Society’s wealth creation is rapidly changing. Those organizations, businesses, and industries that accept this fact and adapt will survive. Those that choose to not recognize or accept will become extinct.
Today, expanded internet access delivers information into the hands of more people than ever before, and people are using that information to better their lives in ways never dreamt possible. People across the planet are consuming, accessing, creating, enriching, directing, and sharing digital information, and they are doing it between businesses, people, organizations, infrastructures, machines, and things in ways not ever imagined. The result is a new wealth creation system, driving growth in businesses, industries, and world economies.
It’s no wonder, then, that global demand for connectivity is on the rise. Going forward, three primary drivers will shape that demand:
Digital Natives. Anyone born into and accustomed to modern information and communication technology expects – and demands – information to be readily available. But not just information via the written word; images, video, and other formats will be the norm. Access will need to be fast, reliable, state-of-the-art, and perpetually adapting.
Disadvantaged Users. The capacity of land-based mobile technology cannot support increased demand, and approximately 2-3 billion people are currently left without access to reliable high speed data. Growth in demand, global population, and necessity are exponentially increasing.
The “Internet of Things”. Increasing demand for wireless connectivity among more and more “smart” devices will create vast technological sea changes in how connectivity is managed. Connection anywhere, any place, at any time, on any device is a necessity, not a luxury.
So how can the growing demand for worldwide connectivity be met? The race is on to figure that out.
Not coincidentally, after this past spring’s 30th Annual Space Symposium, we wrote here about a palpable buzz at the convention surrounding the commercial potential of space. Discussions – both formal and informal – highlighted the difference between “old space” and “new space,” with “old space” being driven by the government’s push to get into space, and “new space” being driven by the commercial sector’s push to do something with space now that we know how to get there.
Is “new space” the answer to the escalating demand for global connectivity? Could the buzz at the Symposium be more than just a distant vision?
A recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article would suggest so. In his article “The Internet’s Future Lies Up in the Skies,” WSJ Technology Columnist Christopher Mims writes about the current race among companies like Google, Facebook, SpaceX, and Intelsat to deliver internet connectivity to the world’s unconnected masses.
How? By leveraging state-of-the-art launch and satellite technology, plus new definitions of satellites themselves (think balloons, drones, and close-in satellites) to provide affordable, fast, and widespread internet access across the globe – internet from the sky, as the article’s title states.
But Mims also points out that some early pioneers into the satellite network industry have spent time in bankruptcy.
Indeed, today’s entrants into this arena need the right balance of foresight, agility, and courage. They must:
Understand and satisfy the needs of the consumer – that means you and me. ompanies need to maintain early and continuous dialog with people across the globe to innovate and deliver. They need to pay laser-focused attention to rapidly changing consumer requirements and preferences.
Welcome change. They must not only be open to change all the time, but purposefully drive change and possible disruption, whether it be early or late in the development of the business.
Maintain a constant pace of innovation. They must anticipate and stay ahead of the accelerating demands of the consumer, always being ready to act quickly to develop and deliver before somebody else does it first.
Harness the power of less. Agility is the new core competency every organization must have. Company leaders must create and build information infrastructures that can be put up and taken down quickly and inexpensively, over and over again, as market conditions dictate. Investing a lot of time and money into building something to last for decades will end up handcuffing the organization to something that will quickly become obsolete.
It is an exciting time to be in the business of connectivity and information delivery. Previously unimaginable connections are being made between people and things, enabled by technology. Boundaries are shifting and reshaping. New business models are emerging. New value and wealth are being created by improving consumer access and experiences as people consume, access, create, enrich, direct, and share digital information.
It will be interesting to see who wins and who loses in this race to meet worldwide connectivity. Who are you betting on?
Deborah Westphal is a passionate humanist who has guided our era’s top minds and leaders to challenge biases, ignite ideas, and build connections and resilience for a secure and sound future. Her career spans more than 30 years in government agencies and Fortune 100 companies, and on virtually every continent. In 1999, Alvin Toffler tapped her as one of the founding members of his eponymous consulting firm, Toffler Associates. From 2007 through 2018, she served as the firm’s CEO and has since contributed her experience and knowledge as a member of the board. Through her work, she has guided notable organizations including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Marriott, U.S. Air Force, Baxter International, Bayer, Heinz, Microsoft, Koppers, PPG, DARPA, National Security Agency, Loral Space Systems, NASA, Qwest, Verizon, and Westinghouse. Deborah’s empathetic and thought-provoking style helps readers spot patterns that signify future risks and opportunities. She’s a sought-after speaker and writer who provided the Foreword to After Shock. Her book, Convergence: Technology, Business, and the Human-Centric Future, was published in May 2021 by Unnamed Press. Find her at deborahwestphal.com.
Toffler Associates is a future-focused strategic advisory firm. Our Future Proof® business consulting approach helps global leaders understand how future shifts impact current decisions so they can take advantage of opportunity, manage risk, and create future value.
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