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  • 07.02.10

From the Young World to Your World

How will the next billion Netizens change the Web and the world? What can we learn from them? And how does their rise change the game in emerging markets?

Welcome to the spot where technology, demographics,
globalization and entrepreneurship converge. It’s a pretty busy intersection.
Over the past decade, data and mobile networks have been spreading fastest in
the parts of the world with the youngest populations: South Asia, Latin America
and Africa. The combination has empowered a new global generation that is reinventing
entrepreneurship with mind-blowing innovations, sophisticated new market
strategies, and network-ready organizational models.

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How will the next billion Netizens change the Web and the
world? What can we learn from them? And how does their rise change the game in
emerging markets? That’s my beat, and I’ll be exploring it on this blog for
Fast Company.

I’m the author of a new book called Young World Rising: How
Youth, Technology and Entrepreneurship are Changing the World from the Bottom
Up
, just published by John Wiley & Sons, which explores this
exciting new trend in the global economy with analysis, case studies and
executive guidance. It follows up on my earlier book, Generation Blend: Managing Across
the Technology Age Gap
, which looked at the impact of next-generation
workforce in the developed world. In real life, I’m a futurist and consultant
in Seattle, with clients principally in the high-tech and software industry. I’ve
been working on these issues since the early 2000’s as an independent scholar
and researcher.

While researching Young
World Rising
, I had the chance to meet young entrepreneurs on five
continents, all working on organizations based on networks and knowledge
economy business models. Despite the vast differences in cultural background
and local circumstances, these entrepreneurs shared certain approaches and
norms that result, I believe, from their common membership in the global “Net
Generation.”

One of the most pronounced characteristics of these Young
world entrepreneurs is the propensity to blend social and commercial missions
within the same organization – not as some self-conscious attempt at corporate
social responsibility or explicitly social entrepreneurship, but as an organic
part of their operating model. The entrepreneurs I studied recognize that the
financial prosperity of their ventures cannot be separated from the larger
social, political and economic environments in which they operate.
Consequently, they spend a lot of discretionary effort and investment in
activities like workforce development, infrastructure capacity-building, and
advocacy for entrepreneurship and entrepreneur-friendly policies to build up
their local ecosystems to the point where it can sustain their future growth.

This was true from the largest businesses, like India’s Infosys Technologies, which
makes an extraordinary investment in broad-based recruitment and training, to
the very smallest, such as Syntactics,
a Philippines-based IT services company that runs an award-winning mentorship
program to refine the graduates of local tech training programs into
world-class talent.

Some of these companies exhibit a real genius for finding
market-based solutions to big social problems in their environments – solutions
which align government, private, and non-government organizations in new and
productive ways. mPedigree, based
in the West African nation of Ghana, has found a way to combat counterfeit
medications by capitalizing on the rapid spread of cell phones with very basic
text-messaging capabilities. Government agencies, pharmaceutical companies and
telecoms all have something to gain from mPedigree’s success, which allowed it
to clear away barriers and make headway against a problem that larger
institutions were unable to solve.

Here in the US, we have become so accustomed to large,
effective companies and governments solving these sorts of problems that our
own innovation muscles have become a bit atrophied from disuse. Now, as it
appears that the institutions which once seemed so benign and competent are not
only unable to solve, but are actually the cause of, many of our worst
problems, perhaps there is something we can learn from the hardscrabble
innovators of the Young World.

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The trends that are driving the rise of the Young World are
long term and durable – perhaps more so than the dynamics currently dragging
down the economies of the OECD countries. I hope to explore those issues,
successes and challenges in future blogs here at Dispatches from the Young
World.

About the author

Rob Salkowitz is author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture (McGraw-Hill, 2012), Young World Rising (2010), and two other books on youth and digital media as agents of change. He is Director of Strategy at MediaPlant, LLC, a Seattle-based communications firm he co-founded in 1999.

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