Last week, I attended the Wall Street Journal event, D.Live Asia, in Hong Kong. It was a great opportunity to connect with an unmatched group of CEOs, founders, and investors and to discover and debate the most compelling ideas emerging globally. Of all the sessions, I was quite intrigued with the discourse from Google’s Caesar Sengupta, VP of the Next Billion Users Team (Yes, there are job titles like that in the world). Google is pursuing an ambitious plan to target the next billion people that will come online from countries such as Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria. Caesar believes that most of these potential users have never used a PC and may never use one. They don’t think of the internet as something you access with a mouse and a keyboard. Theirs will be a mobile-only (not a mobile-first) world.
While Google had some tough times in China, it now seems like India is the biggest (and safest) bet for the company as millions of Indians have yet to come online. The majority of new users in India will come online from rural areas where the internet penetration is still very low. India’s internet story is all about growth—massive growth—so, it’s no surprise that Google has launched many India-first products in order to become the go-to service provider. What does this all mean for the next billion? Consider the thoughts below:
- Learning will get a reboot. Teachers will become better teachers and students will learn more efficiently due to the availability of a plethora of online materials and videos to help them understand what they need to do to be successful in the future.
- City and state governments will become more responsive, and hopefully responsible, due to the reality that even simple mistakes can now go viral with the tap of a screen.
- Farmers will become smarter as they learn new ways to increase their crop yields and become more efficient and productive.
- New business models, new products, new services, and new opportunities will emerge to serve to newly connected users.
- Doctors will become more efficient. Healthcare services will become accessible even in remote areas and will revolve around telemedicine. There is still vast room for improvement in our institutions today.
- People who can’t read and write will become digitally literate, expanding their horizons and allowing them to pursue new opportunities to do better work in life.
Aside from the changes listed above, many more individuals, professions, and industries will become enhanced. I believe a type of paradigm is emerging. Imagine the lives of a billion people, the way they live, work, and play, before and after being introduced to the Internet. In the future, the most fundamental work mores will be dismantled. Instead of being perplexed about robot Armageddon, new users will aim at improving their lives and careers using a new medium: the Internet.
Work is constantly evolving, and the future of work will be no different. The coming of the next billion users will uncover many new aspects of work that we have yet to imagine. But with all these changes happening so fast, is it possible a schism could form between existing and new internet users in the future? It’s hard to know the answer. However, what I do know is that a new world is in the making, and it will bring new hopes, aspirations, dreams, and changes that will be good for individuals and societies alike. The tenet of this new world will be, “We can do more.” So with this in mind, let’s welcome the next billion!