The Next Billion

When digital news outlet Quartz brought their multi-city conversation The Next Billion to the Seattle Art Museum last week, internet, mobile, and tech leaders from up and down the West Coast dove in...What does the future of connectivity look like for the world?

"At the end of 2012, there were an estimated 2.4 billion internet users worldwide, and by 2016 global Internet traffic is set to double," affirms Quartz, “This fundamental change in online traffic is occurring largely via mobile devices, with rapid growth in emerging markets.”

Let's face it, over here in the "connected world," when we're heads down in our day to day, it's easy to forget that there is a technical divide that fuels the paradox of the haves & the have nots. With and other initiatives bringing the internet to parts of the world that are not yet connected, what are the technologies and strategies that are going to help people leverage these tools and services in a way that can elevate healthcare, education, finance, politics, and free speech?

There is a rising tide of optimism when we recognize that we're still in the early stages of a truly global ecosystem, and the potential for those of us who are already in the game to push the evolution forward. Contributing through rock solid code, empowering designs, and the very nature of how we work collaboratively - these things matter.

It's exciting to think about the future of areas like wearable technology and those potential new companies that aren't just great software companies, but are companies that create (metaphorical) bridges in the real world. How can they serve communities in a positive way and connect with individuals and families? It's not just about pushing product, "corporate social responsibility" or philanthropy to serve these emerging markets. It needs to be part of the core business, as Erica Kochi, co-head of the UNICEF Innovation Unit articulated. When thinking about where the next billion connected users are, it's essential to lead a conversation for making a difference with the understanding that it's not just about putting new technology into an ecosystem, it's about using what they have already.

Speaker Matt Wood, GM of Data Science from Amazon Web Services professed the tremendous potential of agility and the importance of iterative development as you look at the global stage. Getting your idea out there fast and decreasing cost of failure are essential, whether you are talking about big infrastructure or niche areas.

Workplace culture is near and dear to our heart so considering the growing force of minds engaged in solving new global challenges, it was inspiring to hear Scott Wyatt, chairman of Seattle-based architecture firm NBBJ speak about optimizing workplaces for innovation and ideas. What benefits can be generated from making the workplace integrated with the city (vs. the outdated thinking of having an isolated campus) and creating adaptive environments that can change to fit the people in the space?

All in all, even with the various infrastructure challenges, devices and features in question - what really matters is taking individual stories and relating them to what is happening at a larger level. Technology isn't the solution. It doesn't work itself. Humans are at the center of what we are focusing on here. Design and build experiences for them. Meet the next billion people where they are.