On November 6th, Gartner welcomed Andreas Ekström for a guest keynote speech in front of several thousand CIOs and ICT experts. The reporter turned speaker gave an up to date exposé of seven key future digital issues that we need to think about more and understand better, to be positioned right for the next five to ten years.
"No matter who you are or what you do – this concerns you both as a professional and as a citizen. I touch upon the future of finance, the future of digital identity, and the democracy factor hidden in the technology we build," he first explained, adding that he was constantly trying to understand the digital world, being all about the sociology of tech. "It's about power and responsibility. You all need to see who's holding the power and held them responsible. Currently, there is so much power in the hands of a couple of players," he added. The digital expert then shared the 7 challenges that will dominate the digital future, representing either an opportunity or a threat. Therefore, the way to own the future is….
…. to own our identity
Andreas Ekström first shared a story: "imagine Mark Zuckerberg goes to Greece and offers the government to connect all the citizens to Facebook, providing an e-ID solution for free. One single condition needs to be met: all citizens have to register. What would the government do? And what would you do if you do not have the money and means to say no? Integrity is a luxury for those who can afford it". He then explained that as the first internet generation, we need to write a digital constitution and that we "better get it right". In the world, there are currently 3 billion people who do not have access to the internet, representing huge challenges for governments and nations, but the biggest issue is that Facebook is actually best equipped to own the world…
…. to own our time
According to the Swedish expert, the 10 largest websites represented 30% of web traffic in 2001. In 2010, the number grew to 75%. "The internet is still full of niches where we can find silly things…yet internet is not very democratic since all the websites are now only found via Google or Facebook. This growth is amazing and only the web giants are benefitting from it," he commented. Moreover, he explained that back in the days, companies fought against their competitors, rolled up their sleeves. Now, the big one buys the smaller ones and only a few players own almost all the cash… According to Andreas Ekstörm, all the time we spend on the internet and on social networks is owned by one person.
…to make money on money
Banks and financial services maintained their positon in the digital world. "They’ve been pretty good at it. Their R&D department had to invent their own disruption because other players would have taken their place otherwise," highlighted the digital expert who then shared the example of Napster, which almost killed the traditional industry, even if it was illegal. Banks have therefore learned what the idea of disruption was all about. Here again, one player might have the power the disrupt the world of banking…Facebook.
… to decide what we get to see
"It's what editors do. They choose. But right now, the Facebook algorithm is choosing what appears on the feedlist on its own," insisted Andreas Ekström, who also added that the algorithm doesn't see the context and the historical value. "Sometimes, it is automatically taking pictures off the internet when they have high historical value. According to me, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning still have a long way to go. I believe the hype, but I also think that it is necessary to be critical about it. Humans are needed because they are still held accountable when machines are not. Code can't be neutral, it's political!" he highlighted.
… to be the link between people
"It's the means of communication between people who are looking for constant contact but also for trust. Our lives have changed and we now share everything on social media," explained the former reporter. People are getting more and more organized thanks to the use of app such as Uber, Tinder or Spotify… and Facebook provides the connecting tissue.
… to be the place where we talk
According to Andreas Ekström, "we can control the democracy with personal conversation and by asking for public debates". He then explained what "sousveillance" means, being the opposite or surveillance: Rather than Big Brother looking down, it's several million Little Brothers looking up. "We are now monitoring each other, it's a cultural game changer! We are narrowing the space of what's allowed and make ourselves transparent. Actually, there's now place where we can't be happy anymore." Society = Internet and we need to build a new way to create it all together.
…. to screw net neutrality over
Andreas Ekström is also concerned about net neutrality which he sees as a digital political issue: "without a truly open internet for everyone, we are not going to remain democratic". According to him, less innovation will emerge from the startup scene, with all the information being controlled.
"Look to were the power is, to hold these people and/or accountable. Who's going to ask the questions? We are!" concluded Andreas Ekström.