cruel pseudo religious sect by German immigrants in Chile, and its founder Paul Schäfer who was supported by Chilean dictator Pinochet. Great story, great cast! However, the press conference was not attended by many journalists: Too much competition by other premieres of great TV series the entire week.
Can this be considered symbolical? Maybe!
15 October 2019
Karen Donders, head of media at VUB’s SMIT-imec research center in Brussels keynoted at a TV innovation conference by European Broadcasting Union, EBU, this month.
She referred to the situation in Europe when she said that local stakeholders should regain control over its content. “Netflix, Facebook and others, they are great companies, don’t get me wrong, but they do nothing for our society.”
This is true, however, not only in Europe. Yes, of course, Netflix for instance is investing heavily also in drama series by local producers. But, is it local content? No! It has local characters and locations, but it must be in line with international standards so it can be distributed also in other markets and usually follows the US drama lines.
What Donders suggested was to strengthen local and national competitors of the dominant international entertainment players.
Competition, no doubt is increasing, not only on the US domestic market but around the globe – with a chance to strengthen the regional cultural heritage. There is an opportunity window. Let’s open it. To do so surely needs the support of local authorities.
Again Donders referred to the situation in Europe by saying that regulation targeting to control the global players should not have a negative effect on local and small players: “Often we found out four or five years later that big players meant to be controlled were the ones to benefit from it.” And again, this is also true outside of Europe and others can learn from these examples.
Well, maybe it helps that Netflix in Afrikaans has a simple meaning: “Just Films!” On the other hand, it is those films transporting local national heritage as much as global understanding. Therefore, “Just Films” must not be underestimated!
How the Diplomatic World Institute is Involved with Global Innovation and the TIME industries
13 September 2019
Innovation and the TIME (Telecommunications, Internet, Media and Entertainment) industries are playing a major role with the Diplomatic World Institute, DWI. The situation on a macro-level is complex regarding the media and entertainment industries.
Photo credit: Eurasian Women Community Press Agency
On one hand there is global big business and on the other hand the rapid change driven by new technologies - resulting in media and entertainment, content driven as they are, being disrupted earlier than other industries.
Ultimately books, articles, music pieces or movies are content – and content is nothing but data, and data is what is processed in a digital world. That is why, for example, the music industry has been the first victim to disruption in its distribution channels. We are living in times of convergence making media an integrated part of the tech world that drives telecommunications and the internet as the global platforms for almost any form of communications and transactions.
This experience within the media and entertainment industries provides a multitude of best- (but also worst-) case scenarios, which can be applied to every other industry. It is an ongoing process of new waves of disruption driven by fast technical innovations. Moreover, this succession of interests makes it much more difficult to live up to the high degree of social responsibility both industries undoubtably have that is best illustrated by the Fake News debates everywhere. The impact of technical and social innovations on our societies and the impact of how it is communicated is immense. TIME industries are playing a significant role in it. And that is why it will also play a significant role in the work of DWI.
Digitalization and Sustainability
13 August 2019
Digitalization makes things easier! Well, we all know by now that this early assumption was playing the positive card too much. More democracy? Look what China is doing these days and see how some big data companies are treating consumer rights. Moreover, fear is justified that many of the jobs as we know them today will be lost. Nobody can tell yet what will replace them.
Image by igormattio from Pixabay
It can’t be repeated often enough: Any invention can be used for both – for good and for bad. It takes a lot of effort – and responsibility – to secure open and free societies. It’s the same when we look towards sustainability and the protection of our planet.
Artificial Intelligence can provide lots of great solutions to help us avoid waste or carbon and to deal with the waste that can’t be avoided or to plant new trees in big numbers. But it also consumes lots of energy and releases huge amounts of heat from electronic devices and the growing server farms.
Now, it seems we are so much attracted by the things that can be moved in a sustainable way that we don’t see the risk. Again, there is another side to the coin – as always: Blockchain Technology and Cloud Computing increase the demand for energy substantially and growing server farms around the globe defuse huge amounts of waste heat into the environment.
The renaissance of traditional nuclear power may not be as “clean” as environmental activists claim. Yes, it is carbon neutral – however, powerplants are very advanced steam engines that are also defusing more heat into the surrounding than traditional coal power plants. We should take this much more in consideration. Sustainability is a must. India launched a program to improve home air conditioning by halving at least 50% of the power consumption. In a few years India expects over a billion private air conditioning systems in the cities. Today’s devices are cheap but consume lots of energy and are giving lots of waste heat into already hot urban streets. There are solutions for many problems. We only need to approach them!
Does Alibaba buy Netflix?
10 July 2019
For sure this was one of the stunning theses offered by one of the speakers of this year’s MCMS Congress held in Budapest: Alibaba will buy Netflix! Sure enough, the world leading video on demand service has generated a huge debt load that may become a problem once interest rates go up again significantly. It sure would help Alibaba’s global expansion plans – in a field where the Chinese online retail giant has not yet a lot to offer.
(Photo from Pixabay)
Still two years ago I, too, would have been very much in favor of this idea. However, the world has changed a lot since. Especially the trade conflict between China and the US created an atmospheric change. Huawei was banned from doing business in the US. Well, even with the overall conflict being deferred for the time being while bilateral negotiations are going on – nobody knows what the outcome will be. Now, it doesn’t seem very likely that a deal like an Alibaba Netflix one would have a chance to get past authorities on either side of the fence. Netflix is too much of a symbol for the global strength of US entertainment to be sold to China, one may think.
