Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Chinese Car Industry is Not a Threat – It’s an Opportunity

In this Gapminder chart you can compare the infant mortality rate vs the income per capita over time. China is today at the same level as Sweden was just after the Second World War.

It’s only natural that Volvo will be a Chinese company and Saab is transformed to a luxury high-tech sportscar company. In 2008, China surpassed the United States to become the world's second largest auto-making nation behind Japan. And in December 2008, for the first time ever, there have been more cars sold in China than the United States.

Reading Swedish news articles on the Volvo-Geely deal, you get the impression that most journalists, politicians and governmental agencies still picture the country as “developing”. To call China a “developing” country is absurd.

The majority of the world’s inhabitants now have higher average income than they ever had. Unlike a few decades ago, most people today live in mid-range income countries. Half of the world’s population lives mainly in Brazil, Russia, India and China. They accounted for about 22 percent of the world economy in 2008, up from 16 percent a decade earlier. Real economic growth from 1999 through 2008 averaged 9.75 percent in China, 7 percent in both India and Russia, and 3.3 percent in Brazil.
Today, Chinese earn on average as much as the typical Swede did in 1945. It was at that time Volvo car production got full stream in Sweden. It is not a surprise that Volvo Cars today is bought by a Chinese company. Few would claim that Sweden was a developing country after the Second World War.
Even in terms of education, several low-income and most middle-income countries compare with the richest countries. For example you find the world’s best chemists in India, where labor costs also are lower than here. And it makes sense for the pharmaceutical industry to locate their operations where the best chemists are.

Should we still compete with these countries, or should we try to find out what they need, that we are good at? Duh!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

iPad – Good hype, Apple. Bad job, NYT

iPad – 14,800,000 hits on Google. Good hype, Apple.

Steve Jobs showed the New York Times home page in the iPad at the launch. The newspaper had the world’s best marketing opportunity and they chose to do ... nothing.

You couldn’t get a better demonstration of the Big problem in the news media industry. To sell their material on tablets, they have to adjust all parts of their digital strategies. Consumers simply don’t use the tablet’s browser to get the same content free on the Web.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

The UK IP Office: Creativity and Innovation More Important Than IP

The UK Government is going from strength to strength. First Hack the Government and now the UK IP Office has published a very thoughtful and critical report on the future of intellectual property, “The Way Ahead : A Strategy for Copyright In The Digital Age”.
The UK IP Office is the official government body responsible for Intellectual Property (IP) rights in the United Kingdom.
Apart from the compulsory background chapter – the history of IP and a description of the current legal situation – it contains a pragmatic and surprisingly neutral analysis of the consequences of the current legal system.
Technology means the capability to create, use and distribute copyright works is now in the hands of the individual.” (page 22)
The UK IP Office’s conclusion is that the current IP laws have a low legitimacy in the public’s eye and needs to be reformed to get accepted. They also conclude that recent politics and heavy lobbying from the IP industry have undermined the public’s trust in the law’s principle of equality of justice.
The copyright system suffers from a marked lack of public legitimacy. [...] The system is often unable to accommodate certain uses of copyright works that a large proportion of the population regards as legitimate fair and reasonable. [...] Our consultation has revealed that the public legitimacy of copyright has also been impacted by difficulties identified in the relationship between authors and rights holders, for instance those who do not receive a fair reward from those who exploit their works. [...] These difficulties have a very real impact on perceptions of the copyright system. The copyright system must be seen as fair to authors and users if it is to command greater public respect. This perception of unfairness to authors has wider currency. There is a persistent belief among consumers (as well as among some authors) that authors get relatively little from deals with major rights holders. This seems to reinforce attitudes that copyright infringement is a victimless crime ‘because the author won’t see a difference’.” (page 28-29)
For a legal system to retain its legitimacy, the public must believe that laws differ from politics. Laws must be separate from and “above” politics, economics, culture, and the values or preferences of judges.
A legal and political system whose essential principles, procedures, and styles are created by those with strong financial resources and substantial property, sooner or later will show that everybody is not treated equally.
The survival of state institutions depends on the public’s perceived legitimacy. Most people obey governmental authorities not just to avoid punishment, but because they believe those authorities have the right to make demands and because they feel that complying is the right thing to do.
For the most part, the public polices itself. We feel an obligation to follow the decisions of group authorities and group rules. But an increasing political cynicism has undercut current IP law’s legitimacy. The introduction of HADOPI and other new IP related laws have diluted the public’s trust in the public system as well as the authorities that uphold these laws. There is a widespread discontent with the current system. The opinion is that these laws are not fair. They are designed only for those with money and resources.
The Government observes that the muscular language of enforcement emphasising theft is unhelpful and problematic. It would be useful for everyone to recognise that a loyal customer base is alienated when the distinction between criminal liability and civil infringement is not made clear. The ‘cooperation not criminalisation’ approach of the Featured Artists Coalition is encouraging.” (page 47)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Our Visby Agenda - a new ICT policy in EU

