Looking back on my 2011 projections

December 1, 2011

By Don Tapscott
The opinions expressed are his own.

One thing pundits rarely do is review their own prognostications.  A year ago I published “10 big themes for 2011” – related to how the digital revolution changes business and society.  It’s helpful to review what actually occurred.  Below are my projections and some 20-20 hindsight editorializing.

1. “The crisis deepens. Rather than just an economic downturn, more people will recognize that we’re entering an era of profound change. The industrial economy and many of its institutions are reaching the end of their lifecycles — from newspapers and old models of financial services to our energy grid, transportation systems and institutions for global cooperation and problem solving.”

What happened? I think I called that one. A year ago many were saying that we had come out of the global slump and that we were in full recovery, even if it was a “jobless” one. I detest the term “jobless recovery” as an oxymoron. There is no recovery unless it’s inclusive. As the for global crisis, anyone want to debate with me that it’s getting deeper and that we need to rebuild most institutions and industries, like, say, government?

2. “We’ve entered a new period of Global Risks. We are moving into an age where profound threats are emerging to the global economy, society and even the very existence of humanity. Failure of the financial system, weapons of mass destruction, new communicable diseases, collapse of environmental systems, water security and many other threats make the world a volatile place. Leaders unite to build a Global Risk Response System.”

What happened? Possible overstatement. But consider the sovereign debt crisis, America losing its triple A rating, how the Japanese tsunami disrupted the global supply chain, the destabilization of (nuclear power) Pakistan, Iran’s steps towards nuclear weapons and the deepening crisis regarding Israel’s relationship with the Arab world — and a “Global Risk Response System” sounds like a good idea.

3. “Worldwide generational conflict will grow. Around the planet young adults are asserting themselves in the workplace and in political arenas. Protests against entrenched governments will increase in frequency and severity.”

What happened? Well I did call that one. It’s unbelievable to think that the Arab Spring, Occupy, student riots in London, millions of youth in the streets from Spain and around the world were not even on the radar a year ago. But all my work about the new generation told me that a conflagration was in the making. And this one is just beginning.

4. “Media upheaval will intensify. Newspapers will continue to collapse, replaced by networked news models.  The Huffington Post is just the beginning. More of the music consumer’s dollar will go into the pockets of artists and less to the music labels. The industry will awaken to the need to sell music as a service rather than a product.  TV will continue down the path of becoming simply another app on the web.”

What happened? There were very few newspaper bankruptcies and while cable television declined, TV is still alive and kicking.  The biggest development here was the impact of transparency on the Rupert Murdoch empire. The good news is that while the music industry continues to decline, new players with the right business model like Spotify have entered the US market and amazing networked models of the news are flourishing.

5. “There will be an upsurge in entrepreneurial activity. In the US and other countries unemployed knowledge workers, especially young people, will start their own businesses or work under personal services contracts. The internet enables small companies to have the capabilities of larger companies without the main liabilities.”

What happened? “Upsurge” was not the right word.  While it’s true that many young people are being forced to be entrepreneurs by high youth unemployment, they are having difficulty getting financing due to the lingering sub-prime meltdown hangover.  Because 80 percent of new jobs come from companies 5 years old or less, the failure of the banks and venture capital to provide financing is a chronic problem.

6. “The ‘app revolution’ peaks showing signs of decline. Developers, faced with so many platform choices and limitations of proprietary apps start to look to HTML5 for mobile web development. Rather than writing applications to run on separate mobile operating systems, developers will return to the uniformity of web sites accessed through browsers.”

What Happened? It may have peaked but there are no signs of decline yet. But with open platforms like Android eclipsing the iconic iPhone, a turn to the web can’t be far away.

7. “The Age of Hyper Transparency becomes clear. Right now it’s the US government, but Wikileaks founder Julian Assange says private-sector companies are next, starting with the financial services industry. So if your corporation is going to be naked – and you really have no choice in the matter – you’d better be buff.”

What happened? Wikileaks backed off denuding private companies. I’m not sure why because there sure is lots of extreme dirt to expose. But transparency has now become part of the public dialogue. A small indication: TED Global has themed its annual event for June 2012 “Radical Openness.”

8. “There will be a social media privacy backlash. With the meteoric rise of social media, we are increasingly willing accomplices in undermining our own privacy rights. Privacy is the Achilles Heel of sites such as Facebook.”

What happened? Concerns about privacy did explode this year and every social network and many businesses are dazed and confused. Some left Facebook for this reason to Google+ and more privacy-friendly platforms. In a shocking ruling yesterday the FTC came down hard on Facebook, forcing them to redesign their system and procedures to protect the privacy of their users. Given that bad privacy policies is Facebook’s Achilles Heel, the FTC may have unwittingly saved the company.

9. “The battle over net neutrality will explode. Internet Service Providers will continue their campaign to charge premium prices for certain kinds of content, while content providers will want all Internet traffic treated fairly. The biggest confrontations will be in the wireless realm.”

What happened? Not a lot.  The term gets over 5 million hits on Google. But Lady Gaga gets 400 million. Champions like Google and Tim Berners Lee have had some success. Given the Obama administration’s stated support for net neutrality and an open Internet, no explosion occurred because the providers are lying low.

10. “Two technologies – Enterprise Collaboration and Geospaciality come of age. Foursquare was just the beginning. Get out your Google goggles and Layar Reality Browser and augment your reality.  The physical and digital worlds are converging. Companies finally begin to move beyond electronic mail, document management and other primitive technologies to new collaborative Suites like Jive and Spaces.”

What happened? Geospaciality continues to grow with mapping and navigation systems on hundreds of millions of mobile devices.  But true augmented reality tools like Goggles and Layar are not yet exactly household words.

Looking back it appears I hit eight out of ten. But what did I miss? You tell me!

Don Tapscott is the author of 14 books, including (with Anthony D. Williams) MacroWikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. Twitter: @dtapscott.

PHOTO: South Korean fortuneteller Kim Yong-son poses with his crystal ball in his Seoul office. REUTERS/Lee Jae-won


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with respect to number 9, SOPA has broken open in the US in a pretty big way, certainly among the tech community. It remains highly controversial in Congress and has generated one of the largest online petitions to the Senate yet. Clearly it’s not going to be Lady Gaga (but rarely do science or tech issues even merit mention in the main media) so I think you can also give yourself number 9…

Posted by jahendler | Report as abusive

Don, I think you pretty much nailed it. The only thing I’d quibble with is the lack of emphasis on mobile: the growth of iPads and smartphones (iPhone and Android), and everything that impacted (mobile commerce, mobile search, etc) could have been emphasized more. Yes, geospatiality is part of that, but just one aspect.


Posted by Jimewel | Report as abusive

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