The Guest Blog

Jones: 20 Insights On 2020

Tim Jones, Program Director of the Future Agenda

In the world of collaboration and open innovation, one of the untapped opportunities has been for sharing and building of insight on the future.

Many companies undertake scenario development, future trends analysis and foresight programs but these are often done on a sector by sector basis and rarely involve significant cross-industry input. The exceptions to this over recent years have been Shell’s Technology Futures programs and IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook , which have brought unusual combinations of people together for week-long discussions around the world.

Now Vodafone is supporting an open future looking program that is a bold experiment in what may become known as open foresight.

The Future Agenda program is a global, cross-discipline program which is uniting the best minds from around the world to address the greatest challenges of the next decade: Initial perspectives across 16 topics (everything from energy, food, transport and health to authenticity, choice, data and migration) have been written by lead experts and shared across academic and corporate communities.

Now the program is inviting wider public participation to add their views to the mix.

What is unique about this program, over and above its scale and scope, is that everyone who participates gets access to all the information from the program – so as more get involved, the richer the insights and so the more informed individual, government and corporate decisions can become.

By bringing together views from Google, Shell, Ericsson, General Mills together with those from leading academics and governments from around the world, the program has already highlighted 20 key insights on the world in 2020: To date 155 countries are involved. As more people add their thoughts and build on others’ views over the next three months, a unique shared and informed view of the future is being generated – one that makes new connections between the drivers of change for the decade ahead and identifies the pivotal issues that we need to collectively address. A bold, ambitious and unique foresight program involving the dream team of organizations is now taking place.

Here are the 20 key insights for 2020 that are being shared over the next week via global media:

Global Connectivity: In 2010 the number of mobile subscribers reached 4bn. By 2020 there may well be as many as 50bn devices connected to each other. Everything that can benefit from a network connection will have one.

Less Choice: Fewer choices provide higher levels of satisfaction. We can see consumers making a trade?off between variety and cost: Cost is winning and, as Asian consumers set the global trends, we will be focused on less variety not more.

Asian Euro: The introduction of a broad?basket ACU (Asian Currency Unit) as the third global reserve currency will provide the world with the opportunity to balance economic influence and trade more appropriately.

Virtual Authenticity: Virtual identity and physical identity are not the same thing; they differ in ways that we are only beginning to take on board. By 2020 this difference will disappear.

Dense Cities: As urban migration increases globally, seen through the lens of efficiency, more densely populated cities such as Hong Kong and Manhattan are inherently more sustainable places to live than the spread-out alternatives found in the likes of Houston and Mexico City.

Open Access: Access to information is the great leveler. As we become more comfortable sharing our search histories and locations, more relevant information will be provided more quickly and the power of innovation will shift to the public.

Less Energy: The days of ‘easy energy’ are over. However, as CO2 capture yields no revenues without government support, global emissions will only be reduced by fundamental changes in behavior – for us all to use less energy.

Feeding the World: We are in a world of paradox where a growing portion of the developed world is obese at the same time as 15% of the global population is facing hunger and malnutrition. Technology to improve food yield will be accelerated to balance supply and demand.

Food Markets: In the next decade, the world economics of food will change and food will change the economics of the world. Decisions on where and what to produce will be made on a global basis not by individual market or geography.

Global Pandemics: Between now and 2020 we are likely to see somewhere between 2 to 3 global pandemics. These will arise in areas that do not have the top tier of preventative or public health infrastructure and will rapidly spread to developed Western countries.

Chinese Trains: China is now the pacesetter for change in inter?urban transport and is investing over $1 trillion in expanding its rail network to 120,000km by 2020 – the second largest public works program in history. China is rapidly reshaping its landscape around train services.

Slow Luxury: The luxury market buyers increasingly want ‘better not more’. They will move away from Bling Bling to have items that are visually more discreet and will increasingly want to position themselves as being more responsible. The Slow Food movement will spread across markets

Homogenous Identity: We are likely to move more quickly and more widely towards an integrated identity for work and social interaction. We will no longer compartmentalize our lives but the integrated ‘me’ and ‘you’ will be how we see each other and interact.

Digital Money: It is the means of exchange of money that is most immediately subject to the pressure of rapid technological change. Digital money transfer via our mobile phones will be the default by 2020.

Zero Waste: Global waste production is predicted to double over the next twenty years. Much of this will be due to increased urbanization and emerging economic growth. A shift towards the zero waste society is a desperate global need that will accelerate in the next decade.

Water Wars: Today over 6.6bn people share the same volume of water that 1.6bn did a hundred years ago. As population and economies grow and diets change we need more of this scarce resource. This will be the decade that we fight wars over water not oil.

Flattening World: As income increases in India, China, Brazil, and elsewhere, growth in demand for skilled services will occur disproportionately in these emerging economies. Combined with more global networks, this will lead to income stagnation in “established” economies.

Commodities Knowledge: Education will become increasingly industrialized ? broken into small, repeatable tasks and thus increasingly deskilled. As a consequence, the industrialization of information work is certain, and this will affect pretty much every business.

Global Tele-health: The drive towards personalized treatments will be matched by a greater focus on prevention. By delivering healthcare content to the individual’s handset, mobile technology can help to maintain wellness.

Urban Poverty: The nature of economic activity in cities seems to be leading to a greater degree of urban poverty as in-migration and the move to the knowledge society favors the educated and the nimble. This will widen the gap between the rich and poor.

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Tim Jones is Program Director of the Future Agenda . He is a recognized leader in innovation and future growth with specific expertise in bringing together unique collaborations and helping organizations identify new opportunities. He is also Head of Research for the Innovation Leaders analysis and founded the respected innovation strategy company Innovaro which he left in October to focus on this program. In recent years Tim has led a number of programs looking 10 and 20 years ahead for organizations such as Shell, P&G, Mars, Speedo and several government departments. He advises a number of public bodies on innovation and future priorities, is the author of five books, and is a regular speaker at corporate events and public conferences.