Specialists in technology, innovation and globalization spoke Thursday at the University of Central Florida about how the world is becoming integrated in new and ever-changing ways. Modern advances have become a part of our daily lives in “ubiquitous, intelligent, integrated and social ways,” said Ayesha Khanna, morning presenter and author of Hybrid Reality: Preparing for the Age of Human Technology Co-evolution.
The Florida International Summit 2012, themed “Technology, Society and Innovation in an Era of Globalization,” was a statewide forum with an audience of about 200 students, faculty, administrators, business professionals and community members from throughout Florida.
In her opening presentation, Khanna discussed how, in the course of human history, the world has progressed through a series of technological ages. From the familiar to the futuristic, she listed the Stone Age, the Agrarian Age, the Industrial Age, the Information Age, and explained how we are now in the Hybrid Age.
Around the world, innovation and technology are changing the way we interact, plan our cities, and even the very meaning of health care, she said. Khanna mentioned that catchphrases such as “health maintenance” and “preventative care” will soon be replaced by “health enhancement,” as artificial organs grown from stem cells provide just one example of technological implements that outperform their genuine counterparts.
The next portion of the summit, a panel on “Africa’s Technology and Business Environments,” was moderated by Ambassador Harriet Elam-Thomas, director of UCF’s Diplomacy Program, and featured Ernest Jones, director of wworldwide sales, Tivoli Software, IBM Software Group, and Anita Spring from the University of Florida.
Jones described both the growth of the high-tech sector and the largely untapped potential of African markets.
As businesses enter these markets, Jones said, there is a need to balance profit margins with responsible investment resulting in long-term growth for both businesses and communities. For instance, he indicated, there are several ways in which IBM is investing in local communities. Whether it is providing IT support to Egyptian cultural projects or educational initiatives offered by IBM University, the company is creating an environment that reflects being a business in and a member of a community.
Drawing from the “Sub-Saharan Africa Business Environment Report,” which she co-authored, Spring said that the spotlight is often on the high-cost, high-tech products that can reach only the relatively few.
However, she indicated, the report lists machinery as the number one import in most African markets. Machinery is significant because it marks a commitment for those African states to expand beyond simple commodity sales to become more diversified economies, Spring explained.
In response to a question from the audience about whether African economic progress is limited by a lack of a shared business mindset, Spring said that Asia and North America have made considerable progress without such a shared mindset. What is required, she added, is an environment of openness and fairness, and a will to push forward.
James Bacchus, chair of the Global Practice Group of Greenburg Traurig and former chief judge for the World Trade Organization’s dispute-settlement body, spoke next about “China, Globalization and American Competitiveness.” Instead of fearing the rise of China, he said, we should understand that we are now part of a more integrated world from which we cannot disengage, and that “the success of China is crucial to our own.”
He then offered a call to action: to shake off the pessimism the global recession has created by believing in ourselves again and engaging in active citizenship from the grassroots up to encourage vibrant change.
The next panel, “Europe’s Innovative Global Reach,” was moderated by Kerstin Hamann, chair of UCF’s Political Science Department, and featured Tim Cullen, director of the Oxford Programme on Negotiation, University of Oxford, and executive director of the Small Countries Financial Management Centre, Isle of Man; and Ning Wang, project leader for China-related business, Wermland Chamber of Commerce, Karlstad, Sweden.
Cullen spoke about how the Isle of Man, a self-governing crown dependency of the United Kingdom, has worked with the World Bank to create the small-countries initiative, which is supplementing those nations’ scare resources with unique education and networking opportunities to help resolve financial and economic challenges. Wang discussed the critical role of culture and relationship-building in doing business with China. She also shared information about the multiple business exchanges taking place between the Nordic countries and China.
Sarah Lacy, author of Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from Global Chaos, concluded the conference by speaking about entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
“Cultures of innovation are not necessarily taking place in developed markets,” she said, proceeding to offer numerous examples of many people who are taking the initiative in the world’s poorest areas and achieving great success. For instance, she discussed a Rwandan man who, after observing the shopping habits and needs of his village, came up with a production method and marketing strategy to sell toilet paper. “Successful innovation is less about sheer technology and more about creative thinking,” Lacy said.
New problems are being created in the emerging world due to different infrastructure set-ups, but this is what provides room for so much innovation, Lacy noted.
Using India as an example, she explained how cell phones are one of the few ways to connect the country’s large population. Lacy then told the story of an entrepreneur in India who started SMSONE, a micro-local newsletter sent out to “subscribers” in villages. It is one of the only effective ways to get news out to rural populations who have no internet access, radio or television, she said, noting that SMSONE now has 400,000 readers in 400 communities.
When asked to name the biggest barrier to innovation, Lacy replied, “Making excuses!”
The Florida International Summit 2012 was a Florida Network for Global Studies forum co-hosted by UCF and Florida State University. Established in 2003, FNGS is a consortium of Florida universities dedicated to fostering activities that strengthen expertise and interest in transnational and global studies issues.
The participating institutions are Florida International University, FSU, UCF, the University of Florida, the University of North Florida and the University of South Florida. More information is available at www.floridaglobalstudies.com.
Sponsors and partners also included the UCF Global Perspectives Office, Lawrence J. Chastang and the Chastang Foundation, the Orlando Area Committee on Foreign Relations, C.T. Hsu and Associates, The UCF China-Taiwan Cross-Strait Program, The India Center at UCF, The India Group, CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, the UCF Isle of Man Small Countries Program, the UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, the UCF Diplomacy Program, the UCF College of Business Administration, the UCF Political Science Department, the UCF Office of Diversity Initiatives, the UCF Nicholson School of Communication, the UCF International Services Center, the UCF Book Festival 2012 in association with the Morgridge International Reading Center, UCF LIFE and the Global Connections Foundation