However, again this illustrates how much the global economy has changed recently. National selfishness, especially of strong global players, are getting increasingly into battle with free trade. Where will this lead to? I don’t know. Still this may prove to be a short episode in global trade history. But it also can be the beginning of a paradigmatic change to last for a longer period.
13 June 2019
Africa is rich – we pointed that out in earlier columns. However, it is not only rich in resources and talents; it’s also rich in its cultures! Arts from Africa have been popular around the world for many years, but usually this only applied to folk or ethnic arts going way back in colonial times. What’s newly arising in big art countries is an interest for contemporary art descending from Africa. And the growth potential is big, since Africa’s today’s share of the global arts market is only about less than one percent.
(Photo by Gladys Amaefule on Pixabay)
I met the founder of Undiscovered Canvas, a France based African art promotor found by the South African descendant Nomaza Nongqunga who sure is a pacemaker for modern Arts from those countries. Last year, she was advisor to the French cultural initiative Africa2020 visiting Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia, talking to prominent businessmen and women, and discussing the President’s vision on bridging the gap between France and different countries in Africa, by inviting African creatives to showcase their creativity and to tell their own stories to the French population in 2020.
She says that there is a lot of interest by collectors and investors. But, of course, it is also hard work to attract and to prepare the grounds. However, it is worth the effort and is another step towards full integration of this very rich continent that for way too long has only been a playground for global players and interests. Transporting cultural identities in a self-confident way also opens the doors for commercial success.
15 May 2019
Soon, on May 26, there will be elections again for the European Parliament that also determines who will be the new president of the powerful European Commission that prepares most of the Union’s legislation – at least that part that is initiated via the Commission. Let’s not get into detail here, it’s too complicated for the space available here.
(Photo credit: Rudy and Peter Skitterians on Pixabay)
However, what seems to be unavoidable is a strong move towards the right, the far right, driven by strengthened populist movements all across Europe. The question only is how strong the leap will be.
Populists are talking about the Fortress Europe that keeps everyone out they claim not to belong in the Union. This is contradictory in a way since other positions of these parties are targeting to make the European Union weaker and return sovereignty to the individual nations. There seems to be overwhelming fear that Europe is flooded by Muslims and other refugees mainly from Africa that “only” need to cross or bypass the Mediterranean Sea.
Influence of these groups are likely to increase in Europe as it does in other parts of the world. Even if their success in the elections is smaller than some are fearing, the impact on European politics will increase and the open society European countries have been so proud of in the past,is likely to be harmed, and Europe – to some degree – may indeed become some kind of fortress.
This will not be easy to overcome. The success of so-called populist parties around the globe is fueled to a high degree by the fears created by speeding global change and driving globalization which many blame to be the reason. However, change will not stop, it rather continues to pick up speed. But people, especially those in fear of being the losers in this process, are longing for their old comfort zones. They believe them to be reestablished in their old national borders! This is wrong, of course! And people will learn some day.
However, a lot of harm may be done by then! The only way to balance it is to keep arguing and promote the potentially positive outcome of this change! This always requires adapting the global regulatory framework to this change to create a wide feeling of justice.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t look close to happen. Too many parties believe they will profit from the situation as it is. This may prove fatal in the long run!
TV and Film – Africa on the rise!
15 April 2019
Walking on shining beach boulevard “La Croisette” in Cannes these days you easily get the impression that Africa, and specifically its film and TV industries, is on the rise. Cannes, that’s not only the prestigious film festival at the end of May, its also two huge TV content markets, miptv in Spring and mipcom in Fall.
“Creative Africa” is an umbrella brand present in all these markets, creating more visibility for the African film industry every year. Ijeoma Onah is the founder of the Nigerian Film and TV Summit. At this year’s miptv, there was a two day showcase presentation within the official conference program. The summit is regularly held in Cannes, Los Angeles and Paris, exploring options for co-productions of France and the USA with Nigeria.
Indeed, Nigeria has become a strong player within the Creative Africa group: Mo Abudu, iconic Nigerian film producer, receiver of this year’s miptv medal of honor, limited attendance to his presentation to those TV industry executives that create global impact.
It’s a long way to go – still. However, Africa made it on to the map of being recognized globally for its creative powers. That’s, at least another small step on the road to something big in the end!
12 March 2019
The media and entertainment industries were the first ones to face rapid disruption by digitalization, for a simple reason: media and entertainment services, that’s content, and that’s nothing else but data. Data is what is being processed over the internet. This situation makes the media and entertainment industries a best-case-practice to almost all other industries that are disrupted in similar ways.
Photo credit: Computer left on the beach (Rabirius)
Disruption is going on since new technology waves are approaching in waves. This means continuous transition – and struggles, illustrated for example by issues like “fake news”, shrinking consumption of traditional news media, or declining music sales!
On the other hand, media and entertainment have an immense influence on our society, combined with a huge responsibility for our planet that truly is “in transition”. To create awareness for the United Nation’s Sustainability Goals, media and entertainment are necessary. However, due to their internal struggles they cannot live up to their potential of helping individuals around the globe to cope with the challenges.
