To internet or not to internet…?

I confess, I hadn’t intended to go to the Fujitsu speaker sessions at MWC yesterday. But by late on Day 2, I had a serious case of stand fatigue and the opportunity to sit quietly and listen to experts in their field talk passionately about their interests was too good to pass up.

Dr Joseph Reger (CTO for Fujitsu in EMEIA) spoke eloquently and convincingly on how to exploit the Internet of Things, specifically on how Fujitsu’s RunMyProcess platform-as-a-service can save lives by connecting wearable devices with the emergency services, traffic operations, and medical records to shave valuable minutes off the time it takes to get a road casualty to hospital for treatment. The use case was compelling, and Dr Reger’s plain-English approach to demonstrating the capabilities of an immensely complex platform was hugely welcome.

It was an exciting and inspiring 30 minutes, and a very welcome one after the frivolity of some of the stands throughout MWC.

I was then fortunate to follow up Dr Reger’s session with a talk from John Ploumitsakos, twitter’s Online Sales Director. His presentation was a fascinating look back at the growth of the internet over the past 25 years, as well as a look forward to what the future might bring. Much like Fujitsu, his excitement about the ways in which the internet can shape a better society is infectious – whether it’s internet.org or Jun, in Spain, where the mayor has made local government more accessible through the use of twitter.

I left John’s speech energised and enthused by the tech industry. Then I saw Andrew Keen in a Q&A.

Andrew Keen’s new book is called The Internet Is Not The Answer, and he was arguing that the rise of digital tech giants has compounded inequality, created unemployment and compromised our personal data. He spent a long time discussing the job market, and the impact digitlisation has had on employment. He was at pains to say that the internet cannot be blamed for inequalities, but that it has compounded them, and cited internet.org as an example of a tech giant creating a tool that appears to be socially beneficial but in reality serves only to line the pockets of the digital elite. I have not read Keen’s book yet, and judging his views on a 30 minutes Q&A would seem unfair. However, I can’t help but think his view is a little pessimistic.

As with all things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. The holy grail of a social conscious connected world, espoused by Dr Reger and John Ploumitsakos, doesn’t yet exist on a wide scale, and is unlikely to. However, the digital revolution is not the sole cause of societal ills – it’s of course a factor, but there are many others.

Only time will tell which world view comes to pass, and it was a fascinating few hours away from the craziness of MWC to consider both aspects of the argument.

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