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What Digital Development Future Do You Want to See in 2030?

By Wayan Vota on February 15, 2018

What is the world you want to see in 2030? What do you want it to look like? I ask this question because I am concerned. I am worried. I am afraid. What will our future be when our brightest minds are focused on producing the Yo App.

A software developer raised 1.5 million dollars to produce a mobile phone application that just says “yo” to your friends. Nothing else. Just “yo”.

I think about the millions, hundreds of millions, billions that we’re spending on things like the Yo app. What else could we be doing with that money? We could be:

  • Improving the world’s education: changing young minds, bringing them into future, and changing their lives.
  • Increasing healthcare outcomes: improving lives, extending lives, saving lives.
  • Expanding agriculture: lifting farmers up out of poverty, changing their lives, their family’s lives, their community’s lives.

Instead, we are wasting it on yet another vapid Silicon Valley fantasy. And sadly, many software developers are following a similar path to quick riches for useless tools that feed smartphone addictions, but do not improve humanity.

2030 Is Here. Just Beyond the Headlines

I think about 2030 and I believe the future is already here, its just not equally distributed.

  • Many Africans are skipping the landline telephone, the television, even books, and going right to mobile phones and a digital world just as advanced as ours. In fact, its the same world we are in: Facebook, WhatsApp, even the Yo app.
  • Asia is already into virtual reality, skipping ahead of us into video games and other entertainment that would shock our most technologically advanced youth.
  • India is demonetizing their economy – reducing physical cash for online payments, mobile money, and digital financial services. How many of us use mobile money?
  • In the USA, we are using Bitcoin. You can buy Bitcoin in convenience stores, but good luck spending it anywhere. Or holding on to it through the next, inevitable crash.
  • In Rwanda, they are not experimenting with drones for the next Amazon Air of consumer convenience tomorrow. They are delivery vial blood supplies and medical needs nationwide to medical clinics with UAVs today.
  • In China, they will have an all-electric car fleet by 2030, while in the USA we are doubling-down on the fossil fuel economy

Oh right, and in the USA we are building the Yo app. Yes, I do hate on the Yo app.

What Do You Want to See in 2030

When I think about 2030, I think about my children. I wonder what they will think about me then, as they graduate college and start in their careers. What will they think about my career?

Will they see someone who said, “India has a huge problem with open deification. How can I help solve that problem, and make the Ganges River clean enough to bathe in and drink from again?” Or will they see a father who spent his life building the Yo app? I don’t even work in WASH, so that’s not going to be me in India, but the point should be clear.

There is so much opportunity to change the world that is not the Yo app.

I say this as someone who realized that late in my career. I came into international development from the accounting field at the ripe old age of 30. Back when I had hair. I woke up and realized I wanted to make a difference in the world beyond the next quarterly earnings cycle.

I want to see a 2030 where a Filipino, an Indian, has the same tools we do and can effect change in their country. Improve the education, healthcare, and agriculture systems themselves. And have the brightest minds of their country beside them. Not sidetracked by a Yo app.

What is the world you want to see in 2030? What are you doing to make it a reality, today?

What Future Do You Want to See in 2030? was presented at Impact.Engineered, an Engineering for Change event on October 18, 2017, in New York City.

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Written by
Wayan Vota is a digital development entrepreneur and the co-founder of ICTworks. He also co-founded ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, Technology Salon, JadedAid, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things.
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One Comment to “What Digital Development Future Do You Want to See in 2030?”

  1. Neil says:

    Here here! I resonate with this impassioned post and call to action. The same line of thinking was what brought and kept me in India working in social enterprise for the last 6+ years.

    Thanks for sharing Wayan! FYI my version of the Yo app (example I share of SV-style waste of resources in service of an ultimately vapid project) is dollarshaveclub.com 🙂