What is needed is a wider debate including all stakeholders within the media and entertainment industries and beyond. It should be a dialogue including global and national stakeholders: businesses, social groups and diplomacy. At the same time, we want to foster the UN Sustainability Goals together working towards a better world. Media and Entertainment has all it needs to have a powerful voice in this.
15 February 2019
Thousands of young people watching live and for hours other young people hacking their keyboards moving crazy patterns on a big screen, and millions watch it online on their private screens: That’s esports!
Those outside this universe never will understand what is going on. Esports is a phenomenon with growing success. At this year’s EsportsBar in Cannes, Ryan Wyatt, head of Global Gaming and Virtual Reality at Google, said that in 2018 a total 61 billion hours of game content was watched on YouTube, about 10 percent of it was live streamed esport competitions. It’s still a small but growing part of the overall games industry, that is likely to become one of or THE leading global industries. In only 11 years, annual global revenue rose to over 100 billion USD.
And the figures also for esports are growing significantly: Jens Hilbers from the esport investor Bitcraft explained that today the big esport game brands like League of Legends and others attract between 60 and 80 million players per month. He predicts that these figures soon will double: “There is no reason why this should not happen”, he said.
While esports in media for long was an online phenomenon, today, more and more traditional TV operators realize the opportunity and launch dedicated esports channels. This again was documented at this year’s EsportsBar with Disney owned sports network ESPN being among the winners of the Game Shaker Awards.
There is one investor in the esports universe that predicts much more growth in this sector: “With Artificial Intelligence (AI) eating up more and more jobs you need to keep people busy to avoid riots!” – he predicts. “Panem et Circensis”, that is truly not a new idea. However, the good thing about the future is we can’t know what is going to happen. Therefore, lots of these predictions on the future do not become true.
Esports for sure is a fascinating universe and I’m sure will continue to have a bright future. Here I try a look into the crystal ball, and don’t think (or rather: hope) we will need esports to compensate for AI! However, the debate on esports has just begun. Regulators around the globe start taking a close look at all implications connected to this matter. They will have to learn that a global phenomenon can’t be solved with a local approach. But on the other hand: This is not a new experience!
Africa is IT
By Dieter Brockmeyer and Kirtan Bhana, founding editor of The Diplomatic Society
Last December (2018), at the end of Austria’s European Union (EU) Presidency, a conference on Africa in Vienna was hosted by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz where he urged economic experts from Europe and Africa to vastly increase engagement on the African continent.
Photo credit: Europe meets Africa (Rabirius)
At last, one may say! Africa is and always will be an extremely wealthy continent, abundant in raw materials and natural mineral resources. During colonization and the challenges of post-colonial independence these riches cast a curse on the continent leaving conflict, disease and under development in its wake.
Today in Africa, unfettered by overdevelopment, mobile telecommunication penetration is extremely high with technical coverage often better than in so-called developed countries. It creates innovative dynamic and simplified solutions. Now combine that with new technology trends like Internet of things (IoT) Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Blockchain and you have a highly compatible developing environment. Let’s start doing it!
China has recognized Africa’s true wealth and has been constantly at work investing in infrastructure for mutual benefit to realize the potential of the Africans and the immense bounty still undiscovered.
Many able bodied Africans, mainly young males, notice the fortunes and well-being of their northern neighbours in Europe. The Europeans, who once enslaved Africans, divided them and subjugated them through economic and cultural tyranny, stole their land, identity and humanity. And now Europe also begins to wake up to this reality that their colonization has had on the people of Africa and the shambles of post-colonial divisions that have come home to roost.
Africa’s wealth is no longer limited to raw materials, the huge number of young, ambitious and talented people with access to information and technology and a thirst and hunger to lift themselves and increase their prospects for wealth creation are also beginning to change the perception of Africa.
The continent is rising once again. Visa free travel, one stop borders, air, road and sea infrastructure being developed and upgraded, increasing regional cooperation and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) will see intra African trade boosted by 52% in 2022. Investment and tourism are adding further momentum to Africa’s rise.
Is the blockchain party already over?
5 December 2018
Many have been asking this question since last December, since when Bitcoins appear to know only one direction – downwards. Some even predict a “death-spiral” to 0! Moreover, also Initial Coin Offerings, short ICOs, that were still highly praised early this year, can’t find investors anymore. If you only look at this, you sure get the impression there’s some truth to it.
However, Blockchain is much more than that. When you look towards Asia for instance, you will find many blockchain projects that are already successfully “up and running”. Also, in the US and Europe many good projects are shaping up: In health, for the supply chain, as passport systems identifying products or persons. Identity Management is the new buzz word here. The potential impact of blockchain is immense and strongly bottling up. Within the media and entertainment industry, I know about some fine projects to change the eco-system.
Some got delayed because they wanted to raise their funds via an ICO – and now are looking for other sources and will start next year. So, ICO is truly dead? I doubt it, at least not in the longer perspective. It got killed when, after the first highly successful ICOs, many shabby projects flooded the market with investors losing most of their investments. More cautious analysis of projects and new rules will eventually cause a turnaround. The advantages of the model are just too promising to refrain from using it in long run.
With bitcoins it’s pretty much the same. Their numbers of coins within one currency are strictly limited, this avoids inflation. However, by introducing other crypto currencies, over 1,000 today, this positive effect got distorted, some bank analysts state. Well, when you look at bitcoins, you’ll see that today’s value is still above the year 2017 average, therefore there remains a strong possibility for bitcoins to rise again. It’s all about trust and how to create – or destroy it.
