THE BLOG

Why Our Tech Giants Must Save Globalisation

20/12/2016 18:11 GMT | Updated 20/12/2016 18:12 GMT
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The triumphant victories this year of the Brexiteers and Donald Trump has made one thing loud and clear. The nation state is far from dead. Predicted as a soon-to-be endangered species, it has made a glorified return in 2016, returning stronger than ever. The message from both sides of the Atlantic is: shut up shop, protect your own people and don't allow the 'other' in.

So, even if the likes of Google and Apple have had another good year, then the environments in which they operate in have seismically shifted. Many have turned their back on an open, connected world which helped spawn so many of the tech and global companies we know today. In its place, the demands are for a much smaller world, able to limit the powers of such global companies who have supposedly wreaked such havoc.

Of course, that isn't quite the truth of it. The likes of Facebook, Amazon and Uber haven't disappeared overnight. Moreover, appetite for their products and services is insatiable - that cheap 42" LED TV, that quick ride home after the pub. But they are screwing with the established system. Straddling borders, connecting people and changing the way resources are allocated.

Something has got to give. The nation state is making its last stand. And it's not going quietly (just look at the bombastic hotel entrepreneur about to occupy the White House.) Even continental Europe has become bellicose, having already turfed out the beleaguered Italian PM Matteo Renzi, the political establishments in both Germany and France are now fearfully looking over their shoulders ahead of elections next year.

So the stage is set. If the nation state has had a shot in the arm, the bastions of globalisation suddenly look flabby, ill-disciplined and increasingly fearful that the world they have constructed over the last 30 years or so is about to crumble beneath them. The two appear locked in a bitter struggle which will only end with a fight to the very death.

But how can globalisation save itself? The darling newborn of the noughties has turned into adolescent brat of the twenty-tens. Seemingly on a path of self-destruction, fuelled by its own ego and a sense of self-destiny. It has often appeared reckless, disregarding of those around it and quite happy to do what it liked. It has too often lurched from one impulsive desire to the next without thinking about the long term consequences. So how can the unruly teenager turn into that sophisticated, urbane adult able to reflect on a misspent youth?

The answer: to take itself seriously. If the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Uber want to be taken seriously, they've got act like it. It's no longer satisfactory to think it's enough simply by offering cheap products or a service at the touch of a button. It's also no longer good enough to have a CSR policy lurking on page 7 of a corporate manifesto. For too long, they have ensconced themselves in the sun-lit valleys of Silicon Valley under the impression that the whole world was with them due to their technological brilliance.

Brands such as these need to step up to the plate. They could and should take over in areas where the state(s) can no longer provide for. Imagine if Uber replaced Dial-A-Ride? Helping the elderly and disabled live independent lives. Imagine if Amazon set-up schools? Providing books and learning materials every child needs. Imagine if Facebook established their own community centres? Existing in the virtual world, they would help the young and old alike connect and foster a sense of a wider community.

Someone once said, 'No taxation without representation.' The rules haven't changed. But the way the game is played has changed. There are more players than ever before, more ways of doing things than ever before - but the bond between individuals and the organisations that choose to represent them must never be broken.