The Fluid Society

Everyone a smartphone

Suddenly they see the world ! At the moment about 4 billion people on earth have a smartphone with an internet connection. About 3 billion of them are active on social media. What does this mean? All these 4 billion people can see how the others in the world live and work. How they live, what they think, how they make money. Most of the poor did not have a newspaper before, nor any other means of communication with the big outside world. On average, their living and thinking world did not get beyond the village where they live or a beyond a communal TV. Suddenly their smartphones show them a world that they may have heard of, but have never seen with their own eyes. Suddenly information on almost all subjects is available for free and daily news in the world can be followed. Suddenly they see what they are missing, how their lives might be different, how much better things are elsewhere. And what is even more important: they can easily contact fellow countrymen who live in rich countries. What are their feelings?

What are they going to do ? What would you do ? Here are some results of some research in this area. In 2020 two hundred seventy-two million people were “migrants” (UN World Migration Report 2020). That is 3-4% of humanity. Almost double the figures of 2000: 150 million. The ages of three quarters of these are people average from thirty to forty: in short, potential workers from their countries of origin. Almost all migrants have a smartphone with an internet connection. This way they are inspired to start their journey. The smartphone is their life line with the new digital world and with the home front. The smartphone gives them information where to go and how to get there. Many try their luck in coordination with their family. The aim is to end up in one of the rich countries, find work there, and then provide the home front with money.

Everyone connected ? The number of smartphones with access to the internet varies from almost 100% in developed countries where many people already have had internet for years to approximately fifteen percent in Asia and Africa. This means that in less developed countries, hundreds of millions of connections will be added every year: one to two million a day. In the coming years, the poorest part of the world population will therefore also get smartphones with an internet connection. We can assume that in ten years time all adult people who can somehow afford it will have a smartphone with an internet connection. The world will then almost be 100% interconnected, from person to person, regardless of location.

Migration will increases. And what will the poorest people on earth do if they, like many others, can see where there is well-being and wealth? They are worse off than the 272 million people who are currently migrating. What if they become aware that there is no perspective in their country because of war, drought, floods, lack of education or health care? These people might be poor, but there is no reason to believe they are stupid. The chances are that the flows of migrants will increase considerably in the coming years. And that will certainly not get better if the rich countries get richer after the corona pandemic, whereas they fail to help the poorer countries.

Fatal dichotomy ? At this moment more than a quarter of a billion people are adrift. That could become as much as one billion in the coming decades. With all its consequences in countless places in the world where countries will try to close borders. A fatal dichotomy might arise in the world between rich countries that are increasingly taking draconian measures to protect themselves against migratory flows and poor countries that are faced with the disappearance of their only chance of perspective: the young generation. This should not happen, but it could if no action is taken.

All connected. Western countries must realize that we have entered a digital society in which everyone and everything is connected everywhere. Just like smartphones allow the poorer people to get a glimpse of how the rich on earth live, at the same time the rich can reach the poor on earth. After all, all those people with their smartphones and internet connection are digitally accessible.

Young people go to cities. The western world has to wake up quickly from its introvert attitude and not passively wait for more people to migrate. In a world with little communication it is possible that separate regions survive in isolation. But this is becoming increasingly difficult in a world where everyone is connected to everyone. Just as in richer countries the countryside is emptying in favour of ever-expanding cities, so worldwide the poorer countries will become even poorer, if the young people will leave those countries to migrate to rich countries with better perspectives.

Knowledge is key. It is vital for both rich and poor countries to reduce these migration flows. Potential migrants must therefore be given a digital perspective, with knowledge, projects and money, to learn to build a reasonable life at their home location through digitalization, because they do not leave for their pleasure, but because of bitter necessity. It is the responsibility of governments of rich countries to provide all citizens of the world with basic information on many matters like health, education, accounting and finance, language skills, knowledge about agriculture and so on. Backed up by projects, programs and money, to convert the digitally acquired knowledge into activities to build an existence.

Develop international communication. If we are able to digitally provide people in poor countries with the information they need to help themselves to grow food, to get education and many other things, this is the best and only option to discourage potential migrants to start travelling. The digital connections also offer opportunities, depending on the right information and conditions, to temporarily attract migrants for certain activities in rich countries. But only on mutually agreed conditions and with clear information about the expectations. It may help to prevent people without perspective from ending up for years in camps in border areas. Perhaps certain migrants can work as seasonal workers in rich countries for several months. Perhaps some migrants with proven knowledge can get internships, after which they can start a business in the country of origin. Perhaps digital contracts for specific activities can be concluded with young people. And of course all this will have to be done in accordance with the governments of the countries involved. In short: much more communication needs to be established with the millions of migrants as well as their home countries, to inform them, to transfer knowledge, to try to give perspective through digital means.

One Fluid Society. One thing is certain. In the hyperconnected world, the world is becoming a digital unity. The Tech Giants technically connect everyone to everyone and everything. Everyone has insight into the functioning of the world elsewhere. Social media add the human component to this. The dependencies and influences on each other will continue to increase in the coming years. Step by step this fluid society will start functioning as one world. Resistance to this process is pointless, counterproductive and unwise. Governments must accept this development, look beyond “own people first” and realize that global digital connectivity will also lead to new forms of digital human connections and interactions. They should guide and facilitate this process by better cooperation. Digital connections offer new perspectives for countries, rich and poor, as well as for people, rich and poor. This requires new forms of management and governance. Ultimately for the benefit of everyone.

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