Late report from Almedalsveckan 2016 -Part I

Intro

Since 1968 Swedish politicians have gathered in central Visby, part of the UNESCO world heritage list [1] , to discuss different societal issues and over time the gathering has gained increasing attention. The 2016 iteration of Almedalsveckan included almost 3800 events organized by some 1756 different organizations who represent different parts of the private and public sector of Sweden [2] .Consequently, the topics illuminated during the events and discussions throughout the week gave a good indication of what the contemporary political- and business related topics and developments are in Sweden.

I was there together with my collage Marcus Almén as a trend scout for the company we work for, we managed to go to 32 events between July 4 -7 and brought several insights back to Tradera.

So what?

Some of the insights gathered during our 4-day visit are general and can thus be of use for other organizations which is why I will write about them in 2-3 blogposts during 2016.

Insight #1 – Digitalization

Digitalization, the process of going from analog to digital [3], was a widely discussed topic during the week. Several events brought up the opportunities and the barriers that digitalization bring to public sector organizations – such as schools, governmental agencies or hospitals – and private organizations, such as companies. Some examples of benefits are:

  • Increased level of service in both public and private sectors are to be expected as communication between individuals and organizations become more transparent.
  • The different automation and artificial intelligence technologies have the potential of making the production of goods and services more efficient and accessible.
  • Reduced environmental impact can be expected as we gain a better understanding of our harmful activities through the efficient use of data [4].

The societal move away from the industrial society and into the digital society could mean profound changes to how we organize our lives, our organizations and even our governmental agencies. As an example, automation could make humans redundant in almost 50% of all contemporary tasks / jobs in various sectors during the next 18 years [5][6]. Although it is not expected that 50% of the contemporary workforce will become unemployed during the coming 18 years, the labor market may look quite different from today with large income gaps and a pressure on the current taxation of labor model.

Furthermore, as the algorithms that calculate what we see as relevant information based on our previous digital behavior will become more refined. As such a digitalized society could reinforce our confirmation bias. In other words, we risk being exposed to mainly information that confirms our world view thus amplifying that view which risks making us less understanding and tolerant towards others [7]. Development in such direction could enhance polarization between people within and between societies.

Insight #2 – The sharing economy

A sharing economy is an economic model in which individuals are able to borrow or rent assets owned by someone else. The sharing economy model is most likely to be used when the price of a particular asset is high and the asset is not fully utilized all the time.”[8]. The idea of sharing assets isn’t anything new, but technology has reduced the transaction costs of sharing assets on a large scale to such a degree that we are seeing a surge of organizations having sharing of assets as a core part of their business model [9]. Airbnb, Sunfleet Bilpool, Rentl all utilize new technology in order to make better use of underutilized assets.

The potential size of the sharing economy has been under discussion and recently EY released a report in which they stated that the sharing economy would grow to a $335 billion business globally by 2025 [10].  In a Swedish context that would mean a turnover equal to that of the Swedish pizza market today which hardly would revolutionize the economy. However, if the sharing economy would grow larger than expected it could become a reason to re-evalualuate the national tax system as many of the services within a sharing economy are difficult to tax. Some reasons are that taxation easily can become too big in relation the amount of work required or that exploitation of unused resources might require a review of the tax rules so that such assets are included in the tax statements.

I already knew all of that! How do I put it into use?

I would like to start a discussion around what you believe the trends imply for you personally, your organization and/or society? Feel free to discuss in the comment section.

Sources

Apart from the insights gathered through various seminars and discussions during my time in Visby, the following sources have been used:

[1]  UNESCO world heretage list (2016) whc.unesco.org/en/list/731 ; 2016 -09-04 ;15:13

[2] Almedalsveckan Official site (2016) http://www.almedalsveckan.info/44219 ; 2016-09-04 ; 15;26.

[3]  Business Dictionary (2016) www.businessdictionary.com/definition/digitalization.html – 2016-09-04 ; 15:35.

[4] Chalmers University of Technology (2016) www.chalmers.se/EN/AREAS-OF-ADVANCE/ICT/EVENTS/DIGITALISATION/Pages/default.aspx – 2016 – 09 – 04 ; 15:53

[5] Stiftelsen för Strategisk forskning (2014) stratresearch.se/wp-content/uploads/varannat-jobb-automatiseras.pdf – 2016 – 09 – 04 ; 16:12

[6] Huffington Post (2014) /www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/01/17/rise-of-the-machines-economist_n_4616931.html – 2016-09-04 ; 16:40

[7] Kahneman, D. (2013). Tänka, snabbt och långsamt. ([Ny utg.]). Stockholm: Månpocket.

[8] Investopedia (2016) www.investopedia.com/terms/s/sharing-economy.asp  2016-09-04 ; 16:20)

[9] The economist (2013) http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21573104-internet-everything-hire-rise-sharing-economy 2016-09-04 ; 16:58)

[10] EY –  The Rise of the sharing economy (2015) www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/ey-the-rise-of-the-sharing-economy/%24FILE/ey-the-rise-of-the-sharing-economy.pdf 2016-09-04 ; 17:17

//Sammy-Sebastian Tawakkoli

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