The Future Agenda
, sponsored by Vodafone, is a not-for-profit, cross-discipline programme which aims “to unite the best minds from around the globe to address the greatest challenges of the next decade”.
“In doing so, it will map out the major issues, identify and discuss potential solutions, suggest the best ways forward and, we hope, as a consequence, provide a platform for collective innovation at a higher level than has been previously achieved.”
As the first global open foresight programme the Future Agenda began by identifying 16 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 subjects and experts who have written the initial point of view include:
- Authenticity – Diane Coyle, OBE, Enlightenment Economics, UK
- Choice – Professor Jose Louis Nueno, Professor of Marketing, IESE, Barcelona, Spain
- Cities – Professor Richard Burdett, Professor of Architecture & Urbanisation, LSE, UK
- Connectivity – Jan Farjh, Vice President and Head of Ericsson Research, Sweden
- Currency – Dr Rajiv Kumar, Chief Executive ICRIER, India
- Data – DJ Collins, Head of Corporate Communications, Google Europe
- Energy – Dr Leo Roodhart, President of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, VP Royal Dutch Shell, Netherlands
- Food – Jim Kirkwood, Vice President R&D, Centre for Technology Creation, General Mills, USA
- Health – Dr Jack Lord, CEO, Navigneics Inc, USA
- Identity – Professor Mike Hardy, OBE, Director of British Council Intercultural Dialogue, UK
- Migration – Professor Richard Black, Head of Global Science University of Surrey
- Money – Dave Birch, Founder Digital Money Forum, UK
- Transport – Mark Philips, Interior Design Manager at Jaguars Advanced Design Studio, UK
- Waste – Professor Ian Williams, Director of School of Civil Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton, UK
- Water – Professor Stewart Burn Stream Leaders of Infrastructure Technologies, CISRO, Australia
- Work – Chris Meyer, Chief Executive of Monitor Networks, USA
The Future Agenda has also identified 20 insights which will have impact by 2020.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.