“Are we prepared to face the new technology that’s springing up?”
We all know that most government thinking is relatively “short-term”. They know that their legislation may only last for four years, and instead of wanting to lay the foundation toward building a great country, they aim for the highest number of ribbons and gold stars with their eyes on reelection.
The big question remains: What is the real role of a government? The obvious answer would be “to run the country in the best possible way to assure that the majority of its citizens have the highest quality of life possible”.
A good leader should really have this keyword etched in stone: “anticipate”. The majority of the problems in Spain nowadays have stemmed from a lack of foresight, of vision, or worse yet, a lack of knowledge. It’s what in the past we used to simply call “having no idea”.
So, what’s done is done. We weren’t able to anticipate the housing bubble, we have been blind to the cracks in the banking sector, the corruption, academic failure, pollution, evictions, and the list goes on. Yet here and now, in 2016, is there really not a single person from any of the political parties that’s seeing the incredible technological change that is taking place? Are we really the few and far between that realize what’s steadily approaching?
Politicians are so blind that they can’t see that within 15 years our society won’t look anything like the model that we know today. Don’t they see the evolution of robotics, of communication, of e-business, of biotech?
They don’t ask themselves how these changes will influence businesses, taxes, culture, or the longevity of citizens. The solution to the problems that we will have in 15 years must be thought out now, not in 15 years. Anticipation and foresight helps us avoid drastic consequences. Of course, not just anybody can simply foresee what will happen in 15 years.
Aside from tackling the current problems in Spain created in years past (the deficit, unemployment, pensions, etc.), here i will also present 10 little questions that the next president of our government should really ask himself.
1. Technology Dependence
How dependent on technology are we? And I’m especially referring to the technologies that the majority of Spanish citizens use and that could grow over the course of the next few years: telecommunications, energy systems, robotics, Internet, etc.
Technology dependence is indicative of the type of country that we will be in the upcoming years, something incredibly important when digital information and digital businesses completely dominate the social landscape.
Are we really training our youth to be innovators and to be able to develop business models based around technology? Training is key, and programming and technology competence and knowledge really must be compulsory subjects in school.
3. Our GDP
In the next few years will we be capable of generating at least 15% of our GDP in digital form or based on technology-based businesses? We will be capable of innovating and exporting new business models to instil an image of a “digital” Spain?
If technology is allowing business to reside wherever they want from a taxation point of view and they can develop their businesses globally, how are we going to stop a few companies from monopolizing certain services in our country while paying taxes somewhere else?
The tendency in biotechnology is to help us live longer, and it’s no joke. Quite the opposite, the reality could be that in 10-15 years we have the ability to live to be 120 or 130 years old. How is this going to influence our current pension model? What must we do now to compensate for new demographic map that’s going to be created in the next 15 years?
What type of employment will be needed in 15 years? How will we compensate for the automation of certain jobs? You don’t have to be a genius to realize that the profiles of workers are changing. Not only are more tech-laden backgrounds more demanded, but we must also keep in mind that robots will be replacing workers in many cases. A robot doesn’t get sick, doesn’t take vacation, it has a clear price tag and profitability margin for the company and ends up being much cheaper than a human. Anybody who thinks this is science fiction needs a reality check. Robotics is about to take off in many sectors outside of the typical industry, retail, warehouses, and homes.
If we add up the unemployment that will be produced by this to the growth of the population and its longevity we end up with a substantial problem to deal with.
7. Climate Change
How will climate change influence our society and our economy? It’s a huge problem, yet we continue to bury our head in the ground like an ostrich to avoid seeing the true seriousness of the problem and the catastrophic consequences that will be brought about. Think climate refugees, water shortages, agricultural planning, and more.
How will ecommerce influence our consumer model and our SMEs? Ecommerce still only accounts for a relatively small percentage of our consumer volume, but its growth means that in 15 years it will be a much bigger piece of the pie in terms of our purchasing models.
One of the clearest examples of the evolution of ecommerce has taken place in China and how they have changed their consumer models in the past 5 years. In Spain we don’t have an Amazon, we don’t have a Taobao, and not even a Zalando. There are no ecommerce giants in Spain planning for themselves. Zara could be one, but it is too specialized in only one sector. I hope that El Corte Inglés is realizing that their future could be robotizing 40% of the staff at their points of sale and becoming an ecommerce giant in Spain.
What consequences will digital banking bring about? The digitalization of banking services has its pros and cons. On the plus side, there will be reduced costs for the banks since clients themselves will be able carry out a large portion of banking services themselves.
So far so good, but how will we avoid giants like Amazon, Google, or Facebook from entering into the digital banking scene? For younger people, Google is a thousand times more well known, robust, and trustworthy than BBVA. I am completely convinced that if Google decided to offer a basic service for personal money management tomorrow, thousands of young adults would line up to keep their savings with Google instead of with a Spanish bank.
What influence will the changes to our energy models that are being developed have? It’s clear that oil is not the option of the future, but not because we don’t have it. Rather, it’s the pollution and contamination. If electric energy is going to be our main source, what kind of demand will there be in 15 years? Are electric companies planning for this future demand and are they making the right investments and creating the necessary solutions?
I understand that it is no easy task. My personal advice to the future president of Spain would be to keep an open mind and to surround him or herself with knowledgeable people who have an eye on the future. They must let money and private investment flow into technology innovation and into business and production models. Real, aggressive, and simple tax incentives must be offered to investors that want to invest in technology in Spain. Innovation should become one of the four main pillars of the country. We must design a country thinking about the future that is to come and not only about our present situation.
Our children should not suffer the consequences of us not thinking about their future.