However, I would prefer another scenario. I would prefer, if volatility of the cryptos would stop and the valuable changes would stay in moderate corridors. Then, at last, cryptos can be used as a normal currency. Who pays his everyday goods with cryptos or who accepts them under the threat of immense value gains or losses over the next few days or weeks? Stable currencies, that would be a big step forward! I fear, that’s only wishful thinking.
What about the Bitcoin “Death-Spiral”? Of course, nobody can rule that out completely. However, at least in the long run, this could be for the benefit of competing currencies.
“Diversity“ – A mega trend?
20 November 2018
We are talking a lot about so-called mega trends. These are trends that will determine our global society for the next couple of years. Artificial intelligence, for instance, has been identified to be one of these trends. That’s easy to understand. But “Diversity”?
Photo credit: “mipcom”
Yes, it is! Diversity, that is not only the diversity of cultures and races. In today’s definition it also includes the diversity of sexes, genders and lifestyles. It includes the handicapped as well as - well, you name it! It describes the diversity of the world. Yes, it’s colorful and the more globalized our world is getting the more this issue will gain momentum and importance.
Of course, each trend has its opposite, shaking our everyday politics with intolerance and so-called protectionism, in the long-run very likely causing the opposite – instability in economics and society. Therefore, to talk about diversity is important, making it a true mega trend.
Companies do realize it, like trade show organizer Reed Midem. During this year’s TV content market mipcom Reed Midem for the second time, at the Cannes Carlton, hosted the Diversify TV Excellence Award initiated by Diversity TV, a group of professionals mostly with African background only three years ago. Of course, Reed Midem backs the initiative for marketing reasons. However, you only use trends for your marketing that you expect to improve your business. Supporting diversity makes the world prosper!
We should make sure diversity is widely recognized as a mega trend!
Social Media kills democracy?
9 October 2018
Quite a few scientific surveys conclude, and politicians mourn social media like Facebook would kill democracy. So-called filter bubbles would only allow news to reach the individual that he already believes in, so he couldn’t be reached with real news anymore.
As a matter of fact: filter bubbles are nothing new, the algorithm only supports the reader (or user) to easier find his preferred content! I know people in the old days that only bought the daily newspaper to read the sports pages. They too could not be reached with more sophisticated content.
Some may remember the term “Bar room talk”- very similar to today’s “hate and populist speech” in the net - that was when people talked in pubs about politics usually not agreeing with mainstream opinion. In fact, in this case there were two types of (analog) filter bubbles: The “mainstream” one and the bar room one.
The first successfully made believe that everybody – more or less – was in line with official politics, the second contradicted that what was split up in numerous “cells” across the country. Of course, social media makes a difference now! Bar room cells now realize having some power and they speak up and are heard while the main stream is suddenly aware of a threat and doesn’t know how to cope with it.
Is this a danger to democracy? No, I don’t think it is! We need to learn how to tackle the situation. This can’t be by banning so-called hate speech by installing technical filters deleting unwanted opinions from the social platforms. History proves this strategy wrong. It never worked. Moreover, this indeed could be the first step for democrats killing democracy!
Let’s rather lean back and try to find arguments to defend our values and the majority! That’s how democracies should tackle this challenge! That’s no a easy task for sure, but democracy never was easy…
Blockchain and data protection
10 September 2018
I often wrote about sense or nonsense of the current global data protection hype in this column. I do it again because quite a few – older, I must admit – digital natives don’t believe in the success of blockchain technology. “It’s killed by data protection”, they believe. True enough, under the European GDPR rules individuals must be granted the right of deleting data stored about them at any time. However, you can’t delete data once it is stored in the blockchain!
“Our blockchain services don’t require to store personal data”, I was told by a manager of a big international tech company. So, this is a solution, only to create services that don’t need sensitive data? I don’t think so! This would mean many innovative services can’t be developed. For instance, I’m thinking about passport or health services that, in the future, could allow you to travel without conventional passports or get perfect medical treatment wherever you are, also on emergency sites and even when traveling through the Kalahari Desert.
Of course, this would require lots of sensitive data to be stored in the blockchain, your fingerprint or biometric info, for instance, or your medical records. Data protection activists around the globe keep campaigning against storing this information on passports or so-called health cards. They fear governments, corporations or criminals could use this for the individuals’ disadvantage – mildly speaking. On the other hand, if this data could be accessed anywhere, of course, only by the relevant peer group, public services or emergency medical care could be improved a lot.
From all we can tell now it’s very hard, if not impossible, to hack the blockchain. Of course, that’s for the time being. We don’t know how it will be with much faster computers already in development. Indeed, there is risk. Innovation always includes risk! Any invention can be used for the good or the bad! Is that a reason to abandon innovation? With this attitude we would still be stuck in the stone ages! And from experience: Innovation never could be stopped! Delayed, yes, but never stopped.
What does this mean for the blockchain? Well, everybody should draw their own conclusion!
Migration out of Africa
7 August 2018
Populist movements in the ‘old world’ do profit a lot from heating up the fear of millions of Africans willing to come to Europe to improve their personal situations. True: there is a willingness to migrate and to take the risk of life to seek the promised land. And sure enough, it has to do with mistakes culminating from the past and from missed opportunities to improve the situation. So, is there really a dark wave looming up in front of European shores? I prefer a much more positive scenario!
