Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

If Cash Is King, Then the King Is Dead

October 22, 2013

These are the words of Vincent Kiyingi of Pride Microfinance in Uganda.

Vincent is featured in a short movie produced by Ericsson, titled “On The Money”. I have the privilege to be a contributor to the movie too. You can watch it on YouTube.

The movie shows deep disruptions to the real world brought by the parallel, networked digital world. It talks about different ways the technology is changing us - digital money (rather than cash), crowd sourcing as a way of investing (rather than the traditional exchanges), online value and trust and reputation (based on social network connections rather than real world credit ratings).

Also, Vincent’s words sum up in a short and powerful way the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s initiative called Financial Services for the Poor - connecting the unbanked poor to a financial system, and giving them the opportunity to live better, by giving them access to reliable and safe ways to pay, save, and invest.

Ericsson is a Swedish based company active in telecommunications, and more specifically in infrastructure for IP, wireless, and mobile networks. It’s a kind of a Scandinavian “garage” story, as the company was founded in 1876 as a telegraph repair shop.

What made Ericsson interesting for me is their focus on innovation and research & development - what they call “Thinking Ahead”, an initiative which also focuses on thought leadership and exploring possible futures coming out from what is called “hyper-connectivity” - quite simply the fact that everyone and everything is or will be connected to the internet.

Consider an internet with billions of connections - us, the people, but also cars, ships, planes, mobile phones, houses, watches, etc. A world where everything interacts in real time, on a peer-to-peer basis with pretty much everything else. What hyper-connectivity will bring is a friction-less world, where people transact with each other with no intermediaries.

This whole concept was introduced to me by Ericsson’s Erik Kruse. I’ve written about Erik before – he had the third best job title of 2012 – “Networked Society Evangelist”.

I got in touch with Erik when organizing a SWIFT Business Forum in Oslo in October 2012, and he simply … evangelised … me. I’m a technologist at heart, and he talks about pervasive technology, hyper-connectivity, and the “internet of things” (the internet where billions of humans but also hundreds of billions of things – computers, cars, fridges, micro-drones – will be connected and interacting). I’ve heard similar speeches before, and they tend to be threatening (at least to me). The big difference with Erik is that he explains this simply, in a non-aggressive manner. He is very humble and he talks in a kind of  "around an open fire” manner. I also like the way he uses the life of his son to illustrate many of his concepts. Here is his TEDx talk for you to enjoy.

As you can see, our collaboration is quite fruitful, but in fact there’s more. One of the implicit subjects of the movie is the role of banks in these disruptions brought by the digital world. Ericsson was kind enough to host my blog on this subject, which has to do with banks being in the silent movie world.

Let me know your comments and observe the disruptions happening just outside your real world perception.

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