The Leader and the Sign of the Times
The world’s governments are increasingly struggling to provide mass healthcare at affordable costs. This is an issue that has the potential to overthrow governments in the West. President Obama’s proposal to provide universal healthcare in America had to be significantly compromised in order to pass Congress and only partially met the original aspiration - and is now in the process of being changed yet again to become something quite different, with the recent tax cuts most likely making universal healthcare in the US even more unaffordable. Europeans have historically provided universal healthcare to their people through high taxes but rising costs have placed these systems under pressure, too. The UK’s National Health Service for example is estimated to be under-financed by up to US$3bn. In India, the provision of modern healthcare to 1.3bn people is one of the biggest challenges facing the country today and a priority for its government. Earlier this month the finance ministry made two flagship policy announcements aimed towards improving healthcare coverage in the country, launching a new health protection scheme that will aim to provide health insurance coverage to 100m low income families, and creating 150,000 health and wellness centres across India to improve preventative healthcare. While these policies are well intentioned, they are unlikely to have a significant impact on the state of healthcare coverage in the country, mainly because they are based on tried and tested solutions that the West has adopted and which ultimately have left them with the burden of an effectively infinite demand for healthcare services. In addition, India has its own problems - poor access to credible information, physicians pharmacies, inadequate hospital infrastructure, and the continued prevalence of fundamentally preventable life-threatening diseases - which represent systemic and significant fundamental challenges in a country where per-capita healthcare spending remains among the lowest even among emerging market economies. Solving these challenges in a timely and capital efficient manner will require developing a series of radical solutions, for which the variable that stands between failure and success is technology. This month’s Sign of the Times continues the series on the “digital shock” shaking societies, looking at healthcare in India through the lens of digital technology, rather than policy, to examine how tech can be used to address some of the biggest challenges facing governments. If India can effectively deploy technology to help provide mass, low cost healthcare for its own people, these solutions can surely provide the basis for solving the challenges faced by other countries around the world.
Over the past two decades, India has emerged as a market leader in providing information technology services to the world and will likely maintain this position in the coming years. More importantly, the coming decades will also see India apply digital technology to solve various issues it is facing, potentially leapfrogging older western models with new low-cost ones that are fit for a mass population, thereby providing its 1.3 billion people with access to an increased quality of life and opportunity without needing to over-build physical infrastructure. While at this stage the domestic market may not be as large or profitable for India’s IT companies as western markets, eventually the scale and scope of opportunities in India will attract not only these companies to return home, but new entrepreneurs and global technology and data players as well to help digitize India. While the developed world struggles to transition from an industrial economy supported by digital, India has the opportunity to jump development curves directly to a digital economy supported by a modernised industrial base. This month’s Sign, the second in our Digital Shock series, examines both the opportunity and imperative for India to leverage emerging digital technologies and data science to address its challenges and transform the country.
The opening Sign of the Times for 2018, presents a list of key themes during the next 12 months that have the potential to be catalysts or triggers for changes to shape our world, our markets and our lives. With the benefit of a tumultuous year’s events to consider, this month’s Leader will again attempt to identify the key political, military economic, social and technological themes playing out in 2018 (and beyond) along with counter-pointed scenarios and a briefing on their impact on the world in the year to come. While recognizing the considerable uncertainty in the world today, 2018 looks like a year that may be forced to reconcile booming markets with the prospect of dangerous political games triggering further discord and conflict.
Silicon Valley today is home to less than 0.25% of America’s 18m businesses, yet the valley hosts one third of the net new business formation in the United States. Further, 39 of the world’s 100 largest tech companies have their headquarters there, including four of the five most valuable companies in the world by market cap. Unsurprisingly, Silicon Valley is also home to the highest concentration of millionaires and billionaires in the country. More importantly, it is the birthplace of the semiconductor, the personal computer, e-commerce, the biotech industry and countless other innovations that have changed our lives over the past two generations. The success of the area has been driven by an unprecedented concentration of resources; Silicon Valley’s dense web of education, talent, ideas, capital, and infrastructure churns out a continuous stream of innovation and new companies that create and dominate new industries. While Silicon Valley is inextricably linked to the modern technology industry it gave birth to, the idea of concentrating resources (with an alignment of purpose) has created similar hubs across a wide range of industries, the world over. What is true for tech is true for any other industry: the concentration of resources in a cluster or hub ensures efficient utilisation of these resources and creates a network-multiplier effect in terms of the quality and amount of output.