Recently, I have been talking to young people based in the Nigerian melting pot Lagos, representing very ambitious startups ready to take on the world. They have no notion to leave Nigeria, in the contrary, they want to create the best for themselves and their country from inside their country. And I know about similar ambitions in other African countries.
Africa is full of highly intelligent and ambitious young people, picking up new technologies fast. It will take time, of course! And there is a long and steep road ahead. However, the seed has been planted: Africa could become a global innovation hub. And the good thing: It is being created from within the African soul, no outside support is needed. Well, better, of course, if there is support. This would speed up things and the dark wave on Europe looming in some minds will disappear. Let’s work on this vision to become true and let’s forge an alliance for the better of Africa and the entire world.
Supporting investments must be made for the right projects. This could cause a problem because it requires a specific perspective. No doubt, Europe needs to alter its perspective on Africa. Sometimes I really like to repeat myself: The seed has already been planted – by Africans themselves! That alone is good news!
Blockchain, cryptos and trust
17 July 2018
Is it a hype? Yes, it is! Regardless the potential of this great technology and the speeding change connected with it – now there are a lot of projects with the mere purpose of making quick money. However, we all know there is nothing like quick money, at least not in the long run.
A lot of the investors in ICOs, Initial Coin Offerings, a decentralized way to finance projects, in some way like a traditional IPO, are endangered of losing their investment entirely. The power behind the ICOs is trust they create the value of tokens and crypto currencies. Faced with widespread losses the investors will lose trust not only in the weak projects. The danger is that also good projects will suffer badly once the bubble bursts.
Moreover, traditional banks and finance institutions, not to mention states that don’t like the idea of losing influence in a decentralized world driven by blockchain are likely to use fading trust in alternative models to promote and stabilize their traditional ones. Does that mean the area of blockchain is already in danger of dying without being off the blocks yet?
No! Currencies, Tokens and ICOs are only one side of the medal. Projects in other fields, like in e-government or passport services for arts, real estate or collectors…, may be slowed down only a bit and for a while but will be the first to recover and return to full strength of changing our society. However, if our scenario hits the markets, ICOs will have a hard time and - worst case – they may disappear – at least for some time.
Again, I’m convinced that even in that worst-case-scenario they will come back, possibly via existing running blockchain projects of high reputation that will try to finance expansion via an ICO. Through the trust in these projects, step by step, also the trust in ICOs would be reestablished. The return would be a mature one. And maturity is what the markets and our societies need!
Who started that “war“?
18 June 2018
Indeed, President of the United States Donald Trump introduced a completely new way of diplomacy, very frankly stating his “America First” doctrine. However, this trade war with the European Union, EU – if it is really going to happen – is Trump the only one to blame? Who came up first with the idea of duty like obstructions?
It’s especially the big US tech conglomerates like Microsoft, Apple, Google and Amazon who dominate the European IT and internet market, making huge profits while paying almost zero taxes in Europe. Therefore, the idea of a special VAT, designed for US conglomerates with gross revenues of over €50 million was born. Well, it’s not a duty, it’s a tax, however, the result is pretty much the same. It’s not in place yet, but the idea has been discussed for a while and we can be sure this was watched very carefully in the US, both by corporations and authorities.
It makes no difference, that it was not designed as a duty and that it is meant to overcome the disadvantages of an unharmonized tax system within the EU. Google, for instance, has its European headquarter in Ireland where it must pay the tax for all its European revenues. It has chosen Ireland because it was promised extremely low tax rates. The formerly poor country draws a huge benefit from it because of the creation of jobs and infrastructure investments, while partner countries in the EU are left with nothing.
Moreover, the General Data Protection Regulation was installed to put a leash on hungry data collectors from the US. It increases costs for Facebook and Google for their European operations, yes, but it also backfires especially on smaller companies and startups within Europe that are slowed down in bringing innovation to the market. The new e-privacy directive expected to be in place next year, is going to make it worse for both, international companies acting in the EU and local ones.
From the outside perspective all that matters is that authorities are installing obstructions that prevent US companies from acting as freely as before or, at least, that it will be more expensive for them to do so. Of course, there is a big difference in the orchestration of the Trump administration. But it is not so easy to blame only one side for the new direction. The EU should solve its internal and structural problems in a different way, through reforming the Union, something that’s been overdue for a while, in order not to provide arguments to those in favor of a trade war which, eventually, will harm the entire globe.
Protecting your data, innovation killer or necessity?
21 May 2018
The Facebook data “scandal” was only the tip of an iceberg. Data protection is one of the most hyped issues with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), already introduced two years ago, but after a grace period only now binding for everybody! It creates lots of extra bureaucracy for every country and for every individual doing business – not only in Europe. It is binding worldwide when you have any business in Europe. Not only European politicians foster the idea to make “our high standards of data protection our business model for the digital world and to export it globally”.
To succeed in the digital world has very much to do with leaving one’s comfort zone and to open up to completely new models and a much faster pace of life. Data Protection in many cases is not much more than protecting the comfort zone and old behavior. Therefore, it will rather backfire especially on Europe. Sticking to these rules will rather slow down innovation. And industries and founders are not only faced with tech driven speeding up competition in every field but are also hindered to respond to it because of a restrictive legal framework.
