As 2014 winds down, we look back on a productive and impactful year at Techonomy. Our events and publishing projects continued the dialogue about the centrality of technology in modern life and its potential to make the world better. Our editorial content is a growing channel. Our community of writers and videographers includes over 100 published contributors, including both professional journalists and thought leaders of industry, politics, and public service. Here’s a look back at our five most-read Techonomy exclusives of the past twelve months.
Tech Innovation Takes Root in the Philippines by Will Greene
Some might think of the Philippines as a tech laggard, but it turns out the country has many ingredients to make it an incubator for tech innovation, argues Techonomy contributor Will Greene. Due to ultra-high levels of digital engagement and strong English language fluency, Greene believes the country is an ideal testing ground for products and services geared for emerging market consumers.
Greene discusses companies and initiatives that successfully used the Philippines as a gateway to the world’s emerging markets. Consumer credit provider Lenddo got its start there (see below), as did Internet.org, a Facebook-led initiative that chose the country for a pilot project to improve Internet access for the poor. More innovative ventures, including several in the healthcare sector, are on the way.
Who Owns Your Genetic Data? Hint: It’s Probably Not You by Meredith Salisbury
In the run-up to our Techonomy Bio conference in June 2014, Meredith Salisbury examined a thorny question that looms over consumer genomics: when gene sequencing goes mainstream, who owns the mountains of resulting data? Governments, patients, genome data processors, and a dizzying array of third-party intermediaries can all lay claim to it—or at least some of it. The ultimate patterns of ownership will have profound implications for healthcare data privacy and portability.
Salisbury shows that U.S. lawmakers and healthcare industry stakeholders are still scratching their heads over how to regulate the collection, storage, transmission, and analysis of genomic data. Some initial guidance can be found in the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which prohibits unfair treatment of patients based on DNA information. But this applies mainly to health insurance companies. What about life insurers, employers, lenders, and other entities that might discriminate on the basis of genetic factors?
How the People Are Taking Over the World by Walter de Brouwer
Perhaps the most philosophical of Techonomy’s top articles in 2014, this one by Scanadu Founder Walter De Brouwer takes a long view on the “global process of empowerment and connectivity” that began with the ARPANET in the late 1960s. Eventually it morphed into the global digital network we now call the Internet. With deep optimism, De Brouwer believes the Internet’s open, collaborative architecture will bring us all together to reach new levels of consciousness and self-determination.
De Brouwer cites a range of examples, including the open-source movement, Wikipedia, self-tracking, DIY subcultures, crowdsourcing, and big data. He says all these movements draw strength from large-scale participatory processes, and will ultimately enable taking “evolution in our own hands.” It’s a bold and optimistic vision.
This Emerging Markets Credit Card Is Backed by Facebook Friends by Adrienne Jane Burke
Lenddo, a financial services startup that uses social media data to generate credit ratings for borrowers in emerging markets, was one of the most exciting companies that came across Techonomy’s radar this year. Initially profiled in a February 2014 article by Adam Ludwig, Lenddo provides life-changing opportunities for people without access to traditional financial services. It also helps financial institutions expand into some of the world’s fastest-growing markets.
By 2014, Lenndo’s powerful algorithms—which take social media connections and activity into account-—had helped hundreds of thousands of workers in the Philippines and Mexico gain access to loans for things like education and home repairs. In April, it expanded further with the launch of a Visa credit card in Colombia that gets approved based on Lenddo scores. Lenddo CEO Jeff Stewart says, “The financial services industry is about to have its Napster moment.”
Making Dumb Things Smart by John Hagel and John Seely Brown
As advances enable the increasing interconnection of the digital and physical worlds, more and more everyday objects will be bound into a network commonly called the Internet of Things (IoT). This network, explain longtime contributors John Hagel and John Seely Brown, creates massive opportunities to not only use physical assets more efficiently, but also to gain better understanding of our world.
Hagel and Seely Brown believe we’re just beginning to tap the potential of the IoT. From smart home thermostats to the sensors embedded in complex industrial systems, connected objects create huge quantities of data. Right now, most of this data gets used at the local level, but by aggregating data we may eventually spot inefficiencies and make impactful interventions globally.
At Techonomy, we’re excited about technology’s transformative potential for all countries, including both emerging markets and the U.S. We want to include new voices. If you’re interested in joining our community of contributors, contact Techonomy content director Adam Ludwig at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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