Technological innovation has a transformative potential for society and the global economy. In acknowledgement of the revolutionary power of such innovations, the World Economic Forum (WEF) annually recognizes 24 companies from around the globe as Technology Pioneers—companies at the forefront of their respective industries and trailblazers in cutting-edge products, processes, and business models. Collectively, the 2015 Technology Pioneers have pioneered innovation in healthcare, diagnostics, data analytics, sustainable energy solutions, unemployment abatement, and servicing off-grid communities with affordable and dependable electricity. These developments improve developed societies and facilitate rapid social, economic, and political change in developing societies.
Three decades from now a subtle shift will have taken root in our economy. It will start slowly, with billions of dollars changing hands annually, and then move to amass over $14 trillion by 2031. Millennials are expected to be the core beneficiaries of a coming $30 trillion transfer of wealth between generations, according to Accenture’s report on the “Greater Wealth Transfer.” This will impact philanthropy, investments, and possibly even global financial markets.
June marked the Seventh Conference of the State Parties (COSP) to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), with over a thousand disability rights advocates and senior government representatives convening at the United Nations to discuss the further implementation of the CRPD and the future of the disability rights advocacy movement. The CRPD, hailed as the first human rights convention of the 21st century, was drafted in 2006, and to date has been ratified by 147 nations. This was the first convention signed by the Obama administration in early 2009. The CRPD was designed to transform the worldview of persons with disabilities from objects of charity to individuals who are capable of claiming their rights and acting as functioning members of society. Created in partnership with persons with disabilities, the CRPD is a force for change around the world.
This past February, Russian armed forces invaded and later annexed the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine. This bold move shocked the world, but in reality this invasion was just a case of history repeating itself. A nearly identical scenario took place in Cyprus 40 years ago, and that event—like the division of Ukraine—has yet to find a resolution.
Decentralized, virtual, and anonymous—cryptocurrencies continue to grow in use and in popularity. Bitcoin, the first of its kind to achieve notoriety, was created in 2009 by an unknown person with the alias Satoshi Nakamoto. Transactions occur instantaneously through mobile apps or computers, thereby avoiding banks, credit card companies, and miscellaneous fees. Bitcoin boasts a market cap of about $8,000,000,000—considering the 13 million bitcoins in circulation, the value works out to over $500 each. In the past year, the number of bitcoin transactions per day has ranged from 40,000 to 100,000. Due to the anonymity and scope of the bitcoin economy, policymakers and corporations are beginning to take notice.
The promise of ideas, however innovative, is empty without realistic possibility. This emptiness is evidenced by the failure of programs like Cash for Clunkers or the Fair Housing Act. Though admirably idealistic, Cash for Clunkers was not financially sustainable, and the Fair Housing Act contributed to the thousands of foreclosures that preempted the current U.S. recession. In the global sphere, the United Nations is far from reaching its Millennium Development Goals by 2015, and the United States still cannot trade with X, one of its cruciate enterprise partners. As social issues grow, government and other public institutions have not been able to keep up. Fortunately, there are players who can.
Against a backdrop of political uncertainty and the recent instability in places like Gaza, Syria, and Iraq, another revolution is quietly shaping the future of the Middle East. The global proliferation of mobile technology has brought with it a historic opportunity to improve access, accountability, and services for large swaths of the population. Nowhere is its transformative power greater than in the Middle East. In his latest book, author Christopher Schroeder tells the story of a new generation of young entrepreneurs, frustrated by broken systems, who are channeling their energy into creative enterprise through technology. In doing so, they are determined to carve out a new golden age of invention and social innovation.
The internet was an experiment that got loose, Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist at Google and one of the “Fathers of the Internet”, told comedy talk show host Stephen Colbert in July. He said, “There are about 3 billion people online now. Every time they come up with new ways of using the internet, we all learn something from that.”
Ukrainian Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Ihor Prokopchuk, announced mid-day on Thursday that Ukrainian forces had “registered a direct invasion by the Russian military into the eastern regions of Ukraine.” Three hours after this announcement, as Ukraine claimed large scale movement by Russian infantry and mechanized divisions, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was convened to hold an emergency meeting on the Ukraine crisis.
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