Don’t get me wrong, there needs to be some kind of legal framework and protection to provide a level playing field for individuals AND corporations. However, the definition of what “privacy” is differs depending of what part of the world you are in. Moreover, the understanding of the term is changing, driven by global communication. Young people and their behavior in the web is often described as careless by elders. No, it’s different and often very pragmatic. Of course, we only hear about those who are careless and the problems they create for themselves.
Let’s take a step back and analyze first a minimum standard for a new privacy understanding. This will not be easy. In the long run protecting your comfort zone will not stop the global change we are facing, but it will slow down innovation and a new balance in a changed world!
Facing Mr. Evil
17 April 2018
This kind of shitstorm was to be expected at some point and Facebook is in its biggest crisis now. But let’s look at what really happened. A service provider forwarded Facebook user data illegally to their client Cambridge Analytica who used it in a highly questionable manner. Facebook’s mistake was that of not communicating in a transparent way and missing to close the breach. Let us try to analyze the harm done. CA was able to define people that could be accessible for the Trump message, so they could be addressed directly. Well, they would have received the message anyway, one way or another since they were open for the arguments.
I’m very sceptic on how reliable personal profiles really are that you can create off social media data. People lie on Facebook and liking a page does not really mean that you are open to this subject. Most of my likes are because I want to support a friend without knowing the band or the organization – and I never take a closer look at it. Profiles created out of that data therefore are not reliable since a significant share of social media profiles is not reliable.
Of course, it was a mistake that should never have happened and as it did, Facebook should at least have been more transparent immediately. Now to quit Facebook or to demand shut down of the entire service is just overdoing things once more. Facebook – and other social media – has become part of our lives. The company will react and it is very likely that Facebook will rise stronger from the ashes. And users should do what they should have done from the very beginning: Being careful what to post and who to let it see! Because no system is perfect, and leaks can always happen – and there are always those who want to take advantage of it.
Blockchain, Cryptos and Licensing of Content (or any good)
14 March 2018
No doubt: There has been (and still is) a lot of hype around crypto currencies like Bitcoin. However, when reading recent commentaries in various media comparing todays situation to the Dutch Tulip Mania in the 17th century it seems obvious that these commentators may not have fully understood what Blockchain, the technology behind cryptos, is about. The statement in the end cryptos will be dead but blockchain will survive for the operation of transaction platform. That’s true only to some degree and yes, the Kodak share sky-rocked after the company’s announcement to issue their own currency!
However, the news was not about the coin, it was about the trading platform for photographers. The coin is “only” there to allow real time transactions also transferring the agreed price for a photo – from a few eurocents to bigger amounts for package deals – in real time: Contract signed, money in the right holder’s wallet! Therefore, transaction platforms only make full sense with a coin connected to them.
Of course, in today’s hype period there is a problem and I would say it’s a big one: Volatility! Why should I give away my Bitcoins (or any other crypto) when I expect its value to double, let’s say, in the next six months? On the other hand, why should I accept a payment in crypto if it’s losing value in the foreseeable future.
As long as the hype is hot it will be hard to establish a full blockchain based trading (or transaction) platform. However, it is only a question of time that it will happen. Attempts of regulation have just been started. Of course, there will be detours and delays. It will take time, however, also cryptos are here to stay!
Media and Advertising
14 February 2018
We took a peep into the future of advertising this February when RTAd Ltd, part of Iocono Holdings from London, became Global Media Innovator, GMI 2018. RTAd Ltd are marketing the highly advanced “Adgile” suite of software products, allowing the production and distribution of AV advertising in real time and to run entire Infomercial channels all around the clock, changing product and price info in real time.
Photo: iocono CEO Simon Ingram (left), Ulrike Bolenz, the artist that contributed her art for the 3rd time for the Innovator and Dieter Brockmeyer, DC Chairman Global Media Forum.
Advertising surrounds us, and it influences us a lot, often without us realizing it. This is not limited to our capitalistic societies. In dictatorships it is state propaganda and often it is much more direct and aggressive.
Advertising, regardless of where you experience it, is subversive and the technology behind it is even more so. You simply see what it does and therefore often the impact this technology has remains invisible.
It is the concept behind the GMI to make the impact of a start-up’s technology or concepts visible for a wider audience and to support the start-up in creating a better world. V-Nova, our first Innovator in 2016, is a video compression pioneer. Usually, we only see the great quality of video streams on our big entertainment screens at home or on our mobile devices – and Emblematic Group, the following year’s Innovator, pioneered in bringing Virtual Reality into TV documentaries. Again, we only experience the results of the finished products.
Iocono’s CEO, Simon Ingram, made the point that good advertising can have quite a positive impact on our societies. One stunning project was to send out personalized messages with individual warnings of drunk driving via the Adgile Play module.
Our business and social settings are disrupted globally. Let’s continue to direct this change for the world’s better!
Media, Innovation and Global Impact
16 January 2018
This column is about change: Ongoing change driven by technology altering the way we work, make money and our ways as social beings… It all happens at a continuously increasing speed – it seems – and nobody knows where it will end. I’m sure that most people do not even have the faintest idea how ground shaking this change will be.