The European Union is about to form a new ICT policy agenda replacing the current i2010 vision. They're discussing the most important policy questions for the period 2010-2015 (and beyond) and they need our help to get it right.

Therefore I think we should ask ourselves five short questions:

  1. What do you think the e-society will look like in 2015 and beyond? What has changed for worse and better? (i.e. the role of technology in society, or the role of society in technology)

  2. How would you like it to have evolved? (If you could rule the world)

  3. What do you think politicians should do about this? (what is needed to make sure that 2 is realized instead of 1?)

  4. What do you think politicians should not do in order to fulfill your vision?

  5. Which five other people do you think should answer this meme?
My answers to 1-4 are:

I won’t predict, but I hope that e-society will be of benefit to the citizens and stimulates innovation and use without put democratic values at risk.

An ICT policy agenda should focus on general topics and not comprise different policies for each and every sector or trend in society. There are definitely conflicting issues and a balance between individual rights with those of the public, but in general it should supervise people’s natural rights and ensure that these rights are executed fairly, without infringement by another individual or organization or company.

I’m concerned about most governments’ narrow-mindedness. Today they mostly to stand up for big content owners such as record companies and Hollywood studios. Today they are mostly concerned about restricting transparency and public access to governmental documents.

Most high-level proposals today focus on forcing ISPs around the world to spy on their subscribers and turn them off if the content providers think they violate some copyright law. They only satisfy the needs of those who can afford expensive lawyers and lobbyists. It is not reasonable that the wealthiest people can dictate the laws with intellectual property as a strategic business tool. The rights are more often used to keep potential competitors away, than to protect the value of individual achievement or innovation.

A democracy is dependent on the citizen’s possibility to influence the policy. Without public access to information, there is no real democracy. In societies without transparency decisions are taken behind locked doors. That is a good environment for conspiracy theories, populism and extremism. Transparency and public control is a fundament for democracy.

E-policy should facilitate the growth of individuals, organizations and communities that are capable of managing their own continuing transformation, and not to control and direct. E-policy should put less stress on to know what’s best for a particular individual, community, organization, in a particular place, at a particular time, but try to make the best use of local knowledge and the learning experiences. (That’s governmental speech for “crowd sourcing” and all that)

5. I think these should respond to this meme:

(This meme originated at Our Visby Agenda)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Copy Paste Will Never Die

After the Almedalen Political Week I feel exhausted by all piracy/copyright debates. But the political landscape has cleared up – and polarized. Most of the traditional political parties are going Pirate Party Bashing instead of taking a serious discussion on the big issue: integrity and how to relate to the inevitable “digital culture” society.

For the integrity part my opinion is crystal clear: a free flow of information is a condition for free democracy, free research and innovation. Let me repeat that: a free flow of information. Even the OECD has agreed on that at the 2008 conference “The Seoul Declaration for the Future of the Internet Economy”: The further expansion of the Internet Economy will bolster the free flow of information, freedom of expression, and protection of individual liberties, as critical components of a democratic society and cultural diversity.

The inability among policy makers like President Nicholas Sarkozy or the Swedish Moderate Party to understand that is alarming. Eric Besson, Minister of State for the Development of the Digital Economy in France, was one of the key speakers at OECD conference. Hello!!?!

