Future agenda, sponsored by Vodafone, publishes initial insights

The Future Agenda, sponsored by Vodafone, is a cross discipline programme connecting informed people from around the globe to address the greatest challenges of the next decade.

The aim is to map out the major issues, identify and discuss potential solutions, and suggest the best ways forward in order to provide a platform for collective innovation at a higher level than has been achieved in the past.

Vodafone Group has published some insights based on the outputs from a series of workshops and initial discussions.

As the first global open foresight programme, the Future Agenda has begun by identifying many of the most pressing issues to face society over the next 10 years, irrespective of location, industry or financial stability, and has invited experts in each area to publish an initial point of view for others to comment upon.

The Future Agenda has identified 20 insights which will have impact by 2020:

Global Connectivity
In 2010 the number of mobile subscribers reached four billion. By 2020 there may well be as many as 50 billion 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 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 leveller. 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 behaviour – 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 train travel
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.

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 compartmentalise our lives but the integrated ‘me’ and ‘you’ will be how we see each other and interact.

Digital Money
Money is the means of exchange that is most immediately subject to the pressure of rapid technological change. Digital money transfer via 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 urbanisation 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 6.6 billion people share the same volume of water that 1.6 billion 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.

Commoditised 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 personalised 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 favours the educated and the nimble. This will widen the gap between the rich and poor.

The discussions will continue over the next six months. More opinion leaders will contribute through a series of workshops in different locations across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas and in addition others can voice their view by going online at futureagenda. The consultation period will close in April 2010 and the results will be analysed and published, with conclusions and recommendations, in July 2010. All those who participate in the programme will also have access to the original data.

“All organisations need to gain clearer, richer and more informed views of the future so that they can place more intelligent choices in terms of business strategy and innovation focus. This can no longer be achieved in isolation. At Vodafone we believe we should look beyond traditional horizons, and use new combinations of insight and foresight methodologies. This will help us support our customers as they prepare for the challenges ahead,” said Nick Jeffrey, CEO of Vodafone Group Enterprise.

Tim Jones, principle of Future Agenda, said: “The Future Agenda is an open foresight programme which crosses many frontiers and, because all participants are free to use the material as a source for ongoing research, it provides a unique way to generate and share insight. The initial views, such as the introduction of an Asian Euro and the future reduction of choice, are provoking significant discussion already.”

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