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Market View: Fighting against technology

Market View: Fighting against technology

By the end of last year there was expected to be almost 3bn internet users, while mobile-broadband penetration across the globe was set to reach 32 per cent – double the rate of 2011.

In developed countries, the figure is much higher and was predicted to reach 84 per cent by the end of 2014 – a level four times as much as developing countries (21 per cent).

This means there is plenty of scope for greater penetration of mobile broadband in developing areas, shown by the fact it has become the fastest-growing market segment in these countries when compared with other modes of accessing the internet.

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A report from McKinsey Global Institute said if businesses and governments waited until technology had exerted its full influence on the economy, “it will be too late to capture the benefits or react to the consequences”.

Elsewhere, Josh Linkner, author of The Road to Reinvention, called for companies to “disrupt or be disrupted as fickle consumer trends, friction-free markets and political unrest [meet] mind-numbing technological advances”.

In addition, Larry Downes and Paul Nunes, co-authors of Big Bang Disruption, claimed we had moved on from “disruptive innovation to devastating innovation”.

There is no question the impact of advancing technology can be devastating, not only to individual companies and sectors but also to livelihoods.

We have evolved our ‘smart’ theme at Newton to ‘smart revolution’, partly to reflect our view machines are going to increasingly take over more service roles, clerical work and have more of an impact in all sorts of areas. People may be surprised by just how many jobs and careers could be disrupted by this.

This is an element of technology that has much wider implications, and not just for companies.

It also has implications for policy and state intervention and I think that is probably going to be one of the big stories during the next decade or so – what the authorities do about this disruption.

Taxi service Uber has already felt the full force of government intervention as it has been prevented from operating in Thailand and had its services limited in India, France, Germany and Nevada, to date.

Legal proceedings have been initiated by other taxi firms, rival application makers, governments and public transport operators, for reasons ranging from the fact Uber vehicles are improperly registered, to the accusation its drivers are not properly licensed.

It could be argued that the industry players had a case of sour grapes based on fears Uber would undercut traditional taxi networks and hasten their decline, but drivers insisted they were fighting to even out the playing field because they had greater regulatory restrictions to contend with than the new kid on the block.

So far nobody really wants to talk about it – it is like the elephant in the room. There are entrenched monopolies with vested interests that want to fight back against these novel applications of technology.

It is difficult because they create choice and put pressure on price, but on the other hand they could possibly destroy an entire franchise. Whether it is a corporation or a group of taxi drivers, the end result is still the same.