We live in a world in which the copy predominates, evading all attempts to outlaw it. There are today 130 million total works estimated under the Creative Commons license. Most of those creative works are remixes and mashups, or are simply built on earlier works like it always have been, and they also need some protection. That number will increase, not decrease. But the copyright laws prevent the creation of remixes and mashups. Hello!!?!

The traditionalists just cannot see, or don’t want to realize, that the copyright is changing. Whether they like it or not, in ten years time we will be far ahead into the structural transformation of the creative industry and cultural policy. If the creative community mindset changes, the laws have to change concurrently. What and how you protect will change, whether they like it or not.

The lawyers, of which the most outspoken on this subject also are lobbyists for the Big Media, obviously have to say they believe in today’s copyright laws – it’s in their financial interest to protect them. The real target for change is the policy makers. It’s true that changes in legislation takes a long time, like ten years, but nevertheless the copyright laws will change. The Pirate Bay, the entire code and all the torrents – Information which accounts for half the traffic on the internet – fits on a single USB stick. Imagine what will happen when cloud computing really take off. The Pirate Bay verdict could for example impact nearly every online service that suddenly becomes liable for making a buffer copy on its own servers based on something you do on your computer. Lots of cloud computing services could suddenly face massive copyright liabilities. Trying to stop a groundswell like this is just pointless.

I strongly believe that in ten years time the discussion on a specific “digital culture” will be obsolete. “The digital” will be integrated in the whole cultural sphere and not treated as a separate issue. File sharing will be a natural part of that. And the survivors will be the companies that change their business models accordingly.

Otherwise we’d have a scenario where content companies are killing off innovation because they’re unable to adapt themselves – and that’s a really sad outcome.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Why Sweden Should Accept More Immigrants, Not Less

The Chinese are filtering and blocking internet information. The governments in a dozen other counties are also internet enemies: Bahrain, Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Egypt, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.
And the Iranian government has installed a national firewall that blocks almost everything of value.
These countries are not really the Innovation Hall of Fame.
Some don’t care if they aren’t on the list, but some do. For example the Iran government claims they are a high-tech country. Saudi Arabia has an innovation policy and I’ve been briefly involved in a project to build an “innovation city” outside Medina. But they got cold feet when we insisted that women were prerequisite for innovation.
None of these countries can ever explore innovations. All of them can imitate, but create new radical innovations? No.
To begin with most of them discriminate half of the population. Secondly they think you can buy innovation or create innovation by organization. And thirdly they don’t understand that a free flow of information is absolute necessary for innovation, as well as free research and democracy. And by the way they all use western technology, such as Nokia, Siemens, Google and Microsoft, to filter the Web and emails.
China is today the factory of the world. But with their censoring mindset they can hardly move to become the world laboratory for innovations. Once you start censoring the internet, you restrict the ability to imagine and innovate. The Chinese government is telling young Chinese that if they really want to explore, they need to go abroad.
We should be taking advantage of this. For example in Sweden the medical education at universities are dominated by immigrants. It’s the same trend as in Silicon Valley. Not bad, right?
Recessions have always been a time when new technologies and companies get born. We might be able to stimulate our way back to economic stability, but we can only invent our way back to prosperity. Europe in general and Sweden in particular should have the borders wide open to these immigrants.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Koenigsegg-Saab will be a success, I’m sure

There are suddenly so many self-appointed automotive experts commenting Koenigsegg buying Saab from GM. Including Deputy Prime Minister Maud Olofsson. So why not add myself?

I think the agreement is very promising. Saab has been in the red from the very beginning of GM’s ownership, and hasn’t been able to develop new much needed innovations. I know from close inside sources that GM has only been a burden.

Koenigsegg will not only keep production in Sweden, but also liberate Saab from the heavy GM administration that efficiently has prevented Saab from inventing. Saab really needs to renew the innovation vigor it once had.

Almost all wanna-be authorities have dissed the agreement. I am convinced it will be successful.

This type of restructuring has happened in other line of businesses. Take the PC companies no one trusted as “serious”, which bought the old mini computer companies: Compaq successfully bought Digital Equipment for example. Or Dell that bought EMC.