Far from being the anti-social beach bums sporting Aviators and MacBooks often portrayed in the media, Digital Nomads are increasingly populating the engine room of commerce. I think they may very well be the key that unlocks global recovery from economic COVIDitis. These boys and girls can indeed ply their trade sitting on a beach, or lounging on a sofa in Starbucks. They’re blogging, vlogging, investigating, running shopify e-commerce stores, building apps, live chatting for brands all over the world and 1000’s of varieties of contemporary digital activity. Next time you click the live chat icon on a website you’re much more likely to be in touch with a dude sitting on a beach in Bali than at a desk in Detroit. These folks are a post COVID government’s wet-dream; they don’t need to commute on public transport, they don’t need to sit in an office next to other people, they can make money in sectors much less decimated by the shutdown…Armed with caffeine and electricity, mostly in plentiful supply in the developed world at least, this army appears to be all set.
But, dig a little deeper and we quickly enter a world of intrigue, geopolitics & technology all of which conspire to give some nomads an unfair advantage which, in turn, means some countries will have much greater levels of success in re-energising than others. You got there before me didn’t you! Yes, I’m referring to internet speed. The disparity of internet speeds between countries is astounding e.g. Taiwan averages 85 Mbps whilst the USA sees 32 Mbps and Australia just 16 Mbps. Bear in mind here that these are only country averages that don’t even show the difference between city and rural areas. Some countries e.g. Sweden are offering price plans that give the consumer up to 10,000 Mbps (!) albeit, of course, you need very deep pockets to afford the subscription cost. Oh and for fun I wanted to know where I’d have to be sitting to get the fastest internet anywhere in the world – turns out I’d need to be an astronaut at NASA which has 91 Gbps; some 13000 times faster than a regular internet connection. Perhaps you’d imagine like I did that mobile internet speeds would be more uniform what with 5G arriving. Crikey no. South Koreans, Norwegians and Canadians get 40-50 Mb/ps and the UK and USA don’t even figure on the top 25 which means they offer smart-phone mobile speeds less than half that seen at the top of the hit parade. So let’s add in a measure of geopolitics here – Huawei are well known as the world’s leading internet infrastructure supplier. And, just when the largest nations on earth desperately need to elevate themselves from antidiluvian internet supply so that their economies have got half a chance of getting out of this current nightmare, the politicians decide to veto the only player in town from installing the kit necessary to move from dark to light for fear that the Chinese Government are spying on us via this apparatus.
My take is I’m sure they are spying on us. Just as I am also sure that we are spying on them using all means possible. Are we really prepared to abort any chance that the knowledge based economy in the largest economies in favour of some pathetic, irrational ‘McCarthy’ style fear that there’s reds under the beds! For centuries, smart governments have realised that if they only dealt with nations they liked there would be no trade at all. We might not like the Chinese human rights track record or their approach to the rule of law in Hong Kong but for goodness sake, let’s remember we also have very chequered histories, and jaw jaw not war war is the way to succeed with China and it’s companies. For the good of the 20 million nomads already out there and the other few billion of us also wanting to do business using warp speed internet, please stop fiddling while Rome burns. #HugsforHuawei