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The future’s bright? Capacity Magazine about my work on the future of telecom and ICT

This piece just went online today.   Gerd Leonhard, futurist: The future's bright?

Data will be the next oil, according to futurist Gerd Leonhard. Given the major drive from countries across the Gulf to reduce their economic dependency on oil, Gerd Leonhard BioLeonhard certainly knows how to make a statement. He is also most certainly not afraid to tell telecoms operators how it is.  “Telcos need to realise that it is no longer about selling infrastructure. As when you do that, you are eventually only competing on one level of a multi-layered system,” he says.  The system is much more interdependent now, he continues, as exemplified by Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp.

World-renowned “futurist” Gerd Leonhard has some bold predictions for the telecoms industry. Alex Hawkes reports. “They are building a new ecosystem that does not require telecoms to make it work, other than for the throughput,” Leonhard adds. “Telecoms is becoming commoditised like water or electricity. This is not a good business model in the long run, as operators will end up paying for infrastructure without participating in the important revenue streams.”

The “splinter net” . A leading expert on topics such as Big Data, privacy and social media, Leonhard’s speech today promises to bring together discussion on the latest issues facing the industry, mixed with his bold visions of the future.  One of the topics very much on his mind at the moment is the future of the internet. Last year’s NSA revelations are likely to have major repercussions for the future of internet governance, he says.  Leonhard warns of the emergence of the “Splinternet” – a term he amusingly uses to define the potential future break-up of the global internet.  “The European Union and India are proposing to keep traffic within their own networks because of the NSA scandal,” he explains. “Building your own version [of the internet] will not work, as this is a global system.”  He warns that if countries do not have an open internet model, then they are effectively using government control to create their own version of the internet.  “That is not good for innovation,” he says.

The Internet of Things has also captured Leonhard’s imagination. The billions of devices set to come online will lead to a “smarter planet”, he says. It will also provide telecoms with fresh opportunities in areas such as sustainability, energy and logistics.  “This is big for telecoms, as every time a device is connected, they should have their fingers in the pie,” says Leonhard.  In the long run, he also sees Artificial Intelligence (AI) transforming the landscape of the job market. “Anything that is repetitive work will eventually be done by robots, which will have a huge impact on jobs and education,” he suggests.

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