I attended a meeting yesterday in Brussels to contribute to a Vision for Internet 2020. Along with me where four other “visionaries” coming from different European countries, in addition to some European Commission officers.
It was just a kick off meeting but something interesting popped up. Let me recap just two of these “interesting” kibbles.
The horizon is set to 2020. At first glance one may see this as a far away horizon but one of the first comment that emerged was that it is quite too soon, if we need to plan for research funding. As a matter of fact, if you are thinking about what research to fund starting 2011 and expect results out of that work to hit industry in 2015 then you should allow for 5 years to see some mass market products and 5 more years to perceive the effect of the adoption. We are already well into the 2020ies.
The fact is that any innovation requires a significant time before it changes the rules of the game (if ever). Internet has surely created a fabric where everything can happen fast, but we are still talking in years, not in months, before seeing a real impact.
We have seen 15,000 applications sprouting in just a year since the opening of the iPhone platform by Apple but the real impact of any of these applications cannot be gauged now, and probably not in the next two to three years, even though one might start to ponder on the ecosystem implications of something like Shoutcast (will it change the way we think about Radio?), EveryTrail (will it become the way to track our daily life and share), TouchPhysics (will it change our views on learning?), and so on.
In this view the looking for scenarios for Internet 2020 shall not aim at what areas of technical research to fund but rather at what measures may foster today’s technology into becoming mainstream and changing our perception of Internet in the 20ies.
The second comment I like to report is the observation that by 2050, in the next 40 years, there will be 400 million people entering the workplace, people that are in the schooling system today or are yet to be born. Of these 400 million only a small part, say 50 millions, will be born in what we call developed economies, like Europe, North America, Soth Korea and Japan. Education will continue to progress everywhere so it is a fair assumption that innovation and creativity will be evenly distributed among this population. The consequence is that “most” innovation will come from areas that are not the ones we are used today. In this context what sense does it make to talk about competitiveness of Europe in the 2020 Internet? Internet is going to become the common fabric, more so as time goes by.
Ecosystems will be a social and business de facto. They will span over geographical areas and it will be more important to dominate in the ecosystem than to dominate a geographical area. Hence, the point that was made: the importance for Europe to act as a catalyst for the generation and evolution of business ecosystem, able to attract business regardless of the location.