— As with any industry, our understanding of finance and aid need to be brought into the 21st century. The “Our culture's idea of what's good for you will be good for you” model has undoubtedly helped millions around the globe – but it is littered with problems. The main being that due to rising populations and the length of time that it takes to solve issues means significant costs, and before you know it, aid becomes a money raising project.
Which is where the Rising Billion idea comes in – the term Rising Billion describes efforts that are underway by three different companies: Facebook, Google, and SpaceX. Their goal is to provide one megabit of bandwidth to every person on earth. They're doing it in different ways, Facebook is using its high-level Aquila drones, Google is relying on Project Loon and SpaceX are doing it with over 4,000 satellites. If their plan comes to fruition, then in the next few years 1-1.5 billion new people will have internet access and be online. That's at least a billion new global citizens, filled with ideas and talent and enabled to engage in global business through digital.
The Project Loon by Google, (image courtesy of X).
Project Loon is a network of stratospheric balloons designed to bring Internet connectivity to rural and remote communities worldwide.
The Aquila by Facebook, (image courtesy of Facebook).
This deluge of access occurred in the West in the 1990s, but gaining access today is quite a different situation. Not only will the Rising Billions have luckily dodged dial-up connection, but the internet is now populated by a culture of community that is both welcoming and informed. The internet has proven to be a beautiful thing, and although people were saying in the early 1990s that all the money that would ever be made through the internet would be made within that decade, it has consistently proven to be an incredible capital generator.
Currently, the internet is a Western-dominated phenomenon, if billions in the developing world are able to come online, there will be a greater diversity of culture and thought. Not only that, but the world’s money systems and focus will change dramatically, improving the well-being of the developing world.
The current education system has shifted from training factory workers for basic jobs towards a more talent discovery and personal fulfillment focussed one. By providing billions with bandwidth, they will be able to educate themselves. Professor Sumatra Mistra spent 20 years on his Hole in the Wall project – which involved embedding computers into the walls of slums in New Delhi to see if non-English speaking children, who had never even seen a computer before, could learn how to use it. They took to it remarkably quickly and began to learn more and more complicated subjects. His conclusion, which is what still drives me the most and the cornerstone reason of why Rising Billions will be successful, was that given tools and encouragement, people will self-organize and discover emergent solutions to their problems.
So as a method, the Rising Billions will be able to create lasting and practical change compared to other, more traditional aid projects. When you apply the availability of bandwidth to new populations, fueled by the idea that if you provide digital tools and encouragement (very scalable, unlike money raising projects) you can enable them to buy and sell freely over the Internet. With a smaller amount of input you can kickstart a local economy, and once a local economy forms it becomes self-funding.
Which is why I don’t see much of a future in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. One reason is that they are unregulated, and home to insane fluctuations in price – at one point Bitcoin went from $900 dollars to $300 dollars in under a minute – how can it be used as a currency if one moment it is worth one price and then radically different in another? It’s not a viable alternative at this time as it kills the incentive to buy and sell and instead creates a culture of hoarding. Hoarding stifles enterprise. But the most inherent problem with Bitcoin is that it has a maximum, and this mechanism fails to fan the flames of generating abundance.
Bitcoin has no central government, instead, miners use a special software to solve math problems and are then issued a certain number of bitcoins in exchange. Pictured: a Bitcoin mine.
Yet this is not to say that we do not need something new, and the internet today exists to take money out of the middle. Credit card systems are at the center of all transactions, and although they are simply an adaptation of the cheque, they enabled people to spend money they did not have in order to create economic activity. They have since become outdated and there is now a growing realization thanks to the digitization of money of a need to separate the function of credit from its delivery vessel. Unless the middle players become super efficient and/or lower their margins soon they will be disrupted. This is because today the middle players in the financial system are extracting significantly more value from the system than their services are worth. One day newspapers were fine and then the next they weren’t, the pace of disruption awaiting this sector is akin to asteroids landing on dinosaurs.
So a new approach is needed, one that is more accessible than Bitcoin but not as dated as the current models. One company has developed a system of credit scorings based on how you use your mobile phone. For instance, people that tend to call their mother often tend to be better credit handlers. So as you look at a person’s digital activity you can see their character and that's really what credit scores are – a reflection of your character. A better character will usually mean a better credit rate handling. Another company, Frogstar – analyses your online presence to determine credit scoring. It’s these newer and more dynamic systems that will be the future of finance.
We are about to witness a digital culture shift unlike any other, by enabling the Rising Billions mankind will become more prosperous, unified and abundant. Aid, like finance, needs to be smarter, streamlined and more efficient at helping the individual. Although the revaluation of how we enact aid is synonymous with the digital disruption seen across all industries, it doesn’t get as much spotlight attention as the others. The disruption the Rising Billions will bring to all sectors is a sleeping giant, and when the changes in culture, thought and economy inevitably occur they will be spectacular to witness.