Nevertheless, people are increasingly afraid and look suspiciously at new gimmicks. Others don’t bother to be scared, adopting all new gimmicks without reflecting implications. There is a last group reflecting new developments and trying to use them for the good of mankind. However, the sceptics seem to be taking the lead. Fact is there will be shockwaves before, hopefully, the benefits will be experienced by everybody.
But what does it have to do with the media industry? Media (including music and entertainment) is content, and content is data! Therefore, this industry was the first to be disrupted and this is still going on: Changing and often unclear business models. Moreover, there is the Fake News debate and the lost trust in media particularly in the worrying part of our societies. How can media be expected to live up to its global responsibility to guard our societies and peace, or control governments and lobbying organizations? Again, it is an ongoing struggle – within and outside the industry.
That’s why it is important to send out positive signals. That’s what the Diplomatic Council’s Global Media Innovator, GMI, is about: On one hand to bring positive innovation into the light, not the best funded but simply those with the biggest potential of global impact and positive disruption, and not only within media. Moreover, it is meant to foster the wide debate on innovation and the future shape of our societies. It’s still a long way to go, but we’ll do it!
(More to come in next month’s column when the GMI2018 has been announced…)
Successor Ante Portas?
14 December 2017
When recently surfing along the internet in research mode I stumbled across two items – not connected to each other at first glance. On Artificial Intelligence (AI): Singularity, the moment computers are on the same level with human brains, is likely to be reached in 26 years. WOW! On Global Warming: Men will not be able to stop global warming since Siberian and Canadian permafrost leaks will submit a multitude of methane emissions into our planet’s atmosphere that exceeds the amount by which humans can decrease their CO2 footprint. Therefore, already in 50 years our planet could be uninhabitable with a poisoned atmosphere similar to the one of Venus!
Let’s merge both scenarios: In 26 years computers will learn from each other, repair and improve themselves and knowledge may rise exponentially. Men will no longer be needed. However, following the logic of these two scenarios, the much-liked topic of Science Fiction writers and film makers of the war between men and machine will not materialize. It’s not required since we are extinguishing ourselves - though not before creating our high-tech successor that’s from now on ruling an inhabitable planet.
To make it clear at this point: I do not believe in that scenario! Long term projections always failed in the past. Processes are way too complex to be on target. There are also experts claiming that the algorithm will never be able to fully compete with the human brain. However, “the long-term projections” are not really that long-term anymore.
The shorter the time-frame, the higher the likelihood that reality get close to at least some of the projections. We better watch out!
Diversity – what?
17 November 2017
I bump into a lot of industry initiatives. Not many of them are noteworthy. This one is!
Two years ago, I was invited by a friend to a small cocktail reception during one of the trade shows I regular attend. David was in a Q&A about his experience of being a black CEO with a Nigerian background in Europe and in the US.
Photo: Miss Zion Moreno hosting the awards
This was the premiere of Diversity TV and it had appeared to me as an initiative to support the development of the African TV sector. It is much more than that! This October, for the first time, the Diversity TV Award was presented at a small but very nice gala event at the Carton Hotel in Cannes during this year’s mipcom.
You’re still wrong when you believe it’s about racial diversity. The span is set much wider.
The initiative aims at championing diversity, equality and inclusivity on the small screen and at improving the representation of racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. It’s about to become a strong voice for tolerance in a changing world!
And Africa has a loud voice in it. Mo Abudu of Nigeria’s Ebony Live TV and Inspire Africa was a sponsor of the award and presenter of one of the categories. I wish the team behind Diversity TV - only to name Scorpion TV’s David Cornwall and Bunmi Akintonwa of Little Black Book Company – great success. What you do is important, not only for Africa or all the world and not only when captured on these screens in our living rooms or on our mobiles!
Above all, I should not forget to thank you, David Ellender of Sonar Entertainment, for this important invitation two years ago!
Balance of the Worlds
16 October 2017
Huge vertical farm complexes – many stories high, meat, synthesized in huge factories, all in direct neighborhood to the huge megapolises where also big production plants produce any product to support our lives.
Due to artificial intelligence, AI, experts believe that production will return to the places where consumers live, the so-called developed countries, since it no longer requires an expensive workforce. This will have a huge impact on our environment and very well shake up lesser developed countries but also the logistics industry.
Large vessels or cargo planes carrying giant amounts of goods all around the globe and polluting our atmosphere could soon be a memory from the past. Also, a likely scenario is that millions of workers in lesser developed countries (and not only there) will lose their jobs. Because of the poor, and not seldom, dangerous working conditions some may consider this to be a good thing, forgetting to mention the fact that this work is often the only income for large families.
On the other hand, this could provide the opportunity for some countries to re-develop their local farming and production forms to feed their own populations instead of producing sometimes redundant goods for the “developed world”!
The crystal ball usually remains blurred on the future! Only time will show what it will really look like. We only know there will be immense change and impact! However, it’s worth (and necessary) to analyze the indicators. That’s the only way to anticipate possible scenarios and avoid the bad and foster the good.
However, one thing seems to be obvious: The challenges of the very near and more distant future will be immense!
Censorship defending Democracy?
9 September 2017
The good thing about the current Fake News debate is that we can no longer ignore the problem of radical views in our societies. That’s the first step to finding solutions! This cannot be censorship because that would be hiding the problem again! There is no covering up in digital networks. Radical communications would be hidden again, nevertheless be quite effective. Today, many of these radical activists can be heard much louder than ever, and many who hadn’t expressed their discomfort and fears before are now doing so. Their discomfort opens them to alternative and fake news sources. This creates a spiral that can’t be stopped with bans. In the contrary: Why do you ban anything when it is nonsense?
We must return to the values of our democracies including open debate of ALL opinions, even if we feel hurt. I’m sure we have plenty of arguments and the better ones! By excluding opinions, we prepare the ground for more radicalism, in the worst case we wove it into mainstream. Even worse, our defending democracy may itself bury the freedom it stands for.
We must leave our comfort zones and argue rather than cover up. There are many references to the pre-WW I and II period from clever minds. We are in times of rapid change and many have already lost their comfort or social status. There’s similarity, for sure! However, we are living in a different environment: Then, international relations were limited to the elites. Today there is mass tourism and most business is international. Then, wars still were considered to be „Ultima Ratio“. Today, most people are aware of the consequence of a new world conflict. We have the chance to avoid the fatal mistake of our ancestors.
Fake News and Democracy
15 August 2017
It’s a pest indeed, the sudden rise of so-called fake news distributed via the internet and social media channels trying to influence public opinion. Authorities are panicking and their reactions may even prove dangerous to our societies, more dangerous than the fake news themselves.
Passing legislation making platforms block and/or erase fake news and their authors is censorship that opposes the right of free speech! This right is essential to democratic societies granting to express your opinions and beliefs, even it is mere nonsense. There are other and better ways to tackle the problem.
Yes, in digital environments also nonsense spreads rapidly. On the other hand, digital environments also react to nonsense at the same speed. The impact of fake news is limited since almost immediately another wave of corrections will be out. The problem is only for those serious media adopting too fast and un-reflected to something that appears to be spectacular. For a big newspaper to correct a negative image deriving from being too un-reflected is painful. However, there is also a learning curve. By now, everybody knows double checking is essential. More so: Ethical standards like the ones laid down in the DC Codex on “Public Communications and Trust” are becoming essential.
The problem is with those who belief in fake news. They can’t be influenced by regular media channels. However, such filter bubbles are not a new phenomenon. It was hidden before social media allowed everybody to become a global publisher for his own interests, hidden for our societies that now recognize the problem at last, and hidden for “conspiracy activists” who now found a loud and global voice.
The good thing is, we cannot ignore the problem any longer. That’s the first step to finding solutions!
This cannot be censorship that would be hiding the problem again!
It Only Just Began!
19 July 2017
Discomfort of Europe with its first climax in Brexit, the stunning victory of Donald Trump in the US elections, the ongoing and increasing tensions in the Middle East: The recollection of intellectual worlds long believed overcome has many reasons. However, they can all be summarized by the term globalization with digitalization being a major driver of it, shaking up our businesses and societies.
Real-time communication as with social networks like Facebook creates the feeling of being culturally attacked also in the world’s most remote areas. For sure, this is one of the main reasons why fundamental religious groups are becoming so popular.
Politics has no answers yet! Some don’t know, some don’t believe and others don’t care, driven by their own agenda of “maximizing” efficiency” frustrating the man in the street who doesn’t understand the logic behind it and who feels left alone.
The massive increase of the number of non-voters in democratic societies has been an early warning. Politics didn’t know how to react. Indeed, we are walking on “terra incognita” when we are looking at the social impact. Tools are presented everywhere and contradicting. More dangerous, however, is the widespread notion of continuing as before. “Never change a running system” has been true some years ago – today it means disaster.
More so since the end of these digitally caused changes is not yet in sight. Let’s look at robotics and artificial intelligence. A huge part of the labor still done by humans will decline rapidly and be done by a machine, including many white-collar jobs. It will also have an impact on Africa – possibly contradicting international initiatives to strengthen the continent’s countries and their people.
However, there is no reason to be overly pessimistic. But we must be prepared for a steep – and sometimes painful learning curve towards a “Digital World Order”.
14 June 2017
"Change Now”! That’s not an invitation, that is the description of an on-going process, around the globe, across all industries and more so all societies! The result is increasing uncertainty across humanity and a growing desire to return to the “good old days”!
Stop dreaming: They’ll never come back! And that’s what this column is all about: How to tackle this continuous pressure for change. In many cases change is technology driven, a digital revolution.
I’m coming from the media industry. If you look at it, media, no matter if you refer to it as audio (or music), filmed or written entertainment and even the news - if you break it down it's all “content”. And content is nothing but data and that's the reason why media industries were the first ones to be disrupted by digitalization. Has the industry learned its lesson? In many cases no, for a simple reason, change is still ongoing!
However, media has a much wider responsibility. It must help the individual to adapt to the new world, both by creating comfort zones through its entertainment offers and by explaining the new world or to help to discuss it! As a matter of fact, that’s what the DC Global Media Forum could become, a platform for reflection of all these aspects and to provide some orientation. That’s why I’m happy about the invitation to write this regular column for Diplomatic Society!
Let’s also look at the other side of the digital revolution. That’s “Innovation”. And that's where Africa as a continent of high potential comes in. Only now, the world has started to become aware of its wealth. For example: already now Africa is a pioneer in mobile (micro) payments and the world is beginning to learn from it. Well, let’s not ignore the problems, however, that’s very promising!
Let’s kick off a debate about change, about opportunities… I’m looking forward to it!